I hear so many people using a text or email as the ending of something. And a lot of stations have gone way overboard in soliciting them.
But this is one of those things that seems like a good idea, but it’s too broad a concept to play to radio’s strengths.
Here’s what I coach:
Texts (or emails) are only to be used as springboards for something YOU do that’s creative. They’re not a be-all or end-all in themselves. So rather than using a text or email as the “destination” for something, you should use those as the START of something.
I didn’t tune in to hear what the faceless “Jennifer” from Highland Park has to say, I tuned in to hear YOU – the trained, articulate, entertaining Personality – have to say. Because, let’s face it, “real” people are usually not very witty or clever or funny at all. Sure, they can be once in a while, but even then, I don’t want to hear you just read a response. How lazy can you get? Why don’t you just read the newspaper on the air if that’s all the work ethic you have?
Plus, I believe it’s a mistake to encourage people to text or email INSTEAD of calling, because radio is about airing AUDIO. Do you want to hear me interview an artist, or would you rather hear me read an interview with the artist out of a magazine? Print is a poor substitute for Sound. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.
Prior to this past Christmas, I heard a talent talking about how his whole family was going to another state, where they hadn’t gathered in years, for the holidays.
But the story really bogged down when he started itemizing everyone who would be there. One sister, her husband, and her two children; her brother, his wife, and their three kids; her, her husband and their three daughters; and an aunt that they hadn’t seen in years.
No one’s reading the guest list. Summarize, instead of Itemize. “Three families, an aunt, 13 people in all…”
The Art of Storytelling lies partly in honing things down to their most concise version, then just letting it breathe a little bit. But when you get too detailed – especially about people your listener doesn’t know (or care about), the story becomes rudderless and lacks momentum.
(Larry) “And now let’s check that drive into work again. Here’s Don Googleheimer…”
(Don, the Traffic guy) “Thanks, Teresa. Good morning, everybody…”
I actually heard this the other day. The male half of a morning team intros the Traffic, then the Traffic guy thanks his female partner.
This shows the listener that it’s prerecorded. Or that the Traffic guy isn’t listening.
The other day, I heard a guy who’s quite good RUSHING through every break. Talking to him later, I found that he’d gone through a series of really stressful things, leading to his getting back home at 4 AM, then having to go in and substitute for someone on the air just a very few hours later.
In trying to overcome sleep deprivation, he went the “energy” route. But it didn’t really work, because the listener can almost always tell when we’re overcompensating, or just not quite “in the pocket.”
This is what I told him:
A 12-ounce glass won’t hold 14 ounces of Dr. Pepper. Pouring it faster won’t help.
Keep that in mind the next time you’re not physically at your best. Stay ear-friendly. Fit the glass.
A station I’ve worked with for years now faces a huge challenge. Their longtime morning man and PD is leaving the station after many years of exemplary service and success. At the same time, they’re being pressured by a relatively new GM to get ratings and revenue up, and part of that is to reduce expenses by going to fewer air talents being employed (doubling up on a jock by putting him or her on two different stations in the cluster) and going to more voice-tracked shows on the weekends.
So I want to speak into that as a bonus for any PD or GM reading this, while at the same time focusing on what will help any talent under the gun from his boss to do better.
First, if you live by math (ratings statistics and projections) as your starting place to the extent that you think more voice-tracked shifts are an answer, that’s not gonna fly. In radio today, both in the short and the long run, Talent doesn’t DELIVER the product, talent IS the product.
On Sunday, December 2nd, 2018, two fans got into a fight in the stands of a Pittsburgh Steelers game. One guy said something. The guy he said it to tellingly removed his cap, then head-butted the first guy. Guy #1’s girlfriend and several other fans got involved.
Not exactly untypical, but as I read about it (and watched the video), something the writer of the article, Jay Busbee said, really caught my attention:
“This is why nobody brings kids to football games anymore, and why nobody under the age of 40 spends any time on Facebook. They know enough not to get caught up in whatever messes the ‘olds’ are creating.”
The “olds?” Wow.
Now whether you agree with the Facebook statement or not, it’s still something to consider. I’ve been coaching people on how TO use – and now NOT to use – Facebook postings for years. The gist of it is that if a comment is relevant to something top of mind TODAY, you might want to use it, but random postings are virtually useless, because Relevance is King when it comes to Content.
I’m not saying your listeners don’t still use Facebook, but we should always be looking at the next big thing. Because habitually when radio does that, they find out that it’s already here.
This is probably the shortest tip I’ve ever written…
I talk a lot about editing, and here’s why:
All the great quotes are short. No one quotes a paragraph.
Okay, you’ve got a story you want to tell. Great. Tell me the story… but leave half of it out.
Yes, I’m serious. Too much detail, unneeded side roads, too many words to express a thought, too much setup, more than one “punch line,” or “backing and filling” because you’re not very well-organized… those things make even the best story incredibly tedious, and not worth the Listener’s time.
To be a great talent, you have to develop discipline and get concise. Great storytellers hold people every step of the way, from beginning to end. And remember, you’re not paid by the word; you’re paid by the Connection.
(Yes, I’m sure there’s an exception you can think of, some show in your city that gets away with doling out overly long drivel and has high ratings in spite of it. But that’s not the norm, and their time is coming to an end. The world is getting used to 140 characters being all they have time to read. Listening habits will eventually reflect that, too.)
Let’s make this one really simple:
With your Content, you can engage the brain, or you can engage the heart… or you can engage both. What you SHOULDN’T do is only engage the brain. That’s boring.
If you need help with this, get some coaching, do an aircheck session with your PD, or maybe swap ideas with some of the other people on the station. Because if you don’t understand how to do it… and do it well… you’re going to save a lot of time by NOT thinking that it’ll somehow just magically “come to you.”
It’s like that scene in “The Odd Couple” when the slob, Oscar Madison, tells his finicky roommate Felix Unger that he thought gravy just “came with the meat.” As Felix said, “No, it doesn’t. You have to MAKE it.” Sometimes we need help to make it.
One of the biggest challenges these days (as always) is Content.
There are lots of questions that help you put it together – Is this top of mind? Does the listener actually care about it? Do you have anything to offer on this subject that’s unique, and not just what everyone else will do? Where are you going with it? Is there a chance that it could lead to listener feedback, or is just a one-off thing? … etc.
But these leave out what I consider to be the most logical question to ask yourself: Is this something you’d say at a barbecue to a person you just met?
If not, why are you saying it?
This will not only quickly cut to the chase as to whether it’s valid Content or not, it will also (hopefully) shape the LANGUAGE that you use, how you get to it, how you edit it, and most importantly, keep you from sounding like a disc jockey and more like a real person.
No one is enjoying hearing people read crap off a computer screen or someone’s stupid Facebook post on the air. Dig deeper if you want to be great.