A Programmer Air Checks Santa

A Programmer Air Checks Santa

by Tracy Johnson

What would happen if Santa Claus were an air talent, and a programmer were to review his performance? Here’s how it may go if a programmer air checks Santa.

It’s a one-way discussion, because the PD has a lot on his mind:

A Programmer Air Checks Santa

Okay, Santa, here’s the deal. We need to talk. It’s Christmas time, your biggest time of the year, and the ratings aren’t what they used to be. I know you’re doing fine with the younger demographics, but that’s not the money demo. We have to expand your appeal.

Now, we’ve done some research, and there’s a few things we have to fix right away. And if we don’t make some big adjustments, there’s going to be some serious issues.

Credibility & Image

First, your credibility is shot with adults. You’re just not believable. They aren’t buying into your whole story, and it starts with your name. Where’d you get Saint Nicholas? They don’t think you’re being “real” with them. We have to change it. You need to spend more time talking about yourself and what your real life is like. None of this “North Pole” stuff.

Research & Gifts

The last couple of years, you’ve been letting too many kids ask for toys that don’t test well with 35-44 year old women. There’s only about 5 hits that everyone wants. Here’s a list. If little Lindsey asks for something not on that list, ignore her and tell her that you know better. She’ll take what you bring her. Don’t worry. She’ll adjust.

Music Choices

Now: A couple of things about music. Our research found that most people like Christmas music in general, but there are 37 Christmas songs that nobody dislikes. If you just play those songs and get rid of all that other polarizing crap, we’ll keep them in the mall for hours. That may not seem like enough variety, but we’ll be fine as long as you tell them that we play “A better mix of Christmas so you can listen longer.” They’ll believe whatever you tell them. Research proves that this will make them like you.

Less Talk, More Music

Now that we have the definitive safe list of the right songs, I need you to start playing more of it. We know that as soon as you start to talk, they tune out. So we’re replacing some of your act with “at least 10 Carols in a Row every hour” and a special “90 Minute Marathon to start the Shopping Day.” You’ll just take a few longer breaks and hang out in the back room more. We’ll drop in some of your voice-tracks so you still have a presence.

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Sell The Music

When you do say something, your primary job is to promote the music. Nobody really cares about you. The Carols are the star. That and the prizes….er, presents. And be sure to back-announce Elmo and Patsy. They told us they hate it when we don’t identify every song and artist.

Positioning Statements

It’s also important that we image the brand with Christmas, so starting now, every time you say anything, the first and last thing out of your mouth should be to remind them who plays the most Christmas songs. That’s how we’ll win Christmas. Start with the positioning statement we talked about: A Better Mix of Christmas and more of it featuring 10 Carols in a row every hour and a 90 minute marathon to start your shopping day.

Then do your break with the kids, and wrap it with a quick testimonial that supports our position. You’ll ask, “Who plays the most Carols?” then get them to say “Santa.” You don’t need to ask all that other stuff, like if they’ve been naughty or nice. All that milk and cookies chatter was self-indulgent, anyway. We’ve done some tests on this, and we think you can do a great break in 12-14 seconds, so tighten it up and use your skills to entertain and relate, baby!

Less Ho Ho Ho

With shorter breaks, there’s less time for talk, so we need to cut it down a bit, big fella. There’s several ways to do this. I noticed you’ve been saying “Ho, Ho, Ho” a lot. It seems repetitive. Do you really need three ho’s to get your point across? How about just one? Less Ho – More Carols. Everyone wins.

And can we cut down the amount of time you chit-chat with the kids? We’ll have an intern screen them for their name….Huh? Yes, an intern. The elves? Sorry, budget cut. The elves are out. But we have some 18 year old kids from Community college that get social media so it’ll be an upgrade.

So when little Jason sits on your lap, just say “Hi, Jason from Springfield, what do you want?” If they can’t tell you in the first few seconds, get them off and move on to the next kid. All that filler talk is killing forward momentum. Energy, Santa! Energy!

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Promise It, Even If You Can’t Deliver

This may not seem important to you, but in listening to some of the tapes from last year, we noticed that you told the kids you’d “try” to get them the gift they want. You need to promise them. No more being vague. Yes, I know they may not actually get what they ask for, but we don’t really care about that. We just want to get them through this Christmas season. We’ll worry about next year when it comes. We need impact now.

No Jingle Bells-It Doesn’t Test

Finally, back in August, we did some focus groups with 8 people in a hotel room. They spent four hours telling us what Christmas means to them, and they don’t care about jingle bells. So get rid of them, and be sure to promote it. We ran some slogans past them and they really got it when we asked if they understood “More Music, less Jingle.” It works. Let’s go with that.

Listen, I know this seems extreme, but you have to trust that we know what we’re doing. We’re taking out all potential negatives, so we’ll definitely keep the audience from going off to the competition.

The programmer has now completed the meeting. After he air checks Santa, the PD takes a call just as Santa is about to ask a question. But the PD waves him off and mouths “We’ll talk. Keep up the good work.”


With that, a dejected Santa slumped out of the office wondering why he ever decided it would be fun to be Santa in the first place.

Author: Tracy Johnson

Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.

For more than 30 years, Johnson has been developing on-air superstars that attract fans, retain audiences and generate revenue.

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