by Tracy Johnson
Radio personalities are either making an impact or not. They’re true personalities or announcers. There’s nothing in between. But there’s a problem. Almost all human beings want to be loved and accepted. Nobody wants to be average, but few are bold or committed enough to be special. Most are afraid to be different. That’s why the vast majority of radio personalities are trapped in the zone of mediocrity.
Personalities that stand out – the elite 1% – are almost all hated or disliked by a percentage of the audience. And that makes personalities uncomfortable.
Personalities that build loyal followings are polarizing. Always. The very things that cause listeners to fall in love causes others to dislike them.
At many, perhaps most, radio stations, programmers work so hard to avoid negatives they scrub character traits that attract fans. Talent becomes cautious, worried about offending listeners to the point they can’t demonstrate attractive traits.
As a result, nobody dislikes them. Some like them just fine. But nobody loves them. And that’s sad.
To become an on-air superstar, and not just an announcer or DJ, focus on things that will cause listeners to love you. Removing things that may be offensive to some will not win.
That’s what puts talent in the Zone of Mediocrity:
Complaints are loud, and dealing with them isn’t fun.
Most media personalities share a point of view cautiously, timidly and politely, afraid to upsetting someone. They hate it when an email or phone call comes in and says:
You know, I don’t like what you said today about ________.
It hurts. It’s hard to hear. But it’s part of the gig.
Think of a radio show as a story with characters. Chapters happen in each break, each day.
For a story to be compelling, there must be friction. Some call it conflict.
And a story must have compelling characters an audience identifies with. They cheer for some, and root against another. But only strong characters inspire passion.
The stronger the point of view, the greater the friction. And the stronger the attraction.
A protagonist and his or her story can only be as intellectually fascinating and emotionally compelling as the forces of antagonism make them.
Another way to put it is that love doesn’t exist without hate.
But too many on-air talent are afraid to be personalities.
This is killing personality radio in some ways.
Difference-making talent is being replaced with generic solutions.
Here’s a comment from a programmer who eliminated a high profile air personality from the lineup at his station and replaced the show with a more music show:
(Personality) was a home run for many years, but, unfortunately, the PPM methodology doesn’t seem to reflect the strength of the show.
Seriously? The ratings methodology doesn’t reflect the strength of the show? How does that work?
Ratings are an important report card for radio stations, but a strong show is replaced with music because the ratings service doesn’t like it? Arrrgghhh.
Removing personality in favor of all music/no talk is going to make the station more popular? Does it add meaning? Is it more relevant? More unique? Does it make listeners laugh? Does it make them feel connected? Will it be more remarkable?
No. It makes radio stations disposable.
Shouldn’t the question be:
Replacing air personalities that attract and lead a community of listeners with more music (a commodity) because PPM rewards it will help only if the goal is to win a race to irrelevance.
Instead of silencing personality, let’s celebrate it by building a true fan base.
It is more important than ever to stand for something!
Broadcasters spend a lot of time and money on research to get rid of things listeners say they don’t like rather than investing in creating things they love.
That’s why so many are in the Zone of Mediocrity.
For personalities, here are a couple of tips to being irreplaceable:
Know Who You Are: Build a deep character brand profile and stay true to it on the air.
Take a Side: Be sure it’s consistent with the personality profile. The middle of the road is for road kill. Get out of the middle. Tolerance is great in real life. It’s a problem on the air.
Speak in Absolutes: Prefacing a comment with a qualified statement like, “I think” or “It seems to me” or “In my opinion” weakens personality. Take a stance stating opinion with conviction is more powerful and entertaining.
The Zone of Mediocrity always results a product that is tolerated, but lacks passion. It’s for personalities stuck in Stage 1 (Introduction) and 2 (Familiarity) of the Personality Success Path.
It’s like being a decent football team that plays the game NOT to LOSE. That’s a sure strategy to turn in in average seasons, but will never win the Super Bowl.
That’s the definition of the Zone of Mediocrity.
Ask yourself this difficult question:
If you were to go off the air tomorrow, never to return, what would listeners miss?
This is a scary question that takes time to answer. It demands soul-searching.
Most personalities don’t know how to answer it. I you can’t find an answer, you’re probably in the Zone of Mediocrity.
In my Audience Magnet course, I show talent how to build a personality brand that truly resonates with listeners. You’ll learn how to do it by developing a unique personality brand.
If you are in that zone and want to get out, get help with Air Check Coaching Sessions.
The bottom line is this:
Stay out of the Zone of Mediocrity. There’s no future in it.
But be smart. Know the audience and station. Then find your voice. Develop content with a point of view. Have an opinion.
Make a difference. Don’t be mediocre. Because the opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.
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