(By Jeff McHugh) Great production can help image a show’s brand, make benchmarks more memorable, and help pump up excitement. But like any sharp-edged tool, production sometimes does more harm than good.
Here are five checkpoints that help you assess if your radio show or podcast is using production effectively.
1. Use music beds intentionally. Running generic music beds under conversations is a multi-format convention that’s designed to increase the perceived energy and to improve pacing. However, they create a barrier between you and the audience. Instead, choose music that goes with your subject, like playing the Monday Night Football theme when discussing the NFL, or playing Taylor Swift while dissecting her love life. In PPM markets, a music bed helps Nielsen devices hear your talk content. Keep the volume low and lean more towards background drones instead of driving drumbeats, guitar licks, and horns that distract the audience.
2. Kill the show open. Do you ever notice that the “cold opens” on NBC’s Saturday Night Live air before the title credits? It would be less compelling if they aired the credits first, like back in I Love Lucy Days. Today’s audiences just want you to start the show. Go find that long, produced “show open” that runs once a day at 6 a.m. and click “delete.” Listeners do not care that it is your first break of the day. Their first break of the day is the one they happen to hear whenever they start listening. Open your first segment of the day like you do all the other segments — strong!
3. Keep it short between songs. When playing songs back-to-back, do not stop the music for a piece of production. We see PPM respondents tune away because of a :10-second show ID. Keep between-song imaging super short, run imaging over the intro, or consider a segue.
4. Keep it short in the setup. Selling the show’s brand with quick killer production in the first few seconds of a content segment is an effective practice. The average attention span of your listener is :08 seconds. Cut your imaging down to :04-:05 seconds and get to the entertainment immediately.
5. Always use the cast names. Listeners relate to people, not show names. No one calls it The Tonight Show. Audiences call the show “Jimmy Fallon or Fallon.” If you were hosting The Breakfast Club, your produced imaging would say “DJ Envy, Angela and Charlamagne,” never the show name alone.
Jeff McHugh is known for developing talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings a mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company.