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 your show #1.
Here’s a famous scene from a hilarious movie that demonstrates it. In City Slickers, Curly and Mitch have a discussion that eventually sends Mitch (Billy Crystal) on a life-changing quest.
How powerful is the concept?
Research proves that there is little difference in listening levels between #10 and #1 radio shows 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.
The difference is in the frequency of listening occasions. Top stations simply create more reasons to tune in and promote those occasions to drive those moments. Simple, right?
The problem is that it’s hard to create a tune-in event that attracts listeners. So personalities and programmers constantly tweak and add, thinking that if we can make it better, they’ll listen more. Or if we make more, there’s a better chance to find a hit.
But it doesn’t work like that. Most content isn’t memorable enough. The One Thing concept is simple, and it’s applied in several layers.
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 to allow listeners to love the feature or the personality.
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.
The One Thing starts with having a signature feature that can lead to success. I call it finding your Carpool Karaoke. That is the feature that transformed James Corden from pleasant, humorous talk show host to 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.
But a radio show can’t exist on one feature. That’s just the magnet to attract tune in.
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 rest of the formula.
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.
For each quarter-hour on the air, focus on one thing that will cut through the clutter and resonate with listeners.
It could be a feature, contest, phone segment, or a story from a cast member.
But prepare the show to develop One Thing in every quarter-hour that can command attention.
One of the four things per hour must be strong enough to cause a reaction. It doesn’t have to cause them to take physical action (phone call, email, visit a website or social media page, etc).
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 analyze whether it’s strong enough: Ask yourself,
Would this content cause a listener to stop what they’re doing and turn up the volume?
In other words, does it make them care? Does it matter?
Many times, this will be the One Thing feature.
Give listeners something each day that may be shared with a co-worker or passed along in an email or Facebook post. In other words, what will be on today to activate the audience?
What is the highlight that is so entertaining a listener will rush into work and tell a friend, “Did you hear what (show) did on the radio this morning?”
This content has to be so compelling that a listener willingly and enthusiastically talks about your show.
Plan strategically to be memorable.
Plan an event or memorable break 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. KISS-FM/Sydney Australia personalities Kyle & Jackie O take it one step further. They agonize to be talked about each week. Their producer, Craig Bruce (now a consultant) said:
When Jackie said “What can we do this week that will get us talked about”, she wanted the response to scare her.
Every year, find One Thing that could make you legendary.
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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