Why Features are a Must-Have Building Block for Your Show
by Tracy Johnson
You probably agree that having an audience fall in love with you as a personality is a good thing. If you don’t agree with that, stop reading now. You’re wasting your time. But you may not understand how locked-in features contribute directly to building that deep relationship with the audience. In fact, features are a must-have building block for your show.
Let’s start at the end goal and work backwards. You want the audience to love you. Before that happens, they have to like you, right? Sure. Makes sense. But before they can like you, they have to get to know you, and they can’t do that unless you give them some thing to get to know. And that can be really hard.
The truth is, the audience is attracted to you first because of the things you do. As they’re exposed to your personality, they fall in love because of who you are-your character. Familiarity is a good thing. Whatever you can do to increase familiarity advances your success path.
5 Phases of Audience Growth
In my Audience Magnet course for radio personalities, I teach the Personality Success Path. You should read the full explanation in the link, but here is a short summary of the five phases of personality growth. Every personality must pass through each.
Introduction: The audience has to know who you are and that you exist. The best thing a new show in this phase can do is support the format, leverage the station’s strengths and insert their personality into the things the audience already likes. Hopefully they move through this phase quickly.
Familiarity: The audience starts associating the talent with the station, and start getting to know some of the personality’s character traits as a result of being exposed to them over time. The station/format is still the primary attraction but the listener is starting to think, “I really like the station when (name) is on”.
In this phase introducing features as a mini-brand is a key element that helps personalities advance to phase 3, and phase 3 is where it starts to get fun!
Growth: In this phase, there are more reasons to listen to the station at specific times, as the personalities start to emerge as a reason to listen. In this phase, listeners would typically say things like, “I really love (station), especially in the morning when they do that (prank call, relationship feature). In this phase, they’re also associating personality names with the station more, as a result of those features.
Like: Now the talent is becoming known for specific reasons. Roots are growing deeper with the audience. In this phase, you hear things like, “I really like when (name) is on. He/She/They are so funny/clever”. The features here are still highly valuable, but the audience is appreciating who they are more and more.
Love: This is the ultimate goal. When you can lead a sizable audience to this phase, the show becomes more “bullet-proof”. LIsteners have fallen in love.. They’ve made choice and you’ve become a habit. And those habits are hard to break.
Why Features Are a Must-Have Building Block
A great feature gives your audience a clear reason to tune in, or remember to come back. And that’s one of the most important reasons you need them on your show. Tune out happens, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But with more and more options for listening, a distracted audience is less likely to remember to come back. That’s mitigated if you have a strong feature they look forward to.
This is particularly obvious when conducting focus groups or one-on-one interviews with listeners about their radio listening habits. This is a typical conversation with a real listener:
Moderator: What do you do when commercials come on or they play a song you don’t like?
Listener: Punch the button. I’m gone.
Moderator: And then what? Do you come back to the original station?
Listener: Sometimes, but usually I forget. If I hear something interesting somewhere else, I stay there.
Moderator: Is that true for all the stations you listen to?
Listener: Mostly, except for (station) when they have (feature) at (time). I always try to come back for that.
By the way, this is particularly true of millennials. In my studies on what drives their listening behavior, it was clear that they love features and special events, and it drives tune-in.
Developing tune-in features is a benefit for all shows, but it’s more important for shows that are developing a deeper audience relationship. A great feature helps with TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness), which drives appointment tune in. And you already know that more appointments leads to longer TSL. And that? Higher ratings.
Features Create a Listening Wedge
Another benefit is the leverage a feature provides, not only as a “reason to exist”. If you asked, I’m pretty sure James Corden would tell you that features are a must-have building block. Where would he be without Carpool Karaoke? But it also has a chain reaction on the every other break in your show.
A great feature can be programmed multiple times each day. It’s part of the art of recycling great content. It’s a fact that your audience doesn’t listen to your whole show. So doesn’t it make sense to program your best material so it’s heard by the most listeners? Some shows air the same feature every hour of their show. And it works.
This creates a positive chain reaction. With more “A” material in multiple breaks, you’ll have have fewer breaks to cover outside the features. And that means each of those features can be higher quality material. Weaker segments don’t make it to the air. And you can put more prep time into those fewer breaks, meaning the overall quality of the show improves.
That has a profound effect on the listener experience. When you get that button-punch, there’s a better chance each individual listener hears stickier, high-quality content. Combined with effective teasing and promotion, you’ll start racking up more quarter-hours. And that repeated exposure not only helps ratings, but gets you into the Growth, Like and Love phases more quickly.
There’s more and more evidence that creating more tune-in appointments is a key to sustaining and growing ratings. Exceptional features are a must-have building block that gets y9ur show more awareness. And that increases the chances of attracting more occasions of listening.