(By Stan Main and Randy Lane)
Strong characters are core to the success of every great radio show, television show, video, and podcast. There are four types of character-based shows and each type has its own potential. Which type are you?
Type One: Unfamiliar characters doing unpredictable content
Type Two: Unfamiliar characters doing predictable content
Type Three: Familiar characters doing predictable content
Type Four: Familiar characters doing unpredictable content
Types One and Two: New shows fall into these first two types.
Type One shows have new characters doing new and original content or new characters creating familiar content with a unique twist.
Type Two shows have new characters presenting tried-and-true benchmark content like “Hollywood Trash,” “War of the Roses,” and trivia contests.
Types One and Two show characters are establishing a trust relationship with the audience to create a personality brand. The first stage of character development is for the character to connect with the audience on common ground by expressing their point-of-view on local, national, and entertainment stories. Their perspectives ideally include their feelings, their inner dialogue, and specific examples.
When the character’s unique outlook on life is revealed to the audience, they can then gradually begin revealing their endearing characteristics to enhance their likability, including their quirks and flaws. Personal anecdotes and stories are the most effective way to grow characters.
Types One and Two shows often have a tough time generating strong TSL because the characters on these shows are mostly unfamiliar to the audience. Also, listener loyalty and patterns have yet to be established.
It is crucial for Type One and Two shows to develop content that will contrast and highlight the characters. The time needed to turn unfamiliar characters into familiar ones can be a year or more. Designing content to reveal character traits will speed the process.
When a show is getting traction with the target audience, running character-based imaging during the show significantly cuts the time needed to become familiar to listeners. For example, listen to this VO of Daria and Mitch of 105.1 The Buzz Portland.
Type One shows have the most potential for growth when their unpredictable content clicks with the audience. Type Two shows are likely to perform better initially because their content is already familiar to the audience.
Type Three: Type Three shows are shows that have continued to be successful over time. Their characters are well known, as are their benchmark features. However, predictability can be their pitfall. Shows that stay in this category are vulnerable to new competitors who build familiarity quickly and generate fresh content. Type Three shows can grow by introducing original content that puts the show’s characters into unpredictable situations.
Type Four: Type Four shows are consistently successful because they feature familiar characters doing unpredictable content. Familiar characters continue to be interesting to the audience by growing and evolving over time. Put familiar characters in unpredictable settings or have them attempt quests with unpredictable outcomes to remain fresh and relevant.
Type Four is where you will find long-term successful radio shows like Ryan Seacrest and Elvis Duran, TV shows like The Game of Thrones, and movie series like The Hunger Games. It’s a three step process:
- Create interesting and colorful characters.
- Develop the character’s familiarity.
- Have the characters do unpredictable things.