Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have all the wisdom you’ve gleaned from radio people in one nice, neat document? I’m afraid such a document would be hundreds of pages long. But what a document! It is true though, the longer we’re in radio, the more wisdom we accumulate from a variety of sources! So, I’ve decided to undertake such a project from my collected scraps of paper, post-it notes, emails, journals and CMB notepads. You may want to do the same thing for yourself, so you can have all those nuggets of gold in one, accessible treasure-trove. Your nuggets will be a little different than mine but here are some that I’ve referred to often.
- Tracy Johnson says that in storytelling don’t worry about the facts, but you must exaggerate and create conflict.
- (Lisa’s Notes) Just after learning that, I stumbled upon the facts relating to the movie “The Sound of Music”. So much of it was different from the truth. Georg was not as much of a cold dictator as the movie made him out to be and Maria wasn’t so innocent but had mad outbursts. They were both resistant to Hitler, so they planned a concert tour that got them out. The movie created the cat and mouse tension as they tried to escape. The details of the true story didn’t make for the best story. Exaggeration and conflict did.
- Chuck Finney. Begin with the end. When prepping, think of the ending first…nothing else. Look for unexpected understanding for your audience and pick one. Then…focus on messy middle. Remove details that don’t point toward the proverbial twist. Add color and detail that adds insight.
- Tracy Johnson: You never want to force calls just to have interaction or rely on them for content. Callers contribute most to your show when they provide stories, a fresh perspective, or bring out a host’s character.
- Tracy Johnson: Finding content is the WHAT. Gathering is EASY. But the entertainment is hidden. Imagine: Ask yourself, “what if” “what else” “What might happen” “What could happen”? Explore: Then explore what is most interesting to ME!! What excited me??!!
- Tracy Johnson: Don’t stumble to get a story on the air that day. Go ahead and do breaking news but let the story you want to tell marinate.
- Not sure where I found this but it’s a nice list of what our listener is dealing with each day:
TOP 20 SIGNS OF BEING AN ADULT
- Having a budget 55%
- Buying a house 54%
- Filing your own taxes 52%
- Understanding and monitoring your credit score 48%
- Investing in a 401(k) 46%
- Doing your own laundry 43%
- Scheduling regular doctor’s appointments 38%
- Making a list to take when going to the grocery store 35%
- Cooking dinner most of Monday through Friday 33%
- Watching the nightly news 31%
- Changing the bed sheets regularly 31%
- Reading the newspaper 29%
- Hosting dinner parties or gatherings with friends 29%
- Buying a sensible pair of shoes 27%
- Making the bed every morning 26%
- Drinking wine 26%
- Using coupons 25%
- Getting excited overstaying in on a Saturday night 25%
- Starting the morning with coffee 23%
- Taking something out of the freezer to defrost
- Seth Godin. The best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place. – Seth Godin
- Kid Kraddick.
- One Thing Per Quarter-Hour: Focus on one thing that cuts through the listener clutter enough to resonate. Find relevant topics and deliver it in relatable ways that interest and entertain the audience. Don’t confuse those two things. Relevant and relatable are not the same.
- One Thing Per Hour: One of those four things per hour must be strong enough to cause a listener reaction. It doesn’t have to cause them to take physical action (phone call, email, visit to a website or social media page, etc). We’re talking about emotional responses. A laugh, a smile, a provocative comment that inspires thought. How can you measure it?
- One Thing Per Day: Give them something that they would share with a co-worker or pass along in an email or Facebook post. What will be the highlight of today’s show that is so entertaining a listener will rush into work and tell a friend, “Oh my God, did you hear what (show) did on the radio this morning?”
- One Thing Per Quarter: Plan strategically to be memorable. Look for one thing every three months that can become part of the fabric of your show. It may be a promotion, a heartwarming deed for a listener, a feature you become well-known for or a benchmark.
- One Thing Per Year: Every year, find something that can make you legendary. Some of these can be created, such as a promotion that becomes an annual event like Christmas Wish, but many happen by chance, often when you least expect it.
- Steve Martin. In Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, “When you’re telling these little stories, here’s a good idea. Have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener.” Don’t tell me what it is, tell me why it matters.
- Brian Wright. You may think you have one four-hour radio show each day but the truth is you really have sixteen 15 minute shows. Each 15 minutes needs to be representative of what you and your radio station is all about. This is how your audience cycles through. Don’t think cumulatively. Think in the here and now.
- Lisa Williams.
- What did I see?
- OHHHH I could tell a story about…
- If you ask yourself, what do I feel, you’ll get a new angle.
- Let’s not try to put a Jesus bow on stuff.
- Find your emotions before you try to lead her.
- I don’t want to tell people how to feel about stuff. Let them feel.
- A lot of times we analyze but we don’t want to participate in the emotion of what we’re talking about.
- Hook Your Audience (Unsure where I found this but it’s good.)
If you’re struggling with hooks, or just starting out, there are a few tricks. Use them to open breaks with an impact:
- Begin with a situation the listener wants resolved. It doesn’t have to be a literal question but suggest a question that begs to be answered by piquing their curiosity. In a good movie, the viewer is immediately intrigued: “Who is this guy? Why is he in this situation? Will he get out of it? What’s this secret thing they keep referring to?”
- Make them curious. Curiosity is seduction. Sometimes we suck the life out of topics when they could be fascinating. Find passion in your topic. Preparation. If YOU don’t care – if you aren’t curious, why should they?
- Be provocative
- Challenge a belief. Even if they instantly disagree, they’ll stay long enough to get mad at you. Start with your most dramatic and/or unpopular assertion. Get it out there. Don’t build toward it. Say it! Then support it (again, set up).
- Evoke empathy
- Start with a story about real people, or a character in a scenario they identify with.
- Promise there will be conflict
- We would rarely read a novel or see a movie if not for the promise of conflict. Tension and suspense are compelling. How will this turn out?
- Mystery, suspense, intrigue
- How many bad books and movies have you stuck with just because you had to find out who did it? Even bad movies or bad books. Look at your topic and find a way to add mystery. ANYTHING worth talking or writing about has potential for mystery which plays on their curiosity.
- Beth Bacall. I seek to be intentional daily by finding a way to come against whatever headline is a blaring negative to her on that day by sharing content that does not use that specific headline as the trigger. Daily there are hard local and national headlines that keep recycling throughout the day; Covid, grocery prices, loss of life, lack of workmanship etc. I’ll prepare breaks that offer her the good, the positive, so should she see or hear that specific negative she’ll be ready with a positive to overcome it. Here’s a simple example, say the blaring headline is high grocery prices, she’ll have a hard time affording to feed her family. I’ll share a story about local someone who came up with a simple way a frugal friend manages well or I’ll share how walking to the back of Costco is worth it to get those rotisserie chickens that always seem to be waiting for us or it might be a story about a church that offers weekly bags of groceries no questions asked every Wednesday. I’ll share these breaks without the trigger of the headline. I won’t say …Grocery prices are high but…I’ll just share the good, making it specific for the day.
- Phone Calls: (Unsure of the author)
You don’t want to take phone calls. You want to take verbal photographs from people. If what’s being said doesn’t make you ‘see’ something, or ‘feel’ what it would be like to be in that person’s shoes, it’s not worth airing. And let me clarify that you want snapshots, not movies. Every second that you let a caller continue to talk, you face being driven off a cliff. If possible, record and EDIT every call. In a Talk format, be prepared to simply cut off a caller, then go on to make your point, or hit the button to go to the next thing.
- Whenever you FEEL something while reading a story, put THAT first.
- Whenever you FEEL anything at all, write that down. Remember it. Develop it.
- Quotes: Don’t read them, use them to inspire your original thought.
- When you don’t know what to say, say what you’d like to hear.
- Get out of your normal prepping space (studio/home). Go to a new place, people watch, see new things, stir up creativity.
- Pick a line from the song you’re coming out of that means something to you and unpack it. (Mike Couchman)
- People will enjoy your home-movies a lot more if THEY are in them. (John Frost)
Now what? Good question. You could do any of the following:
- Print this off and keep it handy.
- Highlight everything that’s helpful
- Copy and paste what speaks to you in a new document and add your own.
- Start a Google Doc to store all your favorite prep wisdom so no matter where you are, you can add to it quickly and not forget a thing.
- Hire any of the people I’ve referred to here and let them take you to the next level. (Probably not Steve Martin or Seth Godin but you never know)
Lisa Barry Media – On-Air Host
Lisa Barry is a 25-year radio veteran currently hosting radio shows for the XFMedia Network, 98.5 KTIS in Minneapolis, and Spirit 1059 in Austin, TX. She’s passionate about radio education, video production and ministering to exhausted radio DJ’s. She works from a state-of-the-art studio in her home in Naples, Florida where she lives with her husband Ken. They have three grown daughters.