The Role of Air Personalities In Real Listener’s Lives

The Role of Air Personalities In Real Listener’s Lives

by Tracy Johnson

Have you ever wondered what difference you make each day? The role of air personalities should not be under estimated, no matter h0w strange your job seems to others! You work strange hours, lock yourself in a darkened room for three or four hours a day and talk to yourself. And what does it mean to your audience? A lot.

A study into the role of air personalities reveals a unique bond between radio personalities and listeners. Yes, radio has a great impact on listeners, when radio is driven by air talent. 

That’s great news for the future of our industry, if you’re developing and nurturing air talent. And if you are one of those air personalities, you hold the keys to the kingdom. What, you thought the secret to future success was going to be who can play the most Taylor, Bruno and Justin? Not quite.

The future belongs to those who know how to exploit the role of air personalities.

The Role of Air Personalities

Read the full report if you have time, but here are five key things you need to know and what it means to you:


60% of listeners said that radio hosts are “like a friend.” 60%! That’s huge.

A separate study by Westwood One is even more encouraging.

52% say air personalities are the main reason they choose to listen.

This is good news, and provides a strong argument that personality is everything in the radio business. It’s easy to replace utilities, like the station that makes it’s claim of being the “most music” or “the most accurate traffic and weather.” Those things are fine, but I can get music and information anywhere.

It’s not easy to replace a friend. So work hard to be a good friend. How do you do that? Talk about things they care about in a way they can relate to. Understand their desires, wants and needs and do everything possible to be there for them.

Endorsement Ads Work!

The primary role of air personalities isn’t to drive advertising results, but if you’re able to drive listeners into clients, it sure helps.

Here’s more good news: Listeners value an air personality endorsements as they would a friend’s recommendation. They are more effective than sponsored Facebook posts, sponsored tweets or television commercials. More than half (yes, over 50%) agreed that they trust brands, products and services their favorite personality recommends.

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Consider this report from research provided by RAB:

More than half of all respondents are influenced by a personality endorsement. That’s powerful.

And it carries great responsibility with it. Protect your personal brand by protecting your relationship with those friends-your listeners. Don’t allow your voice to recommend or endorse products, brands or services you don’t believe in. Your audience can feel the difference.

Would you really, truly, sincerely recommend it to a personal friend? Then go for it. Be an enthusiastic, loud spokesperson. It fits. But if you would not, don’t sell out. You’re damaging your brand.

And to managers and sales managers: Don’t force or pressure talent against what they stand for. You’re slowly burning down the relationship with the audience, and when that’s gone, what will you sell?


6 of 10 have a favorite personality they look forward to hearing in the morning, and many have remained loyal, listening to the same personality for years. Wow. That’s power.

It’s hard to become a favorite. Becoming a fan of your personality brand is a process that takes time. It doesn’t happen in a quarter, or even a year. You become a favorite over time.

Here’s even better news for those who have built a fan base: It’s even harder to persuade listeners to switch from a favorite to a new show. It takes time to establish a new show, but the payoff is worthwhile.

Just Like Me

7 of 10 respondents say they consider their favorite radio personalities to be regular people just like themselves. In Dallas, we knew we were on the way to a wildly successful radio show when a focus group respondent said this about Dede (DeDe In the Morning on K104):

I want to be just like (personality) because she is a lot like me.

This may be the greatest compliment a personality can get.

The key to personality radio is relatability and authenticity. Finding your voice, character and position in the market is the first step to success. It builds the foundation that leads to great future success.


Interestingly, the vast majority of Americans have interacted with radio personalities during their lifetimes. True, the growing opportunities to connect by social media provides more opportunities but 80% of all respondents have had interaction with radio personalities? Nice.

The study also showed that about 6 out of 10 of listeners have engaged with radio through social media platforms.

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If that is accurate, we are doing a lousy job converting these opportunities into TSL, since the average listening occasion continues to decline.

It’s hard to believe that “8 out of 10 have called into a station, met a DJ in their community, or interacted in some other manner.” Still, there’s no doubt that making a personal impact on listeners in public, on the phones and via social media is critical to success.

If even a fraction of that number is correct, it’s enough to drive you to #1 if you truly interact to have a positive impression and make an impact.


there’s much more in the study. For example, more than 60% of listeners are likely to talk about things air personalities have said on the air. This often takes place through social networks, furthering extending the reach and impact of your personality brand.

The research results were from a study conducted in conjunction with the University of Southern California, which surveyed 2,700 respondents. The report also includes insights from an additional online survey of over 1,000 respondents, as well as from live focus groups, ethnographies, listening logs, digital assignments and conversations with air personalities from across the country.

Yes, you are a difference. The role of air personalities in listener lives is profound. If, of course, you are truly a radio personality, not just a DJ or announcer.

If you’d like to get on a Personality Success Path, check out my online video course to become an Audience Magnet.


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