Everyone is impatient. We want instant results, but that’s not how life works. Each brand passes through 5 stages of growth. I call it the Personality Success Path, and it’s discussed in great detail in this seminar. Some stages can be accelerated, but none can be skipped.

Have you wondered why highly successful personalities move to a new market and fail? Or why a show that’s really not that good gets high ratings while a great show can’t get traction? The Personality Success Path explains why and how shows succeed.

Building a fanbase is a process. Each stage is a necessary step in building a relationship with listeners. When performance is in synch with the stage, progress happens.

It’s About Relationships

Here’s why the Personality Success Path is important:

Imagine it’s 4 am. You’re fast asleep. The phone rings. Scenarios immediately flash through your mind.

But your reaction depends on who’s calling.

  • Your mom. You’re worried. Is she okay? Did she fall?
  • The boss. You’re annoyed. Again? Really? What is it this time? Can’t it wait until 8 when I come in anyway?
  • A friend. Then you realize he’s pranking you again. You’re angry but at yourself. It ends in a good laugh and a vow to get revenge.
  • Your daughter calls from college. You panic. Is she hurt? Was there an accident? Is she in trouble?
  • A telemarketer with this week’s scam. At 4 am. You’re outraged and demand to talk to a supervisor. It gets worse as she hangs up.
  • A coworker with a simple question anyone would know if they paid attention in yesterday’s meeting. You’re exasperated as you fix their problem, then tell them to never call before 6:30 again.
  • It’s your fiance. He calls because he misses you and wants to say, “I love you.” You have warm feelings, smile, and know it will be a great day.

What’s the Point?

In each scenario, the emotional reaction depends on the relationship with the caller. Some are welcome, others are infuriating, depending on feelings based on history.

Every time an air personality turns on a microphone, the user experience is disrupted. You’re waking them up, interrupting a happy, enjoyable moment.

Is it a welcome disturbance, or does it anger them? It depends on the relationship with the audience. And relationships pass through stages.

Knowing what stage you’re in is critical. It’s like being in a romance.

The Personality Success Path

Expectations develop over time as relationships mature. The goal is to be welcomed as a close friend, not an unwelcome telemarketer.

But there are no shortcuts. Every personality must pass through all five stages in the success path. Attempting to leap past a stage is a recipe for frustration, delayed progress, and probably failure.

Here’s an overview of the Personality Success Path and the five stages of growth.

Stage 1: Introduction

The natural tendency is to come on strong and do more to make a great first impression. That’s a huge mistake. It will push listeners away! The audience has just met you and hasn’t figured out whether they are interested.

Figure out what listeners like and show that you have common interests. This is a great first step to be likable. This isn’t the time to come on strong. Change unsettles listeners, so plan a strategy to ease into the relationship.

This is hard for personalities that have moved to a new station or market because they often don’t realize the audience has no history with them. They think the audience will figure it out.

In Stage 1, the only goal is to make a positive impression and get the first date. Focus on not screwing up the relationship.

Here are some of the most important steps to take:

  • Plan the strategy with a clear Mission Statement that defines who and what you stand for.
  • Clarify roles and character traits for each cast member.
  • Get to know the community and your target audience.

Stage 2: Familiarity

Stages 1 and 2 are mostly about connecting through content that shows you love the same things.

That’s usually the things your format offers, like music or sports.

This is the time to work on being the ultimate on-air party host. Create an environment so potential fans enjoy what you do. In the process, they start to become familiar with your personality traits.

This is the ideal time to introduce a key feature. This will be the primary driver in Stage 3.

Try to get through Stages 1 and 2 as quickly as possible. But don’t rush it.

  • Establish at least one key feature.
  • Continue to work on being likable with an external (listener-first) focus.
  • Be an enthusiastic spokesperson for the station’s primary benefits.

Stage 3: Growth

In Stage 3, the audience recognizes traits they like about a personality. They’re still attracted because of the things you do, but they start recognizing your personality in the way you do those things.

They’re forming habits.

Imagine them saying, “I really like this personality because they do this ___________”

What would that thing be? In the growth stage, listeners can identify exactly why they like the show. Usually, it’s because of a One Thing feature that was developed in Stage 2.

  • Confirm that the primary feature is popular. Then double down by scheduling it more often.
  • Promote the feature heavily inside and outside the show.
  • Slowly increase talk segments. Follow this guide.

Stage 4: Like

It takes time to get to Stage 4. Some personalities never make it this far, even after decades at the same station. The Like Stage happens when listeners listen as much for the personality as the music.

In this stage, you have become an important part of their life and are a daily part of their routine. It would be a significant loss if the show were no longer on.

Stage 4 is no longer only about what you do. Listeners understand, appreciate, and like who you are. When you say something amusing, they think it’s funny. When it’s funny, they think it’s hilarious. They want to know more about you.

Up to this point, most stories should start with the listener. But in Stage 4, personal stories are welcomed as long as they are not self-absorbed.

  • Continue increasing talk length – slowly.
  • Increase the frequency of talk breaks.
  • Learn to master personal storytelling skills.

Stage 5: Love

The ultimate goal is for listeners to fall in love with personalities. Stage 5 is not about what you do. It’s all about who you are. Character, heart, and personality are the most important characteristics of the Love Stage.

Personality is the primary attraction. The fanbase is growing, and those fans are in love and are more loyal to the talent than the station. Never take this relationship for granted. Keep the relationship fresh with new ideas.

  • Reduce music count. Consider making it a talk show when it gets to four songs per hour.
  • Give back to the community. This is a great time to launch a foundation or charitable cause.
  • Innovate. Continue to surprise and delight the fanbase.

How To Grow Through Stages

Every personality must pass through the five stages. Some move faster than others who get stuck in Stage 1 or 2 and never advance.

The biggest obstacle is getting over The Hump. Getting to the next stage is hard and easy to get frustrated. Some give up, frustrated that they’re stuck.

Here’s more on the creative process from Ira Glass:

The Hump is a barrier, and everyone goes through it. Even kids go through The Hump. It seems they’ll never figure out how to multiply or divide. Then suddenly, they get it. And rapid growth follows.


No matter what stage you’re in, maintaining balance is important. You may be in Stage 5 with some listeners, but others are still in Stage 1 or 2. Remember, the audience is constantly shifting. Don’t get too comfortable and go on cruise control.

What stage are you in? Introduction? Familiarity? Growth? Like? Love? Are you stuck trying to get over the hump? A talent coach can help. Sometimes all you need is encouragement, perspective, and a fresh idea for a personality breakthrough.

Download the Personality Success Path Infographic here:

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