A priority for air personality should be an intense focus to create unique, original content from their personal lives and observations. The problem is most talent doesn’t have the experience, training or expertise to pull it off well. That’s where program directors can make a huge impact by helping them tell better personal stories without being self-absorbed. In this article, I’ll share four coaching tips to help your personalities succeed in this area.
You’ve heard great radio shows that build their show around telling personal stories from the life of the cast. This is unique content that nobody else can do. It’s the concept of “living my life on the air”. And it’s highly compelling when done right.
And you’ve also heard shows that are completely self-absorbed. They sound as if all they do is talk about themselves. Sometimes they come off this way even when they’re not talking about themselves at all.
Here are four ways to coach personalities to tell personal stories without it becoming a self-indulgent love-fest.
Coaching Tip #1: Point of View
One of the most common talent mistakes is immediately coming on too strong with their perspective, usually communicated with a heavy dose of IMEWEUS. Simply adjusting the words they use in the entry point can make a huge difference.
Instead of representing a point of view with I, Me, We Or Us, start with a specific statement that represents character, cutting to the emotional essence of the content.
For example…here’s a self-indulgent statement from an air talent talking about the story of the new gene that was discovered as a result of donations from the Ice Bucket Challenge:
I think you’re going to feel great about this next story…especially if you were part of the ice-bucket challenge. I took the challenge, and man let me tell you….it was intense, but now I’m glad I did it….
Notice how the perspective is internal? It’s all about us.
A simple adjustment can make this much better, just by finding a stronger entry point:
The ice-bucket challenge was a nightmare. You probably did it, too. You know that first moment when the water hits you is a shock…But anticipation was the worst part. Now, it’s all worthwhile. This frames the story about the breakthrough solution that came from the money raised in the ice-bucket challenge.
Not only is this more listener-centric, it’s more powerful for the personality. It relates the experience in a much more personal, direct way, even without using the word “I”.
Work with personalities to find ways to adjust the language in the entry point. With a little creativity and time, it’s easy!
Coaching Tip #2: Orientation
Another tactic is to use the term “you” to represent a personal opinion. “You” is the most powerful word on the radio. It’s personal, and, when used properly, creates an intimacy that allows each listener to see themselves in the word picture being created.
Like this actual break from Sarah Taylor on Spirit 105.3 in Seattle:
You’re driving down the street and see those ridiculous 13-year old boys wearing shorts to school on a day like this, and you just know there’s a mom somewhere saying, “come on, Jason…just put on some long pants. It’s 14 degrees out there”.
This clearly reveals your character and personality but through a listener-focused entry point. This causes moms to see themselves in a weather forecast disguised as a short story. They start nodding their head, responding to your personality while thinking it’s all about them. But it’s not. It’s all about you…you’re relating to them in a very likable way!
Coaching Tip #3: External Hooks
You’ll notice a common theme in making personal stories more relatable. Most of it is about entry points. Entry points are hooks, and the best time for a personal story comes immediately after the hook is in. Those hooks must be external hooks, not internal ones.
The entry point sets a tone for the entire break, framing a personal story to be relatable-or not.
A simple shift in language changes the perception of a break. Imagine if you were out to dinner with friends, and one started talking about how stressed her son is because of all the homework he’s being assigned….and then goes into detail about English, history, how many hours, etc. it’s unrelatable to you. It’s all about them, and you tune out.
But what if they started with a comment like this:
We’re losing so much family time because the school is piling on way too much homework.
You can respond to that. Once the hook is in and the topic is established, your personal story becomes a shared experience inside the frame.
Coaching Tip #4: Use Questions
If you have a personality that’s struggling with relating personal stories, helping them get into the story by asking questions is the easiest tactic to get into topics quickly without being self-indulgent.
What’s the best part about the kids going back to school? Admit it, you miss them, but you kinda love it that they’re out of the house, right?
What’s your greatest fear? Other than the obvious, like dying, or spiders?
Asking questions is easy, and your personal story can immediately follow. However, be careful not to fall into the trap of relying exclusively on this tactic. It’s a great way to improve but can become mundane and predictable if every break starts that way.
Also work hard on crafting a responsive question, carefully avoiding a Yes/No question. Questions that are answered with a “yes” or “no” are dead ends. They don’t lead to conversations.
It’s much easier to issue a directive like, “Nobody cares about your life. Just talk about the listener”. While that may be technically true, it limits the impact great air talent can have on the listening experience, and on your station.
Instead, work on techniques of coaching talent to frame personal stories and observations through the listener experience. When they bring unique content to your station through those experiences, the result is entertainment that can be matched anywhere.