6 Secrets To Cause Talk

6 Secrets To Cause Talk

by Tracy Johnson

Radio shows must do more to stand out than ever before. Just being heard, and even being good, doesn’t resonate. Of course, it’s important for each break to be as strong as possible. And performance should be a priority. But there’s more to succeeding as a radio show than just being good. Personalities must excite audiences by being memorable enough to cause talk.

When radio personalities become part of listener conversations, remarkable things happen. They become celebrities with a radio show, not just talent that sounds good on a DJ shift.

There are specific steps every personality can take now to improve the chance of being so compelling that listeners become passionate advocates.

Use these techniques to cause talk. Few personalities are proficient in all six areas. That’s okay. Find two or three that fit best and turn them into strengths.

Cause Talk: Never Assume!

Personality radio is rarely logical because listener choices are emotional. Content doesn’t have inherent value on its own. No topic is interesting enough to generate attention just by presenting the facts.

Great personalities make it important by injecting a break or story with passion.

Adjust objectives away from simply talking about things that matter. That’s a good goal, for sure. But winning shows aren’t about being invested in the most relevant topics.

Winning shows connect emotionally with core values that have little to do with the topic.

It’s far more important to tell stories in an interesting way than just talking about interesting topics. Listeners will share stories. They’ll talk about stories with friends.

Analyze & Adapt

This secret is common sense, but it eludes some broadcasters.

Have you noticed some shows practically beg for audience response and rarely get it, while others sound like the phone rings constantly without mentioning the number?

It’s true.

Many shows measure success by how many calls come in. Some shows plan for listener input to provide much of the entertainment on-air. These shows constantly seem to hype the phone number. They misunderstand the issue. Merely getting calls and generating active response isn’t the goal.

The goal is to inspire organic unsolicited reactions. That’s when emotional connections are made.

Pay attention to techniques that trigger feedback without an invitation to participate. Pay even more attention to what does not generate a response, regardless of how much begging is involved.

Then identify the types of stories listeners remember and bring up on their own. This will provide insight into developing remarkable, repeatable content.

Perform Outside In

Rick Morton (morning show, Z90/San Diego) teases me that my favorite phrase is, “Who cares?” I get why he says that. It’s a favorite technique in coaching personalities to make sure each break passes the “Who Cares” test. That concept is at the heart of the seminar on-demand It’s Not About You-It’s All About You. 

Being a show that sounds inside and self-absorbed is bad. Obviously.

Being genuine and authentically relating to the audience is good. That’s also obvious.

There’s a thin line between the two.

Winning shows understand how to make the listener feel you are just like them, even when relating a personal story. This happens in preparation. Plan an approach for each segment that starts from the outside in, rather than inside out.

Turn Up The Volume

This is another favorite phrase.

Many shows prepare to be good. Great shows prepare to be great. And great is loud!

Ordinary is ignored. Remarkable is remembered.

Turn up the volume on personality. Hundreds of radio shows don’t want to do this because it’s scary. And hard.

But the biggest obstacle is they don’t want to come off as being “sensational”. They want to be “real”. Shows that cause talk are extraordinary personalities doing extraordinary things. And telling extraordinary stories in extraordinary ways.

You know, like The Bachelor. The Bachelor is a dramatic reality show. It’s well-cast, carefully scripted, and each detail is considered in production. The creators manage to seduce viewers and cause them to wonder what will happen next.

Reality show? Sure, in the sense that it’s plausible and “could” happen.

“Real stories from real listeners” is a good place to start. But those stories won’t cause talk until they’re turned into entertainment.


Listeners connect with personalities willing to reveal quirks and flaws. Winning personalities reveal traits in a personal way.

Great shows allow listeners to get to know who they are by embracing things that may be awkward or uncomfortable. Human qualities connect when personalities are vulnerable. This is far more valuable than being technically perfect, smooth, and slick.

I knew DeDe In The Morning on K104/Dallas would become a star when a waitress told me:

I want to be just like her because she’s a lot like me. We’re on the same struggle bus.

Wow. Just wow. This should be the goal for every air personality wishing to be successful.

Brand content

The sixth tip to cause talk is a marketing trick Larry David has mastered. It’s branding content to be easily remembered and repeated.

The creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm has a knack for creating catchphrases and relatable themes that cause talk.

Cleverly branding a phrase inside a segment can be the difference between “that was good” and “That was awesome“.

Click here for details on how to do it on the radio.


This is important. Radio brands are faced with unprecedented challenges from dozens of entertainment sources. It’s why we teach our clients that the scariest competition does not include other radio stations.

Successful personalities turn ordinary segments into must-hear moments. Study the techniques on how to cause talk. Inspire fans to tell their friends and social networks about what they heard on the radio.

If listeners aren’t talking about the show, it’s probably not worth talking about. How will you become a remarkable personality that earns talk?


How to Get Into Fan Conversations

The Physics of Passion In Building Fans

The Real Competition Is NOT Other Stations

The Passion Puzzle

Difference Between Relevant and Relatable

4 Subtle Signs Your Radio Show May Be Self-Absorbed

It’s Not About You, It’s All About You Seminar on Demand

3 Ways to Impact Ratings by Thinking “Outside-In”

4 Ways to Turn Up The Volume on Your Personality

Manufactured Reality Shows Turn Up The Volume on Storytelling

Make Stories Sharable With Branded Content

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