by Tracy Johnson
Most clients hire a talent coach because they have a problem. Usually that problem is performance. That makes sense, right? Often it’s a lack of understanding or expertise. Sometimes it’s a lack of talent. Occasionally, we run into casting or role issues. Or a personality is good, but the show lacks sizzle. And once in a great while, the show is performing at a very high level, but it just doesn’t stand out. It’s technically perfect, but somehow it’s flat. Someone has managed to polish the entertainment out.
As human beings, we love being comfortable. I have a friend who still drives a 1989 Firebird with almost 300,000 miles on it. He’ll never give it up. Ever.
It’s not his only car. He has a new one, too, and that new car smell is fantastic. The new car is nice. He loves the new features and gadgets. But the Firebird is more comfortable. And he drives it more than his new one, even though that 30 year old car is covered with scrapes and scuffs.
You probably have a favorite shirt to wear around the house. It’s more comfortable than a brand new outfit.
And who doesn’t have a chair or sofa that’s a little worn, but has conformed exactly to your body? It’s not showroom perfect, but it’s so much better than a new, stiff sofa that hasn’t been broken in. It’s your favorite. So much better than a brand new, not-yet-broken-in leather couch.
Radio shows are like that, too. Personality radio is messy. Great shows are flawed. Yet many broadcasters invest their time and resources in seeking perfection. In doing so, we polish the entertainment out of the show.
Many years ago, I saw an interview with Michael J. Foxx. He was asked what made him so likable as a performer. He gave a very simple answer. He said he stopped trying to be perfect, and instead put an emphasis on being the best he could be. His exact quote:
Don’t strive for perfection. That’s in God’s hands. We’ll never achieve it. But we can work every day for excellence.
That’s a profound statement for radio performers.
Improving performance is important. We should never accept being sloppy. Nor should we allow a show to fail because we’re not paying attention to detail. We’re not trying to be flawed. But stressing details can turn a talented show sterile. It may be technically excellent, but it’s not relatable.
There are many ways to recognize problems in this area, but recovery comes from identifying causes.
The list goes on and on. And that’s the situation I found with my new client. The show is excellent in most areas:
Listening to the show, it’s hard to find problems without nitpicking. Could we polish it even more? Sure, there’s always a way to improve through fine-tuning. But we’d just be shining something that’s already pretty bright. And this show is really doing nothing wrong. But the show has little impact compared to other shows in the market.
Their competitors are flawed, some deeply. But many of them are more highly rated. And the personalities generate more passion.
There are dings and cuts and gouges. Our show is polished and shiny. But it’s not comfortable.
It sounds odd coming from a consultant or talent coach, but we need to make this show more comfortable. More “lived in”. Maybe we should “spill something on it”. Let that stain give it some character. Allow their flawed personality quirks to shine through.
Combined with dedication and excellence, this show is going to be wildly successful. It can’t miss, as long as we allow the personalities to embrace their quirks.
Those brand new, shiny, off-the-shelf breaks that are technically perfect are, ironically, flawed. Listeners would rather sit in their favorite chair, recline in a favorite couch or run errands in their old beater car. You know, the one with scuffs and scrapes, and gets terrible gas mileage.
That comes from allowing personality to emerge through content.
It’s not logical at all, is it? It seems that being better will be more successful. And if we’re not successful, we need to be better. But building a fan base is emotional, not logical.
We don’t name a brand new car. We name a favorite car. The one we have an illogical connection with. The kind of car we can’t imagine giving up. Ever. For any price. Even if it drinks oil.
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