How Drive Thru Radio Can Make Your Show More Listenable

How Drive Thru Radio Can Make Your Show More Listenable

by Tracy Johnson

Listeners are familiar with the radio. They know how it works. Turn on the car, and it comes on. Don’t like what you hear? Push the button until you get something that doesn’t make you cringe. To them, it’s an appliance, for the most part. But we want to be more than an appliance. We want to be special. In pursuit of that excellence, stations and shows become complex. We need to stand out, but be as simple as a Drive Thru.

The beauty of a drive thru is convenience. You don’t have to get out of your car. Drive up, tell them what you want, pull forward, pay and go. Fast and simple, just the way we like it.

But how many times have you come to the menu at a drive thru and are confronted with an overwhelming number of confusing choices presented? You get to the speaker, and are confronted with a gigantic board, and hundreds of menu combinations.

Then the voice comes through the speaker demanding to know what you want, while impatient drivers behind you wait in line. You start to sweat, maybe even panic. To remove the stress, you pick something, anything. and then are disappointed.

Chances are you’ll choose a different restaurant next time.

Drive Thru Radio

That’s how many radio shows come off to the audience.

There’s so much going on that nothing cuts through. There are too many options, confusing directions and it becomes difficult to navigate through all the clutter and noise.

It’s up to us to simplify the process and make it easy for listeners to get what they want. They’re not listening that much, and when they are, they aren’t paying much attention. And research has proven that the most common cause of tune out is confusion.

Yet we assume listeners are familiar with what we do and understand how to interact. They don’t. That’s why we need to simplify the process.

Here’s the entire menu at In-n-Out, the legendary west coast fast food restaurant. Look how simple it is. They don’t overwhelm with too many options. And they explain how to order: It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

They get how to keep it simple, clear and concise. But they offer many other options that aren’t on the menu. Their secret menu provides endless options, from ordering a burger Animal Style to a lettuce bun Protein Style option to an 8×8. That’s a gut-busting 8 burger patties and 8 slices of cheese.

But adding all those options to the menu would only make it more confusing.


How To Simplify Your Drive Thru

I recommend every radio show conduct a full zero-based programming audit every quarter. Analyzing every detail for simplicity is a part of this exercise. Here’s what to look for:

  • How can we promote what we’re doing in a way that stands out enough to be both clear and important? Choose the most attractive features to highlight.
  • In what ways can we explain what is available and how each element works quickly and completely so listeners feel included and comfortable? A good drive thru has specific directions for finding the lane and knowing how to order. So should your show.
  • That contest you’ve been doing for six months? The audience can’t remember exactly how it works. It’s like not remembering if the biggest drink in the menu is large or extra large. Explain the rules and how to play each time. Sure, you play Thousand Dollar Minute each morning at the same time. Why explain how the game works yet again? Because they don’t still don’t know what’s going on. It’s like having a burger called The Monster without explaining that it’s a burger, and what’s on it.
  • Second Date Update is a great feature, but if the audience has to pay close attention to figure out what’s going on, they will tune out. It’s too hard to follow. That’s like having combo meals only explained by the number without a list of what comes with them.


There are dozens of options at most drive thru locations. No matter how often you drive through, do you know exactly what you want from each? Or what is offered? That’s how listeners are with radio stations.

It’s easy to become complacent, assuming listeners “get it”.  Even though you are sick of explaining it, most need to be invited to participate and have the menu explained to them.

It doesn’t matter how good your idea is, or how much you’ve prepared the feature. If it can’t be communicated simply and clearly to listeners, they won’t come through your drive thru.

Radio’s Play Along Factor

The #1 Cause of Listener Tune Out Is confusion

How To Conduct a Zero Based Programming Audit

eBook: Avoid Tune Out, Encourage Tune In: The Content Superhero




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