(By Randy Lane and Jeff McHugh) Why are your phones not ringing? The pandemic has made it more difficult to get callers to respond before 8AM. If you’re doing your show from home, getting phone calls on-air is about as challenging as getting the new stimulus package through Congress.
The other culprits are hands-free driving laws, poor cell phone quality, technology distractions, and people preferring to text, or instant message. Listeners will call your show if you have setup your show to be interactive, and you give them a compelling reason to call.
10 Ways to get the Phones Buzzing
- First, establish a phone-friendly environment. Hearing other people on the air is what prompts more people to call. Put callers on randomly to help establish that the show is interactive. Even if you’re an edgy show, be sure listeners feel safe to express their views without being put down.
- Include your phone number on the imaging during the show: Run short imaging pieces with VO copy like, “Join the conversation at (phone number).” Include text and social media contact info on additional produced imaging.
- Don’t call us, we’ll call you: The John Boy and Billy Big Show invites listeners to submit their contact information on the “Be On The Big Show” page on their website. (TV shows like Ellen have been practicing this for years.)
- Post topics on social media the day before or even two days in advance of the show. Invite the best responders to call the show. Bonus: You can gauge which topics are likely to get the best reaction. If you have a text line, ask the most interesting ones if they’ll go on the air.
- Pre-record or stage callers to air out of the setup. Hearing a caller will prompt others to call.
- Be sure the topic premise is strong. It must be simple, relatable and contain an element of drama or conflict. For example, share a vacation disaster story and ask listeners to share similar stories.
- Build a “panel of experts,” like a marriage counselor, doctor, lawyer, etc. who can contribute stories and credibility to an issue. Ideally, experts are personalities. Also, when you talk to a funny, interesting, or well-spoken caller, ask for their number, and reach out to them in advance of a topic.
- Go on a quest to find – the worst boss story, the most embarrassing dad story, the most outrageous breakup story, etc. A specific quest could be something like, “I bet there’s nobody listening right now who moved in with their boyfriend or girlfriend at 18 and are still together.”
- Interactive games are fun for listeners to play along with, and they’re the best way to give away prizes rather than a text or designated caller contest that only appeals to the 2% that calls to win.
- Stage calls with a lightning rod caller (one who takes an extreme viewpoint) to ignite caller response.
You never want to force calls just to have interaction or rely on them for content. Callers contribute most to your show when they provide stories, a fresh perspective, or bring out a host’s character.