Authentic Connection Checklist


(By Jeff McHugh) The primary reason that Americans listen to radio (besides that it is free) is for air talent. Memorable personalities are significantly more important to radio listeners than music or contests. Why? Being memorable requires authenticity.

Listeners don’t want or expect a show to be all focused on you all the time, but they appreciate that it uniquely comes from you. Generic hosts who do not share their authentic selves are a thing of the past.

It can be challenging to reveal your true self when the audience cannot see you, and all you have to work with are short moments on the air. Even though it sounds unnatural, the secret is planning to play your true self on the air.

Choosing the right content helps. Killer content infused with your authentic personality – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot – is a winning formula.

Consider these questions to filter the content ideas you consider for your show. If you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, prioritize that segment premise.

Does it reveal your complexity and depth?

  • Revealing your facets, including your strengths, weaknesses, conflicts, and contradictions, makes you real to audiences. Memorable media personalities are multi-dimensional.

Does it reveal your backstory?

  • Howard Stern talks about how his father, Ben, ignored him but revered polished broadcasters, which led Howard to become one to win his father’s approval. Sharing your personal history gives audiences context for your actions and motivations.

Does it show vulnerability?

  • Our fears, insecurities, and struggles are universal. The loss of family, friends, and pets is a powerful theme in most forms of entertainment. Vulnerability makes you more relatable.

Does it trigger a strong emotion?

  • Emotions are contagious. The first step in making audiences feel something is sharing your genuine reactions through your choice of words, pauses, and dynamic vocal inflection. Remember the old adage: where there is emotion, there is a story.

Does it reveal your evolution?

  • A memorable character like James Bond stays essentially the same but evolves with changes in perspective, behavior, and attitude. Share your development arc through stories of personal growth — or regression.

Does it show imperfections?

  • Perfect characters are not relatable. Sharing your failures, setbacks, and mistakes mirrors the experiences of audiences.

Does it reveal what you want?

  • Everyone has goals and motivations. Some even have a life’s purpose. Reveal your dreams and desires when they involve everyday human experiences like love, success, or belonging.

Does it bring up a relatable, dramatic situation?

  • Riding an elevator is a relatable situation. Finding yourself alone on an elevator with your ex is relatable and dramatic. Share experiences involving conflict that the audience can relate to, such as family dynamics, work challenges, and social interactions.

Does it trigger one of your consistent behaviors?

  • Are you known for being inconsiderate or making jokes at inappropriate times? Consistent behavior patterns help the audience connect to a personality.

Does it reflect your relationships?

  • Audiences know you through interactions with others. Your partner, pets, kids, mom, dad, neighbors, and friends can all be characters on the show, even if they never appear on air. Mention them by name as you share conflicts, how you affect them, and how they impact you.

Angel and devil moments

  • A moral or ethical dilemma is good content. A difficult choice that you struggle with is excellent content. Focus on what you have done or are doing instead of what you might hypothetically do.

Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company. Reach Jeff at [email protected] and read his Radio Ink archives here.


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