How to get into Talk Radio: Valerie Geller joins radioinfo

This week we are delighted to welcome international broadcasting consultant Valerie Geller to our team of contributors at radioinfo. Valerie will provide a weekly programming blog focusing on her specialties, news, talk, information and personality. The author of four books, including her latest, Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age, Valerie is a frequent visitor to Australia, consulting for the ABC and other networks. She has also been a presenter at CRA’s annual Radiofest and is now a tutor with CRA’s recently announced International Program Directors Course run by radioinfo’s Steve Ahern.

Valerie says, “Having worked as a consultant/trainer for nearly a decade for ABC radio all over Australia,  it’s a lot of fun to be a reader and fan of And now to contribute to it will be an honour.”

This week Valerie looks at where the next talk talent might come from. Given that there’s limited of scope in Australia for fresh talent to get a start on air and be given the time to develop, the internet offers new ways to build an audience and gain the attention of a major market PD or CD.


 “The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.”Bruce Feirstein

The curse and blessing of the technology that makes it possible for anyone with a microphone, a computer and the desire to host a show, is that it’s a level playing field with no filter. There’s a lot of truly bad talk radio on the internet, but from the plethora of online personalities, real talent is emerging. Smart radio programmers now use online and social media to seek out the next generation of talk hosts.

Consultants have to do the same thing, sifting through hours of internet content looking for the diamonds in the rough. Once we find them, the polishing begins. The methods that make up the backbone of my work with radio stations and talent are being turned to coaching successful podcasters. It’s just like working with the overnight hosts in smaller markets, giving them the tools to become prime time, major-market radio stars.

Social media has altered the path to fame in every field. Creative individuals now bypass the traditional vetting process. What they all bring—above and beyond their talent, self confidence and content—are huge audience followings.

Take a look at the new Sports Illustrated cover girl for the famous swimsuit edition. Nvarchar(15)een-year-old blonde beauty Kate Upton emerged, not from the ranks of traditional modeling, but as her own self-created internet phenomenon.

On the music side of the business, my colleague, Sean Ross, could list for you multiple artists who’ve muscled their way into the record industry’s traditional talent development system and broken through using social media, their own websites and YouTube.

DJs who want to move from music radio to talk radio find doing a show online is a perfect place to try it.

Everyone can talk, so people think talk radio is easy. But as anyone who’s sat in front of a microphone can tell you, it’s a little harder than it looks. The great ones just make it look easy.

Since the internet provides a forum for anyone who wants to, to do a talk show—the challenge becomes: Who will listen? How will you grow your audience? You have to provide something worthy of people’s attention. What you say must be relevant and matter. You have to be a strong storyteller with unique content, who can engage audiences by informing entertainingly and entertaining informatively. I’ve written a book to help with this, but there are a myriad of places you can go to work on improving your skills. If you don’t want to create and promote your podcast entirely on your own, there are several resources, such as Podcasting for Dummies, or that will help you, for a fee.

For talent, once you’ve perfected your podcast, getting noticed is your next challenge. Personalities Brian and Mike ( started out with about 50 followers—mostly friends and family—but as they continued to podcast their show, the audience grew rapidly. About 18 months later, based solely on word of mouth and social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) to drive an audience to their site, they had over a million unique downloads of their podcasts. Brian and Mike are now having serious conversations with radio stations. These kinds of numbers also attract sponsors.

Kelly Carlin, daughter of the late comedian George Carlin, is a therapist who started her own weekly online celebrity interview talk show. Carlin booked the biggest names she could find to be on her podcast, and to be honest, her pedigree helped. After nearly two years of podcasting, programmers noticed. Kelly begins her new show on Sirius XM radio, this month.

If you’re a program director and you’ve found an online show you think has promise, try potential hosts as guests. Or if you are feeling brave, let them do some vacation or fill in shifts. Internet podcasts can also be a good source of experts for niche formats like home remodeling, auto, or cooking shows. If the personalities are really entertaining, they might move on to general talk.

To prepare a podcaster, even one with a huge following for radio, you’ll have some training to do. Why? Podcasters can record, cut, edit and perfect their shows. But podcasters are working with a net—live talk radio is a different experience. If someone has never done live radio before, he or she won’t know how to deal with things like breaking news, challenging callers or boring guests. While podcasters may be great storytellers and interviewers, when you broadcast in real time, by the seat of your pants—it’s different. But most hosts would agree there’s no better feeling.

For additional help and guidelines on finding and working with talent you are welcome to use the “Powerful Communicator Principles” found in Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age.”

See Valerie’s earlier blog on radioinfo, 13 Tips to Keep and Grow Your Audience.

About the Writer

Valerie Geller, president of Geller Media International Broadcast Consultants, works to help communicators become more powerful in 30 countries, including Australia, for news, talk, information and personality. Through consulting and individual coaching for news and talk talent, Geller finds and develops personalities, leads “Creating Powerful Radio” and “Communicate Powerfully” workshops and seminars for radio and TV broadcasters, internet radio and podcasters. Geller is the recipient of the Conclave’s 2010 Rockwell Lifetime Achievement Award and is the author of four books about radio including her latest from Elsevier’s Focal Press Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age. To contact Valerie Geller for a one-on-one coaching or consulting, appointment, or for information on the “Powerful Radio” seminars and workshops, call +1 212 580-3385


Note: This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on and has been republished with permission.