This KEY issue is a question I am asked, all over our planet. And the answers for keeping your audience, and getting them to listen longer, are pretty similar all everywhere on earth, whether I’m working with DJs, news reporters, talk hosts or producers in in the United States, Canada, England, Australia, Europe and Africa. The answer is: NEVER BE BORING.
To Create Powerful Radio: Your content must be relevant. If your listener is not engaged, or bored, it’s the kiss of death, he or she either “zones out” or TUNES out. When that happens, your listeners either leave the station mentally, or tune out physically, their attention goes elsewhere. One clue is to try to avoid “manufactured topics for air…” Always ask yourself: ?If you would not talk about this subject OFF air, WHY are you talking about this on your show?
WHY DO LISTENERS LEAVE? WHAT MAKES ‘EM GO?
Think about it. Have you ever sat in your car, stuck in traffic waiting for the traffic report to come on? You WORK IN RADIO. You KNOW when that report is coming, so you wait. Or maybe you’re waiting to hear a song title. You want to find out the CD or the artist, but somehow you zone out…the report came and went or the song title came and went, and YOU MISSED IT? WHY? Because the person on air did NOT make it matter.
A misconception: Pace and tempo do not equate ENERGY. “Energy” does not equate MAKING IT MATTER. Storytelling makes it matter. A storyteller who CARES about what he or she is presenting is what always works. This is NOT an acting job. If it means something to the person on air, it’ll matter more to the audience. Part of telling the truth is being authentic, and genuinely caring about what you are talking about on air. Always focus on WHAT IS IN THIS FOR THE LISTENER?
WHAT ARE LISTENERS NOT GETTING FROM YOU?
When a listener leaves either mentally or physically and actually switches off the station, here is what is NOT happening. That listener is NOT engaged. He or she is BORED. ZONED OUT. Looking for another station or immersed in his or her own thoughts.
Try the following Powerful Radio techniques to engage your audience:
1. USE THE WORD “YOU.” If there was a magic word to guarantee you could get the attention of a listener would you use it? Of course. And there is such a word. Radio’s Magic Word is: “YOU.” Always talk to the individual. Of course, logically you know intellectually that when you are talking on the radio you are in reality, talking to more than one person, but on the radio, the magic, the connection, the power of radio, is based on the feeling of intimacy between the presenter on air and each individual person listening. It never works as well on radio to talk to all those “folks” or “People out there listening” or “all of you…”
2. USE YOU instead of “I.” Whenever you can, always try to talk to one individual. If you use YOU instead of We-Me-I or Us, listeners feel the deeper, and true connection. Think of the difference, “I have tickets to give away” or “You can win tickets.”
And it’s not just radio. A few weeks ago, I went looking at houses with a friend who has just had twins and they need more space. The estate agent said: “Now, this would be your kitchen over here. The bedrooms are upstairs, the guest room is in the back. Here, you could knock out a wall and make this an open plan. Your garden would be here, in the back…” This REALLY REALLY works.
Replacing YOU for “We, Me. I and Us takes a little time but it is worth the effort, as long as you have patience, and understand that as human beings, it is hard to change old habits. Perhaps you are familiar with the work of Australian based brain researcher Dr. Evian Gordon? (www.brainresource.com) If so, you may already know that according to the research, it takes a 1000 times of repeated behavior before you rewire your brain to change a habit, so KEEP TRYING. I have a stack of bright yellow “post-it” notes. They are everywhere and have the word YOU on them. It helps.
What else makes a listener leave?
3. TOO MANY COMMERCIALS or TOO MANY BAD COMMERCIALS If you have commercials in your show, ask: Are your commercials causing a listener to tune out because a break is too long, or is the spot simply bad – boring, noisy, off message, or a wrong format fit? The same goes for public radio “sponsorships.” Never be boring. Research shows that your listeners actually like commercials and find them USEFUL when targeted correctly – if you’re in the market for a smart phone and you hear an ad that they’re half price at a local electronics store – you’re happy. You’ve gotten real information about a product or service that you want, and you can save money. When you air these sponsorship messages, the content should be targeted correctly and relevant.
4. GETTING THE LISTENERS YOU HAVE, TO STAY While, there’s been so much emphasis on developing and getting NEW listeners, don’t forget that we also need to pay attention to keeping the audience you’ve already got onboard. Again, with the amount of choices people have for their time and attention, listeners are easily distracted. So how do you get a listener to listen LONGER?
5. AVOID THE MANUFACTURED TOPIC As mentioned above, this is important. Try to think about your listener before you put anything on air. Avoid “manufactured topics.” Listeners feel it when it sounds like: “And now here is another topic manufactured to fill a bit on radio!” When they hear that, listeners tend to tune out. Ask yourself: If you are not talking about this OFF air, why is it on the air?
6. WIFM? Always ask: What is in this for the listener? What’s in it for ME if I give you my time? A quick checklist: Is it interesting? Are they talking to me? Describing things visually? Is there humor? New Information? Talkable topics? Would you talk about this OFF air in normal conversation, if you did not have a radio show?
Some DJs or talk hosts get confused and think Personality means it’s all about YOU. But audiences care about THEMSELVES, not necessarily YOU. In personality radio, many personalities get confused and think if they talk about themselves it will be interesting. But powerful radio is not about YOU, it’s about the listener. The personal is universal, but the private tends to be boring.
7. WHAT DO LISTENERS WANT? Your listeners want to be informed and entertained and have fun. They want new knowledge. If they are alone in room or alone in a car maybe they just do not want to feel alone. Listeners are hungry to feel connected in a somewhat isolated world that they find themselves in.?A listener wants to a connection to or “feel at home” with or comfortable with the person on air. They like to feel they “know” the person on air. Sometimes listeners like a little help in making up their minds, say, they are not completely certain of what they may think about a subject or topic, here they can get enough information or opinion or viewpoints to make up their minds. And in commercial radio, when the spots are effective, listeners say they like to learn about bargains, new products or services. And if a listener is having a down or despairing black moment, he or she wants to be lifted out of that mood.
8. GIVE THEM ‘TALKABLE’ TOPICS We are lucky. Most people out there listening do not have exciting lives or careers. Because of this, listeners also desire “talkable topics.” They want to be able to turn the radio off and have ideas and interesting new things to say to people.
9. MAKE THEM LAUGH Listeners also want vicarious experiences. They like to be taken on journeys they cannot get to on their own. And everybody loves to laugh. If you can make a listener laugh, it’s like handing them a solid chunk of gold.
10. TELL THEM SOMETHING NEW Listeners to your station like to be in the know, they like learning new things. (They also appreciate help with their “show prep” for dinner, just in case they don’t have anything interesting to say to the people in their lives.) It works if you can give them material THEY can talk about. Listeners also want you to get ahead and lead them and give them ideas, things to think about.
11. SPEAK VISUALLY Radio is an imagination medium. Even with photos and video on the internet, the spoken word can create powerful word pictures. Use these “colors” in your paint box to engage listeners. Remember to use details to speak visually and to paint word pictures. Imagine you are talking to one person, and person is a blind man or woman! How would you describe what you are talking about so the listener can “see it?”
12. Topic selection: HEALTH, HEART POCKETBOOK What are audiences interested in? For years, the Frank Magid study of “health, heart, pocketbook” rules of topic selection applied. Today there is a new one. In addition to health, (personal safety) heart (touching emotion of any kind) and money stories, the newest category is Transformation. How YOUR life as a listener can be better tomorrow than it was or is today because of what you’ve heard on air. Radio stories and topics showing a listener what is possible. You don’t have to settle for the life you have. It can get better. This RIVETS audiences. (Think Oprah, think Extreme Makeover, DIY fixit shows, etc)
13. INSPIRE Finally, listeners ALL want to feel good. If you can do that, you have that audience completely with you. And if you don’t care, they don’t care. Make it matter!
Valerie Geller’s POWERFUL COMMUNICATOR PRINCIPLES:
1.Speak visually, in terms your listener can “picture.”
2.Find, and start with, your best material.
3.Tell the truth.
4.Never be boring.
6.Make it matter.
7.Always address the individual, use “you.” Talk to ONE listener at a time.
8.Do smooth and engaging transitions & handoffs.
9.Promote, brag about your stuff.
- Brag about other people’s stuff.
- Be who you are.
- Take risks. Dare to be great.
All rights reserved. Reprint with permission – Copyright Valerie Geller 2011 – excerpted from “Beyond Powerful Radio. Valerie Geller, president of Geller Media International is a broadcast consultant, trainer, seminar/workshop leader, keynote speaker and talent coach working with radio and TV programmers, managers, on air personalities and broadcast journalists throughout the world, to help grow audiences through creating powerful radio. “Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age” is Geller’s fourth book. For more, visit beyondpowerfulradio.com or gellermedia.com. Phone 212 580-3385, email [email protected], Follow her on twitter: twitter.com/vgeller