Entertainment Is Not Just For Mornings Anymore
August 6, 2013
These days in the industry. there seems to be three groups of consensus on the state of all things radio -- doomsday folk predicting demise, the oblivious acting as if the Internet is a phase, and the visionaries who see everything radio-related as an opportunity. Therefore it was nice to get an e-mail from someone apparently working for a company in the latter.
Question: Coach, I work at a to- 50 market station and I have been hired to do mornings. Currently we have put together a morning crew, but these first few weeks have been tough. And there is already talk that management might put on a syndicated show and move me and my crew to afternoons. The PD has never been on the air and although he is supportive, our aircheck meetings feel as though the whole thing is over his head. One of our biggest problems is coming up with things to talk about on-air. Also, one of my crew falls asleep a lot during songs. I really love doing this shift, but I feel like we are all on the same lake but in different boats.
Coach: Okay, first of all congratulations on doing a live and local morning show. However, I prefer to call them entertainment shows because what you do can be done on any shift; so don't worry about a switch to the afternoons. There was a time the only shift requiring the skills to entertain with an ensemble was mornings. A lot of has changed and now it is not unusual to hear syndicated morning shows like Kid Kraddick or Big Boy's Neighborhood on in midday or afternoon drive. And, of course, there are the entertainment shows like On Air with Ryan Seacrest, Doug Banks Radio Show, the John Tesh Radio Show, and many others.
You need to talk to the person falling asleep all the time; it could be medical or a lack of discipline. According to experienced morning folk, one of the biggest problems is regulating sleep to get up and do a show. The point is to wake the audience up, not wake up with them. As for your PD's lack of expertise in working with an entertainment show, give him a chance to grow along with you and your crew. A lot of PDs have not had the chance work with an entertainment/morning show. Having put together or worked with numerous such shows, I am going to give you some advice that might help.
In the Moment
Radio consists of moments or segments, and entertainment shows are usually scheduled with more opportunities to talk then other shifts. Moment to moment is a progression, the parts that make the whole, a series of steps leading from one thing to the next; a time to talk, followed by a song, then another song, perhaps a drop, another song, and maybe it's time to talk again .
Entertainment shows inform, make you laugh, tug on the heart, or motivate listeners. More successful moments lead to the possibilities of better ratings in a PPM/Diary world. Consistency and clearly defined roles among the cast is crucial. Each moment might be the only time a listener takes to form an opinion about a show. The objective is to present enough good or great moments for the audience to keep coming back for more. The music is not controlled by the personalities, but they do control what they say.
The cast members of an entertainment radio show need to be plugged into the town's people and their lifestyles. This ensemble cast (if local) must get outside the station and into the streets to observe listeners in their natural habits; barbershops, grocery stores, family-style restaurants, fast-food chains, schools, local charities, the courthouse, parks, mini-service stations, malls, churches, soccer games, libraries, book stores, little league baseball games, and anywhere else the listening audience can be observed. Listen to what people talk about and read the local newspaper. I know prep services are fashionable, but they are generalized and cannot give you the edge needed to be successful with an entertainment show. Successful nationally syndicated shows take the same approach in a broader sense. Preparation is important and is the key to a great performance; it's the difference between relating to your audience and being out of touch.
The number of personalities on a show should never exceed three, but there is always room for occasional role players. The trick is to realize all talk breaks do not need each person in the cast to talk; it's a team effort with a look towards maximizing as many talk breaks as possible. At the end of the day, the show gets the credit and the participants are all heroes. Only one person should anchor a talk segment and the others should play off that person. However, it does not mean the same person has to anchor every break, but it is more customary to have the same lead person at all times.
The presentation should consist of funny, serious, personal and general observations. Everything doesn't have to be funny, but needs to be fun, informative or a combination of the two. The set-up to each moment could provide the potential for an increase in the number of listeners within a show. Entertainment shows should consist of talents with the ability to display believability, realism, passion, and a connection with the listener. Since it's a moment to moment thing, each talk set is a new experience for an incoming audience and an opportunity to holdover listeners from the previous break. A set plan and how to execute it should be the goal for every talk set moment. Know what is going to be said and by whom; with practice, your entertainment team will be able to sound unrehearsed and natural. And I am not saying everything needs to be rehearsed, but at least outlined. The best ad-lib is sometimes rehearsed.
Execution of the Plan
If you are the host/anchor, get the supporting cast and the producer/board op all on the same page and utilize the strengths of each. Much like swimmers, members of the ensemble should stay in their respective lanes to prevent verbal rambling; there is plenty of room to contribute. Another important factor is how much you talk on the air. Brevity is the key; generally keep it under a minute. It is all about holding the attention of the listener, it better be compelling if you do talk more than a minute. Interviews are a feel factor, someone in the ensemble needs to be given the responsibility of giving the sign when to wrap up a short-form interview (two to three minutes). The best option for an interview is when you can divide it up into shorter amounts of time and spread it out to more than one talk set; a great way to holdover the audience. And now onto the WOW!
The Wow Factor
The Producer/Board Op is the vital cog in the success of executing the "Wow Factor" to every talk moment of an entertainment show. The "Wow Factor" can be applied to funny or serious; it's making a determination when a segment/moment has reached a crescendo and it is time to move on to something else; a song, another caller or a commercial break.
Radio Entertainment Shows Need To:
- Let the listeners in on the personal lives of the cast
- Reflect the lifestyle of the target audience
- Sometimes direct the audience with an opinion on issues. This creates controversy or the barbershop/beauty shop discussion effect.
- Conduct interviews with timely and timeless guests
- Learn how to present content without a lot of fluff or inside humor
- Talk to the audience and not at them
- Work on timing and ensemble exchanges
- Utilize Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumbler, LinkedIn, Stumbled Upon, Digg, Google+, Reddit
- Have an interactive website
It will take a lot of practice on and off the air to execute successfully with a team of individuals. If your crew is willing to lay aside egos and work hard, you will have an outstanding, profitable entertainment show.