The Difference Between Relevant and Relatable… and Why It Matters [audio]
by Tracy Johnson
Are you relevant? I hope so. Are you relatable? That would also be good. In fact, it’s better (spoiler alert). You may be thinking that relevant and relatable are the same thing. But they’re not. Or you may think it’s splitting hairs. It’s not.
There is a big difference between relevant and relatable. Yet most broadcasters use the two terms as if they’re one and the same. this isn’t just a semantics rant or a lesson in proper use of English. It’s actually really important for air personalities to understand the difference.
Relevance is defined as: having direct bearing on the matter at hand; pertinent.
Relatable is: to bring into or establish association, connection, or relation: to relate events to probable causes.
On radio shows, relevant is more about content, topic selection and finding topics in the show prep process.
Relatable has to do with performance. It’s how you turn content into communication your audience cares about.
Relevant and Relatable Work Together
Being relevant and relatable are both important, but one is more valuable than the other. I’ll tease you with that for now, and reveal the answer below. In the meantime, your ultimate goal is to be both relevant and relatable. That can create radio magic.
Example of Relevant and Relatable-Relatable Wins
Here’s an example of how relevant and relatable are different, and why relatable is so much better.
This segment from the Blaine Fowler Morning Show on Cumulus’ AC WDVD/Detroit is about cast member Lauren’s upcoming wedding.
That’s a great topic for most of their female audience, but for me? I didn’t really care…but listen to how Lauren relates her story in a way that makes you curious about the mistake she made in planning her wedding.
This is a great example of storytelling, and delaying the resolution. Lauren keeps the outcome a mystery and lead listeners to a second break, even if they don’t care about the topic in the story at all.
And both Blaine and Matt do a great job keeping the mystery and suspense going by guessing. This is a great example of relatable beating relevant.
This segment is also a great example of serialized content. When this aired (in April), Lauren was well into the planning stages of her wedding which would take place in October.
Through a series of relatable stories, the show took listeners through the emotional highs and lows of preparing for one of the most important days of her life. The ongoing theme creates brand equity and provide a storyline that threads through individual stand-alone topics.
Your radio show might have new information about last night’s Reality TV episode. That’s relevant to an audience that cares about pop culture. Whether or not it’s relatable depends on how the segment is performed. Do they make the audience care?
Personalities need to be both relevant and relatable, and it’s something you can review in air checks. Content selection is important, but relating it is the key to standing out as a unique, difference-making show.
Which is more important? That’s not even a tough call. Both are important, but if I had to choose one, I’d go with relatable. How about you?
Photo credit: Freepik.com
Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.