GMs: You Need To Know What The PDs Know – Pt. 2


(By Jon Quick) Here’s Part 2 of 3 from Jon…
Read Part One HERE
What if you have guests on the air?
If you have guests, develop a stable of great guests who appeal to the target and who are compelling, interesting, informative, and entertaining. Make them regulars.

But don’t totally depend on them. Experiment. Find new and exciting guests. 

As radio consultant Walter Sabo has said, “I’d love to hear someone do something really dangerous.” Get out of that box. Innovate. If it doesn’t work, do something else next time. Don’t punish your programmer for it (unless it’s blatantly wrong, and then yes, his future should be in jeopardy because of a lack of a good sense of responsibility). Give it some thought though before you make the move. If it’s incredibly creative, your PD might be salvageable after a good talk about staying a bit more inside the lines. Realize, though, the best PDs are going to push the envelope. Maybe that’s what we need more of these days. 

Gather Ideas
Talk to your listeners and ask them what they want to hear on the show.  Ask them what they like and don’t like. Get ideas from many sources.  Keep your ears open. Pay attention to what people are talking about around town. Ask them by putting a “We want to hear from you” on your website and social media. 

Read, watch, and listen to find out the current buzz around your city, town, region, state. 

GM NOTE:  If you read nothing else, read this.
Benchmarks are KEY! 

Develop memorable benchmarks. These are things that people will look forward to and will give a personality or the station itself more positive differentiation. Things that create street talk and buzz. 

It is of key importance to develop great benchmarks. They are critical.  Benchmarks are what you will be remembered for or what you are known for. Benchmarks can be a lot of things, but they are always regular segments of your show. Not necessarily every day, but at least weekly and, hopefully, more often. 

Benchmarks can be serious news, funny bits, a daily newsmaker guest, a town character that always has an opinion about everything, a game you play with listeners, a time when listeners can call in to sound off, the list is endless. The best personalities are known for them. 

Benchmarks have been a cornerstone of radio and TV since the beginning. Arthur Godfrey was also known for extemporizing music on his radio show, grabbing his ukulele and launching into songs the band may not have rehearsed. Excuse those younger GMs who have never heard of him.

Now, of course you’ve heard of Jack Benny. Still, no? Then skip to the next paragraph. A benchmark on his radio shows were character voices like Carmichael the Polar Bear, Professor Pierre LeBlanc, Sy the Mexican, Polly (Jack’s parrot), The Maxwell and many others. They were done by the Mel Blanc, better known as the Voice of Bugs Bunny.

After Steve Allen became known for his then innovative “man on the street” segments, and Johnny Carson’s Carnac, there was David Letterman’s Top 10 list. 

Today, among many more, there are:
– Big Funny Hat – Stephen Colbert
– Trevor Noah – Nobody’s Got Time for That
– James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke. (One of his latest with Paul McCartney is reaching record views on social media.)

On the radio, it’s very possible to get worldwide attention, as well, with a memorable benchmark or two. 

For this we turn to morning show consultant Steve Reynolds. Here are some of his favorites. Note that all of them leave room for another key element of a great show, according to Mr. Reynolds. The unpredictability or spontaneous factor. 

  • That’s All I Need to Know About You (Bud and Broadway, WIL, St. Louis)
  • Time for the News from ZNN (Mark & NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix)
  • Street Match (The TJ Show, AMP 103.3, Boston)
  • Therapy with Judah (The TJ Show, AMP 103.3, Boston)

Then there’s the The Thirty-Second Song Challenge (Sherman and Tingle, The Drive, Chicago). Each weekday morning, they hit you with seven classic rock songs. Get them all right within 30 seconds and you win. 

So, you’re a News or Talk station? How about stealing the idea and replace the songs with the voices of seven newsmakers?   

Any easy way out and a crutch for many is On This Day in History. You can do better than that. If you’re a music brand, how about a montage of some of the hit songs popular on this day. A news station can do a feature called It Was Today. A historic news story. Gee, where do I find those?  Have you tried YouTube?  A gold mine. 

The Question of the Day or a Poll Question is always good, no matter what the format. Also, one of the best ways to integrate on-air with online. 

Keep the feel of the imaging upbeat and relevant in style to the target. Your liners should represent the strongest elements of your brand. Whether you’re the station with the best music, or the latest breaking news. Besides that image voice, consider using the “stars” of your station, including network voices, plus artists, news makers, local celebrities and, yes, your listeners. 

There’s an old line out there that I took home years ago from a broadcast marketing and promotion seminar.

A terrible thing happens if you don’t promote. Nothing.

Way too often, radio station brands and hosts fail to promote effectively — before a show and during. There are so many ways to do this. Drop into shows before yours and plug what you have coming up. Do it live, or record a short promo. But plug in a compelling way. (See the art of the compelling tease below).

Think of great ways to promote what you have prepared — before you even get on the air. 

Ok, it’s showtime!

Board Operation
Make sure it’s tight. Nothing worse than dead air and “lazy production.”

Too slow can sound tired and dull. Too fast can be hard to understand.  

Get To It …. And Other General Tips

  • Watch the small talk and realize too much “inside talk” is deadly. Get to it. If you’re a PPM market, you can see how this kills you. 
  • Consider more compelling ways to frame a guest or topic. 
  • Learn the art of the compelling tease. Extremely important. But don’t be unrealistic about how long someone will stick around. 
  • Don’t stay too long on a topic if it’s not going anywhere. If it is, be willing to go longer. 
  • If you have a national topic, localize it, when possible. Remember that hot local topics are generally better than national — UNLESS there is a great way to localize. 
  • TALK to the audience and, yes, to each other, but remember to include ME, the listener. 
  • Use the word YOU. Personalize. Yes, it’s the old adage, but true:  Pretend you are talking to just a single person.

Keep an eye out for Part 3 of this story from Jon Quick tomorrow!

Jon Quick has programmed great radio stations for CBS and Emmis, among others. Today he consults many radio brands and owns a public relations and advertising agency. Jon can be reached at 317-432-0309 or [email protected] 


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