Success seems complicated. Legendary performers usually credit a simple strategy as the key to success. One of the most recommended principles of winning radio is 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?

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

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

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, trying to make it better. Some think that if we make more, there’s a better chance to find a hit.

But it doesn’t work like that.

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 Formula

I once asked the late Kidd Kraddick about 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.

Each Quarter Hour: In real life, listeners are usually busy with another activity while listening to the radio. When something catches their attention, they stop and listen. Focus on one thing per quarter-hour that is actually heard.

Each Hour: One of the four things per hour must be strong enough to cause a reaction. What will provoke a laugh or a smile? Is there a comment that inspires thought? Here’s how to evaluate 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.

Each Day:  Give listeners one thing each day that might be shared with a co-worker or friend. What will activate the audience? What highlight is so entertaining a listener will say, “Did you hear what (show) did on the radio this morning?” Jeff & Jer called it their Didja Hear of the day.

Each Quarter: Plan strategically to be memorable at least once every three months. It may be a promotion, a heartwarming deed for a listener, or a benchmark. This is simple, but not easy.

Each Year:  Is there a promotion or cause that becomes an annual event like Christmas Wish or Breaking and Entering Christmas?  If not, be alert to find one.


Success often starts with a signature feature that drives success. I call it finding your Carpool Karaoke, a feature that turned James Corden into 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.

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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