We offered a Free Idea last week called WINOS. As Rush Limbaugh taught us years ago, putting together tribes in your audience gives them power to not feel like they are alone in this world. Kyle, Bryan, and Sarah, WRAL, Raleigh seized the idea, which is an acronym for Women In Need of Sanity. Their target is a 35-year old female who’s going crazy after one year of Covid. Sarah from the show will lead the group, then over the course of the next few weeks, build out the tribe by taking calls from women who have this in common with her and the others who want in. There’s power in the group. There is also humor as this week’s audio proves. This is where your win actually happens. Listen to not only the real life offerings from this nurse, but how deft the show is at allowing her to be the star of the break, maximizing her observations and sense of humor. We all know shows that would be uncomfortable allowing the caller to be the center of the break, even trying to top the lines. Not here and not with this team. The show is elevated because they elevate the caller. WINOS starts a new idea for the program, a tribe for the audience, and more genuine humor coming from listeners who feel comfortable to call the show to have fun.
A misstep for some shows is to try too hard to impress the audience. Real life talk works and does best when it’s grounded in truth and based in story-telling. With the recent snowfall in New England, Karson, from Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston, decided it was time for his ten-year old son to start shoveling the driveway. An important marker to decide if a real life story should be shared on the air is if there is a better than fair chance listeners have experienced the same thing or could see themselves in that scenario. The center of this story is how much young Barrett should be paid for that task. Instead of just telling the story and opening the phones, Karson decided to call for a family meeting to discuss the dilemma during dinner. What is in our hands is how we offer the content to the audience. In this break, you feel as though you are not only relating to the topic, but sitting at the kitchen table while the family eats, discussing things. The topic works well, the presentation of the audio helps advance its memorability.
One thing that makes powerful talent powerful is they’ve moved the audience to care about them. The intimacy of our medium (it’s just you and that one listener, as we learned years ago) flows from a very deep relationship. Built on vulnerability and the sharing of your life with listeners, the more you let them in and prove you are like them, the more that connection happens. You have the power to make people care not only based on what you share, but how you share it. At John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego, John has been abruptly forced out of his apartment because the landlord sold the house. On its face, you could think: how do I make them care about my problem? Emotion, and more specifically humor, moves them into the “care column”. John has accumulated lots of stuff as we all do (very relatable) and must decide what to take to his new place. The X-factor in this break is the show asking the listener who joined to decide if the item John references should make the move. The feature they did was called Take It or Toss It and the ruling made by the caller was final. That John has to move is his problem. That they figured out how to use a listener in a fun way made it sticky, thus moving the audience to get to know him and care about him.
One of the many ways the internet has come to help shows is to offer up audio of almost anything you’re talking about. Breaks need another element to keep listeners’ attention. Often that’s a listener call. But almost any topic that’s tackled has some kind of audio available online. Chatting about last night’s big TV show? Play a piece of audio from it so those listening who didn’t see it feel included. Then, social media has lots of audio from videos of relevant topics that help sell what you’re doing and create laughter. Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix found a video of a parrot who can sing along with Led Zepplin songs. Just the right silliness for a show that plays classic rock music. Hear how the audio of the parrot helps create the fun. Bonus points from these guys for the front and back ends of the break. In the first part, they seamlessly talked about NFL football from the day before and on the back end, there was a tease about the My Pillow guy, taking a break that could have been done anytime, and making it topical, too. Make sure you use available audio in all of your breaks to help them stay electric.
Continuing the theme of taking a stand so the audience feels something for you. The Josie Dye Show with Matt and Carlin, Indie 88, Toronto is liberal in a liberal city. The show is at a stage in its development where they wanted to take a stand against people who did not believe in masks. So we ventured out on that limb with lots of conversation about how to do that and how to handle ourselves to define the program. What was critical was finding someone who could hold the position opposite of the show. Here’s a break of them talking with someone who was a public face in the market against the wearing of masks. The show brought her on, then challenged her beliefs with their own. There are many caveats to doing something like this, which could be perceived as political should you consider wanting to be this honest and emotional with a topic that is polarizing: first, where is the show in its development stage with the audience? The better developed shows can potentially do this. The younger, less defined shows cannot. How will you treat those you challenge? Will you give them their time, then do it in a tone accepting of another point-of-view? Finally, are there enough fans of the show who would agree with your position to connect with? It’s important for any talent to honestly share their feelings about the topics of the day. But the rules (if it should be done and how) are different for all. Something you must be exceptionally sensitive to and discuss strategically with others in and out of the show to decide if it’s appropriate. This audio passes all our thresholds and caused talk for the show, but only because we did everything above.
A primary strategic objective for every talent is to do content that moves the audience to care about them. Think about the relationships you have in your real life. The people you know, who you can just be yourself around. Who you have fun with and affirm you. Those are the people you want to spend time around. We develop a relationship with listeners in exactly the same way. By revealing ourselves so they feel like they know us, too. Mojo from Mojo in the Morning, Channel 955, Detroit had open-heart surgery last week. It was a procedure he’d known he needed for years and now was the time. The listeners knew all because Mojo has this deep capacity to share all of this life with his fans (everyone on the show has this ability, which is why they are all so popular). Here’s the break where Mojo talks about his family on the eve of the operation. It’s exceptionally honest, authentic, and real where Mojo explores his fears, and chats about his therapist, his mom, his kids and wife, and the video he would leave for them if something went wrong. Then wonderful dimension at the end when they aired callers wishing him well. Pay close attention to the callers. Listen to how they talk with him. What they say and how they say it. It’s quite apparent they care about him. That’s the kind of relationship you should have with your listeners, too. This is content only they can do, which makes them special. Despite the length of this break (they’ve earned that), would you do a break like this? Could you? Email your thoughts to me here once you hear it.
At our core, we’re storytellers. Each break in which we do content, we convey who we are and what we’re all about by the sharing of stories. We prove our relatability and entertain the audience by telling them. Then the great shows turn the forum of storytelling over to the audience. There are three components of all memorable stories: the set up (this is the short synopsis of what the story is about at the very beginning, not unlike the opening paragraph of any written story). The second part has all the wonderful details, drama, and tension that move the narrative of the story forward. And the end is the payoff or destination. With this week’s audio, I want to focus on the middle part, because it’s the drama and details that make a story come to life and entertain the audience. Lexi and Banks, KUBL, Salt Lake City had just come back from their holiday break. Lexi had a very bad motel experience as she drove with her boyfriend and dogs to see family. A five-minute story is long, unless it contains lots of drama to keep the audience hooked to move through the narrative. As she tells the motel story, count nine different pieces of drama that kept the listener’s interest. If you have only one or two pieces of tension in an experience, reconsider telling it because there might not be enough there to entertain the audience. This has all that and then some, which makes it memorable, relatable, and fun to hear.
One of my favorite new features in 2020 came from John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego. All content must be relevant and the best content is fun (or done with the intent to make you laugh or feel better). I always add major bonus points when something is developed so specific to that show, no one else can do it. One of John’s daughters is a vegan. When she comes to visit, his life changes dramatically because he has to buy different food for the house and try different things for meals. That tension is what makes this a great feature when Abby arrives called Lifestyle Advice From a Vegan. No other show can do this because it happens only to John and only when Abby arrives. That’s what makes this very authentic and funny. John writes the script so he can poke a lot at himself (he’s quite self-deprecating, which works here), asks Abby to read it as though she wrote it (he doesn’t allow her to pre-read the scripts so you hear her smiling or laughing as she says certain things), and then he adds an appropriate music bed. All around, I am getting to know John (character development) and the bit allows the show to display it’s quite genuine sense of humor. Here is the last installment of the feature from 2020.
Be strategic about your content messaging and be different from anything else out there and you stand your best chance things will cut through. We were looking for a fresh way to do character development with David, Sue, and Kendra, Magic 106.7, Boston. When doing a standard character development exercise recently, we happened upon some traits the entire team had that were odd (in a good way). When doing character development, it’s always most efficient when listeners connect with a core attribute they have in common with you (i.e. being a spouse, having kids, liking sports, owning a pet). But sometimes, it’s the quirkier things which are the stickiest. Here’s “Getting to Know You”. Kendra hoards receipts. She never throws them out. The audience is told this fact then callers are challenged to guess how many receipts she has in her pocketbook that morning before she reveals the awful total. I love this take because, while letting the listeners into the lives of the cast (we do this with all three cast members), it’s not your standard tell a story, then ask for phone calls, that makes it work for me.
I have focused on three key kinds of content over the years: what’s up locally (because local matters if you live in town), things going on in pop culture or the news (these are the “now topics” that set your relevance), and then things going on in your life that position you as just like the listener. Consider stories from your life our version of #metoo content. You want the audience to hear the story and think, yea that happens to me, as well. Such is this week’s break from Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix. Mark has the typical marriage with his lovely wife, Rose. They do battle over how the dishwasher is loaded, just like you and me. Mark tells the story, which is the initial connection point to convey he is like every listener in the audience who is in a relationship. Then, they move to phone calls for listeners’ stories of connection – these calls turn the listeners into the focus of the conversation (it’s never a bad thing to make them the star of your show) and give the guys more stories to hear to have their fun. Real life is usually the best content, because of the strategic message and authentic humor.