40 Secrets of Successful Shows – The Second Ten

As a talent coach who’s been lucky enough to touch the success of hundreds of shows in North America and Europe over these years, there are consistent things the great ones do.

I’ve put a list together of the top 40 things winning programs and personalities do that help them grab that brass ring.

Last week’s First Ten can be found here.  Our second installment is below.

It’s always interesting to see if talent see their show the same way a manager does.  Share these lists with your people and ask them to grade themselves on each of the items. You, do, too.  Then get together to compare answers.  I bet you end up with a healthy strategic conversation that will help everyone grow.

May Week Two, the second ten:

  1. They rely less and less on canned prep services because they can create their own unique and original content.
  2. They understand that “facts tell and stories sell”. They are spectacular story-tellers.
  3. They are highly inquisitive about the world around them and that drives content development.
  4. They’re confident enough in what they don’t know and love to be challenged by people smarter than them.
  5. They take smart, strategic chances and are not afraid to “fail up”.
  6. They have mechanisms in place to resolve internal conflict in the team when it appears.
  7. They care about each other as people and can move the audience to care about them.
  8. They have a positive relationship with the managers and don’t see them as adversaries.
  9. In prep they develop more than they need so they can truly do the A-level ideas and be graded as such by listeners.
  10. They’re innovative and their ideas turn P2s into P1s.

Next Monday, ten more qualities of successful talent.

The only way to be EPIC is to challenge everyone to think differently.

40 Secrets of Successful Shows – The First Ten

Working with hundreds of high profile shows over the years in North America and Europe, common themes have emerged of the talent who are the most successful.

I’ve identified 40 attributes of personalities and shows that excel in ratings and revenue generation of the biggest brands, in markets large and small, and in all formats. Each Monday in the month of May I’ll share ten of them.

It might be an interesting strategic exercise to share this list with your talent. You grade them and they grade themselves in each of these areas.  Then you come together to talk.  Where you disagree would be a conversation for growth.

Elevating the strategic thought process shows your commitment to their evolution.

May Week One, the first ten:

  1. The show has an overarching content strategy, or “plot”, unique to them and different from everything else in the market.
  2. The cast is well-defined where each member is different from the others. And the core cast is seen as likable.
  3. The show has significant and meaningful points-of differentiation from other entertainment choices available.
  4. The show is fun to listen to and there’s lots of laughter.
  5. The cast is human and vulnerable in sharing stories about their lives so the audience says, “They’re just like me.”
  6. The program is driven by the topics of the day, knowing the highest equity topics equals the broadest appeal.
  7. They’re always honest with the audience.
  8. The show (its cast and the content they do) matter to the audience.
  9. Collectively and individually, they prep relentlessly, always looking for the right topics and doing unique things with them that fit the brand and will intrigue listeners.
  10. They’re friendly with the other departments in the building and work tirelessly to help those people reach their goals so they’re treated the same.

Next Monday, I’ll share ten more qualities of successful shows.

Continue to work on this and your personality brand images will be EPIC!

 

Being the Story

You know where I’m going once I get my second Covid shot? To Staples to have my card laminated for free. You know how I know to do that? Staples is smart. They placed themselves in the topic and then every radio show I listened to told me.

Staples isn’t dumb. They know people will go in for their free lamination and buy something else.

Once done at Staples, I’ll probably head to Krispy Kreme, show my laminated vaccination card, and get my free donut. Who goes to Krispy Kreme for one donut? Anyone with even a marginal pulse buys a dozen. Sold! They did the same thing – put themselves in the story to create talk. Every radio show I listened to told me that, too.

When are we going to create talk for ourselves? It’s easy to come up with phone topic after phone topic as content for a show. The harder part, and the thing I work with shows overtime on, is knowing what’s going on and placing ourselves in the middle of it so we become the story.

I work with Sander Hoogendoorn, the morning guy on 3FM in the Netherlands. I love Sander. He’s very creative and brought to one of our Skypes the idea on the right. Unless you know Dutch, that long hashtag in the picture says #showyourshot. Once listeners get their vaccine, we’ll give them one of those bandages on his arm and ask them to send us a picture of themselves showing us their shot. It’s our way of inserting ourselves into the story to create buzz through images which will all be placed on our social media channels to positively influence people to get their vaccines. They’ll talk about us!

Two shows I work with the US decided to do this campaign. I’m proud of Lexi and Banks at K-BULL 93 in Salt Lake City. Along with PD Travis Moon and operations manager Chris Hoffman, we’ve launched the campaign with our goal being the same as Staples and Krispy Kreme – be in the moment in a unique way that’ll cause talk for the show and station.

Another show doing this is Kyle, Bryan, and Sarah at MIX 101.5 (WRAL-FM), Raleigh. We have a dedicated website and have already gathered pictures of people who are doing it. Visit the site here. It also owns all our social media channels so more people know about it so we get credit.

As you start scrolling, you’ll see images of folks you don’t know. Those are all local celebrities we approached weeks ago, asking if they’d endorse our campaign because we have the serious mission of being the most local show in the market. Listener’s pictures are all over our social media channels. Bravo to PD Sammy Simpson and Brian Maloney, the market manager, for helping figure out how to do it big.

This idea has sales implications, too. Ways to monetize it with clients that help serve their needs. We did that, of course, because we also work hard for the sales department.

The only sustainable advantage you’ll ever have over your competitors is to out-innovate them. That’s the challenge I bring every show I work with because I wish to create ideas that will cause talk for the talent so more people tune in.

Great ideas don’t always cost money (#showyourshot cost just a couple hundred dollars for the few bandages we needed to create the images to launch it on social media). Great ideas take an innovative spirit and the bandwidth to make it all happen.

No bean counter at Staples said no because of “all the millions it’ll cost us in laminations.” No lawyer at Krispy Kreme said everyone getting their free donut had to sign a release holding them harmless from a lawsuit in case they got a stomachache. Both companies simply saw opportunity to get a little free marketing from people like us in radio – a chance to become the story.

That’s what I am working on with every show I’m lucky enough to coach.

If we get back to doing this in radio, fans will need to be around us every day out of a fear of missing something.

And we all know what that does to ratings and revenue.

Michael Strahan and The Power Of A Difference

 

Michael Strahan removed the gap between his front teeth, and I can’t figure out why.  It’s one of the distinguishing physical characteristics of the NFL on Sunday and Good Morning America host.

Think Robert DeNiro’s mole, Tom Selleck’s moustache, and Barbra Streisand’s nose.  Distinct, unique, it’s part of their brand.

Why would someone erase something that made them different?

Ries and Trout talk about points-of-parity and points-of-differentiation in their iconic book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.  They ask the question, and I, in turn, ask every personality I work with:  what is noticeably different about what we do that helps us stand out?

To the audience, we live in a “sea of the same”.  That’s our starting point to the uninitiated.  That we’re another “him and her” morning show that talks a lot and has wacky bits.  Our job over time is to develop bold points-of-differentiation to separate ourselves from our competitors and define the images we want to be known for.

So, I engage every show on this:  besides you, what do we do that no one else does?  What makes us stand out?  As someone who’s sat in his share of focus groups, if listeners cannot answer this unaided, you’ve got some trouble.  Find those points-of-differentiation.  The more you have, the more distinct you are

Listeners only get big things – nuance never cuts through.  Saying you do a phone topic every morning at 6:50 won’t cut it.  Here are examples of what will:

  • At MIX 104.1, Boston we do a feature each morning at 7:45 that is so unique and now so embedded in the audience’s life that our PPM meters triple and sometime quadruple at that time. Big and different.
  • Bert Weiss is a smart, strategic thinker. When he started The Bert Show on Q100, Atlanta, he added into the cast an openly gay female who was quite comfortable sharing her life.  She added deep hues to the perspective of the show and made the conversation more interesting.  Listeners knew when they were listening to that show.  Big and different.
  • When Frank and Wanda were the morning show on V103, they had Miss Sophia, Atlanta’s most popular drag queen, do their Hollywood report each morning at 7:20. Three guesses what she brought the show in imagery and ratings.  Big and different.
  • The Josie Dye Show, Indie 88, Toronto does a huge and unique community service project each December. They ask the audience to donate socks to homeless shelters.  They get 200,000 pair every year.  Big and different.

The entire thing turned out to be an April Fool’s Day prank Strahan pulled to cause talk (that was big and different).  Had he actually erased the gap, it wouldn’t have made him any less interesting or engaging.  But it would have taken away a trait that made him look different.

As Seth Godin said recently, distinctive isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

It might be an interesting strategic exercise to sit with your morning show and list your true points-of-differentiation.  They need to be big.  The longer the show’s been on, the more you should have.

Hope you have a decent list.  Unless I’m competing against you in the market with another show.

Oprah Says There Is No Tomorrow

Imagine your premiere talent DVR-ing the Super Bowl on Sunday and then watching it on Monday so they could talk about it on Tuesday.  They were just too busy to watch it live.  Sounds absurd, right?

I once worked with a talent who never participated in any of the Super Bowl breaks the day after the game.  I was listening that morning to prepare for our call.  During the conversation, I asked why she went silent when the rest of the show was talking about the game, the commercials, the anthem, and their parties.  She told me she didn’t like football and by not watching, she was being her “authentic self”.  That sounds crazy, too, huh?

Folks, you can’t make this stuff up.

Both items above continue to happen with big content choices the entire country is aware of.

The Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan was the 14th most watched conversation in television history.  And while the actual numbers were smaller in comparison to what’s at the top of the list because of fragmentation (Oprah and Michael Jackson in 1993 are number one with 62 million viewers), it was near-everywhere the day after.  Yet there were still shows that opted out, choosing less relevant content that day.  Some because they don’t care personally about the royals.  Others because they needed to be in bed by 8pm and couldn’t watch.

What?

P1s tune into their favorite show on average twice per week for ten minutes.  That’s their snapshot of the program.  It’s all they know about their favorite morning show.  What you choose to do in those ten minutes creates perceptions that drive listenership.  Not being on the biggest topics of the day means we’re not relevant when they tune in.

All missed opportunities to be where the audience is.  Yes, talent could make the case that the royals are irrelevant, but Oprah got them to tell stories and give us a peek inside the family.  And many times over its two-hours, things were said that created immense buzz.  It was riveting.

It’s not if listeners watched, it’s are they aware of the topic that validates doing it.  That’s what matters when choosing content.  Awareness.  To make a music analogy, when it comes to pop culture content, play the hits.  Oprah’s interview was a big hit record.  On things like this, there is no watch it tomorrow.

As I told the talent who wanted to be her “authentic self” not watching the Super Bowl, there is no way she can participate in pop culture conversations on the show if she doesn’t consume them in real time.  While I’d never tell her what to say, every great talent needs to own a perspective and then be honest with the audience.  You can only do that if you experience it first-hand, even if you hate it.  That’s part of the job to create connection with listeners.  Interesting talent are curious and jumping into every topic means you’re curious.  I want to wonder what my favorite personalities think about whatever is going on.

When it comes to these big, disposable pop culture stories, we must consume them because there is no tomorrow for these topics, unless there’s a new development.  Then we need to be there, too, as the story evolves.  As Oprah proved to us on this one:  there is no tomorrow.

Did I tell you about the talent who told me he didn’t watch Harry and Meghan because he no longer has a TV?

Just when you thought you’d heard it all.

I’ve gotta write a book…

Giving Your Show a First Listen

I was recently asked by a company to give fresh ears to one of their shows to see if it was a program I wanted to work with. I wasn’t too familiar with the program and did some due diligence. I thought you might also benefit from what I do to help your show.

I listened to four hours of the show, across three different days, in every hour of the program. I never judge a show from one day of listening. I like to hear each hour to see if there’s a consistency in what they do and how they do it.

Fresh ears on a show are always good. I hear things some closer to the show don’t. I also don’t walk in with any bias (good or bad) and can evaluate the program as a “first time listener”, much like real listeners are hearing the program.

Here are eight things I am listening for if this is my first pass with a potential client:

  1. Can I tell what the show is all about? Hang out with me for a minute and you know I believe each show must have a plot, much like a TV show. This must be grounded in the truth of the talent and reflective of who they are. And it’s something that cannot be duplicated in the market. Being real is not a plot (every show is real to its audience). “Smart guys, stupid show” is.
  2. Is each member of the cast well-defined? Character development is very important – I want to get to know each person, which compels their honesty against their perspective in the topics being chosen for the show. They also must share their life – or at least the parts that position them as just like the audience. It’s in this you get connection. This is how you move fans to care about the program. Once listeners care about the talent, they will care about the show.
  3. If there are two people of the same sex, are they noticeably different? If not, they’re just two male or female voices – you must noticeably separate their personas for them to have impact.
  4. Do they have defined on-air roles? Tom Brady is always the quarterback and Rob Gronkowski is always a tight end. Does the audience know how each person fits into the structure of the team?
  5. How relevant is the content for the audience? Are the topics they’re choosing right for the demo? I’ve discussed relevancy before in Planet Reynolds. Be on the biggest, best topics of the day for the greatest level of accessibility by the broadest audience in your demo.
  6. Does the audience consistently feel something at the end of each break? Emotion makes everything memorable. Interesting people have a passion and convey that in how they do their content.
  7. Did the show do anything with their content that couldn’t really be done by anyone else? Everyone tends to be on the same topics. It’s in our power with great prep to do things with that content that create an image of innovation and difference. These create a singular identity that makes fans come back again.
  8. Are there fun, unique benchmarks on the show that would positively impact behavior that compels me to return each morning at the same time? Radio wins come from getting fans to come back again. Great benchmark features get a show known for something, add positive images, and gives you additional occasions from those most likely to give them to you – your P1s.

Get fresh ears on your show and use these as guideposts to hear them differently. The assessments made will lead to strategic conversations with your talent that will help everyone’s efforts.

Now it’s time for the back part of the due diligence with the show I referenced above. Will they be open to hearing all these items as a first time listener would, too? If both the show and I say yes, we have a match to take off like a rocket to grow the program.

Be strategic. Be fun. Be interesting. Be relevant. Be real. Be different.

Then you’ll be epic.

Hey NAB – Steal This Slogan!

Set aside what you or I might think of what Rush Limbaugh offered his 15-million listeners each week, we should laud him for what he taught us the last three decades:  that our win comes from compelling talent and the content they offer fans.

When radio was investing millions of dollars in “AM stereo” (remember that nonsense?), Rush resurrected radio stations left for dead because he was bold, different, irreverent, relevant, and fun.  They didn’t care that he was on AM!  While I’ll leave any reflection for another blog on where we’d be had we invested that money in developing talent, Rush was connective in a way few have, and reminds us that it’s not just your music mix of Today’s-Best-Variety-Hot-County-Relaxing-Favorites that gives you a lift to #1, it’s your people.

Peggy Noonan said in the Wall Street Journal this week that Rush “created a community – an actual community of, at his height, tens of millions of people who thought along with him every day and through that thinking came to feel less like outsiders in their views.”

That’s what we do each day with our talent.  They are the face of your brand.  In a world of loneliness that few will admit, made even more challenging by the pandemic, talent (real human beings on your radio station) reach out and touch listeners’ hearts and souls, and make them feel less lonely.

This should be the slogan the NAB uses when extolling the benefits of radio to listeners and advertisers:  Radio – We Make You Feel Less Lonely.

Our greatest strength is that intimacy.  It’s our ability to have a presence on-air and do content that is the ultimate #metoo for people who think they are by themselves.  One listener tunes in and understands they do have a friend, the person they’re listening to on the radio.  That’s the Power of Personalities.

This is why I coach the talent I work with to share those parts of their life that prove to the audience they are just like them – to be honest, genuine, and real – because that’s what works.  From their sense of humor or a shared sense of compassion, the audience wants to know they aren’t alone, and that the people on the radio will always root for them – then they will root for us back with their continued listening.

We do this by understanding the audience, their life and lifestyle, but also with what is going on emotionally in their world, then connecting that to what is going on emotionally in ours.

A shared vulnerability allows for a terrific relationship, much like you or I have in our personal lives, where we want to be around each other more often.  If we develop and nurture a relationship with listeners this way, they’ll become fans.

I never really connected with Rush’s content, but I was always aware of him because of it.  There were millions who left saying, “this guy speaks for me”.

Listen to your talent through this prism for a few days.  How can you coach them to level up so they, too, create bigger communities of fans that feel less like outsiders in a world where so many feel as though they are on an island?

We burned millions of dollars trying to make AM radio have parity with the sound of FM many years ago.  Rush proved we were focused on the wrong thing.  The answer to our ills was staring us in the face all along:  have great people on-the-air, who do the right content, and listeners will get addicted.

Can we make investments moving forward to help our personalities get even better so they get even bigger?  So listeners won’t feel alone?  Our talent are our boldest point-of-differentiation.  Do that, and our ratings and revenue issues will fix themselves.

Steve Reynolds For the Entire Hour On the Next Larry King Live

I can relive the memory like it was yesterday, despite happening in 1998.  Larry King invited me on his CNN show to talk about talent coaching.  We’re cooking along with Larry being his inquisitive self when he took a commercial break.

“Welcome back to Larry King Live.  Our guest tomorrow is Quincy himself, Jack Klugman.  A few celebrity birthdays before we continue with talent coach extraordinaire Steve Reynolds.  Carol Channing is 84 today.  Happy birthday to the Flying Nun, Sally Field, who celebrates her 72nd.  Famed game show host Gene Rayburn turns 81.  Batman Christian Bale is 47 today!”

Larry must’ve read my body language because, when he pivoted back to me as his guest, he asked why I recoiled.  It’s then I shared with Larry that no one really cares about celebrity birthdays.  Whether they’re dead or alive.  I suggested that, as content, this was a list with information and absolutely nothing about it is engaging.

There were audible gasps from the floor crew.

Larry pushed back further, saying he always read the list of birthdays when he did overnights on WIOD-AM, Miami.  He claimed that everywhere he went people talked to him about it.  I demurred, telling Larry we need to be better than that with our content selection.  Maybe this worked in 1966.  Today, not so much.

With that one, short exchange, Larry abruptly went to another commercial break.  As I watched an ad for Depends play on the studio monitors, I was quickly whisked from the set.  Larry called Jack Klugman to get his take on what I had just offered and asked that he tease this week’s Odd Couple and his appearance that next night to fill the rest of my hour.  I was limo’d back to the Fairfax, Virginia La Quinta Inn.

Nothing above this sentence is true.  I made up the entire story.  I’ve never appeared on Larry King Live, although I did see him in person at one of Joel Denver’s WWRS conventions and thought he was shorter than I would have imagined.  The picture above was doctored, too, for humor purposes by my friend Kris Rochester, who does mornings at WIVK, Knoxville.

Some people wish for their professional legacy to find a cure for cancer or to develop time travel.  Others work for world peace or to end child starvation.

My legacy in radio?  To rid shows of irrelevant features like reading a list of birthdays (whether they’re famous or local – because no one cares that Timmy Smith in your market is six today, except his grandparents, who may or may not be listening).

I also wish to nix content breaks like This Date in History and telling the audience things like it’s National Doughnut Day.  I scream at the radio every single time I hear something like this.  There is no strategic benefit to the show doing content this weak.

We are better than that to connect with and entertain the audience.  I challenge all of us to reach higher when deciding content choices.

The audience comes for content.  And every single thing coming out of those speakers to them is content.  They are evaluating all of it:  is this of interest to me?  Does this matter to my life?  Am I being entertained?

What’s strong content?  These three always work:  whatever is going on now in the news/pop culture (remember, pop = popular), stories about your life so the audience can get to know you and see you are just like them, and stuff happening locally.

All three of those have a strategic win to position the show as relevant and local and the talent as real and relatable.

Your show might not be dabbling in these specific features noted above, but evaluate all of your content choices:  are they substantive?  Do they reflect the moment and connect you back to the audience?  Are they interesting to them?  Do you gain an important image from their choice?  Do they fit and matter to building your brand?

The only birthday that really matters is mine and I hope next November 6th to tune into dozens of radio shows and hear every one wishing me well.  See, you don’t care, do you?

It’s to be seen which will happen first:  that cure for cancer or my ridding radio of stuff like this.  We need to encourage shows still doing irrelevant content like birthdays to level up.  Because being relatable and real and doing epic stuff with it is the only way we’re going to make more listeners passionate for what we do.

Let’s let someone else worry about world peace.  I need fellow warriors who’ll help me take on things like celebrity birthdays.

Can I count on you?

Steve Meets Genie, Gets Five Wishes

A program director asked me an intriguing question in December.  If I had five wishes for things that could help talent grow their shows, what would I ask the genie?

As a former talent, my reply was, “I only get five?”  Typical talent, right?  Trying to figure out how to make the break longer!

So, I rubbed the bottle, the genie came out, and here is a short list of what I wished for.  This list is partial because I have lots of wishes.

  1. I wish talent no longer trolled social media looking for affirmation. This is really hard, because these are loud voices and we tend to put great weight on those we hear from, often making content decisions based on the few who react to us.  Our content strategy should guide all.  Neither the super positive nor damning negative comments represent the mainstream (most of whom we will never hear from).  Stop letting all of that affect how you choose and do content on the show.
  2. I wish shows would inventory all that they do and have a healthier list of things listeners can only get from them. These are called “points-of-differentiation” and critical to separating the show and station from everything else out there.  I hope we have a longer list at the end of this year than at the beginning.  More listeners will turn us on because we’re much different from everyone else.
  3. I wish personalities would figure out ways to involve other talent on the station in their show. If we elevate them around our content, then they will elevate us on their show.  And everyone’s profile and ratings will go up.
  4. I wish we’d stop focusing on small things and worked harder developing big things. Changing out music beds on a feature will have much less of a positive impact on our images and perceptions than coming up with a new, highly entertaining one.  Putting yourself in the middle of a big pop culture or local story is way better than just talking about it.  Big things cut through and we need more of that.  Doing more epic shit creates an electricity about the show.
  5. I wish we would choose more of our content to reflect the moment. To be about whatever is going on now (verses something more evergreen, that could be done anytime).  But to also know that it’s what you do with these “now topics” that keeps fans coming back every day out of a fear of missing something.  Create more of those points-of-differentiation!

These are the things I talk with my shows about now and I love these conversations.

New shows I work with know I like to ask provocative questions and challenge them in ways that make all of us think strategically.  The shows I currently work with are used to it – many enjoy the exercise because we find when we talk on this level, we end up with a much better show than our competitors, with greater creativity.

If you find any of my wishes interesting, it might be great to engage your shows on them, too, so everyone can level up.

I’d love to know your wishes for talent – send them here if you have any.

Coming Up Next, An All-New Phone Prank!

The day after the horrific Newtown shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, I remember waking up wondering Howard Stern’s take.  So, up to Howard 100 I went on Sirius XM and sure enough, that’s what Howard was talking about.

I can’t remember how long the segment went (I didn’t actually care).  But I do remember it was as insightful, engaging, and interesting as Howard and his team always are.  He made points, shared his thoughts, and asked questions of his team that lead to a provocative conversation.  Howard, Robin, and the show filled my immediate need to hear their perspective.  They were, on that day (as they are on all days), quite relevant.  Their content matched the moment.

I realized then that this is the relationship I want every radio talent I work with to have with their listeners.  I want the audience to wake up, and be curious, wondering the perspective the show has on whatever is going on in the world on that day.

True, it’s generally about some sort of frivolous topic:  who didn’t get a rose on The Bachelor, the Sex and the City re-boot, or the NFL playoffs.  But last Wednesday’s attack on the US Capitol forced an all-consuming topic that every American knew about and galvanized around.

I listened to fifteen shows last Thursday (some live, the others recorded).  Most mine, some our competitors.  Just to see what everyone was up to when I dialed in.  I listened to each for an hour.  That was much more than what the typical fan would give a program.  I wanted to see if I had the same experience around this topic with them as I did with Howard on Newtown.  I wanted to see how relevant each show was to meet the moment from the previous day.

Almost all the shows did something (or several things) around it.  Sharing their shock or take on what they saw (reflecting back what the audience felt).  Some found people who were actually in the Capitol at the time to get first-person storytelling (riveting).  One got on their preacher for his perspective (quite inspiring).  Another a therapist on how to talk with kids about it (appropriate).  Nearly all felt comfortable tackling the topic, because that’s where listeners were when they tuned in.

But others were a head scratcher:  One talent did a four-minute break about how she could eat an entire 16” pizza in one sitting.  Another show asked for callers on their topic of the day:  tell us about the argument you had with your delivery person.  A host went on about how he could never say the name of his maid correctly.  One did their generic relationships bit about first kisses at wedding receptions (tongue or no tongue?!?).  And finally, more than one kept telling me to not go away because they had “an all-new prank phone call coming up in the next fifteen minutes.”

This might have been okay content on an average day.  But last Thursday, they were missed opportunities.

One of radio’s greatest strengths is its ability to shift quickly to be relevant.  Relevancy is derived from the topic – it’s whatever is going on right now – it’s a critical image to own and something the audience is looking for when they tune in.  For shows that miss that mark, the audience shrugs its shoulders on that day and continues its search for relevancy.

There are a few standard push-backs when serious topics like what happened in Washington last week come up.  Here they are and here’s how I reply:

  • “We don’t do politics” is the one most often used. My reply is:  fine, but do you do humanity?  What if you tackled the topic and prepped in a way where politics never entered the conversation?  Both the blue and red teams were horrified with what they saw at the US Capitol.  Go be human and connect.  Get the audience to care what you think by that shared humanity.
  • “Listeners are looking for an escape from the topic.” No, they’re not.  They might be looking for an escape from the seriousness of it, but we all want to be around whatever is going on right now – it helps us feel connected to the world.  So, go be that, in the most human of ways, and the audience will lean in.

On a typical day, the topics are light and frivolous.  But then there are days when they aren’t. One of my biggest lessons as a talent coach over the years is that we must continue getting our personalities comfortable to go there by exploring what they think so they can be themselves and be honest with the audience.  And move the audience to care about them.

We can reduce their fear of the topic by also teaching them how to do this, so the program continues to radiate their wattage and defines who they are as personalities, so listeners wake up each day wondering what they think.  It’s easy to say things like the DC uprising should be a topic on the show.  It’s harder to show them how it can be done.  That’s why we teach.

Relevancy is not an elusive concept.  Be about “the now”.  That’s one way we’ll make more radio fans.