Ten rules for every radio show
(Mike McVay) The show never ends – It’s not a “change”. It’s a “show”. When a talent says “Goodbye”, it signals that a listener can turn off the station. View all of your programming as one big show. Each aerial talent performance is an act as part of this great spectacle. Never signal to the listener that “it’s over”. It’s a disservice to the on-air personalities who perform after your show, and it’s a disservice to the station.
Time checks are important in the morning – It is true that fewer people wear a watch. Especially people under 40. The time is available on your phone and almost every other device you use, so why tell the time on the morning show? The answer is that it not only serves as a verbal reminder, especially in the morning, but it serves as a cue. A benchmark is defined as a standard or reference point against which things can be compared or evaluated. For our use, it’s like a way to tell the time. “If I don’t cross the train tracks by 7:45 a.m., I’ll be late for work.”
Consistency Creates Habitual Listening – This is because people listen in a series of times. They wake up at a constant time. They shower, get dressed, grab a bagel and go out to work. Even if it’s an WFH worker, like me, you have a morning routine. Many have afternoon and evening routing. This consistency calls for serial-like content that can be heard at the same time, during its routine, which encourages repeat listening. If you’re a morning commuter and hear “War of the Roses” every morning at 8:15 a.m., this feature may become the one you follow and look forward to every day. We can’t easily compete musically because the playing field is level. Look at the consistency tactic to create habitual listening.
Speaking efficiency – I’ve never liked the word ‘brevity’ when used to tell an aerial talent that they should talk less. I believe that on-air personalities create a reason to listen. There is more uniqueness in personalities than in the music of a music station or the reporting of a talk station. Where talent gets in trouble is using sixty seconds to say something that could have been delivered in thirty seconds. Being effective as a talent means using only the words necessary to completely sell the thought or idea being conveyed. If there’s no way to say it faster than sixty seconds, then you’ve been effective. If someone else can bring up the same topic in less than sixty seconds, then you’re not effective.
Speak to the individual listener – Radio is better when it is one-to-one media rather than one-to-many. Use the words “you” and “your” when communicating with your audience. While you’re hoping there’s more than one person listening, focus on one person, so you’re talking to someone and not someone.
Be direct and explain yourself – The listener is multitasking while listening. Don’t present a complex algorithmic formula and expect someone to understand it, let alone remember it. Be specific, include important details in your story, and don’t be wordy while doing so.
No Unnecessary Repetition – While I just suggested you explain yourself; I’m not suggesting that you repeat yourself except for a phone number…a text…a website…or an email address. Those things that you repeat slowly so that the audience picks up that information. The reason for not repeating other types of content is quite simple. If I didn’t care to hear it the first time, I don’t care the second time. If I was paying attention, then I heard it.
Identification is important – Some think you don’t need to say a station’s brand name (call letters if you use them) and frequency, because the Personal People Meter picks up your radio listening. This assumes, of course, that you are in a measured market. In a calendar market, you probably want to repeat your station’s name and dial position frequently. PPM markets should also regularly repeat the same information. The reason is that it marks your station and allows the listener to remember where to find the station. Who are you? What are you doing? Why should I listen? Where can I find you? If I just discovered your station and want to listen to it again, I need to know where it is and what the station offers its audience. Identifying a personality is important. This is how we bond. When I hear a talent that rarely says its name, I liken it to having a big ego. “Everyone knows me.” They don’t.
The studio is the same as a stage – Working from home has changed the location and situation of the studio for many. Those who continue to present their show from home have probably created a studio by now. Wherever he is in the house. For those of you who have done it before, there is something special about stepping into a radio studio. This is where the action happens. It’s Captain Kirk at Con. NASA is preparing to launch the Artemis. He takes the stage at Madison Square Garden. It’s Showbiz. You want the studio to have that particular aura. You don’t want it to be a busy place. Which means keeping anyone who isn’t essential to the show away. The people who walk through this door are a special breed. They need to perform.
Microphone is always on – This is an abstract concept I was taught a few years ago. In a studio, conversing with a few personalities, one of them said something negative. The other talent pointed at the microphone’s compressor VU meter as the needle bounced. He said “the microphone is always on”. It’s true. The on/off switch allows you to broadcast what is said into the microphone. The point being, you shouldn’t be negative in the studio. Don’t use profanity. Don’t say anything you didn’t want anyone to hear. Don’t be out of character. This approach should put your head in a better place… and save you from getting canceled. If you didn’t say it on air…don’t say it in the studio.
Mike McVay is president of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]