Why Bother Listening?
June 5, 2012
I wrote a novel in my spare time over the past couple of years. Honestly, while trying to remain humble, I believe it is quite good. I am told it has everything a good book requires, including action, romance, suspense, deceit, deception, and many twists and turns. All those who have read the now completed manuscript have called it a "page turner."
The question though, for any author, is not just how to write a novel for the general market, but how to get it read by an agent or publisher. Thousands of books are written each year and only a small percentage are ever picked up for publication. It's not necessarily because others are bad books, it's because most are never even read. John Grisham's first real novel, "A Time to Kill," was rejected for years and was actually a flop when first published. Yet it would go on to become not only a best seller but a tremendous motion picture as well. So what makes the difference?
Whether my own novel actually has everything necessary remains to be seen, but it does focus on one important element ... human relationships. Every successful major TV show, movie and novel focuses on the interaction of the characters. It is what makes a good morning show great; not how funny the players are but rather the human relationships and interaction of key characters which determines success.
For years, everyone said that the "The Sopranos" was the best written show on TV. Why? Because through all the mob violence, deceit, murder, and adultery was the rich development of all the key characters to which the writers stayed true.
Think about your favorite TV shows: "The Simpsons," "Grey's Anatomy," "American Idol," "Scandal" ... even "Storage Wars" and "Shark Tank!" Regardless of their respective weekly plots, they always focus on the relationships of the central characters. Despite whether you hate or love a character, the perfect cast keeps you glued not only to story lines, but the brand that the show defines and builds upon through that promise, based on the relationships, which are wrapped in an addictive experience.
Whether or not you like Bill O'Reilly on Fox News is truly immaterial. It is the entertainment value in seeing the interaction between his character and that of everyone else. His character allows him to play the protagonist and antagonist at the same time. He has one feature called "Pinhead or Patriot," which brilliantly helps define his own beliefs and persona, while creating only more fodder for those who love to watch him because they agree and those who watch him because they love to hate him.
Even our own religious beliefs are centered on relationships. They may be centered on God, church, pastors, or parishioners, but the focal point is about our relationships. How much we get out of our relationships is in direct proportion to what we put into them.
So why do people bother listening at all? The truth is, there is very little we do in life that is not driven by our own condition and the relationships we maintain based on our needs and desires, and the promises built based on the trust of those important to us. This is the true definition of any brand. The best talent uses this more than anything when creating great content that maximizes the way listeners relate -- BUT ... it's not just for talent. It applies to EVERYTHING you do on and off-air, including relationships you build through your interactive experience on the web and through social media.
Character development of the key players. Who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist? Who is the voice of reason? Who is the one with no filter? They never, ever violate the essence of who they are supposed to be. Some of the most experienced shows even play a game on air where you read quotes or real-life situations and your listeners must guess who on the show said or did what?
What role will listeners play? Topics of the day are extremely effective at forcing interaction from the audience. Many morning shows do this better than anything and when done well, it never sounds pre-planned and produced, although it always should be. What makes those who do it well so successful is that great topics are always centered on the human condition and the characters in the show stay true to their predetermined roles. While on air games are fun ways to create interaction, they should also stay focused on the show's existing relationships.
How much risk will you take in creating polarized points of view? Will people "Love to Love" you or "Love to Hate" you? Both can be very effective ratings builders. This is a game of "risk to reward" that many morning shows do extremely well. You are certainly going to offend a great number of people, but those who choose to listen are so compelled by what they enjoy, they listen for incredibly long periods of time.
In the end, everything we do on and off-air should center on character development, which is the focal point of great content. Stations that possess these qualities best exemplify true relationship interaction and focus on brand building.
Does your station?