Radio Personalities Need More Presence

Radio Personalities Need More Presence

by Tracy Johnson

Developing a winning radio personality is like building a relationship with listeners. It takes time to grow a bond. It can’t be rushed, but managers can accelerate growth through the five stages of my Personality Success Path. But it takes courage to allow personalities to have more presence on the air.

The 5 stages of personality growth are:

  • Introduction
  • Familiarity
  • Growth
  • Like
  • Love

The goal is to advance to Growth (Stage 3) as quickly as possible. But it’s impossible to jump from brand new (Stage 1) to Stage 3 without passing through Stage 2 (Familiarity).

Radio stations have to change their approach to get through those first two stages. But without creating more opportunities to expose a personality brand, talent remains invisible to the audience. We need to increase their on-air presence.

Why Personalities Need More Presence

When launching a new radio show, most programmers proceed with extreme caution, for good reason.

They limit talk breaks, which is a good idea. The new personalities don’t have a relationship with listeners yet.

But they also reduce opportunities to perform to a handful of times per hour. One client limits their morning show to opening the microphone to just four times per hour. That’s not four full breaks. It’s four total impressions per hour. Two of those breaks are positions to talk over songs.

If the goal is to develop on-air superstars (as it should be), this station is going to be disappointed. The show will never get traction because they’re simply not on often enough.

New personalities should be on as often as possible. But they should not be on for long, extended segments. More opportunities for listeners to get to know the talent will speed growth from Introduction to Familiarity (Stage 1 to Stage 2).

Do it right, and it won’t even change the music count.

How Much Presence Is Needed?

I can make a case that new personalities should be on more often than personalities in any other stage of development.

Established stars in Stage 4 (Like) or 5 (Love) should be on for longer segments. But they don’t need to be on as frequently. At this point in the Personality Success Path, listeners are tuning in primarily for the personalities. This is where you give them what they crave: more!

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But new personalities have to be exposed to become known. And known to become liked. Yet most radio shows are not formatted for that to be possible.

My client’s morning show stops twice per hour for commercials. The personalities talk for a couple of minutes into each break. There are two other slots in the hour to talk between songs. Other than that, there’s almost no presence. The rest is music and imaging. Some of the imaging positions the talent, but doesn’t showcase them.

Imagine how that impacts a typical listener. In this market, the average commute time is about 20 minutes. Let’s say a listener tunes in as a stop set has started. If they make it through the commercials, they then hear:

  • Stop Set (5 minutes)
  • Traffic (1 minute)
  • Imaging
  • Song (4 minutes)
  • Imaging that says the name of the show
  • Song (4 minutes)
  • Imaging to promote the station
  • Song (4 minutes)
  • Personalities (2 minutes)
  • Song (4 minutes)

That’s 24 minutes and one exposure (2 minutes) of the air talent. And we wonder why many radio personalities never catch on and are stuck in Stage 1 or 2. How can we expect a relationship to develop?

The Solution Is More Presence

Here are a few guidelines when launching a new personality-oriented show.

Talk between every song. That’s right, every song. All of them. It doesn’t have to be in place of imaging. Use both. Make them work together.

Talk into every stop set. So many stations are now segueing into a promo going into a stop set and imaging coming out with no personality presence. At all.

Talk out of stop sets.  Use the opportunity to introduce the next song or promote the next content. Or just say hello and make a connection by IZE-ing the content.

For specific tips and other, non-talk opportunities to have a stronger personality presence without increasing talk content, go here.

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Teach air talent to execute a game plan that includes a lot of music, with more personality presence. This is a great discipline. And yes, programmers, it takes time to coach this discipline. And yes, personalities, it takes a commitment to have something to say every time you open the microphone, even if it’s for a short period of time.

Most radio stations interrupt the listening experience with spoken word elements between nearly every song, and before and after every stop set already. Promos and imaging are just as disruptive as personalities. The only difference is that it’s recorded elements.

I’m not suggesting PD’s add a lot of talk in Stages 1 and 2. Far from it. But we have to introduce talent to listeners if there’s any hope of them becoming meaningful, difference-making air talent. But without frequent exposure, personalities may never make it to Stage 3. Increase their presence to accelerate growth.

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