What They Hear Is All That Matters

What They Hear Is All That Matters

by Tracy Johnson

What we think we communicate and what is actually communicated, are two different things. That’s true in real life exchanges, and when radio personalities perform on-air. It’s easy (and common) to assume the audience receives, understands, and remembers our messages. That assumption causes missed opportunities. It doesn’t matter what we say. What they hear is all that matters.

Broadcasters assume:

  • Listeners pay close attention. They don’t. Most listening takes place as a soundtrack that accompanies a foreground activity.
  • Talk breaks are important to the audience. They’re not, at least until we’re so compelling and interesting it cuts through.
  • Listeners are active. They aren’t. Most are passive. It’s hard to inspire a response, especially in an over-crowded media world.

What We Say vs. What They Hear

Listeners are self-absorbed. They’re selfish. They protect their attention “currency” and invest it only grudgingly. And they’re not going to change to accommodate a radio station.

Check out this cartoon. As you read it, change the word “dogs” to “listeners”

What We Say To Dogs - What They Hear




What We Say To Dogs - What They Hear


The Impact

So the challenge is this:

How do we get them to hear us?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Make sure everything on the air fits the station brand and values. I’m working with a show now that has a great recurring segment. It’s funny, well-executed, and relevant. But it’s also sarcastic and a little dark. No matter how good the content is, it violates the station’s upbeat, friendly, and positive position. It can’t possibly work in the long run.
  • What they hear has little to do with how many times a message is repeated. It has everything to do with making a strong statement to command attention and draw interest quickly. Weak comments will not gain traction. Take a stand to stand out.
  • Listeners don’t care about things that are important to us. They only care about things they find personally relevant. It doesn’t matter what the key song of the day is, or that you have details on how to request a song for the All-Request Workday. They do care about having a friend that delivers the expected mood in an interesting way.
  • They’re not that interested in your world but care very much about how you relate in a personal way to theirs. It can be interesting to pull back the curtain and let listeners in from time to time. But doing it too much results in a show that comes off as self-absorbed and out of touch. This is one of the 7 Deadly Sins of Radio Personalities.
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The intersection of listener interest and personality performance is what personality radio is all about. Finding ways to cause listeners to care is tricky. It’s nuanced.

And it’s what we do at Tracy Johnson Media Group. We can help you find an on-air character voice that builds fans and makes a difference in their lives. Let us help!


Make Strong Statements For More Power


Build a 5-Star Personality Brand Seminar on Demand

Find Your On-Air Character Voice

2 Minute Drill: How to Avoid Being Self Absorbed

4 Subtle Signs Your Radio Show May Be Self-Absorbed

7 Weeks to Fix 7 Deadly Sins of Radio Personalities

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