Team Shows Should Know This ... Part 1
January 26, 2016
What happens between the songs is the most important differentiator your radio station can have. Music is a commodity and easily duplicated. It's an important driver of a music station's success but it's just the entry to the game, not the winning play. Successful radio comes when the listener experiences a consistent set of emotions or mood when they tune in. Successful radio is about continually fulfilling a deep want or need in the listener. The personalities you hire shape that experience. I think of it like Disney World; if you removed the cast and the characters from their park you have just a theme park with some rollercoasters - and the inevitable long lines leading to the rides. It's like any other theme park. Remove the cast and the characters from the experience and the Disney World magic begins to fade. The distinct personality that Disney has carved out doesn't come from the rides but rather it comes from the people. Your radio station is the same. Talent shapes the experience.
It makes logical sense then that your station's image is shaped by your strongest personalities. Often the morning show or afternoon drive show. Or both. These shows communicate more about your brand and the experience that can be derived from listening than any other element on your station. The sad thing is that most of these shows never reach their full potential. Why is this? Is it constraints? Prescriptive formulas? Ineffective direction? Inadequate talent? Fear? I find myself perplexed by this question more and more. What I do know is that if we spend some more time developing our personality shows our stations will become better. They will connect in a more meaningful way.
If our goal is to build more compelling team shows then we must focus our attention on the areas that hold these shows back. As I travel and listen to shows I have started to note the most common themes that seem to be problematic. Here are the first few areas that made it into my journal this week.
Dueling Monologues vs. Fluid Conversation
Conversation seems to be a lost art. Conversation is defined as an 'informal interchange of thoughts, information, opinions, ideas etc.' The crucial part to a fluid conversation is this idea of 'inter-change' and working together to co-construct the dialogue. Most shows fail to achieve conversation and instead fall into the trap of having dueling monologues where one player tells their story about a subject, followed by the next player telling their story. The stories exist separately of one another. It feels like a game of 'who has the best story.' Team shows need to focus on building conversations and conversation comes from embracing the improv concept of 'Yes, and..." Pay attention to the content that is unfolding in this very moment, accept what is offered and build upon it. Acknowledge what is presented by a co-host and then add your point. Great team shows aren't simply waiting for one player to finish their story so they can tell theirs. They understand the idea of bringing bricks and building the cathedral together.
Conflict Of Brand Values
Casting is a fundamental area of consideration for team shows. It's not just about casting the right mix of interesting and different people to create drama, but also ensuring the show is cast on the right station. There must be an alignment between the station's desired brand values and the show's brand values. The audience has an expectation of the experience they want from the radio station, and the team must enhance that expectation, not be at odds with it. Too often there is a misalignment between what the station stands for and what the team show stands for. There should be a unity between the station and the show's brand values and filters. The shows should amplify the station's values. A show will fail - and hold a station back - if the pieces don't fit together.
Stop Talking To Each Other, And Talk To The Listener
Most show's fail to connect with their audience because they forget the audience is part of the conversation. They ignore the listener by focusing on each other. It's frustrating to tune into a group of people who start a break by only talking to each other. It makes the listener feel like they are on the outside looking in. Imagine walking past a house where they are throwing a party. Everyone is having a great time. You can see people laughing and smiling. Problem is you are on the outside watching through the window. You're excluded from the fun. Shows can easily fix this - talk to the listener first, and then talk to each other. Do it every time.
Innovation Is What You Do With Content
Shows throw around the word 'innovation' a lot. We often ask people to describe their shows and themselves and words like creativity and innovation come up. I'm curious as to how people define these words as often these are the shows that you'll turn on and hear the same old showbiz news segments and phone topics. Wow, that really was new and unexpected! Shows need to understand that innovation is determined by what you do with content. Innovation comes from how you choose to showcase your thoughts and ideas. It's about asking 'what are we going to do with this piece of content to make it stand out?' It's about consciously deciding not to do the obvious. Push yourselves to do the unexpected. Surprise the audience. Go beyond just the basics. Great shows are always adding extra dimensions to their breaks - production values, planted calls, audio, guests, topical games etc. Great shows are always amplifying their content.
Serial Content Draws People In And Makes Them Come Back
Humans are drawn to stories. Stories help us make meaning of our worlds. We are like moths to a light bulb (flame?) when people tell us stories. The more engaging, captivating and relevant the story the more we want to hear it. TV worked this out a long time ago. Friends had the ongoing storyline of Ross and Rachel; would they? Wouldn't they? Making A Murderer captured the attention of millions of people because we had to know what would happen next. Did Stephen Avery really do what he was accused of? Serial content is an extended or continuing storyline that runs across multiple shows or weeks. It allows your show to explore engaging content in a deeper and more meaningful way. The audience has time to become invested in the story. Great shows plan out engaging twists, leverage more emotion and endear the cast to the audience through serial content arcs. Serial content has a better chance of changing listening patterns because people want to hear the next installment. If your show is simply a series of individual breaks, listeners aren't compelled to return, no matter how good those individual breaks are.
What else do team shows need to know in order to be successful? I would love to hear your thoughts. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let's keep compiling the list. The future of radio requires us to invest in talent, to challenge the norms, to experiment and to nurture ideas.