Despite all the zillions of VERY specific tips that I coach, the people I’ve worked with the longest know that I’m all about developing Personality on the air. The most important mentors in my career stressed that – particularly as “cookie cutter” formats became dominant – Personality was the sweet brown liquid inside the Coca-Cola can.
Just the other day, a guy I’ve worked with for several years took a foray into the world of creating a character voice to do his weather forecasts, and ran it several times during his show. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t ‘ready for prime time’ yet, either. Here’s part of what I wrote in our session recap:
I’m often asked, “Which is more important? Creativity or discipline?”
The answer is “yes.”
I was 21 when I was first bestowed with the title Program Director. I obviously didn’t know much about programming at that age, but I had the lowest voice on the air staff, had my own car, and laughed at the boss’ jokes.
In the decades since, I’ve coached a few air talent, trained a couple of program directors, and taught up to a few general managers that thought they could program a radio station.
Over the years I’ve found that ones quickest to learn were the ones with one of two things in their background; music or acting.
In talking to Program Directors and GMs over the years, I’ve heard a lot of discussion about why a show does or doesn’t really get the audience the people in charge think it should.
For example, they’ll go down their bullet-point lists of all the ingredients that a morning show should have – the capsule descriptions of what words describe each Talent, which one is the “starter” and which is the “reactor,” and (hopefully) the reason people will listen to them.
But if you stop there, you’re missing the center of the bulls-eye: Values.
What are the talent’s values? What are the station’s values? What do you STAND for?
Reckon’ you’ve heard this before.
Everyone’s favorite radio station is the station that plays their favorite music. That’s the easy part.
Most GMs and PDs nod their heads in response to the question “would you like to grow your audience?,” much like being asked if you’d like to have whiter teeth, or if you wish Trump would stop Tweeting.
I’ve found that few programmers really comprehend the conundrum of attracting new listeners while playing songs they simply don’t know.
One can’t prefer something one isn’t familiar with
Or put the other way, “familiarity is preference,” as Mark Ramsey says.
So, what’s the solution?
The buzz word today is “stories.” That’s a simplistic way of saying that personal experiences are more powerful and memorable than just “bits” or “items.”
And the best example I’ve ever seen of how stories should take shape is the TV show “Survivor.”