AudioGreat breaks achieve a positive strategic goal back to the show. They communicate, both in content and presentation, something about the show plot. Breaks which score are real, relevant, and fun. They earn you valuable images. Here are some breaks by Reynolds Group shows which achieve this.
We love when family members (especially funny ones) are included in the show. They have an immensely humanizing effect on the cast member and are a very efficient way to do character development. Two Men and a Mom, MIX 101.5 (WRAL-FM), Raleigh leverage family members in a terrific way. Bryan Lord’s father was having a birthday and is a freak for Barry Manlow (a quirky, memorable trait). Bryan has a unique relationship with his dad so he purchased and sent from Amazon an autographed Manilow picture, and made his father open the package on-the-air without knowing what’s in it. They hid the surprise so they’d get a natural reaction, which was followed by a story (a concert memory). I leave the break getting a glimpse into the fun relationship Bryan has with his father, felt like I was a part of the reveal, and laughed. Listeners are drawn to humanity and things that are real. This serves both goals and is memorable and strategic as a result.
Sometime the most fun and authentic breaks and ideas come from the experiences of the talent on the show. Anna of Anna and Raven, Star 99.9, Bridgeport, CT is pregnant…check that, she’s very pregnant. And anyone who’s been around women about to give birth know it’s a journey that requires many guys to sit quietly and count to ten before reacting. In her final trimester, the team does a regular Monday feature called “What Made Anna Cry This Weekend?” Here’s an example – note the fun, relatability, and very short produced piece which sets the tone. Then all Anna has to do is cull from her weekend and share with the audience all of the absurd, smallish things which made her weep. This show is all about relationships. Listen to this simple break and note how you think both men and women are reacting to the content. Women are connecting, knowing it’s all true, and men are nodding up and down as they know this is their life, too.
We preach to all shows that it’s what you do with a topic that makes it resonate. Your imagination gets you noticed, Enter the tooth fairy on Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston! Karson’s young son Barrett called the hotline one morning to tell his father that he knew it was him who took his lost tooth and left five dollars under the pillow that morning instead of the tooth fairy. Both Barrett and Karson’s wife, Lana, were trapped, not knowing what to do. Here’s where their imagination took over. They aired the call, then, magically, the tooth fairy was listening and they deployed her to call Barrett back to cover for them. The tooth fairy knew all about Barrett’s room (geez, I wonder how!) and to tell him that she asked his father to cover because she’d been very busy. Never a wacky radio bit, this came from real life. It’s totally relatable, story-based, true, with a touch of imagination to capture the attention of the audience and make it memorable. What you do with the topic you choose is paramount to doing distinctive radio that you will own.
When the plot of your show is “smart meets stupid and the funny happens,” the most clever and humorous things appear. Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix are two observant, funny guys, who lean to the clever. Several months back, a Nigerian prince visited the White House to see President Trump. The best shows can take something in the news and reflect their sense of humor in what they do with it. What’s paramount is being your plot, too. This is great use of the audio of the president plus the funny part, as done by the show the day after the visit. And if you think you need a lot of time to do this, note the length of the break – just over two minutes. Listen to what they strategically got done with this break: reflected a topic of the day, innovated around it, showcased their take and sense of humor, and did it quickly.
The challenge for this past week is to tackle the serious topics of Bill Cosby’s prison sentence and the Supreme Court hearings without alienating the audience. It’s a tougher needle to thread if you don’t have a deep relationship with the audience yet. That’s where Stacey and Jonah, 1065 The Arch, St. Louis are. They’re new to the station so you have to be cautious. The topics are so pervasive, they must be tackled. In our discussion, we noted how corrosive social media can be – it clouds our take on a topic and can easily anger us. You must come up with a portal to enter any topic that’s honest and resonates – they came in with the promise to turn off all social media this weekend and actually be with people – they would not let social media affect them negatively this weekend and ask listeners to join that tribe. Here are four absolutely stellar breaks that resonated deeply with all of their audience, without ever taking a social stand. They talk with Jonah’s sister in two breaks (she’s a social worker), Jonah’s mom just to tell her they love her, and a listener. This is the classic “running in the opposite direction” from where we are. Will listeners actually stop using social media (for those of you inside thinkers who worry we’re telling the audience to not look at our Facebook page). Nope, they will still use all social media platforms. But the messaging is awesome. All of this rates an A+.
One of the applications against relevant content in your arsenal is to find funny people in your orbit and figure out a reason to get them on the show. David Letterman was a master at this and taught all of us that funny people who float in and out of a program can significantly add to the humor you can develop. Enter The TJ Show, AMP 103.3, Boston who found a young, very precocious, opinionated kid by the name of Carter, who comes off not like the youngster he is, but as an adult. Both in his tone and how he views the world around him. Add in TJ with his weird questions and inquisitive way, and you get a terrific example of using a real life character to add a perspective and sense of humor to the show that helps it stand out. These “characters” must be real, must own a perspective, and radiate wattage (as Carter does) to add to the program.
The primary reason a listener chooses a specific show is because it affects their mood positively. We sometimes convince ourselves that the brands we frequent are for intellectual reasons only (“they play 12 songs in a row!”) when, in reality, listeners choose a show because of how it makes them feel. Each afternoon when listeners are headed home after a long day at work, Koz and Jen, 101.9 The Mix (WTMX), Chicago play Jen’s Show Biz Pop Quiz. No doubt you’ve heard some version of this game on radio shows. Why does it work everywhere? Because after a hard workday, this is mind candy for the audience. It’s not weighty being centered around Hollywood trivia, it’s vicarious (one of its critical features), it’s character defining for Jen, and it’s fun to hear. Outside thinkers know that we choose a brand to match or affect our moods. On listener’s long ride home in Chicago, this feature puts them in a happy place because of the content done and how it’s designed
When telling a story, nothing beats getting at least one of the people in the story to come on the show to tell their part. We all know the value of telling stories on the air, right? Many shows feel as though they must tell every person’s perspective in the story. The Big Dave Show, B105, Cincinnati experienced the first day of school like everyone else. Instead of just talking about it, Dave called his house to chat with his kids about their first day. They sounded exactly like you’d expect as the team quizzed them. If Dave and the team had done the entire break without them, the break could have been very linear and not fun. Getting the kids on gave them something to play with, which is why it worked.
Odd ideas around the topics of the day cut through. One time when Mega Millions and Powerball were over a half-billion dollars and everyone was talking about it, John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego, decided to buy a ticket. Instead of the typical ideas of listeners choosing the numbers or one of the other ideas that’s been done before, we did My Ex Made Me a Millionaire by finding two people who are divorced and then they choose the numbers, with the promise that if they hit, they’d split the money. What’s fun about this is that they were on Topic of the Day content (a must for any show – the more tied into the Hot Topics you are, the more relevant and contemporary you are for your audience) and they inserted it into a relationship in dysfunction, which is always relatable to everyone.
Take one part naughty DMs, add one part mom who is easily shocked and embarrassed, and you have the makings of a new feature where the most prudish mother of a cast member reads the raciest direct messages of another cast member. Enter The Cruz Show, Power 106, Los Angeles who developed the idea because cast member Krystal keeps getting highly suggestive messages from male listeners who follow her on social media. It’s one thing to just read them and out the guys. It’s an entirely different idea to have Cruz’s mom read them (without having seen them before) and allowing her to be shocked and react naturally. The goal is to connect and entertain. In one short break, this does that magnificently.