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.”
Remember back in school when you wanted that girl or boy to like you? I bet a specific name immediately pops to mind. (That’s for you, Marlene).
If I could just be taller, thinner, have prettier hair or clearer skin.
If I could just be smarter, run faster, or make the other kids laugh.
Then. Then maybe she’d love me.
There is an old joke about the expressive who said, “Enough about me! Let’s talk about you. How do you feel about me?”
At the end of the Fall 2017 network television season, we saw something unprecedented. The reason you may not have noticed it is that it didn’t work – at all.
“The last episode before the gripping season finale…” was the “trailer” at the end of the NEXT TO LAST episode of at least two series that I regularly watch.
Think about this. “The last episode before the last episode.” Where does the madness end with these stupid network hype machines?
Welcome to the show! We’re glad you’re here!
A simple idea, but one with profound impact.
In all my years of movie going, even harkening back to the days when you could buy a jumbo-sized pickle from Mrs. Cushman at the Majestic Theatre for a quarter, I don’t recall this ever happening.
The director and the star welcomed me to the movie!
“And we are so glad that you’ve come to see “The Greatest Showman” in the way it was meant to be seen; in the theatre with an audience on the big screen.”
~Hugh Jackman and director Michael Gracey.
And it only got better from there. (Insert plug for “The Greatest Showman.” It’s that good.)
I keep hearing things being READ to me in EXAGGERATED tones: “THANK you for ALL you’ve DONE!”
Thinking about how to help people mature and get past this point, I happened to have an old Andy Griffith Show on while I worked the other day. It was an early episode, from the first season, and Andy himself was REALLY exaggerated, using a loud, cornpone delivery that made him sound like a cartoon character.
But Griffith himself said later in his life that he found it difficult to watch those episodes, when he was still basically just doing his country bumpkin character from “No Time For Sergeants,” his first Broadway play (and later, his first movie). That was kind of the style then; everything was overplayed. And Andy thought he needed to stay in ‘vocal overdrive’ to be the comedy center of the show.