Radio personalities are taught to keep it simple and that’s sound advice. This programming rule of thumb stems from the fact that listeners don’t listen much and pay even less attention. So it makes sense to explain every break as if talking to a third-grader. But many programmers and personalities have taken this too far. Keeping it simple is a great principle as long as you’re not just grabbing the low-hanging fruit and tossing a phone topic on the air.

Low-hanging fruit is the result of personalities performing the obvious angle. It happens with topics designed to attract phone calls. For example:

Hey, Kim Kardashian is allergic to peanuts. That would be annoying because I love peanut butter, and eat it every day. So here’s the question of the day: What food do you love and couldn’t imagine being allergic to it? Here’s our number.

That’s an obvious, easy, and lazy topic. It’s low-hanging fruit.

Why Low-Hanging Fruit Happens So Often

There are several reasons shows tend to pick low-hanging fruit:

  • It’s Natural. When I say “up”, you think “down”. If I say “table”, you think “chairs”. Humans naturally gravitate to the most obvious connections. Over time, it becomes a habit.
  • Lazy Show Prep: Planning a show is a grind, but as Mike Shepard often points out, it doesn’t have to be like doing your taxes. Still, poor show prep techniques often lead to common, ordinary content that doesn’t stand out.
  • Rushing To Get It On The Air: One of the biggest reasons is that personalities feel pressed to get fresh content on the air immediately when the topic is “hot”. Yes, we should be relevant, but here’s a news flash: No matter how quickly you talk about a topic, you’re not first.

Here’s a two-minute explanation of why it’s not (usually) important to be first:

Don’t Jump The Route

Wild 101/Boise programmer Isaiah Twitty once played cornerback on his college football team. His defensive back coach taught him the importance of patience and avoiding chasing the first thing he sees when covering a receiver. He called it “Jumping the Route”. By waiting for the right moment, he’d be in a position to make a bigger play, perhaps even an interception.

The passage of time affects feelings about content. Personalities should be patient to make a bigger play.

Remember this concept:

Just because something happens today doesn’t mean it has to be on the air immediately. Most of the time, it’ll be more relevant tomorrow. Waiting a day actually allows time for the audience to hear the story. When more listeners are aware of it and talking about it, the content resonates more deeply.

An Example

One morning, a news alert announced that Janet Jackson gave birth to a baby at age 51. My client put it on their entertainment report, which was appropriate because it was relevant news. But they tried to develop a storyline about the topic without thinking about the possibilities. The segment was fine, but it didn’t go anywhere. It was flat. Their comments were shallow. They didn’t know what to say because it hadn’t been prepped, so it came off as “Wow, that’s really great for Janet.”

It was low-hanging fruit.

In the post-show meeting, we talked about what could have been done differently. They had several great ideas and expressed regret that they hadn’t thought of them at the time. 

Here’s the thing: The next day, Janet was still a new mom. She is still 51 years old. And more people will be aware of the story. In fact, the following week, she will still be a 51-year-old first-time mom with a newborn. The topic is still relevant. It’s not breaking news, but most shows aren’t in the breaking news business.

There were many angles, but the show felt they had missed the moment. That’s not the case. The segment just needed to frame differently.

To their credit, the show used the topic the following day, and it was terrific. They talked about how Janet would be nearly 70 when her child graduates from high school, leading to a relatable phone topic about the best age to have kids. The host of the show even took a stance that there should be a cutoff age of around 38, which really stirred the pot. That’s a lot sticker than the low-hanging fruit of “Hey, how about that? Janet had a baby.”

Get Past Low-Hanging Fruit

Shows pick the low-hanging fruit all the time. It’s not hard to get deeper. It just takes some time and effort. Here’s an approach that can help:

  1. Look for emotional connections in the situation. How would you feel? What would you do? The best content isn’t about the facts of the story. It’s in the “what else” of the story.
  2. Dig deeper by asking why and what else. A more relatable observation will emerge with a much better chance to connect with the audience. Listeners really aren’t that interested in what happened, but in how it relates to them.
  3. In prep, ask three questions: What could happen? What should happen? And what would be cool if it did happen? In other words, what are the possibilities? This can open the idea faucet to find an interesting storyline.
  4. Once there’s an angle, identify a premise and build the segment backward from the payoff.  This is a common technique used by stand-up comics.


Turning generic content into entertainment is fun when the prep gets beyond the low-hanging fruit. TJMG offers many resources to help the process including a live workshop on Tuesday, November 15 at 12 noon eastern time. Andy, Mike, and I will demonstrate how to develop multiple ideas from topics. Join us for free on YouTube.

Also, check out:

  • Show Prep Seminars On Demand here. For Insiders members, watch the seminar for free here.
  • Dozens of articles on Insiders Radio Network: Show Prep Techniques.
  • Our show prep service applies these concepts with daily prep for every day of the year. Visit Personality Magnet Show Prep for details on how to start with a two-week trial for just $1.

Use these tips to find unique, exciting ways to connect with listeners and avoid the low-hanging fruit.

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