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.
If Dancing With the Stars offered you Sean Spicer for an interview, would you take it? Or, because he’s politics and associated with the president, would you turn it down? If you took it, what would you ask him? Great shows are in the moment – they do content that two weeks from now feels stale. Sean Spicer and Dancing With the Stars are “the moment”. Christine and Salt, 96.5 TIC-FM, Hartford were offered the interview and accepted. Their first question was asking if he knows how to spell “impeachment”, allowing Spicer to show his sense of humor. They then explored his job, if he’d ever met Melissa McCarthy who played him on Saturday Night Live, and then the outrageous outfits they’re making him wear on the show. The best part of all of this is that they leaned into the interview and saw its potential to grab the audience, instead of being worried about how it could harm them. Be about “the now” with your show – know the big topics and what your take is on them to do the most relevant, contemporary program. All the media around that you compete with are about what’s going on right now in the news and pop culture – and while some judgement will need to be used (not everything fits), talk through how you might do something so you stand out in the marketplace.
We consumers of audio love destinations and payoffs. Each break is kinda like inviting listeners to hop in a car with you. They are more inclined to jump in if they know where you’re going. Headed to go wait on line at the DMV? Nope, not hopping in that car. Going to get ice cream? Yup, let’s do this! One of the harder parts of a break is figuring out where you want to take a story – asking what the payoff will be if the audience sticks around for a couple of minutes. The Josie Dye Show, Indie 88, Toronto works hard on destinations for their breaks so the show isn’t just conversation. Matt Hart heard a thud against his window while at home. Going outside to figure out what happened, he discovered a bird had flown into his window and died. Not a bad story to tell the audience – it happens to all of us (note the conversation around the story makes it funny). Then the payoff. Matt calls city services (311) to ask if he can keep and cook the bird (they’re there to answer any question a Toronto resident has). The fun part is that the woman who answered took him seriously, even putting him on hold to find out. Destinations and payoffs in content breaks – they’re required if you want the audience to take the car ride.
It’s September, the NFL season is back, and that means there is no bigger topic in Boston than the New England Patriots. Specifically, there is no bigger star in that city than Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback. Let’s prove to you the power of story-telling. The TJ Show, AMP 103.3, Boston, on the eve of the team’s home opener, did a new feature called Tommy Tales. Producer Matt on the show had met Tom Brady and told his story (he is a huge Brady fan so you feel his passion) to kick things off. The team then opened the phones all morning for listeners to tell their stories about meeting Tom Brady, too. Stories are how we connect as human beings (you tell yours, I tell mine, and we connect). Great stories have beginnings and endings (payoffs) with delightful details in the middle that make those hearing them lean in. Here is a compilation of great Tommy Tales that TJ and his great team aired throughout the morning. Hear not only the energy of those telling them (it’s as though they all happened yesterday to these people because they were so memorable), but also make note of how you lean in to hear all the twists and turns, as well. Tell stories to win and you will win big.
Break structure is so important in show prep. With listeners decreasing attention spans, they evaluate a break’s worth in just a few seconds. They come for content. So, the longer you take to get to that, the greater peril you face in losing them mentally or worse, to another entertainment choice. Relating to the content is critical, too, as are designed moments in each breaks execution to re-grap the attention of fans who might lose interest. Hawkeye and Connected K, KSCS, Dallas did a break about technology – quite relatable to anyone. Listen to the break below and pay close attention to not just the content material, but how this break was designed. Hawkeye starts the break without all the pablum many do (call letters, weather, telling the audience about an appearance or promotion – all items which delay the content). He starts in the first few seconds with a question to Connected K. He’s actually asking the audience the same question so they are engaged. After that brief conversation, he pivots to talking about technology and throughout the break, uses audio throughout to prevent those who might get less interested from leaving the show. This is, at its core, a break about technology designed to be a conversation between the two hosts (good). It was done in a way to keep those vibing with the conversation leaning in and is well done as a result of that prep.
What you do on the weekend is potentially relatable and interesting to the audience. Mostly because it’s during the weekend that you do regular stuff just like listeners. Sometimes how you frame these stories is what draws listeners closer. Great content and story-telling alone don’t always make the perfect combo (sometimes they do, too). How you structure the break can provide hooks to intrigue your fans. Here’s a break done by The Ty Bentli Show, NASH-FM, Nashville centered around Bryan the Web Guy’s weekend. Bryan did something atypical to his character – he took a champagne bubble bath. Instead of just telling the story (good), they asked the audience to guess what he did forcing calls and guesses into the start of the break to add energy. That intrigue factor forced the passive audience (those just there to be entertained) to lean in to hear what he did. It was so out-of-character for Bryan, that it became a fun story that highlighted the cast’s chemistry as they played around and gave him grief about it.
There are simple ways to take the topic of sports and broaden it out to make it become a topic about relationships with a sports theme. With our entering football season, you might find natural team allegiances are split in relationships. Look for those inside a marriage and do a Spousal Sports Bet. This is where he supports one team and she supports another (and hopefully his rival). On the eve of that game, get both people in the relationship on and get them to make an odd bet (he wins: he doesn’t have to clean the kitchen for a week after dinner, she wins: he gives her two spa treatments). Focusing on the relationship allows you to talk about the game not from a position of X’s and O’s, but from how it impacts their relationship, which is quite relatable to everyone in your audience. And yes, if you want to do this with your relationship it would be character development, but make sure you choose fun listeners, too, which will give you more to play with. We did this at Koz and Jen, WTMX (101.9 The Mix), Chicago so you can hear the fun here.
There are some standard features most shows do that target female listeners (i.e. Teacher of the Week, etc.). Two Men and a Mom, WRAL-FM, Raleigh developed something different – a feature that celebrates the average listener and the challenges she has in her quest to get stuff done in her life. Each of us has the vibe of just trying to make it through each day. In the feature Lady Boss, the show seeks to do nothing more than highlight and celebrate regular female listeners who quietly accomplish successfully tackling their lives. There is nothing here that’s heroic or out of the ordinary (like most features of this nature). In this version posted below, they celebrate a female listener who figures out how to successfully be a mom to seven kids, We get relatable stories for other mothers to connect with and the show leverages their natural curiosity to poke around this listener’s story to prop her up as a Lady Boss.
When introducing a new cast member to the audience, it’s always most efficient and effective to do so with a regular feature the new person does – this will quickly define that talent and set their sense of humor for the audience. It should not be their only contribution to the show, but highlighting this one thing will help them. We recently added a new member to the team at The Big Dave Show, B105, Cincinnati. Wanting to cover off the younger end of the demo, we chose Ashley, who’d been working in the sales department, who electrified the halls. One of the ways in which we were not doing content was having fun with listeners on the streets. So we added Out With Ashley as the feature that could both give us content in that style, and showcase Ashley’s very quick laugh and sense of humor. She heads out on the streets (think Leno) to talk with Cincinnati residents about a variety of silly topics in a feature we’re calling Out With Ashley. In the episode below, Ashley is talking to a few hair stylists she knows in something we’re calling Salon Confidential, where they trade fun stories about clients.
There is fun all around you. Often, we lean on phone calls to play games – yet, we are getting fewer of them because less people are inclined to call and listeners are more engaged to interact with their favorite radio stations and shows via social media and texting. So, use the fun people you work with to help pull things off. Stacey and Jonah, 106.5 The Arch, St. Louis wanted to give a patriotism quiz to their audience around July Fourth. The idea took off when two big decisions were made: first, we were fearful listeners would not only not call to take it because they’d be reticent to prove how little they know. So, we decided to give the quiz to three fun co-workers, who’d be more inclined to step up. The other big decision was making it a competition amongst these co-workers spanning three days at the same time to generate additional occasions of listening. To add spice to the idea, Stacey and Jonah found a middle school teacher on summer break to help administer the quiz, giving them more to play with, The goal is relevant fun, and the listeners don’t really care if that laughter comes from other listeners or people in the building. Here are the three episodes of the narrative, all airing close to the holiday last month.
The conventional wisdom is that a topic as polarizing as Robert Meuller’s testimony to Congress this past week can’t be touched. It’s too volatile to do. I challenge you to develop some idea around it to test your creativity for an idea that has nothing to do with politics, but still ties you in. One show I work with complained that their regular shows on the networks were cancelled because of it. That led to them acknowledging that One Life To Live wasn’t on that day and they acted out a scene from it for the audience. Then there’s Daybreak with Drew Steele, 92.5 FOX News, Ft. Myers, FL who noted how many times Meuller passed on a question. He then strung the answers together and put together the No No Song. Be of the moment, go there humorously, and give the audience something they cannot get elsewhere. That’s a very smart strategy to creating a very huge fan base.