5 Quick Summer Tune-Ups


(By Jeff McHugh) The fall Nielsen ratings period begins September 8 for both PPM and diary markets. That is not far away. Radio and podcast shows are somewhat lost to other diversions during the summer months, but you can get a big financial, ratings, or creative return on a small investment of time with these activities.

  1. Listen to another show or podcast. It is difficult to find time to listen to another show while focusing on your own, but open your mind and ears by tuning in another show that you wouldn’t ordinarily listen to. If you are a liberal, try a conservative political show. If you are an American, listen to radio from Australia, Mexico, or Canada. Listen to old radio like Jack Benny or Wolfman Jack. Check this week’s most downloaded podcasts and try one that you have never heard before. Don’t listen to it in the background. Appreciate what they do well, and be critical about what they could do better. You will find that this exercise often sparks new ideas that you can adapt for your own program.
  2. Spend an hour with your sales manager. It is unfortunate that many air personalities shrink like a vampire in sunlight when they enter the sales cubicles. Great radio shows are fueled by capital, which comes exclusively from your sales department, and they are more challenged than ever as advertisers divert their spending to digital platforms. They need your help and ideas.
  3. Try something new. Get out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just for an hour. Do five minutes of open-mic stand-up at your local comedy club. Try yoga for the first time. Visit a neighborhood that you have never been to. Attempt something on the air that you’ve never done before, like pre-producing certain segments, a character skit, or a new contest. Introduce a new creative habit, like meditation, journaling, or shutting down all of your electronic devices for a couple of hours. The highest performing entertainers that we’ve encountered all make a point to regularly try something new just for the sake of doing so.
  4. Do a ratings review. Ask your program director to go through the ratings performance of your show for the last six months. Which hour of your show performs the best, and which is the worst? How does that compare to your direct competitors? Is there one quarter-hour that is consistently lower or higher than the others? How long is your average listener staying with your podcast, and at what point do most leave? Get these answers, then ask why. Both managers and on-air talent are often too busy these days to spend time poring over numbers. Doing so could give you a new insight that will lead to big wins.
  5. Read a biography. I am now reading about Juan Trippe, founder of Pan American Airlines. This guy explored every crazy possibility and did so before his competitors even dreamed of it. (Flying boats!) Experts say that reading biographies gives you insight into the thinking and philosophies of successful people, and it is reassuring to know how often these respected leaders made blundering, idiotic mistakes. You will be inspired by how they pick themselves up and dust themselves off after failures and continue putting one foot in front of the other.

Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company.


  1. I like this article and the ideas that Jeff shares and I know from experience they work. I shared the air on morning shows in the major Canadian markets of Montreal and Toronto over 25 years and consulted on content and comedy, and feature creation and production. Jeff’s suggestions to do something out of the ordinary and expand your own horizons is so crucial t the scope you share with your audience. It is surprising how diverse the audience you enjoy may be and letting them in on your unique experiences will be well received. They may not agree but they will listen. Having a variety of approaches to program content creates texture beyond music and mechanics. We used comedy skits, interview clips, personalities joined the show, remotes at client locations, all sorts, and we were very successful at the 1050 CHUM in Toronto. Look back at the history of winning stations and shows and look at the content and the personalities and you will have some real insights of what is successful, then and now.
    Thank you for the great article Jeff. We totally agree.
    Mary Anne Lisney


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