Topic + Treatment + Tone. The 3 T’s of Content as espoused by the folks at Coleman Insights. Are you on the very best topics of the day? What will your treatment be of those topics? The tone is the emotion you want listeners to feel. Some of the best content comes from the lives of the cast, as shown here by The Josie Dye Show with Matt and Carlin, Indie 88, Toronto. Josie has kids and regularly checks books out of her local library. Being forgetful (that’s character development), she sometimes misses bringing the books back to the library. That’s why Matt and Carlin regular make her call the library to see if “the books” have been returned. As you’ll hear in this week’s audio, the guys on the show make up fake book names, all quite embarrassing and racy, just to hear Josie say it and to see if the librarian has a reaction. The topic and tone are great here. The treatment is what sets it apart.
It’s not a revolutionary observation to note the true power of social media. I post something clever, fun, personal, or heartwarming. You like or comment on it. I keep checking on reactions. And feel like a super star as it grows in popularity. Rinse and repeat! Radio is the same way. We spent last week at many of the shows I coach elevating listeners for what they do for their communities. Our mission, in the face of 9/11, the worst thing that happened to America in our lifetime, was to show the best in people. We actively searched for regular listeners who have causes important to them and profile them on the show. Our week wasn’t necessarily dedicated to first responders. And we didn’t want to do all the low-hanging fruit asking listeners where they were when 9/11 hit (all of it twenty year old content). Our mission was to be about now and to control how listeners felt about our show by highlighting regular listeners who make the community better (local content!). Elevating these people made them more popular, which happened to us, too. Here are Tony and Kris, WIVK, Knoxille, with one conversation they had which accomplished all of those strategic goals with our 9/11 content.
Our audio this week is a terrific example of teasing a benchmark. Two important qualities of an effective benchmark include that you intrigue me. The other is you must make me feel something. Often we offer bland teases: “coming up next is our Hollywood Report.” That’s snooze city. There’s nothing there that either intrigues or gives me an emotion. Then the marginally better: “J Lo is back in the news, tell you more next.” Then this: “You won’t believe what Hollywood couple is back together again after breaking up four times.” The latter works because it’s intriguing. Lexi and Banks, K-BULL 93, Salt Lake City tease benchmarks well. Here’s a tease and solicit for calls for their feature That’s All I Need to Know About You. They use a clip of an admission to the feature from the previous day to intrigue and make me laugh so I’ll call with mine (or stay to hear other listener’s contributions). That’s how you tease!
One of your main goals as a talent is to bond with the audience. How do we do this? By showing those parts of your life to the audience where they say you are just like them. Humans are very tribal. We are all in search for people just like us. It’s those common bonds where we find comfort and the best chance to connect with other people to form a relationship. Logan and Sadie, WINK-FM, Ft. Myers, FL had a feast of content with Logan’s son going off to college for the first time. In those conversations, Logan proved he was just like the station demo (40 year old women who were also shipping their kids off to college or could relate to the experience because they had it). Besides telling the story and airing similar stories from fans, we also must do the content in unique ways. Which is why Logan got his son, Gabe, on and had a mom in the building ask him questions that moms would be curious about with a kid leaving the house for college for the first time. The execution of this content gets us four images: how fun the show is, how relatable the talent are, how vulnerable the show can be in revealing itself, and how different we do our content.
We offered up a new Free Idea a few weeks ago called How Much Do You Make. Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix were wondering on-the-air how much money the pharmacist at the grocery store makes. A listener set them straight (about $120,000). They then wondered if the grocery store manager made more than that. Curiosity is so important to drive content. The topic gets interesting to the listener when you are interested in it, too, and you explore. From this, they started a new idea called How Much Do You Make. They asked listeners to call and tell them what they did for work. Mark and Paul get to ask a few questions about their job (there’s that curiosity in play again!) and they then guessed the listener’s salary. The listener then revealed it. Despite conventional wisdom that no one would share this personal inofmration, their phones went crazy. It’s now become something the show does on occasion. It’s exceptionally vicarious because of their questions. Here are two examples of their feature. You will play along, trying to figure out the caller’s salary, which is one of the wins besides the relatable, fun content.
Great radio is a story-telling medium. Let’s tell stories. Even better, let’s tell them in the first-person. If you have an experience, your telling it is the best route to get the most authentic details at their most emotional. If others are included in the story (i.e. your mom, a neighbor, your pastor), invite them to play a role in telling the story, too. Because they might have other details or a different perspective that will have fresh tension and conflict. That will make the content more electric. But, if you aren’t part of the story, instead of telling someone else’s narrative, ask them to tell it. Simple, but effective storytelling here when Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston found out that someone they know was on Jeopardy. Instead of them recanting it, they invited the friend to tell her story. Always find the principles of any story and get them to share their experience. It’ll be perceived much differently by listeners if you facilitate that and ask the obvious questions from your POC (point-of-curiosity). Note they started with the audio from Jeopardy – smart!
There are two lessons to learn in this week’s audio segment. It comes from Klein and Ally, KROQ, Los Angeles. The big one first: a cast member has some news to share with the team and the audience. In the name of prep, should the room know ahead of time? I’m asked this question on occasion and the answer is always – it depends on the room. How much trust is there and how well does the room do with unknown moments? Ally is pregnant and no one knew. Not even those she does the show with. During their weekly I’ve Got a Secret segment, where listeners call to share secrets about their lives, Ally revealed the news. She opted to not tell anyone because she wanted to preserve their natural reaction for the audience. She knows and trusts her teammates that much that she was confident all would be good (and it was). The second lesson is being able to adapt to studio challenges. While this segment is listener-driven, the show was having phone issues that morning. The quick pivot to make it around a cast member preserves the feature. The room was never rattled by that curve ball. Enjoy Ally’s announcement and how she hooks both the room and audience to lean in as she reveals all.
Canada is about to open back up its borders for Americans to visit their country. After being closed the better part of two years, we haven’t been able to go there and they haven’t been able to visit the United States. This begs the question to The Josie Dye Show with Matt and Carlin, Indie 88, Toronto: is America excited to be able to come back to Canada? In the construction of any entertainment around a big topic, find the tension. It’s the conflict that will drive any central narrative. Think of a story you’ve been told recently – drama has driven your interest. The rules are different in Canada for cold calls. Josie, Matt, and Carlin decided to call America, in search of people who were actually indifferent to the fact that the borders were re-opening. The indifference is the conflict they used to create entertainment. Here’s a silly break which shows that construction.
Let’s gather around the campfire and talk a little bit about character development. Often, talent think anything they talk about defines them. There are certain criteria all of this must pass to be effective: you have to affirm a core character trait a typical listener can identify with, you must be honest, and it must come in story-form because we are a story-telling medium. Then there’s this: tell me about something that is happening in your life right now. That real life content is the most authentic. And it will be delivered much differently. A story from years ago is minus the emotion you felt then (it’s a story being told from your head). A story happening now lives in technicolor because I will feel it as you tell it. Here’s a simple story as told on Logan and Sadie, WINK-FM, Ft. Myers. Sadie getting a new umbrella is really an open for the meat of the break, Logan talking about his kid going off to college (the topics are tied together as you will hear). This is simple, but you will leave feeling Logan and, if you’re a parent, connecting with his exasperation because you’ve lived it, too. Because it’s happening now.
One of the required attributes to be a truly great personality is having a natural curiosity about the world around you. An almost insatiable interest in whatever is going on in the world. As I’ve done this work, the million-dollar players I’ve worked with have this quality. That curiosity drives better topics. The conventional wisdom when Bill Cosby was released from prison a few weeks ago was that morning radio should not touch it. Why? It’s a big topic and if you want me, as a listener, to bond to you, you’ll share your thoughts. The day the story broke, I had my weekly call with John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego. They were outraged this happened and had a zillion questions on how it came to be. We leveraged their genuine interest in the topic to create a break that was relevant, interesting, and memorable by inviting on a lawyer who could answer their questions. All because the cast wondered why. What is your curiosity about the topics of the day? Are you forever reading about whatever is going on, looking for angles and stimulation to activate your interest so you can bring it to the audience? If you do, you’ll excel.