Hey, Mom! I’m On The Radio!


(By John Shomby) Radio has absorbed criticism and, at times, downright disdain for various reasons for the past several years. We have no one to blame but ourselves but there is one way to “adjust” radio’s future perception.

Let’s start with what radio once meant to the average listener. It was the consistent music source for any genre; the medium to discover what’s hot and what’s not in our pop culture and the place for companionship from live on-air talent. Now, radio has taken a backseat to DSPs, podcasts, and social media sensations. What we have been missing, in my opinion, is the emotional attachment radio always had, and CAN HAVE, with listeners. Let’s face it, being heard on Spotify doesn’t carry the same feeling as being heard on a local radio station. 

Why do recording artists sing about listening to the radio rather than their favorite streaming service? Why do these same artists get a charge out of reminiscing about the first time they heard their song on the radio? Check the reaction of a new artist here

Why did Jimmy Fallon tell his audience to “call your local DJ” whenever promoting his new Christmas song? Why does any listener get amazingly excited about getting on the air at his/her local radio station? There is no doubt that radio still holds that emotional value with the listener and the artist, and I can tell you this applies to ANY age group. 

The best example of connecting that emotion with a radio disenfranchised group (Gen-Z) comes from Alpha Media’s Hip Hop station, WE 102.9, in Portland, Oregon. They have connected with a major social media influencer there named Coconut Cathy (Cathy Nguyen) to help giveaway some concert tickets. Take the time to watch her reaction after hearing her first voiced promo on the RADIO here. This is a girl with close to 370,000 TikTok followers and almost 70k on Instagram – mostly in the Portland area –  and she is beside herself when she hears her voice on the radio. Now this station has a solid relationship with her for future promotions and giveaways. WE 102.9 found a way to raise the “cool” factor of their station and play on that emotion of being heard ON the radio.

Put this one at the top of the list of how to capitalize on the listeners’ personal, emotional connection to radio. I’m not talking about putting request callers on the air. We must go way beyond that. 

A few ideas:

  1. Find a big, LOCAL, social media influencer and connect them in some way, on air, to the station regularly just as WE 102.9 did.
  2. Have a regular Guest DJ Day and have listeners come in and join your on-air talent for an hour or two on his/her show.  
  3. Get local high school cheerleader squads in the studio weekly during football and basketball season and highlight them. This once was a big deal but, for some reason, we’ve moved away from it.
  4. Showcase your local music talent with a special weekly/weekend feature. Local singers/bands will NEVER turn down a chance to be on a local radio station.
  5. Feature specific first responders daily and, if you’re in a military town, do the same with that group. 

If you remember your first time on the radio, how many friends and family did you alert to listen? Letting the listener know WHEN they are on can only help heighten that emotional connection to the station. Live is good but creating a point where you have a larger, captive audience is always better.

Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music can’t do this. This is, and always has been radio’s territory. Forget “commercial-free”, “10 in a row”, etc. Reclaim what was ours all along!

Based in Nashville, TN, John Shomby is the owner and CEO of Country’s Radio Coach. He is focused on coaching and mentoring artists, radio programmers, and on-air talent to help them grow and develop inside the radio station and the industry. Reach John at [email protected] and 757-323-1460. Read John’s Radio Ink archives here.


  1. Radio didn’t commit suicide, corporate greed tried to kill it while being to stupid to notice. As fickel’d as kids are today they would love to hear themselves on the local station!! Go out and do a remote from a roller-rink. Interview fans in the stands at local ball games during the broadcast. Host a moonlight swim at a local public pool!!! ‘LOCAL’ Am and FM are as viable now as they were 30 years ago. Sad that radio has simply lost touch. We have P.D.’s who read magazines and try the ‘latest thing’ that works for Atlanta or Chicago in their local 12,000 population town and then act surprised when their local station goes off a cliff and into oblivian.

  2. Thank you for sharing Coconut Kathy’s reaction when she heard her voice on the radio! That was so sweet! And you’re right, John, the more we can re-create those heart moments/core memories, the better it’ll be for radio!


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