Success is in The Setup


(By Randy Lane) Why do some shows set up interactive topics that attract an overload of engaging responses and others get boring lists or zero responses? Interactive topics with listeners by phone, text and social media live or die by the setup.

4 Reasons Interactive Topics Fail

  1. Yes or no setups: Cumulus Kiss Country Fresno and Kat Country Stockton/Modesto PD, Andy Winford advises his morning shows to, “never start with the words ‘Do you’, ‘Have you’, ‘Would you,’ because you’ll get responses like, ‘Yes, I have’ or ‘No, I haven’t.’ ‘Conversely, setting up topics with What’ or ‘How’ spark memory recall because you’re being specific.”
  1. Either or setups: This type of setup is usually a dead end. “What’s better iPhones or Androids?” Listeners will say one or the other and give you generic answers such as, “I just like iPhone better.”
  1. Vague setups:  Non-specific setups like, “Do you let your ten-year-old go to bed when they want to, or do you let them stay up to watch their favorite TV show, or do you have a set time they go to bed?” Vague setups will get only a few or no responses.
  1. National Calendar Days: National Ice Cream Day will often be set up with, “What’s your favorite ice cream?” You’ll get one-word responses like chocolate, cookie dough, caramel, etc. Exceptions would be days that create stories such as National Fireworks Day often spurring anecdotes from listeners who set fires, went to the hospital, etc.

Story Setups Succeed

Ideally, topics are designed to connect a show with listeners on common ground subjects. They are a forum for captivating storytelling that engages and maintains audience attention.

Let’s say a show host tells a story about calling out a dad who continually yells at the kids and the referees during a middle school basketball game. The host could set up that topic with the cohosts and listeners like, “How did you get into an altercation with another parent?”

Recently, Now Radio Edmonton’s Crash and Mars discussed a trend among millennials buying homes with friends or family members. They asked listeners to call or text if they’ve been part of a group buying a home and what happened. They received numerous stories of complications arising such as buyouts, kick-outs, and group disharmony.

Carefully plan interactive topics with clear setups that attract compelling stories and watch your phone and social media light up!


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