The One Thing That Can Make You #1

The One Thing That Can Make You #1

by Tracy Johnson

Success often seems complicated. It’s hard to envision everything that goes into a winning strategy. But legendary performers usually credit a simple strategy as the key to their success. One of the most recommended principles of winning radio is a philosophy based on The Power of One Thing. In fact, committing to this strategy can make a radio show #1.

Here’s a famous scene from a hilarious movie that demonstrates it. In the movie City Slickers, Curly and Mitch have a discussion that eventually sends Mitch (Billy Crystal) on a life-changing quest.

That’s a great scene from a great movie. But what does it have to do with a radio show and how powerful is the concept?

Radio & The One Thing

The margin between average and excellent is small. Nielsen’s research finds little difference in listening levels between the #10 and #1 radio show in most markets.

The top 10 stations typically have similar TSL (time spent listening) for each listening occasion.

Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. Consider that actual listening is far smaller than most radio folks think.

The difference is not so much in the length of listening per tune in occasion but in the frequency of occasions. Top stations simply create more reasons to tune in and promote those occasions to drive ratings.

Simple, right?

The Problem

The problem is that it’s hard to create a tune-in event that truly attracts listeners. So personalities and programmers constantly tweak and add. We’re constantly trying to make it better.

Or some think that if we make more, there’s a better chance to find a hit.

But it doesn’t work like that.

Most personalities work too hard to create more content. the problem is the content isn’t memorable enough.

Here’s the surprising thing: One Thing can be all it takes to win.

Most shows want to do more things and there isn’t enough heat on any individual element for listeners to love it.

In his book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, author Gary Keller explains a simple truth behind extraordinary results:

Success is built sequentially, one thing at a time. No matter how success is measured, personal or professional, only the ability to dismiss distractions and concentrate on your One Thing stands between you and your goals.

Keller quotes Confucius in making the point that if you chase two rabbits, you catch none. Get the book. It’s full of great advice for broadcasters.

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I once asked the late Kidd Kraddick the secret to his legendary success. Kidd thought for a moment, then explained it in simple brilliance:

Our show is a series of ones. One thing that makes an impact. It’s ONE THING each quarter hour that listeners actually hear. ONE THING per hour that causes a response. Just ONE THING per day that they might tell someone about. ONE THING per quarter that they remember about you. And ONE THING per year that could make you legendary.

Here’s the formula.

The One Thing Formula

One Thing Per Quarter Hour They Hear: In real life, listeners aren’t listening much. And they’re usually busy with another activity while listening to the radio in the background. When something catches their attention, they stop and listen. Focus on one thing per quarter-hour that will be heard. It could be a feature, contest, phone segment, or a story from a cast member.

One Thing Per Hour That Causes A Reaction: One of the four things per hour must be strong enough to cause a reaction. I’m talking about emotional responses. What will provoke a laugh or a smile? Is there a provocative comment that inspires thought? This is hard to measure, but it should still be the goal for each hour. Here’s how to measure it: Would this content cause a listener to stop what they’re doing and turn up the volume? Many times, this will be the One Thing feature described below.

One Thing Per Day That Is Memorable:  Give listeners one thing each day that may be shared with a co-worker or passed along in an email or Facebook post. In other words, what will activate the audience? What highlight is so entertaining a listener will rush into work and tell a friend, “Did you hear what (show) did on the radio this morning?” Jeff & Jer called it their Didja Hear of the day.

One Thing Per Quarter They Remember: Plan strategically to be memorable at least once every three months that can be part of the fabric of the show long-term. It may be a promotion, a heartwarming deed for a listener, or a benchmark. It’s simple, but not easy.

One Thing Per Year That Is Legendary:  Maybe it’s a promotion that becomes an annual event like Christmas Wish or Breaking and Entering Christmas. Plan ahead and be alert. Many opportunities pop up when least expected.

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Start With a Feature

The One Thing concept often starts with a signature feature that drives success. I call it finding your Carpool Karaoke. That is the feature that transformed James Corden from a pleasant, humorous talk show host to an internationally famous celebrity.

All it takes is one great appointment-based feature to take a show from good to great, especially if that feature is on multiple times per day.

In Content Superhero: What Causes Tune In, we show how features are more valuable than ever. Features act as a content container for new or developing shows.

A radio show can’t thrive on one feature, but it’s a powerful magnet to attract tune-in.


This is an easy-to-follow formula to develop a simple success plan. It requires a ton of preparation, time, and effort.

Execute this plan and your show will be more important, stickier, and more popular.


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