A listener complains and the comment lingers. More than ever, personalities must be shielded from feedback that shatters confidence. But how can you tune out meaningless comments and only listen to the voices that matter?

Here are three examples of smart broadcasters losing their focus because of complaints.

Voices That Matter: Friends?

The morning show told me listeners were bored with their signature feature because the show had been doing it every morning at the same time for 7 years.

So I asked:

How do you know this?

Well, I hear it from listeners all the time. They ask why we do it so much.

Who specifically?

My friends.

What do you want to do about it?

Well, maybe we should mix it up a little or rest it for awhile and replace it with another feature.

Of course, all programming strategies are a blend of art and science. So before we changed the feature, we checked the ratings. For 8 consecutive rating periods, the highest-rated quarter-hour on the entire station was when this feature aired. Nothing else was close.

Friends are not voices that matter. As soon as they know you work in radio, their feedback is unreliable.

Voices That Matter: Social Media?

The morning show had launched a great new daily feature. It had been on for just a couple of weeks and we got a terrific response. So, with good intentions, the show posted a question on Facebook:

How do you like it? Good, Bad or Indifferent?

The haters felt invited. A handful of negative comments snowballed. There really weren’t many negative comments. They just felt louder than the positives. And the positives were over-the-top loving it.

But those voices that criticized the show were loud. The show lost confidence.

Perhaps the reaction would have been different if the question were asked another way:

Which episode is your favorite?

On a Scale of 1-10, how would you rate it?

Voices That Matter: Advertisers?

This rock station has a morning show with a strong point of view. They have a growing fan base that rallies around the show’s two main personalities.

As the show attracted more attention, the cume grew. Of course, the new listeners probably don’t love everything about the show.

Then one of those new listeners complained to a large advertiser, who contacted his Account Executive. The AE brought it back to the GM and fearing they may lose a client, he ordered changes. Certain topics were to be off-limits and the show had to apologize.

As a result, the show wasn’t sure what they could or should talk about and what was “over the line”. They lost confidence. Then they stopped being as edgy. And soon, they lost listeners. Then advertisers canceled because ratings were lower.

Advertiser voices are important, but they aren’t programmers.


Complaining voices are loud but comments from advertisers, relatives, listeners attending events, and callers don’t matter, at least most of the time. Complaints are almost always in the single digits. And what’s the cume again? 10 complaints feel like a lot. But with a cume of 100,000, that’s exactly .0001 percent.

Programmers and managers must have a clear vision of the station strategy and measure success on perceptual research. A large part of that is supporting air personalities so they are fearless and confident but not reckless.

Reacting to complaints is the #1 cause of dragging talent into the dreaded Zone of Mediocrity.

Be strong. Stay focused. Complaints are actually a good thing. It’s a sign that listeners were provoked to take action. Stay. strong, filter out the noise, and only listen to the voices that matter.


Lee Abrams Explains Why You Get Complaints-And More

Do You Get Enough Complaints? Probably Not. Here’s How To Fix It

How To Deal With A Listener Complaint

Programming Requires Both Art And Science

Escape The Radio Zone of Mediocrity to Launch Your Career

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