by Tracy Johnson
One of the basic pillars of performance is relating to an audience on their terms. It’s a sort of audio handshake to add warmth and depth to every break. I call it ize-ing content.
The four Ize-s are: Personal-ize, Local-ize, Energ-ize and Commercial-ize. They;re explained in more detail here. But I’m going to show you how it works in the real world by explaining how it applies to the goal of every radio personality.
Personalities that are friendly, warm and involved in the listener’s world become friends. But you can’t become friends unless you add personality to every break. Otherwise, you’re just a voice on the radio.
Ize-ing content is simple, but it takes a commitment to do it well and deliver it consistently. And, alarmingly, this seems to be a declining art. Air talent sounds increasingly robotic, detached and as a whole seems to be losing the warmth that goes beyond content, topics or material.
Perhaps it’s a by-product of our obsession with the PPM-centric programming philosophy of eliminating all “useless” talk, keeping it tight and trying to win more occasions of listening. The actual words may not be needed, so they’re eliminated.
Or perhaps we’ve inadvertently raised a generation of air talent that doesn’t understand the importance of being authentic, natural, relatable talent.
Sean Ross described the condition as personalities who “talk a lot but have nothing to say.”
Maybe the problem is that personalities really are disconnected from the audience because they’re voice-tracking multiple stations in other cities they know nothing about. And since they can deliver content quickly and easily, they do, without preparation or thought into how the break can be special.
What’s missing is content additives, relatable comments, phrases, mentions and observations that let them know we are real, live, living and breathing human beings getting through life the same way they are.
It’s common to hear personalities trying to jam too much information into too little time. We gather facts and try to find a way to get it all on the air. The result is too little time to entertain.
This applies to teases, promos, station liners, contests and well, just about everything.
Instead of trying to promote all the details of that weekend appearance at the tire store, pick out one aspect of it and tel la short story about it. Rather than reciting facts, focus on making an emotional connection that paints a picture and causes the audience to feel something. Then work a fact or two into the break.
Content additives are at the heart of “ize-ing” content.
The four principles are to energ-ize, personal-ize, local-ize and supersize your show with content relatables. This requires discipline, time and attention. They should be infused into every single break in your show. It should be part of your show prep process.
Managed properly, they allow you to expand topics because you’re not devoting a full break to it… it’s just a mention. Eventually, it becomes a habit, almost second nature.
Infusing content additives into your show is like a relatability supplement. It will make you sound in-touch immediately. How can you start?
There are hundreds of ways personalities can improve content quickly and easily. Usually it’s a simple matter of adjusting perspective and adding some colorful details.
Here are some examples of wasted opportunities from personalities trying to communicate from their own perspective rather than engaging through the audience’s world:
Hey, you having fun on your weekend? At least you have some time off. Me? I’m stuck at work playing the throwback weekend for you.
Your job is not work. And it’s not what you’re for. And they don’t care what you’re doing. Your job is to enhance their experience, not drag them into yours.
Big weekend at the box office for (hot new movie). I didn’t see it yet, but the reviews on it are terrific
You just told me you are out of touch with what’s going on in the world. And yes, most of your audience probably did NOT see it, either. But as a trend-setter and leader in the world of pop culture, you should have.
Or at least leave the impression that you did. And why even call attention to reviews or the fact that you did NOT see it? Is it necessary to send a signal that you’re not in touch? I can’t think of one.
If you remember him from his n’Sync days, well, you’re just getting old, like me. Here’s that new song from Justin Timberlake.
Okay, good reference to pop culture and music history. And I like that you didn’t just construct a break with facts.But listeners tune in to be inspired and feel good. Not to have you tell them they’re old and out of touch. No matter what format you’re on, play to the listener’s sense of greed, which is to feel better about themselves because of you.
There’s a ton of information readily available about every single artist. That’s great, and you can use it on your show.
But don’t distribute it as a history lesson or just reciting facts. Get rid of the,
Here the latest from a woman who launched her career at the age of 16, and two years later was opening for Jay-Z.
You don’t impress anyone with an encyclopedic knowledge of the facts. Instead, use the information to add to a more interesting break, such as,
Admit it, when you first heard Rihanna’s song (title…with hook playing in background), you liked the song, but never guessed she would become THIS…her 16th #1 song, and she’s not even 30…I think I was still living in my mom’s basement playing Super Mario Brothers. Here’s (song)
Most personalities could invest more time planning how to present music on their show. It’s easy to take it for granted, but music makes up a large percentage of the entertainment value on most radio shows, so doesn’t it make sense to do a great job promoting music?
It only takes a few minutes each day to gather information and present it creatively. Integrate it throughout the show in small bits, not just in your celebrity news feature.
Hubbard Broadcasting’s 106.5 The Arch/St. Louis (WARH) does a great job showcasing their variety hits format with interesting information and creating mini-stories. The effect is a combination of content, positioning and teasing.
Going into many of their commercial breaks, they play a quick sounder that positions the station, followed by the air talent delivering a short, intriguing tease that builds interest in one of the upcoming tracks.
It’s easy to get the information. Just do a quick Google search on the song, artist or both. Or, check one of the many sources of information online, including the constantly updated website SongFacts.com.
Let me know how it works for you, and send along an example or two. I’d love to hear it.
Research tells us weather still one of the most important elements on most every show. Every station does it, but few are relating it. Most are just going through the motions with a stiff, official forecast.
You’ll need a sweater and a coat today… the sun is coming but just 1 degree on Monday as the new work week begins.
Dress warmly today-a sweater and jacket will be about right – it’s going to be chilly but not cold…
A break from the snow later this morning, but bundle up… and don’t forget to put a hat on the kids. The sun is out but it’s really cold out there today.
Sarah Taylor is the midday personality on Spirit 105.3/Seattle, a terrific Contemporary Christian station. Sarah is upbeat, bright and clever. And she masters the concept of ize-ing her content.
Listen to this break, a simple weather forecast and how Sara personalizes it:
In just a few seconds, Sarah told a story. It’s a short story, but it adds color to a service element that is usually ordinary and mundane. This actually gets heard! And it adds value to her personality brand.
In just a few seconds, she communicated everything we needed to know about the weather. It cuts through more than the official forecast from the weather service or detail about today’s highs and lows. it’s perfectly presented to the audience, a target of moms.
It’s simply great example of energizing a break with color.
Create stories (yes, make them up!) about their lives and what they’re doing today. Make it sound like everyone is listening, and the party is on your station!
Thanks for turning us on this morning… including Paula and Shannon. They carpool with their kids to school at (name the school), and Paula told me her 6th grader has her hooked on (our station). Awww, thanks so much. You made our day! And to her daughter Chelsea: Good luck on that history test today.
Another new listener checking in this morning… Brenda just found us on her way HOME from the late shift at the hospital and tells us that she can’t get enough of that new Maroon 5 song, and she’s standing by for (contest coming up in 10 minutes)… Brenda, your chance is coming up at 8.
“Maggie just called – she’s fighting the snow to get to her first day of work at a new job this morning and she’s afraid that her new boss won’t understand that she’s late because traffic is bad. You’re not alone, Maggie!”
When you start personalizing your show by using listener’s name an amazing thing happens: Your content is more colorful and interesting, you can fit relevant content into your show naturally and easily and it sounds like everyone is listening to your show. A side benefit is that soon listeners will be calling or texting their real stories so you can say hi to them on the air.
Even short phone calls or playing excerpts of calls that punctuate the show and suggest that you are friendly, warm, approachable and interactive.
Listener interaction, even if it’s repurposed from previous days (or weeks or months) gives the impression you’re talking with the audience, not at them. You don’t have to turn the show over to them, but having a caller to accent your break can sound charming and interactive.
This is a tactic we use with many solo shows that rely on listeners to function as a co-host. The fastest way to get calls coming in is to put alls on.
Thank your audience for listening regularly.
Insert listener names (just first names) and locations, including neighborhoods, schools, communities, businesses, etc.
This is a great way to shake hands on the air.
Sometimes personalities come on abruptly as if they’re walking up to a group at a party and just start talking without introducing themselves. It’s more polite (and likable) to introduce yourself with a quick handshake.
Handshakes can be as simple as building a relatable bridge from something that’s happening in the world today.
Find ways to connect to things happening in the community with simple references that acknowledge you are “one of them.”
Laura is dragging a little this morning, getting ready for another day of battle at the cosmetics counter at (retail store)… she was at (event) last night and didn’t get to sleep until after 1… wanted to get moving this morning… here’s Rihanna.
If you’re passing near (intersection) in the next few minutes, stop by and help Terry and John… they’re stuck on the right side of the road waiting for Triple A. They’re carpooling to (business) and John insisted there was enough gas to get there… uh huh. Thanks for having us on… and good luck guys.
This happens in organic breaks, but also in ordinary promos and reading liners.
This is another of the ize-s. It’s supersizing content. Here’s Sara Taylor again with an example:
This promotion is for Spirit 105.3’s concert featuring Jars of Clay, but you never see it coming. She paints a picture, taking you there with rich details. It’s not over-the-top, but the promo is much more interesting because it’s so colorful.
The great part of this break is in the details. She doesn’t just mention the scones. It’s warm scones, fresh out of the oven. And you don’t have just one, you have and one in each hand.
The technique is excellent, but it’s energized by her personality. Sara’s smile comes through every time she opens the mic, and she reveals character through comments, without calling attention to herself.
Connect each element to the preceding and upcoming element. And use every single piece of content as a tool to show off your personality. Even those promos and commercials.
Introduce the songs. Promote your features.
Here’s a great example of a personality oriented show demonstrating that they love the station and embrace the music.
Here’s an example of how to inject personality in a short break. This is Jagger & Kristi, morning show on Magic 92.5/San Diego:
Anyone can read liner cards and provide facts.
It’s on you to paint a picture and make every break come alive. Say it the way nobody else does-or can. This is at the heart of personality.
Morning personality Rick Morton was reading a liner card for a promo on Z90/San Diego that offered an exclusive party experience for a listener. He set up the break by saying:
This is what it must feel like to be Paris Hilton.
That one line built more excitement and vision than all of the facts and details for the promotion. It lured the listener into wanting to hear more. Subtle? Yes. Small thing? Of course. But it’s these details that paint a picture for the audience.
That’s the kind of artistry that’s missing from many of today’s personalities, partly because we’ve PPM’d the art out of most stations. We’re so focused on editing talk breaks down to just the essentials that the entertainment value has disappeared with it. Listen go great personalities like Broadway Bill Lee or Jojo Kincaid.
Sean Ross has a similar observation when he wrote:
Can we not bond with listeners over anything better than “more music, better variety”? Because we certainly can’t bond with listeners over “more music, better variety.” Perhaps it’s because of voice tracking. But careless voice tracking often leads to a lot of “breaks from nowhere.” There are live promos for ongoing station promotions that don’t necessarily sound any different from the one heard a few months ago. Or it’s the litany of jock-isms inserted between songs in a way that stops the momentum and makes the bit sound canned. Voice-tracking was heralded for its ability to bring the precision of old back to radio.
Every break matters, even those short 7 second song intros. They’re opportunities to entertain and add to the listener experience.
Start putting more prep time into those things that seem easy. It may seem like a small thing, but as the saying goes: Many Mickles Makes a Muckle.
In other words, little things add up to mean a lot.
Make every mention come alive and tell a story!
Opportunities are everywhere. Start tomorrow. It’ll energize your show!
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