Sarah Pepper and Jessie Watt, KHMX, Houston Remembering Ulvade

Sometimes the best breaks are the easiest breaks.  They sit right in front of you, waiting to be done, and will bring you impressive imagery.  This past week was the one-year anniversary of the school shootings in Ulvade, Texas.  Because there are so many shootings in America, this content might not pass noticed.  Unless you’re a show in Texas.  Then you could even consider it local content.  Sarah Pepper and Jessie Watt, KHMX, Houston excel at touching the audience.  Often in easy, but quite powerful ways.  In their trending feature, they decided to note the one-year anniversary by simply reading the names of the students and teachers who died that day.  They followed it with a song to keep the audience reflective.  That’s where many listeners were that morning.  They were right there with them.  This content, and the way it was done, was impressive.

Karen, Johnny, and Intern Anthony, WNEW-FM, New York Karen Forgets to RSVP

We’re story tellers.  And one of radio’s greatest super powers is our intimacy – our ability to connect with the audience and remind them that we are just like them.  When you have a story that has several participants, it’s always best told when the tension and drama that drives how compelling a story is, to put those in the story on your show to tell it, too.  One of the greatest strengths on Karen Carson in the Morning with Johnny and Intern Anthony, WNEW-FM, New York is they have lives just like their audience.  Karen forgot to RSVP to Intern Anthony’s fiance’s bridal shower.  Average shows would just talk about it and maybe launch a phone topic.  Not these guys.  They made Karen call Anthony’s future mother-in-law to apologize.  It’s this pivot in the story telling that keeps the audience hooked in the break to hear how it turns out, putting that tension on full display.

Kyle, Bryan, and Sarah, WRAL-FM, Raleigh Love Him or List Him

If you target women, it’s always encouraged that you have a regular feature on the show that is relationships-based.  There are the standards that work:  Second Date Update or War of the Roses.  But here’s one you might not have heard called Love Him or List Him as done by Kyle, Bryan, and Sarah, WRAL-FM, Raleigh.  You’re right about the name.  It’s very similar to the show on HGTV.  That’s on purpose because the name has equity.  Its simple thesis:  a woman comes on who’s been with a guy for a short time.  She sees some odd behavior and wonders if she should love him (stay with him) or list him (stop dating him).  Air listener’s advice then go back to her with the results.  A few things to listen for in this segment:  the quirky jingle up front to grab listeners, how quickly the show gets to her telling her story, they localize where the drama happened, all those listener calls (who had stories), and then the resolution.

Dave, Mahoney, and Audrey, KSLX, Phoenix with Dave’s Mother-in-Law Is In Distress.

New shows have a different strategy and work on different images than tenured programs.  Enter Dave, Mahoney, and Audrey, KSLX, Phoenix.  Replacing Mark and NeanderPaul (Mark retired and Paul moved to middays) only several weeks ago, we needed to form a launch strategy for the new cast.  The core attribute of a Stage One show is unfamiliar people doing unfamiliar things.  When we wake up, we crave what we know and familiarity plays an important role in the choices we make at that time of the day.  So our primary goal is to be very familiar with our topics (because our cast isn’t familiar) and tell lots of stories that define our characters and introduced the team as real people, just like the listeners.  Here’s a simple story, loaded with lots of drama, that Dave told about his wife and mother-in-law.  Both strategic and powerful to serve the goals of launching the new show.

Karen Carson with Johnny Minge and Intern Anthony, WNEW-FM, New York Johnny Is Banned From a Deli (The Narrative)

Narrative arcs are stories that last longer than one break on the show, intended to hook the audience to listen longer (or come back the next day).  Chapter one sets the stage – this is the break of drama (the reason for the break’s being) and establishes the characters.  You must then know your conclusion – if this were a book, what’s its last chapter where you wrap up the story line?  Then, chapters in between that substantively advance the story from start to end.  You can spread these out over days (at the same time to get another occasion, as long as you tell the audience what happens in the next day’s chapter so they come back) or across a few quarter hours to try and extend listening.  Johnny Minge got banned from a deli and we told the audience all about it on Karen Carson in the Morning, WNEW-FM, New York City.  Our chapters are in order below.  Chapter one is the team setting the stage of drama, chapter two is listener calls telling Johnny where they’ve been banned (two breaks).  Chapter three is the show calling Johnny’s parents to find out if they know.  Chapter four (conclusion) is Karen calling the deli, trying to get Johnny un-banned.  This is wonderful and creative character development and very sticky content.

Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston The Beard Bet

You get efficient character development when you pit two cast members against each other.  A terrific example of this happened two weeks ago on Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston.  We wanted to do a parody of March Madness’s use of a grid to get a winner.  Karson loves music from the 90s.  Producer Dan loves music from the 2000s.  The central theme, pitting songs from the 90s against songs from the 2000s, ties the show back to the music format of the station (always smart).  Listeners voted it down to one song from each decade with the loser having to shave his beard.  The finale pit Chumbawumba’s “Tub Thumping” against Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA”, with Miley losing so Dan had to shave his beard.  Here’s a fun chapter in the narrative where the show called Dan’s mom and Karson’s wife to get their take on all of it.

George, Mo, and Erik, KILT-FM, Houston The Louisville Shootings

One of your primary jobs is to make the audience care about you.  That’s why great character development is rooted in honesty and vulnerability.  You care about people you know and that’s why you reveal who you are to the audience.  To bring them closer.  There seems to be a mass shooting every week in America.  You may opt in on talking about one, but not another.  The bank shootings in Louisville last week were especially personal for George, Mo, and Erik, KILT-FM Houston.  Instead of this becoming about gun control or mental health, listen to how it’s personalized by George, who couldn’t get a hold of his son when the story broke.  His kid worked one block away and was on lock down.  It’s one thing to talk about a topic as serious as this.  It’s another to personalize it so humanly as is done here.  You leave knowing George better and caring about him.  Do that with your topics.

Lou and Shannon, WJLK, The Jersey Shore The Celebrity Name Game

Shows need benchmarks – these are appointments you set with listeners that they time their morning by.  These features help insert you into the routine of your fans, which helps bring images to the show and higher ratings.  Looking for a new benchmark, Lou and Shannon, WJLK, The Jersey Shore know that the best benchmarks are easy to follow along, fun, and have a vicarious quality to them – in other words, listeners are playing along in the car as they tune in.  Add the need for it to be sustainable – meaning you must have enough content available so it could be on your show for years.  Here’s the Celebrity Name Game (terrific name for a feature because it rhymes).  It’s simple – they describe a celebrity and the caller has to name them – yet very effective because of the content and how it’s done.

Gregg, Freddie, and Danielle, MIX 104.1, Boston International Women’s Day

Lots of shows covered International Women’s Day a few weeks ago.  Whether you target women or not, this was appropriate as the topic was high profile, placing it as a rare exception to my belief that doing national this-and-that days is irrelevant.  Our job in radio is to connect with the audience from whatever position we have on any known topic.  Where most shows probably asked the audience to name a woman in life important to them or to acknowledge some prominent women in the community, Gregg, Freddie, and Danielle, MIX 104.1, Boston did things one better.  They introduced to the audience the women in each of their lives important to them.  Making this topic personal and hearing their pride as they talked with who they chose defined them, leaving the audience with a sense of each as human beings.  That’s taking a relevant topic and creating great character development.  It’s no harder than that!

George, Mo, and Erik, KILT-FM, Houston Being Around Interesting People

Each of us, when choosing those we want to spend time with, always make room for the fun, interesting people.  No one wants to be around anyone boring.  That thesis holds true for your show and the relationship you have with the audience.  What accentuates that is when someone on your show embraces out-of-the-ordinary experiences.  You admire those people and even become aspirational to them.  This week’s epic audio features George, Mo, and Erik, KILT-FM, Houston.  Mo got a letter from an inmate.  We decided to read it on-air and make it content.  This audio features a fascinating call from a listener who’s an ex-inmate on what it would mean to the writer if she wrote back.  Interesting and touching.  Mo embraces this kind of content so we’ve decided to get letters from inmates at the sixteen Houston area prisons to keep the narrative alive.  Be interesting and the audience will want to be around you each day.