The One Thing That Can Make You #1

The One Thing That Can Make You #1

by Tracy Johnson

Most clients know how much value I place on focus and simplicity. One of the most recommended principles of winning radio is a philosophy based on The Power of One Thing. In fact, there’s one thing that can make you #1.

How powerful is this one thing? Research proves that there really isn’t much difference in actual listening between the #10 and #1 radio shows in a market. 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. The top stations simply create more reasons to tune in, and promote those occasions much more effectively to drive those moments.

In City Slickers, Curly and Mitch have a discussion that eventually sends Mitch (Billy Crystal) on a life-changing quest.

The problem is that it’s hard to find tune in events truly worth attracting those occasions. So personalities and programmers constantly tweak and add, thinking that if we can just make it better, they’ll listen more. But they don’t. Because that content isn’t memorable enough.

In Content Superhero: What Causes Tune In, we show that features are more valuable than ever. They frame content to make it easily digested by listeners. This is critical, especially for a new or developing show, or one that’s building a new audience base.

A single great “one thing” feature can be the tune-in factor that is the difference between #10 and #1.

Finding Your One Thing

Here’s the surprising thing: You only need one. Most shows want to do more, and nothing ever takes off because there isn’t enough heat on any individual element to allows listeners to get to know and love the feature or the personality.

In his book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, author Gary Keller explains the 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. By the way, you should get the book. It’s full of great advice for broadcasters.

The same is true in programming and performing a radio show. All it takes is one really good appointment-based feature to take your show from good to great, especially if you air that feature multiple times per day.

You can literally double your ratings.

One More Thing About The One Thing

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

Kidd was right, but what does that mean? How can you apply it to your show tomorrow?

Start with realizing how listeners use the radio. For most, it’s a soundtrack playing in the background as they live their lives. When something catches their attention, they will stop and listen. But the content that captures their attention has to be special to cut through.

Now, with that premise, here’s how the one thing works on the air:

One Thing Per Quarter Hour

Focus on one thing that cuts through the listener clutter enough to resonate. Find relevant topics and deliver it in relatable ways that interest and entertain the audience. Don’t confuse those two things. Relevant and relatable are not the same.

It could be a feature, a contest, a phone segment, comments about top of mind topics, a story from one of the cast member or any other content type.

A good measure of whether the content is worthy of being your “one thing” is if it is promote-able. Would you tease it? Is it worthwhile? What is the highlight in this 15 minute period? If you don’t have something in every quarter hour that has potential of keeping listeners tuned in, you aren’t prepared.

One Thing Per Hour

One of those four things per hour must be strong enough to cause a listener reaction. It doesn’t have to cause them to take physical action (phone call, email, visit to a website or social media page, etc). We’re talking about emotional responses. A laugh, a smile, a provocative comment that inspires thought. How can you measure it?

Many times, this can be a feature.

Here’s how to measure whether one of your breaks is likely to cause a reaction: Would this content cause a listener to stop what they’re doing and turn up the radio? Are they responding in their minds to what we’re saying? In other words, does it make them care? Does it matter?

One Thing Per Day

Give them something that they would share with a co-worker or pass along in an email or Facebook post. What will be the highlight of today’s show that is so entertaining a listener will rush into work and tell a friend, “Oh my God, 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 each day to offer one share-able moment. This is as much about branding a great segment as performing it.

One Thing Per Quarter

Plan strategically to be memorable. Look for one thing every three months that can become part of the fabric of your show. It may be a promotion, a heartwarming deed for a listener, a feature you become well-known for or a benchmark.

It’s simple, but not easy. KISS-FM/Sydney 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.

Read more here.

One Thing Per Year

Every year, find something that can make you legendary. Some of these can be created, such as a promotion that becomes an annual event like Christmas Wish, but many happen by chance, often when you least expect it.

Be alert when opportunities present themselves and use all resources to take advantage of those moments.


This is an easy-to-follow formula that can help keep it simple. It requires a ton of preparation, time and effort. But it’s worthwhile, because executing this strategy results in can’t-miss moments.

Execute this plan and your show will be more important. It will be stickier and easier to recall.

And when you consider the short attention spans and length of listening occasions, you’ll soon be turning those one things into #1 ratings.

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