Great 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.

Stacey and Jonah, 1065 The Arch, St. Louis Most Patriotic

It’s been a running joke that people immigrating to the United States know more about our country than actual citizens.  We decided to test this theory last year around the July Fourth holiday with Stacey and Jonah, 1065 The Arch, St. Louis.  We chose three fun co-workers for the test and introduced a local middle school teacher (a friend of a cast member) who would administer the questions.  We did this over the course of three days on the program to extend listenership by making it a narrative arc by doing it at the same time.  The keys to the win here were that we chose the co-workers based solely on one element – how entertaining they were.  The teacher was added spice which allowed Stacey and Jonah to just coordinate the fun.  The questions were the same each day as you will hear below, and became vicarious for those driving to work to play along in the car.  On the final day, the middle school teacher tallied up the scores and we crowned Most Patriotic.

John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego Chris Swanson, The Cop

You can tell someone else’s story, or get them to tell it themselves – which one is better to you?  Obviously, it’s the latter.  When you hear a great story, make the effort to get the person who experienced the story to come on your show and explore it with them.  Doing so brings you a deeper level of honest storytelling, you find out more details which makes the story come to life, and there’s much more emotion to it.  You might have seen the viral video of Chris Swanson, the Flint, MI cop who took off his riot gear to be with protestors.  Instead of just talking about it, John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego convinced him to come on the show to tell his story.  Hearing his voice made all the difference because he lived it and it ended up being pro-cop, a lost perspective with all the protests.  This changed the break from C-level to A-level.  We all must be better at this kind of prep.  Doing this makes the break much more memorable and gives you something around the topic to totally own.

Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix We Have a Curfew

Destinations and payoffs are critical elements to entertaining breaks on the radio.  Simply put, once you introduce a topic, do you know where you’re headed or is it unstructured in a way where it’s just chatter which ends when you’re done?  You must have breaks that have a bold conclusion to conversation to help them stand out.  Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix took note of the governor’s institution of a curfew given the recent protests.  This break has two parts:  the front part is the fun, organic conversation around the topic.  This chat defines our talent and lends a very comfortable feel to the topic via conversation.  Its destination is one of the very rare song parodies the show does to heighten the break’s entertainment factor.  If you have destinations and payoffs to your breaks (both large and small), you’ll condition listeners to know you’re always taking them to the candy store for some humor and goodness.

John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego On the Protests

You cannot ignore the protests.  Some shows fear tackling a topic as big as this, but to build a brand in 2020, you must take a stand.  Don’t conflate taking a stand against racism or for the Black Lives Matter movement with politics.  You can easily wade into the former with your honest feelings without ever touching Trump.  After all, who’d call to say they would no longer listen because they were for racism?  Part of connection around a topic of this size is first being honest with the audience, and then understanding the tone with which you deliver your perspective moderates any “stop listening moment” your audience could have.  John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego handled this perfectly last week when they admitted to listeners that as white people, they truly don’t understand what it’s like to be African American.  So they found a black pastor to come on the show to teach them what they did not get in their everyday American experience.  This never became about politics – it was affirming, uplifting, positive, and, at its end, might even move you to cry.  This is relevance – not fearing the topic, but thinking through how to present it so the audience leaves understanding your values as someone they wish to wake up with everyday on the radio.

Lexi and Banks, KUBL (The Bull), Salt Lake City The Grease Sing-a-Long

Most times when doing character development, you will tell a story that accentuates something in common you have with the typical listener:  you’re married, a parent, you own a dog.  There’s drama or something happened in those areas which allows you to connect with listeners and entertain them with the details.  At other times, you might focus on a quirky trait that most cannot identify with, but it’s so fun it’s memorable.  Lexi and Banks, KUBL (The Bull), Salt Lake City do a break below focusing on Lexi’s love of the movie Grease.  Lexi believes she is an expert on the movie and knows the words to every song.  The Tony Awards were cancelled and replaced with a live version of Grease music.  So Banks decided to test Lexi’s knowledge of the music by getting her to sing-a-long with some of its songs.  They had a reason to do this because of the Tonys so it became relevant to feature this expertise a cast member had.

Indie 88, Toronto Taking a Stand on the Plandemic Video

With Howard Stern saying the president should resign, we’re reminded of the kind of relationship you want with listeners where you can do that, too, with minimal fear your fans will abandon you.  Everything you can do with your show is rooted in the relationship you have with the audience.  Howard has been around a long time and has been so honest with them over the course of these decades that he’s defined enough to be able to say what he did about President Trump and get away with it.  It’s a process of building trust, which is vulnerability over lots of time.  While you should always be honest with the audience, the berth of topics you can tackle on your show (the more divisive ones) opens over time (many, many years – and chances are you aren’t there yet).  Here’s break from The Josie Dye Show with Matt and Carlin, Indie 88, Toronto who tackle the plandemic video that made the rounds on YouTube before being deleted.  What I love about this break is that the team took a stand on this video – the tone of which was honest, but not off-putting.  Then they pivot to a chat with a doctor who supported their position from a medical perspective.  The takeaway is always be honest with the audience but know where your line is to continue building that relationship.

Christine and Salt, 965 TIC-FM, Hartford Going Deep on An Interview

You might be doing lots of interviews with the Covid issue.  Compelling and interesting story-telling with experts and listeners really resonate with the audience.  But, you don’t get there by accident and certainly cannot make it happen without prep.  There is a very compelling TV commercial featuring a nurse at a Hartford-area hospital (here).  It is immensely powerful and paints the picture of a day in her life for viewers.  Christine and Salt, 965, TIC-FM, Hartford decided they wanted to talk with Nurse Sophia, considering how moved they were by the commercial.  A good first step in doing an interview is that you must be moved.  What aids this interview is that they are curious people – not on the surface (i.e. tell us what time you wake up, what time do you get to work – these are the kinds of questions that signal you never prepped to figure out how you’d explore her story – so Nurse Sophie could expose her true life past what we see in the spot).  As you will hear in this interview, the team probed about what it was like to be in a room with a Covid patient and what her life was like when she went home after experiencing that each day.  They went deep and you must, too, if you will do an interview that will be impactful, emotional, memorable, and lasting for the audience.

Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston Iron Mom

Karson & KennedyWe’ve all done the same half dozen Mother’s Day ideas for years, right?  Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston developed a new idea this year called Iron Mom.  It’s the pretty simple bit where listeners call a voicemail line to tell them about what makes their mom special – what elevates this idea is the frame (they are creating a club of Iron Moms, which is powerful) and what they are asking listeners to share when they call.  The brilliance of this break is how they debuted the feature.  Where many shows would just promote the number, keeping the idea in listeners’ heads as they explained what they wanted, the team left their own mock voicemails for themselves and then played them for the audience.  As you will hear, the examples both defined the show’s cast for character development but also gave those inclined to call what they are looking for.  Each was both touching and funny and they moved the audience to feel the idea so listeners knew what to leave on the voicemail line for airing – which is smart.

David, Sue, and Kendra, MAGIC 106.7, Boston, The $8-Million Stimulus Check

There are stories all over the place of the odd things happening to people around the coronavirus topic.  While you should start transitioning to other kinds of content now, this topic is still relevant, especially if you’re telling a story and having fun.  Charles Calvin got what he thought was an $8-million stimulus check from the federal government instead of his expected $1600.  David, Sue, and Kendra, Magic 106.7, Boston had to hear the story.  What makes this break great is that they let him tell them the story.  Knowing all the details because of prep, they helped him move the narrative forward to its conclusion.  When interviewing anyone, I am listening for many things (is it a well-told, interesting story?  Will the audience laugh at it?  Has it been edited well?).  Chief among the things I am also listening for is how much the talent talk and how much the person being interviewed talks.  I hope for more of the latter than the former.

Two Men and a Mom, WRAL-FM, Raleigh Whatcha Haulin’?

A challenge for every show, regardless of market size, is getting phone calls early in the program. We all have smaller audiences then and listeners are less inclined to call a show and participate in any game or phone topic you might have.  What could help is focusing the phones on a specific type of listeners.  Two Men and a Mom, WRAL-FM, Raleigh know that, while most of the audience is getting up and ready for work or school (when in session) at that early hour, they are not inclined to call.  But an audience on the road and more ripe to participate in a radio show is truckers.  So they direct this occasional phone topic at them, asking truckers to call to tell them what they’re hauling.  It’s a simple way to generate some content early in the show on the phones – the win comes in the conversation, then the payoff of finding out what’s in their truck and where they’re bringing it.

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