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.
In City Slickers, Curly and Mitch have a discussion that eventually sends Mitch (Billy Crystal) on a life-changing quest.
How powerful is the one thing concept?
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 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.
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. The One Thing concept is simple, and it’s applied in several layers.
Here’s the surprising thing: You only need one thing to win.
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.
The One Thing starts with having a signature feature that can cause your personality and show to become famous. 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 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.
In Content Superhero: What Causes Tune In, we show how 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 One Thing feature can be the tune-in factor that is the difference between #10 and #1. But a radio show can’t exist only on a great feature. That’s just the magnet that attracts tune in.
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. 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.
Kidd was right, but what does that mean? How can you apply it to your show tomorrow?
Here’s the rest of the formula.
You probably realize how listeners use the radio. They aren’t listening much. And when they do tune in, they’re usually doing busy with another activity.
For most, radio is 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. That’s why each time the mic is on is a high risk for tune out.
For each quarter hour on the air, focus on one thing that will cut through clutter enough to resonate with your audience.
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.
How can you know for sure if the content is One Thing worthy? Ask yourself: Is it promotable? Would you tease it? Is it worthwhile? What is the show’s highlight in this 15 minute period?
Find something in every quarter hour that has potential of keeping listeners tuned in and commanding attention.
One of the four things per hour must be strong enough to cause a listener reaction. It doesn’t have to cause them to take a physical action (phone call, email, visit to a website or social media page, etc).
I’m talking about emotional responses. How does the content provoke a laugh or a smile? Is there a provocative comment that inspires thought? This is hard to measure, of course, 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 radio? Are they responding in their minds to what we’re saying? In other words, does it make them care? Does it matter?
Many times, the One Thing per hour will be the One Thing feature. That’s okay. Just make sure there’s something in the hour that can be a memorable highlight.
Give listeners something each day they may share with a co-worker or pass along in an email or Facebook post. In other words, what will you do in the next show that activates the audience?
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 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 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 something that can make you legendary.
Be alert when opportunities present themselves. Then use all available resources to take advantage of those moments and turn them into One Thing 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 produces results.
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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