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Ten Rules for Every Radio Show

1. The show never ends – It’s not a “shift.” It’s a “Show.” When a talent says “Goodbye” it signals that a listener can turn-off the station. View your entire programming line-up as one big show. Each air talents performance is an act as part of that one big show. Never signal to the listener that “it’s over.” It’s a disservice to the on-air personalities that perform after your show, and it is a disservice to the station.

2. Time checks matter 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 any other device you use, so why say 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 benchmark. A benchmark is defined as a standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed. For our use it’s as a way of telling time. “If I’m not crossing the railroad tracks by 7:45, I will be late for work.”

3. Consistency creates habitual listening – That’s because people listen in a series of time. They awake at a consistent time. They shower, dress, grab a bagel, and head out the door to work. Even if they’re a WFH worker, as I am, you have a morning routine. Many have an afternoon and evening routing. This consistency begs for serial-like content that can be heard at the same time, during one’s routine, so it encourages repeat listening. If you’re a morning commuter, and you hear “War of the Roses” every morning at 8:15, that feature may become one that you follow and look forward to daily. We cannot easily compete on a music level as the playing field is level. Look to the tactic of consistency to create habitual listening.

4. Efficiency in speech matters – I’ve never liked the word “brevity” when used to tell an air talent that they should speak less. I’m a believer that on-air personalities create a reason to listen. There’s more uniqueness to personalities than there is to the music on a music station or the news reports on a talk station. Where talent get into trouble is using sixty-seconds to say something that could have been delivered in thirty-seconds. Being efficient as a talent means that you use only the words necessary to completely sell the thought or idea that’s being conveyed. If there’s no way to say it more quickly than sixty-seconds, then you were efficient. If someone else can address the same topic in a shorter period of time than sixty-seconds, then you were not efficient.

5. Talk to the individual listener – Radio is best when it is a one to one medium versus one to many. Use the words “You” and “Your” when communicating to your audience. While you hope there’s more than one person listening, focus on an individual, so that you’re talking TO someone and not AT someone.

6. Be direct and explain yourself – The listener is multitasking while they listen. Don’t present a complex algorithmic formula and expect anyone to understand it, let alone remember it. Be to the point, weave the important details into your story, and don’t be verbose in doing it.

7. No needless repetition – While I just suggested you explain yourself; I am not suggesting that you repeat yourself, except for a phone number … texting … a website … or an E-mail address. Those things you repeat slowly so the audience captures that information. The reason for not repeating other types of content is pretty simple. If I wasn’t paying attention to hear it the first time, I’m not paying attention the second time. If I was paying attention, then I’ve heard it.

8. Identification is important – There are those that believe that you do not need to say a stations brand name (call-letters if you use them) and frequency because the Personal People Meter picks up your radio listening. That’s assuming, of course, that you’re in a metered market. In a diary market, you definitely want to repeat the name and dial position of your station frequently. PPM markets should also repeat the same information regularly. The reason being that it brands your station and enables the listener to memorize where to find the station. Who are you? What do you do? Why should I listen? Where can I find you? If I’ve just discovered your station, and I want to return listen to it, I need to know where it is and what the station delivers to its’ audience. Identification of a personality is important. It’s how we bond. When I hear a talent that seldom says their name, I equate it to having a large ego. “Everyone knows me.” They don’t.

9. The studio is the same as a stage – Working from Home has changed the studio location and situation for many. Those who continue to perform their show from home have likely created a studio now. Wherever it is in the house. For those of you who’ve done it, there’s something special about walking into a radio studio. It’s where the action happens. It’s Captain Kirk at the Con. It’s NASA preparing to launch the Artemis. It’s walking onto the stage at Madison Square Garden. It’s Showbiz. You want the studio to have that special aura. You don’t want it to be a highly trafficked location. Meaning keep out anyone who is not essential to the show. The people who walk through that door are a special breed. They need to perform.

10. The microphone is always on – This is an abstract concept that I was taught some years ago. When in a studio, conversing with a couple of the personalities, one of them said something negative. The other talent pointed at the VU meter on the microphone compressor as the needle bounced. He said “the microphone is always on.” It’s true. The On/Off switch allows what’s being said into the microphone to go on-air. The point being that you shouldn’t be negative in the studio. Don’t use profanity. Don’t say anything that you don’t want anyone to hear. Don’t be out of character. That approach should put your head in a better place … and keeps you from being cancelled. If you wouldn’t say it on the air … don’t say it in the studio.

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