(Mike McVay) The most recent NAB/NYC was held last week at the Javits Center. The daylong programming track focused on Artificial Intelligence, the Connected Car, new technologies, radios competition and Talent. Talent was a big topic and a part of many panels during the NAB. There were few on-air talents in the room, but they were talked about. Their importance. The possibility of accelerating a brands growth because of the talent on a radio station. Building longevity using talent Success being so greatly dependent on having the absolute best talent.
Jason Barrett, Tony Gray, Angela Perelli, and Joel Denver were involved in one session that discussed personalities as a part of their presentation. Weiss Agency EVP Heather Cohen interviewed well known personality Angela Yee. I moderated the Group Programming Session that included Thea Mitchem, EVP/Programming for iHeart, Jeff Sottolano, EVP Head of Programming Audacy, Justin Chase Chief Content Officer/Beasley Broadcast Group and Colby “Colb” Tyner SVP Programming/Radio One.
The benefit of talent was highlighted as creating consistent tune-in, appointment listening, making a station a destination, providing uniqueness and in building audience loyalty. The revenue generated by personalities through endorsements, appearances and by attracting a large audience make a program and its’ talent attractive to operators. These benefits are magnified by the level of competition for the audiences’ ears. Listeners owe us nothing. It isn’t our birthright to have an audience. We have to work for it each and every day.
Every year of late, as budgets are being planned for the coming fiscal or calendar year, we see the elimination of on-air talent. It’s happening at a time when on-air personalities are the most notable reason someone selects a radio station. The value of and the need for good and strong programming content has not changed. The only thing that has changed is the level of competition from your radio competitors along with social media, streaming services, video, podcasts, digital and many more places for advertisers to place their ad buys. There are many places for your audience to find entertainment or information.
There are many distractions in the lives of the audience. Radio isn’t as important to them as it once was. Those factors alone are reason for stations to invest in talent. What should really get the attention of radio is that several of the streaming services are adding air talent to their streams. Personalities who create a connection with their listeners build loyalty. Loyalty creates repeat tune-in. Repeat tune-in builds ratings. Those personalities may be local. They may be network or syndicated talent. They may be voice-tracked talent. What they must be is entertaining.
In some cases, we’ve given away our audiences because we’re no longer creating the dependency that listeners once had for our stations. You can get the weather, the time, news stories, Amber Alerts, EAS and social media on your phone. There have to be on-air personalities to deliver that information. If you’re voice-tracked or automated, then what’s your plan to deliver crisis coverage? Services are available. Systems exist. Unfortunately, there are some stations that have no plan for extreme situations.
It is arguably more important than ever that air talent be show-ready to put on a show. They are well prepared before they arrive at the station. So much so that when they turn on the microphone, they snag the audience in the first seconds of a break. It takes about that long for a listener to make a decision as to “do I listen or do I reach over and push the button on my radio?” You have to be well prepared, regardless of the shift you’re hosting, because today’s audience is less patient and far less tolerant than in previous years. You have to do a Show and not a shift.
Instant gratification is important to our busy audiences. If you’re on a music station, play the hits frequently. If you’re on a spoken word station, then the hot topics are your hits. Talk about those topics frequently. The personalities, who can create entertainment over song intros, entertain and build a connection with the audience, will be successful. Personalities who can present content that is compelling and brief are the individuals that will perform best in the ratings. We saw lots of stars at the NAB/NYC and at the Marconi awards. They’re always prepping and always learning.
If yours is a station of critical importance to your cluster of stations, then you need personalities on your station. That star talent, and your station being THE place to hear that star talent, makes your station a destination. If you don’t have a star, you’re not a destination, and you’re not going to be consistently high rated.
Radio stars build loyalty. They create day-to-day tune-in. That’s the secret weapon. Get a star. If you have a star. Keep them. That’s easier than trying to find a new star. Stars are rare. Treasure the ones you have in order to keep them.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]