Talent Should Know This... Part 2
August 18, 2015
Talent isn't as important to the audience as it should be.
I get frustrated when I observe the spoken words of air personalities being ignored, often unintentionally, by the audience. While in a furniture store this weekend I watched the cashier sing along to the songs that played on her beat up old FM radio tucked away at the back of the store, but the minute the on air personality started to speak, she visually lost interest and wandered off to speak to customers she had previously been ignoring.
Ever been in the car with someone who turns the volume down the minute they hear someone start to speak? That frustrates me. How have we trained the audience to disengage the moment a jock starts to utter their first few words?
Every research project on the importance of radio to people underpins the need for talent. People feel a deeply personal and emotional attachment to their favorite stations based on their affinity to the station's talent. Our audience wants to feel a sense of companionship and intimacy when they turn on the radio. Those things require human to human contact. The audience can't possibly feel that way without feeling bonded to whom they're listening to. So why do they seem uninterested in the personalities who are on the air? Why are they not hearing what is being said?
The answer is simple. Often what personalities are spewing out isn't actually worth hearing. There's no value or deep thought put into it. We aren't delivering content that is deemed worthy of their time and attention. I listen to a lot of radio, both shows I work with and our competitors, and I can see where the audience is coming from. Before talent can grow they have to master the fundamentals. That means understanding their importance and consistently putting them into practice. Execute the fundamentals with precision and you stand a better chance to be heard. Unfortunately the fundamentals aren't always evident when you turn on a station.
As I listen to radio I continue to find myself noting the things that the talent should know.
Last time we spoke of these essentials; the importance of "you", what it means to be local, relevance, content being in the moment and that boring is boring. Now there is more that is worth sharing...
Simplicity is your greatest weapon
Just consider how busy your own life is. You have lots going on, all the time. Your phone pings constantly as email after email arrives. There are so many distractions happening around you. There is no time for complexities. If you want what you say to be heard then you need to make it easy to consume. Our minds are linear. We need ideas to be presented to us in a logical and sequential way. Too often, personalities sound like they're sat behind their mic dumping every possible thought they have on a subject, their thoughts bouncing around erratically. It's confusing to listen to. Choosing one thought about a subject and communicating that with clarity is powerful. You don't need to talk a lot to be successful. Just make sure what you say and how you say it cuts through. Talent should know to keep it simple.
You have to hook the listener at the start
You simply have no choice but to hook the listener at the start. This isn't like reading a book or reading an article online where your eye can skip ahead to the good part. You have to give the good part up front or you will lose the audience's attention. The first sentence spoken should be designed to reach out of the speaker and pull the listener in. It should allure, entice, tempt, tantalize, fascinate or interest the audience to want to hear more. What's the most interesting, fascinating, exciting or dramatic part of your subject? Use that to craft your hook. Too often you'll hear personalities take a lifetime to get to the good part. Your audience won't give you time. Start with the good part. Talent should know that the first words spoken must hook the listener to want to hear more.
You need to know the ending
Most successful writers will tell you they know the ending of their story first. They start with the ending and then work backwards adding in the needed detail and drama to set up the ending. Stand-up comedians often dream up the punchline and then work on the set-up for the punchline. It's an art to create the set up - they consider pacing, rhythm, structure and detail - just to ensure the ending hits with the intended impact. Yet turn on the radio and you'll often here talent talking about a subject which goes nowhere. There is no building to a conclusion. It's someone just riffing on a topic, throwing out more ideas and lines and searching for something that may allow them to hit the next element. It's lazy. If you aren't building to a resolution then there is no chance of your content building momentum. Talent should know their destination before opening the microphone.
Someone is listening for the first time
The audience doesn't hang on your every word. They don't hear everything you say. PPM data shows that most people don't listen anywhere near as much as we once thought. Heavy listeners may actually miss almost 90% of what you do in the course of a week. You need to approach everything you do on air from the perspective that the audience is listening for the very first time. Don't assume they know anything about you or the station. Don't assume that they heard what you were talking about earlier. Don't assume they know who you're interviewing because you mentioned the guests name 10 minutes ago. Talent needs to constantly reset the stage. Ask yourself "if someone has just tuned in will they understand what's happening?" Or "can the audience get what's going on right now?" The mind hates confusion. The listener needs to understand instantly what's happening. Talent should know that assumption is their enemy - everything needs to be reset.
Being successful at anything takes practice. Then more practice. To be a success on the air you need to practice the fundamentals. Keep working at them, reviewing your performance as you do. Do them over and over. The best do all these things (and more) effortlessly. But it took them time to make it sound that way.
The audience tells us that talent matters. Talent helps bond them to your station. However, we have to remember that the audience has expectations. They have a low threshold for inane, unprepared, complex and confusing content. Talent has to be better. Programmers have to help talent be better.