Forget Original Material: Focus on Unique Performances [audio]

Forget Original Material: Focus on Unique Performances [audio]

by Tracy Johnson

Every time I work with an air personality that insists on creating original material that has never been done before, a shiver runs through me. They’re almost certainly going to fail. Not because they aren’t capable, unique, or talented. Not at all. The problem is that the emphasis is on the wrong goal. They should be focusing on unique performances, not original content.

And yes, there is a difference.

There are few truly original ideas that nobody has done before or is doing now. Yet many personalities are convinced they can do something that has never been done before. 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 different, sounds different, and feels different because of how it’s performed and who’s performing it.

Getting hung up on being completely original causes personalities to miss great opportunities. Original material doesn’t matter. Unique performance does.

Here’s the difference.

Original Material vs. Unique Performances

 When is the last time you had an original idea? Was it was really original? Did you Google it? Chances are, that original material started with something you saw, heard, or experienced elsewhere.

Seth Godin discovered that original material is a dead end to obscurity. When looking for ideas for a book, he was looking for 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 idea doesn’t matter if shows focus on delivering unique performances.

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Even Fans Don’t Expect Original Content

The content becomes unique when the personality is injected into the idea.

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 could do it. Hijacking ideas allows you to spend energy figuring out how to connect with an emphasis on character traits.

After all, listeners don’t become fans because of the information or the topics. They become fans because of how those things are performed in a style that’s all yours.

Jeff & Jenn’s Unique Performance

Here’s a perfect example of how it works.

On the morning after the $1.6 billion lottery winner was announced, Jeff & Jenn on Star 94.1 in Atlanta hijacked the topic by getting their co-host Kelly Cheese into the story.

This break comes alive because of their personalities, not because of the topic. And, they build suspense and anticipation into the delivery.


There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from, or even stealing, someone else’s idea. There’s a lot wrong with simply performing someone else’s content exactly as they did it.

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That’s why we recommend the TESOP method of content curation during show prep.

Be smart about choosing the right ideas to steal. Then make those things stand out in a remarkable, delightful, and important way. Original content doesn’t matter. Unique content delivered in your character voice does.


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