Let’s play off stereotypes for this week’s audio: guys don’t do any work around the Thanksgiving meal. They neither cook, clean, nor offer anything else. With that stereotype out of the way, here’s a classic piece of audio from Tiffany and Michael, B101, Philadelphia. Holidays are a time of family gatherings, in groups large and small. We know that strategic character development almost always happens when we put family members of the cast on the show and get them to bring us inside the relationship. Real works and this is real. Here’s family man, devoted husband, all-around great guy and cast member Michael Chew getting assigned the list of things he needs to do around the house from his wife, Nancy. To effectively define your character, the audience must see themselves in the story that you tell, you must add dimension to the break (this is what Nancy does – she brings the real and the room plays with it), and at its end, the typical listener must say the cast member is just like them. This accomplishes all of that.
Even though we all knew Alex Trebek would, at some point, leave us, we were faced last week with ways to treat that content on the show. I did some extra listening around the dial – to shows I work with and shows I do not – to sample how talent handled it. Several took the path of least resistance: let’s give out some Trebek facts and spend the balance of our time reflecting on his life and making commentary. Good, not great. These moments call for deeper dives of storytelling. Finding people who can talk about the subject from a first person perspective. Of them all, Rob and Joss, Sunny 98.1, San Diego were one of the few who stood out. Yes, they started the break as we all would. With a great frame. They then pivoted and put on someone who had been on Jeopardy to reflect on Alex and talk about him in ways they could not. Bonus points because that person was local, but they didn’t need to be. Great content is relevant to the moment, emotional in its display, and centered around a story no one else can tell. This hit all those marks.
An oft-used bit is to mess up the lyrics of a song and the listeners have to guess the right song to win. Where things gets into unique territory (and become much more valuable because it’s unique) is to have a cast member’s parent do the bit. Often, a cast member would just do this, but using your mother helps position you as their kid (and a real person) and gives you more to play with. Such is the case in a regular bit done by Brian and Chrissy, WGNA, Albany called Chrissy’s Mom Screws Up the Songs. Here’s the payoff to one they did around Halloween. Listen to the production value of this bit and how quickly they moved through the content to not waste the audience’s time. In less than two minutes, the listener is hooked, engaged, having a good time, and leaves with several positive impressions of the show’s humor and relevance. Bonus points that they never put the caller on to guess the song – I love this because there is no inane banter with the winner. They just credit them, focusing more on the execution of the content that is entertaining to everyone not calling.
“Yea, but what are we doing with it?” That’s a question I ask every show in near every weekly conversation. Choosing the topics for the program is the easy part. What we do with them, past the interesting angles that define the talent, is what makes it sticky. You have seen me preach this countless times on this page. The audience wants to be around people they know and like when they turn you on, but most importantly, they want to laugh and have a good time. Looking for a new feature for Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston, the team came up with Drunk News. It’s been done by other shows (Leno even did it for a while). The difference here is how the show did it. They could have read news stories and acted drunk – that would have be perceived as a wacky radio bit. Or, you could type up some news stories and go to the bars in Boston at 2am and get actual drunk people to read them – that’s real. That’s what they did. Nothing truly revolutionary here. It doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be relevant and fun, which this is. Here’s a retro-break that easily shows how it can be done to stand out.
PPM ratings are all about occasions. Our job in developing daily, fun radio, is to have as part of our recipe, “tune-in features” that affect listeners’ behavior so they turn us on. Listen to any successful show breakdown their wins and you will almost always hear them reference that fans set their watch for features they must hear. Solid, fun, can’t miss benchmarks must be a part of your show if you care to turn a two-day a week listener into a three-day a week listener. Much like Apple releases new products and targets them at Apple fans, your fans are the easiest route to getting more listenership because they already like you. Benchmarks must reach certain thresholds to be effective, though. Just doing the same thing at the same time each day isn’t good enough. When The TJ Show was on AMP, 103.3, Boston, we challenged TJ to come with a can’t miss feature we could get known for. Here’s TJ’s Street Match, a play along game that used people on the streets of Boston, one listener, and a bunch of very quirky questions to keep everyone tuned in.
We make these snap judgements about people all the time. Go to the grocery store and watch a shopper not return the cart to the holding area in the parking lot after they put their items in their trunk? Well, that’s all I need to know about them. Drive into a neighborhood and see someone’s washer and dryer on their front porch? You know everything else about their life, right? Lexi and Banks, KUBL, Salt Lake City do a daily feature called That’s All I Need To Know About You. Kinda like an updated version of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck If…” this phone in feature gives listeners an opportunity to call and make their value judgments about people around them, too. It’s relatable, fun, and highly digestible because it quick. Here are a couple of versions of it.
My friends at Coleman Insights talk about the three T’s of content: Topic, Treatment, and Tone. What topics are you on? What are you doing with those topics (treatment)? And how do you want listeners to feel at the end of the break (tone)? This is all part of the strategic process of entertaining the audience in ways that are memorable. Relevance is the key to everything. With Halloween coming up, this is one of my favorite ideas that wonderfully executes the three T’s of content. John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego got a very cute sounding kid to read the ingredients of popular Halloween candy. The listener had to identify the candy to win. This is great because listeners not only played along in the car, but it was fun to hear. Offering up a new idea that fits the show around great content is what makes the break memorable and sets you up as “can’t miss” because there is always something fresh on the show.
A missed opportunity for many shows is in not aligning with the music on the radio station. I know this from experience – we often see our show as separate from the station brand and many times we are much more focused on our content. The biggest thing you hopefully have in common with the audience is your love of the music you play. I’ve launched numerous shows from that foundation and it always works to form a relationship with listeners. It’s especially powerful at a classic rock station. Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix know and love the music they play. They found a local promoter who has had hundreds of encounters with the format’s iconic artists and convinced him to tell them stories about a few. This clip proves the power of talking about the music and telling stories as the promoter tells a terrific tale about Lindsey Buckingham (from Fleetwood Mac) and how difficult he was to deal with.
No doubt everyone is looking for bright white lights in all the morass of the world. John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego excel at not only pointing out the positive, but being supportive of their listeners. What do fans want more than people who will root for them, care about them, and make them the star of their show? With all the wildfires in southern California, they heard about a listener (an ex-Marine) who’s dedicated to one mission: saving the animals. Here’s a break of total humanity, and a reminder that good does exist in the world. This is exceptionally relevant given how big the fires are. The guy comes on, tells stories (in fact, he tells his stories), and moves John and Tammy as well as other listeners. Go earn images, prop up your audience, and remind your fans that when they turn to you, the world isn’t such a bad place after all.
There are very simple things you can do to make a good, very relatable break, even better. David, Sue, and Kendra, Magic 106.7, Boston were talking about the toys that are due to be inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. This is very logical content, especially for their audience. The team gets to reminisce about toys from their childhood, bringing back terrific memories for listeners. Psychologically, retro content like this makes people feel warm and safe and reminds them of a happier time in their lives, especially now with all the craziness. What accelerates this break below and makes it even better for the audience is the simple use of audio. They talk about a toy, and here’s audio associated with it (i.e. the TV commercial for it). It’s in that audio that the content comes more alive and they are in a better spot to keep listeners engaged in their topic. In every break you do, ask when mapping it out, what audio exists (or what audio can you create) that will help that break perceptually for listeners who bore easily with just conversation.