Imagine if Jimmy Kimmel were to tell his executive producer that he didn’t want to do monologues with jokes because that’s what other late-night talk shows do. Instead, he wants to try something nobody else has ever done. Whenever I work with content creators who insist on creating original material that has never been done, a shiver runs through me. They’re almost certainly going to fail. It’s not because they aren’t capable, unique, or talented. The problem is that the emphasis is on the wrong goal. They should be focusing on unique performances, not on original content.

Yes, there is a difference. Original content ideas that nobody has, is, or is about to do are rare. Yet many personalities are convinced they can do something never done. They immediately reject sound ideas because they’ve heard another show something similar sometime in the past.

Most content comes from an idea that’s been done before. It looks, sounds, and feels different because of how and who’s performing it. Hits happen at the intersection of familiarity and freshness. It’s delivered in a recognizable (expected) environment but with unique performances that surprise the audience.

Getting hung up on being completely original causes personalities to miss great opportunities. Original material doesn’t matter, but unique performances do.

Original Material vs. Unique Performances

 When was the last time you had an original idea? Was it truly original? Did you Google it? Chances are that the original material started with something you saw, heard, or experienced elsewhere. But don’t be discouraged. Borrowing, adopting, hijacking, pirating, and stealing ideas is common in every industry. Seth Godin discovered that pursuing original material is a dead end to obscurity. When researching ideas for a book, he was focused on finding a new topic that had never been done. He says:

Every time we had an idea, every time we were about to submit a proposal, we discovered that there was already a book on that topic. Someone else had ‘stolen’ my idea before I had even had it.

The content becomes unique when personality is added. As Godin says:

No one expects you to do something so original, so unique, so off the wall that it has never been conceived of before. In fact, if you do that, it’s unlikely you will find the support you need to do much of anything with your idea.

Instead of obsessing over original material, focus on how to perform in a way only you can do it. Hijack ideas and figure out how to connect with a unique style. Listeners don’t become fans because of the information, topics, or ideas. They become fans because of the performers.

Conclusion

Find inspiration from successful ideas that already exist. Nothing is wrong with that, but that’s very different than merely copying and repeating. There’s a lot wrong with simply performing someone else’s content exactly as they did.

Be smart about choosing the right ideas to adopt, then make those things stand out in unique performances. Original content doesn’t matter. Performing in a way only you can and delivering in your character voice do.

 

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