by Tracy Johnson
Man, I love air personalities. Working with air talent is one of the most rewarding and exciting things I’ve done, and I have had the privilege to meet and work with some of the most amazing personalities in the world.
Most are among the most interesting people you could possibly meet.
As a talent coach working with hundreds of air personalities, it’s a privilege to sort through the challenges in so many formats and markets. It makes life interesting!
So today, I celebrate talent.
Here are 9 reasons I love air personalities.
Talent is typically volatile, excitable, extreme and over-the-top. When they throw a talent fit, it feels like the apocalypse. Energy comes from a place of passion and insecurity. It’s energizing. And it’s exhausting.
Then it’s over. The outburst usually passes quickly.
This is healthy. When air personalities are repressed and keep things bottled up, it’s like a volcano. When the pressure gets too high, they blow their top!
If you’re a PD, manager or talent coach, take a deep breath. Let it out. Now step back and don’t over-react. Chances are it’ll be better tomorrow and you’ll laugh about it.
If not, fix it then.
When personalities find a way to connect to the audience, it’s better than finding a new flavor of ice cream.
It’s even more fun when the light suddenly comes on and they experience a major breakthrough. They run in and proclaim that they “figured something out”. Then they explain the amazing discovery. And it’s exactly what you’ve told them for weeks. Almost word for word.
PD’s and coaches: Don’t compete for credit. Everyone learns in their own time. Don’t deflate excitement by taking credit for the discovery!
Many programmers try to control talent’s ego and minimize fear. This is a mistake. Most air personalities can’t win without both.
On Wall Street, traders say stocks are driven by greed and fear. Air talent is like that.
Great personalities are driven by a desire to be popular. Being on the air feeds the ego.
Obviously, this must be managed to keep it in perspective. Just don’t deny it. It’s a powerful motivating force.
Fear is also powerful. A little is healthy. Sweaty palms can be a good thing. But when fear is out of control, personalities tend to freeze. They must go into each show with anxious confidence.
Managing ego and fear take time and patience. Try to balance supporting talent to build confidence while feeding the ego.
Air personalities are naturally curious. It’s one of the key traits of being a great talent. There’s a childlike enthusiasm often mistaken for immaturity. It’s more of a fun, youthful way of viewing the world.
And it’s contagious.
Jeff and Jer used to say:
You are only young once, but you can be immature forever.
That’s pretty much it, right there.
Programmers and managers: Never, ever, ever suppress this trait. It’s like watching a child’s innocence taken away. But direct, focus and help them channel it through their personality brand.
Let air personalities play. Just make sure they stay in the yard!
Air talent is sensitive. Understand where it’s coming from.
Great talent reveals personal characteristics to listeners every day. They fly without a net for 3-5 hours a day. And the great ones reveal things that make them vulnerable.
Then they answer an email or check social media and someone is angry. Or disappointed. Thats hard. Nobody likes criticism. But when talent gets a complaint, it’s personal. That’s why they’re sensitive.
Personalities need to know the talent coach/PD is a fan.
I love air personalities because they challenge boundaries. Constantly. A PD sets a talk break limit at 90 seconds, and in a week, they push two minutes. Set it for 2 minutes and it’s 2:30.
Tell them to play two songs between stop sets guarantees one. Get into the stop set by 7:55, and they’ll be in around 7:57.
They don’t deliberately violate the rules. They just don’t understand them. Or they do, but can’t figure out why it’s important. Or maybe they want find out what will happen if the rule is ignored.
Don’t take it personally. Explain why the rules are important. If you can’t explain it, maybe the rules aren’t very good. Then, consistently restate things that are important to the brand.
Everyone thinks radio personalities are lazy.
After all, they only “work” 3-4 hours a day. Then they go home about the time everyone else fires up a second cup of coffee.
But a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into a winning radio show, and most don’t recognize it.
A winning morning show is up at 3am, fully engaged until 1 or 2pm, then constantly thinks about tomorrow’s show. Then they do it again the next day.
Saying air talent is lazy is like saying an NFL player only works 16 days a year.
Appreciate what it takes to be a top performer.
I love when air talent offers feedback on programming. It shows they’re engaged. The ideas aren’t always valid, but usually there’s a nugget of genius that makes the station come alive.
But it isn’t usually volunteered. Programmers have to ask for it.
Ask morning show talent for an opinion on promotions, contests and major decisions. Showing that respect gets more buy in and can be the difference between just another contest and amazing success.
Isn’t it great how air talent can’t wait to get out of the station when the show’s over, but can’t wait to come back the next day and perform?
That’s contagious. I love it.
Personalities make radio worthwhile. It wouldn’t be the same without outrageous, extreme and unpredictable characters.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough true personalities. There are a lot of announcers that aren’t as much fun to work with. They work shifts, but don’t perform shows.
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