Get In The Companionship Business


(By Jeff McHugh) Personalities will be even more crucial to the success of FM and podcasting in the future because of an increasing trend: social isolation. Forty percent of Americans reported in a 2018 study that they felt isolated from others and lacked companionship.

People report having fewer close friends today than in the past. The average has dropped from three BFFs to two. Social media is intended to connect people but often leads users to feel more disconnected. Modern lifestyles include screen addiction, long work commutes that limit civic engagement, and more people living alone.

A Duke University study indicated that people have fewer friends outside the family than in the past.

How does that affect your strategy for radio/podcast content?

Which of these would appeal more to a lonely person? 

  • A text-to-win contest or a familiar voice that feels like an old friend?
  • Commercial-free Mondays or funny stories from a great on-air team?
  • Slick production between automated songs or a passionate, authentic human being?

Measuring brainwaves, social scientists say that the emotional bond between a listener and an authentic media personality is just as strong as a real-life relationship. People don’t have the same bond with songs and giveaways.

Humanity is the difference between FM and rapidly growing online competitors like Spotify. Consider these tactics that can give your station and show even more of a human connection:

– Be you. Reveal as many of your quirks, flaws, and endearing characteristics on the air as you can.

– Share your point of view. Filter everything you do through your authentic emotions, opinions, inner thoughts, and personal stories.

– Minimize app content. Weather, traffic, scores, lists, announcements, and information; they’ve got an app for that — cut it back or consider eliminating it.

– Maximize storytelling. Drama involves people doing things. Your stories, listener stories, and the stories of others.

– Replace scripted with real. Instead of a big imaging voice, have your star morning show talk about your promotions in their own words.

Jeff McHugh is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company.


  1. I certainly applaud Jeff for promoting more, better educated and skilled presenters for all day parts.
    However, as I have suggested before: “Companionship” is a dangerous concept to pursue. It is a weak and banal exercise to even attempt closing the circle that is required of any relationship – including that of a casual buddy or an occasional pal.
    Companionship REQUIRES that a connection be made and maintained – a two-way connection. Radio is a one-way deal. Plus, no presenter has any idea at all about who that listener might be.
    Chasing after a sense of companionship from any listener, even when successful, is still about establishing a Delusion on the part of a listener – and a dicey delusion at that.
    If a presenter takes the position that they are supplying “companionship”, it’s time for a serious chat about their own delusion and a reality that can be demonstrated.
    It really is enough to train and encourage presenters to be interesting and more compelling.
    That alone is a full-time gig.
    Anything more is too much of a stretch.
    As one of my PD’s used to say: “Don’t ‘buddy’ me, pal!” 🙂


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