Talent Should Know This...
July 7, 2015
I'm not one of these people who thinks our industry won't survive. I do believe the future will look - and sound - different. Very different. I'm not one of those people who thinks there is just no talent 'out there' - wherever 'out there' is! I think the world is full of interesting and unique personalities. They just aren't thinking of a career in radio or content creation. I do believe it is our job to be better at recruiting these people and enticing them to radio. I also believe that the talent we have in the industry now needs to be developed to a better level for their sake and ours. I believe our industry's future will be in jeopardy if we keep hiring good people and opting to "get out of their way so they can do their jobs."
I feel very fortunate that I get to listen to a lot of radio. There is some genuinely entertaining content being created that people aren't getting enough credit for. But equally there's content where you can tell no one is actively helping to develop the talent. Programmers who aspire to be coaches need to be actively involved with their teams. They need to participate with their teams. They need to get close enough to observe the positive traits as well as the areas that could be better. It is a continual process. Being great takes effort. Lots of effort.
As I have been scanning the dial and streaming the last few weeks I have started to note down some areas of concern. These are some common themes that prevent on air talent from being better. The kind of things that we should have mastered because they are the basics that all on air talents should know.
"You" is the most powerful word you can use.
Radio is intimate and engaging but only when it speaks to me and me alone. Radio is personal because you are talking to just one person. It's you and them. The word "you" is the most powerful word you can use on the radio. In fact it's the most persuasive word in the English language. We should be eradicating phrases like "If any of you" or "I want everyone listening." The listener will only feel close to you when you're speaking just to them.
You have to be in the "Now."
Live radio was designed to live in the moment. To be 'now.' Immediacy is part of our uniqueness. We should know what our audience is thinking, feeling, seeing and discussing at any given moment. We certainly have the tools to do it. What's the big event in the city? What's the drive to work going to be like? What's the first thing they're likely to say to a co-worker in the kitchen? What mood will people be in today? Each day of our lives is different. Our shows should be like that to. The old test is "if we ran this show tomorrow or a week later would it feel awkward and wrong?" If the answer is 'no,' we're doing it wrong.
Local isn't community listings.
When will we realize that reading lists of community events doesn't make us truly local? Is there relevance to some of these community listings? Maybe, but that isn't what local radio should be. Do you have any friends that just read you lists of local charity events whenever you see them? Didn't think so. Local is about demonstrating that you live in, play in and love the area as much as the audience. You are echoing the spirit of the city to which you belong. There is an honesty to your love and this allows you to reflect the area's flaws too - just as the locals do. Let's do local better.
It's about them not you!
Relevance is the key to success. Hearing talent talk about themselves isn't relevant. "Last night I sat around my pool with the kids, watching the sun go down over my backyard..." good for you, we don't care! Everything needs to start with the listener in mind. The moment you start speaking the listener is subconsciously asking "why should I continue to listen?" You have to make sure the content is focused on the listener, not on you. Talk about what matters most to them then inject yourself into that content by sharing an opinion, your emotions or a relatable personal story. Content has to start with the listener in mind.
Your audience hasn't got all day.
A listener's time is precious. You can't afford to waste it. You have to grab their attention at the very start of the break. You need to make the first words you utter compelling, alluring, intriguing or provocative. Your first line of the break is like the first page of a novel; you need to give them enough to want to keep reading; create the desire to go deeper into the story. Yet as you scan the dial there is nothing but endless chit-chat or formatics that take a lifetime to listen through. Stop wasting time and get to the good stuff. Now.
Boring is boring.
Saying "XXXX-FM, Today's Best Variety. I'm who-cares and this is Bruno Mars" is boring. Reading a liner - word for word - about how I can Rate the Music on your website is boring. Continuously sending me to your website or Facebook page to "see" a photo or to enter a contest is dull. Doing nothing but reading text messages or Facebook comments doesn't make you interesting. When someone turns on the radio they want to hear something that entertains, interests or informs them. It's the job of the on air talent to "have something to say;" to take every piece of content and inject a piece of themselves into it. Every moment the mic is open is an opportunity to be human and form a connection. Don't be boring.
I believe that radio has a future and already has some potentially great talent. The challenge - or so it seems to me - is that we haven't prioritized talent development. When you can scan the dial or stream stations in cities of all sizes around the world and hear the basics not being delivered well or at all the problem is obvious. We're the problem. We are not putting enough time and energy into making the resources we have the very best they can be. It goes without saying that we won't always be perfect in our execution and different talent will be at different stages on the learning curve. However, I think we can all agree that we - as an industry - should be better at delivering the basics of our craft, and that if we commit to developing our talent, our future will look more promising.