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Secret To Managing Talent: Treat Them Like Dogs
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Here’s some unexpected advice for programmers and managers: You should treat talent like dogs.

Thats sounds strange coming from a radio talent coach, but hold on. Dogs are our best friends. They’re friendly, loyal and always there for you. We love our dogs, and we should love our radio talent.

However, if you’ve ever raised a puppy, you know how frustrating it can be. You also learn that it’s fun and when they “get it,” you have a loyal friend for life!

It’s the same when coaching air personalities. These adorable and talented creatures will drive you crazy, wear you out, and test your patience. Success depends on how you understand them, learn to inspire and motivate them and reward them!

But most of all, you have to enjoy the process!

They Respond to Praise

They want to make you happy. They really do. It’s up to you to teach them what makes you happy, then reinforce it with praise. Psychological studies prove that it takes nine positive reinforcements to offset a single criticism. When they do something positive, tell them, and reward them.

Trainers carry a pocket full of dog treats to get a puppy to do what they want. Be generous with perks, benefits and treat them like a STAR when they behave properly!

They Learn at Their Own Pace

It doesn’t happen at the pace we want, or think it should. And it doesn’t match how other talent grows.

The best approach is to focus on teaching (or correcting) one thing at a time, then move on to the next thing. It’s your responsibility as their coach to constantly teach, helping them grow.

Puppies (and talent) love to learn. It inspires them, motivates them and challenges them. When they aren’t, they get bored. When they get bored, they stop paying attention. Then, bad things follow!


Get More Tips & Resources on Coaching Air Talent>>>


They Demand Time and Patience

Puppies learn through repetition. Repetition takes time. Time takes patience. Talent requires the same commitment and discipline. They don’t just “get it” in a meeting and start performing differently tomorrow.

Keep It Simple For Best Results

Puppies don’t understand complex commands or detailed instructions. They respond to simple words like “Sit” or “Down.” You’ll have better, faster results with talent by using simple words and concepts that are easy to apply to their show.

Don’t get bogged down in details or philosophies. Explain why it’s important, and how it will work for them!

There Will Be Mistakes 

And when there are, you have to clean up after them. Ignoring it will cause it to happen again and again. Puppies and talent require constant attention and monitoring.

If you don’t address it, bad behavior will continue, and it will be your fault, not theirs. Make sure they know that the behavior is unacceptable, deal with it quickly, then move on.

Establish Boundaries

Indulge a puppy and you spoil them, which leads to begging and an unhealthy sense of entitlement. A dog “serves at your pleasure.”

Treat them kindly and fairly, but with clearly established expectations and boundaries. You don’t want a morning show host jumping into a guest’s lap at the dinner table!

You Can’t Train Stupid Dogs

Some dogs are smarter than others. They’re capable of performing more tricks. They should have higher expectations. It’s the same with talent.

Learn their capabilities and realize that all personalities have limits.

It could be that your talent is just not right “breed” for your needs. Don’t try to turn them into something they’re not.

You CAN Teach Old Dogs Tricks

But it’s more difficult. The radio industry is full of personalities living in the past. They’re executing ideas that worked in the 80s but are outdated, ineffective and just worn out.

They can be retrained, but it is much more time consuming and challenging than working with a puppy.

Leash Until Learned

Trainers keep dogs on a leash until they’re trained to respond to voice command. It’s for the puppy’s safety! In radio, it’s much easier to loosen the leash gradually. If you let them run free, don’t be upset if they run away and don’t come back.

As talent grows, grant more freedom, control and independence.


Free Webinar: Treat Them Like Dogs: March 28: Sign up Now>>>


They Love Car Rides

Have you seen a dog with their head out the window of a car? They love it. Same with air talent, and someday they may give you a ride in their new sports car they buy with their ratings bonus!


When a dog is properly trained, they are loyal for life. It’s the same with air personalities. As a talent coach and consultant, much of my responsibility is training the trainers to get the most out of their personalities.

If you’d like to discuss how this can benefit your station, show or company, please contact me.


Tracy Johnson
Lessons in Personality Radio From Wile E. Coyote
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Generations of young people grew up with Looney Tunes. One of the highlights of the popular animated shorts was the Roadrunner cartoon. If you’re not familiar with Chuck Jones’ stories, you’re missing out. It’s great entertainment and radio personalities can learn a lot from Wile E. Coyote.

The Coyote pursued the Roadrunner, but always fell short of caputring his prey in a disastrous way.

Jones’ cartoons followed very specific story rules that guided each episode. The rules provided structure and consistency whie building personality traits for the characters.

The Roadrunner gets top billing, but the star of the show is Wile E. Coyote. He’s everyone’s favorite loser.

Wile E. Coyote Character Definition

Here are the 11 rules, with some commentary on how it applies to radio:



1. The Roadrunner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “Beep, Beep.”

The Roadrunner didn’t beat up on the Coyote. It just happened. But the constant taunting of “beep beep” annoyed the Coyote. It was maddening and motivating.

The Coyote had a deeper character profile, but the Roadrunner complemented it with an arrogance that brought more out of the Coyote.

The pair were well-matched, and they stayed in their personality roles. That’s key on any multi-personality show. Knowing who you are creates appealing moments when each personality stays in their lane.



2. No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products.

Trains and trucks were the exception from time to time. Sometimes the Coyote painted a tunnel on a rock, hoping for Road Runner to smash into it. Of course, the bird goes through unscathed. The Coyote follows and a train comes through from the other side. Hilarious!

The Coyote’s failure make him a relatable, sympathetic character. The fact that he comes back for more over and over without losing enthusiasm is an admirable trait to aspire to. It’s an aspirational value for the audience.

The fact that he fails every single time makes him a “lovable loser” that we an identify with on some level. And, it makes us feel a little better about our own shortcomings.

Like the Coyote, personalities that are confident enough to be vulnerable become likable. It’s much more charming than the arrogance of perfect character that never loses.



3. The Coyote could stop anytime — if he were not a fanatic.

When watching this cartoon as a kid, I always wondered why he didn’t go after another target, like a rabbit. Anything that wasn’t as fast or smart! Of course, that wouldn’t make the story as interesting, would it?

And of course, he would come back again with another great plan that he was certain would work next time. The Coyote never stopped because he couldn’t. He was fanatical, obsessed with achieving his goal.

This led to a certain amount of predictability. You knew that the story would end with the Coyote getting injured in impossibly violent ways. This built anticipation and expectation.

That acts as a benchmark for the cartoon’s content. You didn’t know what was going to happen, but you knew how it would turn out. The Coyote would fail, and the Roadrunner would race off with a smug look on his face.
Benchmarks are not features. Get details here



4. No dialogue ever, except “meep, meep” and yowling in pain.

There was no talk in Roadrunner cartoons-ever. There were sound effects and the Roadrunner’s famous sound. Yet the cartoons were heavy on character definition. They showcased character traits through the stories they told.

The brilliance of the cartoon writing is that it was through pictures and sound effects. The imagery told the story. One of the characters held up an occasional sign as a prop or punchline. But Jones insisted on telling the story clearly and simply.

The format required that each scene have a focus to move the story forward. Everything that happened on the screen was critical to make the story come alive.

We should learn to tell stories the same way. Clearly, with no detours. In an audio-only world, we don’t have pictures to help tell the story, so our words must be descriptive and precise.


5. The Roadrunner must stay on the road — for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner.

This simple rule for the Roadrunner is a good example of having a defined character role.

Again, knowing who you are and what you’re for will keep you in your lane. This is one of the principle in our webinar Be an Audience Magnet.

Identify the role you play on the show that will allow your character to come alive in exciting ways. Know your boundaries. What fits your personality and what is off-limits?

This simple rule for the Road Runner is a good example of having a defined character role.


6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert.

This is a key tool to increase familiarity in the setting. This familiarity is important. It’s like the bar in Cheers or Jerry’s apartment in Seinfeld. Familiar backgrounds allow your attention to focus on the story.

The same is true in audio creation. A comfortable, familiar environment for new, fresh and exciting content is important. The structure of how you create stories allows the audience to focus on what’s most important.

So is the production value used in the sound of your station. Do you have a defined sound that frames your personality?


7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.

This is another example of benchmarking in the show. As soon as you saw Wile E. Coyote getting a box from Acme Corporation, you knew something was about to blow up in his face (literally).

What benchmarks do you have on your show, those elements that become part of the storyline?


8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.

Another recurring theme, and an effective tool. Use universal truths to relate to your audience.



9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

That humiliation is endearing. It causes us to care, especially when the Roadrunner watches the Coyote fall off a cliff, smiling. And waving.

His self-analysis and constant failure makes him that character we cheer for. There’s a warmth in the struggle!



10. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote.

It’s interesting that the “hero” in the story is the aggressor in real life. The Coyote is the loser, while the Roadrunner, a victim in real life, is the villain. This juxtaposition of characters provides a unique perspective.

Other classic cartoons do this as well. Remember Tom & Jerry, where the mouse always outsmarts the cat? Surprise! Chuck Jones created that one, too!

The same is true on personality radio shows. Many times, the most memorable and most loved character isn’t the one that has their name on the show. It’s the personality that listener identify with. Winning shows understand this and use it to their advantage.


11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Roadrunner.

This is my favorite rule in the storyline. There’s never an end to the story. It’s about the struggle. The entertainment value is in the process, not the outcome.

If the Coyote catches the Roadrunner, the story is over. It’s like when two actors finally hook up in a sitcom. The show is over because they’ve left nothing for the audience to hope for. No possibilities. It’s now fact.

According to Screen Rant:

When Jones was creating Wile E. Coyote in 1948, he found inspiration in the writings of Mark Twain, best known for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. In 1872’s Roughing It, Twain describes the coyote as “long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton.” He says the coyote is “… a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry. He is always poor, out of luck, and friendless.”

Many shows think they have to have finish the story. You don’t. You do need an ending, a payoff, but it doesn’t need to result in a conclusion. Entertainment is in pursuit of the solution, not the solution itself.

Other Lessons From Wile E. Coyote & Roadrunner

A couple of other things regarding the cartoon stand out.


Chuck Jones’ genius is evident in how he cross-promoted and recycled the Coyote.

Beginning in 1953, he borrowed the character in a series of episodes of Sam Sheepdog vs. Ralph Wolf. Ralph The Wolf is a dead ringer for Wile E. Coyote.

And, the Coyote was a recurring character in Bugs Bunny episodes. It’s a great lesson in expanding your brand by playing and recycling your hits.

Also, look at the photos and cartoons in this article. Notice the color schemes? It’s full of yellows, oranges and reds. There’s a style that subtly adds to the brand. This consistency may not be obvious but not matters.


Developing your own show rules of presentation is a valuable exercise. It’s an advanced step in building a 5-Star Personality Brand.

What are the rules of conduct in creating stories that showcase character traits in your personality profile? And how are you executing them? Share them by email

Tracy Johnson
P1′s Are Not Fans and Fans Are Not P1′s
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The ratings report is in. Your cume is strong but your P1′s are down. Oh no! You have a ratings problem, because everyone knows that P1′s are the lifeblood of your brand. Your general manage demands an answer to the question: “What is happening to our fanbase?”. You’re panicked. But wait a minute. P1′s are not fans, and fans are not P1′s.

How can that be? We’ve always thought of P1′s as being first preference listeners. Doesn’t that mean they prefer us more than the others? And doesn’t that make them fans?

No. Not at all. In fact, many stations have a large number of P1′s but very few fans.

Being a P1 listener only means that they spend more time listening to your station than any other station.

A Department Head Meeting is called, and the Ratings Freak Out begins. Isn’t it great to be a program director?

But before you turn your station upside down, take a breath and step back to analyze what’s really going on.

P1′s Are Not Fans

To qualify as a P1 listener, that panelist must spend at least one quarter hour more with your station than any other. There are many explanations for P1′s and fans being out of step.

It could be that:

They’re an accidental P1.

They’re a P1 listener this week or month, but only at this particular moment in time. In other words, they may not be loyal to your station-or any station. They’re button punchers who happen to give you slightly more credit in this reporting period. The difference in actual quarter-hours a listener spends with their top 3-4 stations is often very small. they may be a P1 today, and a P4 tomorrow.

They’re a radio prisoner.

Maybe someone else controls the radio in their workplace, or they’re exposed to a signal they would never choose as their favorite. However, the exposure turns them into a P1 for ratings purposes. Their actual preference could be quite different. They may hate your station, but are forced to listen.

They’re an unimportant P1.

Many P1’s are light radio users overall. They listen to one station more than another, which qualifies them as P1 to that station. They may even consistently tune to your station more than others. But if overall listening is small, their quarter-hour contribution is insignificant. They still count as a P1, but it’s not as valuable as having a station fan.


Fans Are Not P1′s

On the other hand, many fans don’t show up as P1′s, for some of the same reasons described above (particularly being a radio prisoner). Just because they love what you do doesn’t mean they actually listen more. These folks are valuable, and can be converted to much higher quarter-hour tune in with effective promotion and marketing.

When the percentage of P1′s grow, programmers often make the assumption that the station is delivering a better product, satisfying more listeners. And that may be the case, but it’s dangerous to assume that this means you’re converting cume into fans. It’s probably just because those folks wearing meters happened to be exposed to your signal.


In PPM markets, radio ratings are determined by those carrying these pager-like devices being exposed to radio signals.


This demonstrates just a few of the many problems when using ratings as a research tool for programming or positioning your radio station brand. The bottom line is that if you want to measure how you’re really doing with fans, you need a strategic research project to measure it.

Go For Fans, Not P1′s

Fans are passionate, loyal listeners who love your brand are the lifeblood of your station. When a true fan becomes a ratings respondent, you feel an immediate and meaningful lift. The opposite is also true: When one leaves the panel, you feel it immediately.

The key is to nurture the audience with a strategy to lead that fan into becoming a more frequent user. The larger your fanbase, the greater your influence and higher the ratings.

Why Listeners Become Fans

The problem for most stations is that building a fanbase is rarely because the music format is just right or that you provide service elements (traffic, news, weather, etc.) at predictable times. It’s not even the amount of money you give away in contests and promotions.

They become fans because of an emotional connection. The bond could be a common worldview, such as we see in the Contemporary Christian format. But it’s usually because of compelling air talent that lead communities of listeners through personality.

Ratings are a game. Here’s how to play and win

That’s why air talent holds the key to unlock radio’s future success. Stop trying to increase your P1 base and worry about building your fan base.

Are you developing meaningful personalities for your brand? Want to? That’s what we do. Contact us.



Tracy Johnson
The AHA Moment to Unlock the Power of Personal Stories
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Ah, the power of personal stories. It’s one of the most important skills for all personalities, but the power must be unlocked or it can be destructive.

That moment can happen at just about any time and you usually can’t see it coming. Many times, clients become frustrated waiting to hear improvement on the air and in the ratings. This is especially true if management has an analytical background. They sometimes don’t understand why a personality can’t immediately begin performing in a different way.

But it takes time to develop new methods and adopt new habits. It’s like pushing a giant boulder up a hill. You work and work and work, often thinking that you’re not making any progress. It’s frustrating because it’s so hard and it takes so long. But then, suddenly, almost like magic, you reach the top and everything changes.

Working with an air personality that was really struggling to relate off-air experiences without being self-indulgent, the light finally came on.

When it did, everything changed for the better. He finally unlocked the power of personal stories.

And you won’t believe what triggered the growth.

The “aha” moment came from a most unlikely source: Tommy Chong, half of the famous comedy team Cheech and Chong.

Unlocking the Power of Personal Stories

When Chong was in prison, he met Jordan Belfort, the famous Wolf of Wall Street (It’s a good movie, and a good book. I recommend both), whose character was played by Leonardo Dicaprio in the movie. Chong encouraged Belfort to pass the time by writing his life story, then proceeded to critique and coach him through the process.

In the book Catching The Wolf Of Wall Street, Chong constantly sends Belfort back to the beginning to find his character’s voice in writing the book. The advice that finally causes Jordan to get it:

“There are two things about writing you can never forget: First, it’s all about conflict. Without conflict, no one gives a shit. Second, it’s about the most of.”

Sharing this story with my client, the light came on. He finally realized what it meant to apply the Three E’s of entertainment.


The Three E’s in Personal Stories

It’s not about presenting the facts of the story. It’s about creating a story from the facts. That means adding a healthy dose of the three E’s of Entertainment: Exaggeration, Enhancement and Embellishment. That’s adding what Chong calls, “the most of”.

When he added drama (conflict) and suspense into his storytelling, the stories went from “blah” to “wow”. Almost instantly, his content was more compelling, more interesting and more relatable.

In the book, Chong goes on to coach Belfort  on writing to the “most of” concept:

It means you always write about the extreme of something. The most of this, the most of that, the prettiest girl, the richest man, the most rip-roaring drug addiction, the most insane yacht trip.

Exaggeration with conflict was the aha moment that turned on the creative power for my client, and it could do the same for you.


Personal Stories Come Alive

Here’s an example of how it sounds on the air, with Radio Hall of Fame members Jeff & Jer. This two-part segment features Jerry telling a story about an embarrassing, relatable situation that has happened to everyone.

In this segment:

  • Jerry takes his time developing enough details in the story to build drama. With the right details, we can feel his anxiety when he realizes that he has a “situation” on his hands.
  • He owns the story, but tells it in a self-deprecating way, never taking himself too seriously. In doing so, he becomes a sympathetic and relatable figure.
  • The story is true, but it’s enhanced by embellishing the details. This happens in the preparation process by thinking about how to present the story in a way that causes a stronger response from co-hosts. This in turn results in listeners having an emotional connection to the story.

Personal Stories Continue, Part II

The show breaks for commercials at the perfect time. Just when you think the story is about to end, it reignites by transitioning from a payoff (Jerry’s escape from the situation) to another sub-plot that takes it to another level.

Who’s going to tune out before they hear how the story ends?

This segment elevates the story to become what the show referred to as a Didja Hear moment. The story becomes memorable and repeatable by introducing new characters into the plot, especially Don the Valet. Whether or not the details in the outcome are real-life or fiction, it’s believable and plausible.

A show prep technique is to prepare your own performance to spark a response by asking “What else?”. What else could have happened? What else might have taken place? What else could we do with this? What else would make this story work?


Power of the Personal Story Conclusion

Every personality tells stories differently. That’s a good thing. It’s what makes you stand out from everyone else on the air. But every storyteller can improve their skills by applying some of the basics in story structure. This is particularly true when learning to unlock the power of a personal story.

What’s the key that will be your “aha” moment? What has worked for you?

Side Note: The book referenced above in the Tommy Chong example is the followup to the original The Wolf of Wall Street.  Both are a good read, even if you’ve seen the movie.


Tracy Johnson
Is Your Radio Station Like Disneyland For Listeners?
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A visit to Disney is great anytime of the year, but the experience is enhanced when you realize that it’s not for you. It’s for your guests, those that are on the adventure with you. A holiday at Disneyland, like your radio show is not about you.

It’s for your kids or grandchildren. It’s about family. It’s about sharing a moment of pure joy. It’s recognizing that escape from reality for a few hours, or a few days (if you’re lucky).

Experiencing it through the eyes of someone you love causes you to have a much better time. There’s joy in seeing others enjoy themselves.


Your Show Is Disneyland

Here’s a different way to look at your radio station and your show. Think of it as Disneyland, and listeners are your children. In a way, you’re responsible for engaging, indulging and spoiling them to insure they have a great time.

You and your co-hosts should make it your goal to give them the  Disneyland experience every day,

Here’s how you can do that:


Disneyland Key #1: Be Fully Engaged

It’s fine for mom and dad to take the kids to the park, but if they spend the day on the phone, texting or checking Facebook, the kids feel that they’re disconnected. They deserve undivided attention. It’s hard work making sure the kids get the most out of Disney.

Yes, you probably can multi-task and check email or texts during commercial breaks or while a song is playing, just as a parent can sneak in an email or quick conference call to a colleague, or check a score on a mobile device. But you shouldn’t. It affects the experience.

Focus. Stay engaged. The kids can feel it, and so can listeners.


Disneyland Key #2: Enhance the Experience

Build excitement for each attraction, ride and event. Disney is an organized, cohesive collection of separate attractions. When you exit one attraction, there’s another one nearby. To get the most of it, you promote it to the kids. You tell stories about it, building anticipation.


And no matter how many times you’ve been on Pirates of the Caribbean, they still look forward to it. So celebrate it.

If you don’t get into the excitement, the kids’ experience won’t be the same. Your enthusiasm is contagious.

“That was a great ride. I loved it when the log splashed down and we got soaked”.

Then move on to the next ride to build momentum and pre-promote how great it’s going to be.

On the air, the music, promos, service information and contests are attractions. So are those daily features that become routine to you over time.

It’s all part of the experience, and every air talent’s primary job is to make each more exciting to your “kids”.


Disneyland Key #3: The Downside of Disney

Standing in line is a drag, and it seems that most of the day is spent in endless lines. But if the five minutes in the Indiana Jones ride is awesome, it’s totally worth the 90 minutes waiting to get in.



Commercials suck, but they’re not going away. They’re a necessary part of the entertainment experience. The key question is whether your content makes waiting through them worthwhile.


Disneyland Key #4: Planning The Trip

Disney trips can be overwhelming. There’s too much to do, too much to see and you just can’t get it all done in a day. So unless you invest in a three-day pass, you have to make choices and plan your day to have the best possible experience.

It gets complicated figuring out the best use of time each visit. You don’t want to miss anything. But you also know that if you try to do everything, you’ll probably miss some of the best moments.

You have to make choices.

On the air, there are dozens of topics each day that you could talk about. They may all be strong topics, but you don’t have time to do everything. Not well, at least.

Be selective. Plan it. Prepare. Mine each topic so every break is truly “A” material. Make sure each moment is maximized to create memorable experiences for your guests.



On the way out of Disneyland, your kids will probably ask how soon they can come back and do it again. Isn’t that amazing? They can’t wait to come back. But that next visit to Disney isn’t like the first. Now there’s an expectation. The bar has been raised for the next visit.

If you do it right, listeners can’t wait for your next show. And like visitors to Disneyland, over time listeners demand more.

They expect their favorite attractions to be there, and they expect something fresh and new to surprise them. In other words, they expect you to be better, and it’s your responsibility to deliver it every single day.

Are you making each show a memorable moment? How will you thrill your “kids” tomorrow?


Tracy Johnson
5 Sources of Show Prep You Probably Don’t Use Yet
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5 sourcs of show prep

Show prep sites are a great source of topics and content, and radio personalities should have at least one prep service in the tool chest. But if the service of choice isn’t available in your market or your budget just won’t allow it, there are ways to gather free data that can be adapted on the air. In fact, here are 5 radio show prep sources that you probably don’t have. And the great news is that your competition doesn’t either!

As with all show prep source, this is a place to start! Turn the topics into ideas and the ideas into entertainment. That’s the art of standing out!

So with that in mind, here are 5 radio show prep sources you may not have thought of.

Reddit Random and Trending

Reddit is known as the front page of the internet and is practically a show prep requirement for most shows, but the social news website’s content goes much, much deeper. By all means, use the main page as a resource, but don’t stop there.

Two more links to check out are Trending Subreddits and whatever comes up when you click Random.


Letters to the Editor  

The local newspaper may be losing subscriptions, but you should still get it every day. There may not be radio gold in the stories, but  the Letters to the Editor section can be a great resource. It’s a great way to see what people in your local community find important.

National stories like a political scandal, a terrorist attack or even a box office blockbuster can and are important to many of your listeners, but those topics are easy to discover — every news website is covering them. The Letters to the Editor section provides a daily snapshot of what’s important to the people in your community.


For me, free time is podcast time. While riding my bike, walking the dog or doing household chores I’m listening to podcasts that make me more well-rounded person.

When I’m well-informed, my listeners respond!

Some of the most interesting, useful podcasts I use are:

Freakonomics Radio

TED Radio Hour

On the Media

Science Vs.


Community Bulletin Boards

Did you know you can take a yoga class with your dog? The next time you’re waiting for your latte macchiato take a look at the community bulletin board at your local coffee shop. They’re filled with business cards and flyers for things you didn’t know existed in your town. Some strange, some just interesting.



Show Prep Service Archives

Hopefully your radio show prep service gives you full access to its archives. Going back one, two or five years ago this week can provide some great “hey, remember when…” content.

Bonus Tip

If you archive your best phone calls, one or two from a year ago will sound fresh to most listeners and can be used to re-launch a topic.

What are your favorite sources of content that most personalities haven’t thought of?

Tracy Johnson
The 7 Deadly Sins of Radio Personalities
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7 deadly Sins

If you’re on the air, or are a programmer responsible for those who are, there are 7 deadly sins of radio personalities that should be purged from your life.

Many shows are guilty of all 7. Most commit several on a regular basis. Some are guilty every single day.



But confession is good for your soul. Fortunately, there is forgiveness. And with forgiveness, repentance. That means you can overcome the 7 deadly sins. But it starts with understanding what they are:


7 Deadly Sins: Gluttony

The first deadly sin is gluttony. Whether it’s pizza or sleep, too much of anything is not good for you.

Gluttony becomes one of the deadly sins when air personalities try to jam in too many topics. More often than not, those topics don’t have enough depth because there’s not enough time to develop each topic so it’s sticky.

Most shows burn through content, hitting on a topic once in a show and then moving on. That means you need 12-16 topics a day, depending on the length of your show and how many breaks in the clocks. Is there that much great content every day?

Wouldn’t it be better to focus on fewer topics? The ones listeners really care about? And do them more?

A second symptom of this sin is having too many features. Some shows jump from one locked in nature to the next. None of the features cut through because they are:

a) Not very good,

b) Poorly developed, because of lack of time and attention,

c) Not on the air frequently enough to get traction or

d) All of the above.

Get rid of all average features. Identify your hits and do them more often, putting your emphasis and resources into making fewer things great.

7 Deadly Sins: Boredom

Being bored isn’t a sin, but causing listeners to be bored is a deadly sin of radio personalities. And when do they get bored? Usually when you are bored.

Boredom happens when mundane, everyday tasks make your job seem less like show business and more like a factory job.

You’re repeating the same liner cards every day, every hour.

You’re playing the same songs by the same artists you’ve heard a million times.

You’re reading the same commercials day after day.

The job off-the-air is a hassle, and not nearly as much fun as it once was.

Over time, it affects your energy, attitude and enjoyment. But listeners don’t care. They come for a show, and your job is to take them away from their boring, hum-drum, routine. You’re their escape.

Here’s how you can tell if being bored is affecting your show:

Every break starts to sound the same. You fall into patterns and routines.

You’re watching the clock to count down to the end of your show, or counting how many breaks  before you’re done.

Content starts to become generic an incomplete, not specific and targeted.

Segments stall, repeat and don’t move forward.

You’re not having fun off or on the air.

Take responsibility for your attitude. Find a technique that puts you in a good mood every day. Maybe it’s music. Or meditation. Or exercise.

You can’t always control your surroundings, but you can control your response to it.

Sometimes overcoming boredom is hard work, but it’s an important part of preventing listener boredom.

7 Deadly Sins: Vanity

Egoes gone wild may be the most common of the sins. Great performers need a healthy self-confidence, a swagger. Maybe even just a little bit cocky.

But when it turns into a show that is all about you, it’s deadly.

Vanity is one of those sneaky sins that almost every personality has to fight. Here are the signs that it may be a problem on your show:

The hook, or entry point starts with you, not with the listener’s interest.

Failing to respond spontaneously and naturally to listener calls or to your partners on multi-personality shows.

Performing the show as if in a vacuum from inside the four wall boundary of the studio instead of with the listener’s conscience in mind.

Talking about what’s happening in the studio.

Personalities talking on top of one another, competing for attention to get their point in.

Balancing a healthy ego with humility is delicate. If you can understand and master the concept of It’s Not About You…it’s All About You, you’ll be on the road to recovery.


7 Deadly Sins: Deceit

Integrity and authenticity are essential to air personalities, an your performance must be true to your character brand profile as explained when building a 5 Star Personal Brand.

But when personalities perform outside of their personality profile, they’re guilty of the sin of deceit.

Here’s how you’ll recognize it:

When you don’t take a position or point of view, or it is vague or unclear on the air.

When listeners hear you respond exactly the same way, especially with surprise, to the same topic or comment.

Listeners value an air personality endorsements as a friend’s recommendation, but when you recommend or endorse products, brands or services you don’t believe in, credibility is challenged.

That relationship is critical, and it’s valuable. 7 of 10 listeners say they consider their favorite personalities to be regular people like themselves. The key to personality radio is relatability and authenticity. Finding your voice, your character and your position in the market is the first step to success, and never violate your character map.


7 Deadly Sins: Isolation

Studies show that a majority of Americans have interacted with radio personalities at some point during their lifetimes.

If that is accurate, we are doing a lousy job converting these opportunities into TSL, since the average listening occasion continues to decline.

The sin of Isolation occurs when personalities don’t capitalize on opportunities to make an impact.

Are you isolated? This is how to find out:

You try to get out of station appearances or demand a talent fee to go anywhere.

When you do go to the event, you hide from listeners in the van, the tent or the back room.

When in public, there’s nothing for listeners to do!

It also happens when you ignore listeners interested in interacting with you on social media, the phone and by text.

It’s important to set up a system for responding and interacting. Commit to it and make it a regular part of your routine.

7 Deadly Sins: Omission


This is a silent, hidden sin, because it’s not obvious that it’s happening.

Omission is the sin of not doing those things that you don’t really need to do, but could. And if you did, it would be more successful. It’s the sin of missed opportunities.

The sin of omission is:

Staying Current. Maybe you aren’t interested in the same things your audience is. Too bad. You need to be current and understand it.

Growing Your Skillset, like taking a class in improv to learn to interact and respond better on the air.

Improving through Review. If you aren’t getting feedback from your PD or manager, initiate the contact.

Investing in yourself. You know Morning Show Boot Camp would help your career and you could meet other broadcasters that could help, but you don’t go because you are angry that your company won’t pay for it.



7 Deadly Sins: Sloth (Laziness)

This is the greatest sin of all because it feeds all of the other sins.

Lazy shows are sloppy shows, and sloppy shows never reach their potential. Not reaching your potential is something that should be really hard to live with. but many accept it.

Laziness can be as simple as an unwillingness to invest the time into creating a great show, but it can also be more subtle.

Today, most broadcasters have multiple responsibilities at their stations. You’re wearing a lot of hats. Maybe you’re voice-tracking on other stations, or in other markets. The list of daily tasks is endless, and overwhelming.

So you start cutting corners and compromising. And what happens? We focus on the urgent – the things that must be done – and we ignore the important-those things that are crucial to being an effective communicator.

The result is a show that sounds okay, but isn’t special. You sound good enough to get by…to keep the station moving forward…but listeners aren’t excited by it.

And, it happens when you fail to focus during your show. Every element on your show should have your full, undivided attention. But you’re answering personal emails, checking your friend’s posts on social media, texting your wife, setting up a tee-time, watching a YouTube video, ordering something on Amazon during the show.

Meanwhile, the phone goes unanswered. Your co-hosts take their cue from your behavior and start doing other things, and nobody is fully engaged on the show.

You could be planning a better tease, preparing to add personality into a liner card or live read that’s coming up or editing a phone call for the next break.


7 Deadly Sins: Conclusion

There’s no quick fix to overcoming the 7 sins, but everyone can and should identify the one or two sins on the list that are a barrier to growth. Break it down into small, actionable steps, then go to work with a laser focus until you have overcome it.

As you make progress, celebrate your growth. Be proud!

Then move on to the next thing. Even if you’re guilty of all 7, if you can overcome just one sin per quarter…each 90 days…in less than 2 years, you’ll be a new personality.

And let me know how I can help.

Tracy Johnson
A PD Air Checks Santa
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A PD air checks Santa

Okay, Santa, here’s the deal. We need to talk. It’s Christmas time, your biggest time of the year, and the ratings aren’t what they used to be. I know you’re doing fine with the younger demographics, but that’s not the money demo. We have to expand your appeal.

Now, we’ve done some research, and there’s a few things we have to fix right away. And if we don’t make some big adjustments, there’s going to be some serious issues.

Credibility & Image

First, your credibility is shot with adults. You’re just not believable. They aren’t buying into your whole story, and it starts with your name. Where’d you get Saint Nicholas? They don’t think you’re being “real” with them. We have to change it. You need to spend more time talking about yourself and what your real life is like. None of this “North Pole” stuff.


Research & Gifts

The last couple of years, you’ve been letting too many kids ask for toys that don’t test well with 35-44 year old women. There’s only about 5 hits that everyone wants. Here’s a list. If little Lindsey asks for something not on that list, ignore her and tell her that you know better. She’ll take what you bring her. Don’t worry. She’ll adjust.


Music Choices

Now: A couple of things about music. Our research found that most people like Christmas music in general, but there are 37 Christmas songs that nobody dislikes. If you just play those songs and get rid of all that other polarizing crap, we’ll keep them in the mall for hours. That may not seem like enough variety, but we’ll be fine as long as you tell them that we play “A better mix of Christmas so you can listen longer.” They’ll believe whatever you tell them. Research proves that this will make them like you.


Less Talk, More Music

Now that we have the definitive safe list of the right songs, I need you to start playing more of it. We know that as soon as you start to talk, they tune out. So we’re replacing some of your act with “at least 10 Carols in a Row every hour” and a special “90 Minute Marathon to start the Shopping Day.” You’ll just take a few longer breaks and hang out in the back room more. We’ll drop in some of your voice-tracks so you still have a presence.


Sell The Music

When you do say something, your primary job is to promote the music. Nobody really cares about you. The Carols are the star. That and the prizes….er, presents. And be sure to back-announce Elmo and Patsy. They told us they hate it when we don’t identify every song and artist.


Positioning Statements

It’s also important that we image the brand with Christmas, so starting now, every time you say anything, the first and last thing out of your mouth should be to remind them who plays the most Christmas songs. That’s how we’ll win Christmas. Start with the positioning statement we talked about: A Better Mix of Christmas and more of it featuring 10 Carols in a row every hour and a 90 minute marathon to start your shopping day.

Then do your break with the kids, and wrap it with a quick testimonial that supports our position. You’ll ask, “Who plays the most Carols?” then get them to say “Santa.” You don’t need to ask all that other stuff, like if they’ve been naughty or nice. All that milk and cookies chatter was self-indulgent, anyway. We’ve done some tests on this, and we think you can do a great break in 12-14 seconds, so tighten it up and use your skills to entertain and relate, baby!


Less Ho Ho Ho

With shorter breaks, there’s less time for talk, so we need to cut it down a bit, big fella. There’s several ways to do this. I noticed you’ve been saying “Ho, Ho, Ho” a lot. It seems repetitive. Do you really need three ho’s to get your point across? How about just one? Less Ho – More Carols. Everyone wins.

And can we cut down the amount of time you chit-chat with the kids? We’ll have an intern screen them for their name….Huh? Yes, an intern. The elves? Sorry, budget cut. The elves are out. But we have some 18 year old kids from Community college that get social media so it’ll be an upgrade.

So when little Jason sits on your lap, just say “Hi, Jason from Springfield, what do you want?” If they can’t tell you in the first few seconds, get them off and move on to the next kid. All that filler talk is killing forward momentum. Energy, Santa! Energy!


Promise It, Even If You Can’t Deliver

This may not seem important to you, but in listening to some of the tapes from last year, we noticed that you told the kids you’d “try” to get them the gift they want. You need to promise them. No more being vague. Yes, I know they may not actually get what they ask for, but we don’t really care about that. We just want to get them through this Christmas season. We’ll worry about next year when it comes. We need impact now.


No Jingle Bells-It Doesn’t Test

Finally, back in August, we did some focus groups with 8 people in a hotel room. They spent four hours telling us what Christmas means to them, and they don’t care about jingle bells. So get rid of them, and be sure to promote it. We ran some slogans past them and they really got it when we asked if they understood “More Music, less Jingle.” It works. Let’s go with that.

Listen, I know this seems extreme, but you have to trust that we know what we’re doing. We’re taking out all potential negatives, so we’ll definitely keep the audience from going off to the competition.

With that, a dejected Santa slumped out of the office wondering why he ever decided it would be fun to be Santa in the first place.

Tracy Johnson
Tracy Johnson: Should Your Station Go to All Christmas Music?
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Every year, more and more stations flip to all Christmas music. In fact, over 500 (yes, FIVE HUNDRED) stations use this tactic in the U.S. alone, and more and more are making the move in Canada.

Radio stations that switch to all Christmas music usually win, at least in the short term. It works! It really does. One or two things happen, generally speaking:

  1. Your cume goes through the roof, and/or:
  2. Your “regular” P1 TSL (those who really love your format) may decline.

Should your station go all Christmas? Maybe. Maybe not.


Deciding Whether To Go All Christmas Music

Still, “The all-holiday format remains one of radio’s most enduring and profitable gimmicks,” says The New York Time’s Ben Sisario.

“The number of stations embracing the format has nearly doubled, and competition between broadcasters often leads to stations turning earlier and earlier. But is it a gimmick? Really? Or is it a smart programming strategy?

Why does it work? Gary Fisher, owner Equity Communications’ WEZW-FM/Atlantic City says:

“Christmas music really is a link to better times,”

This presents a unique and powerful marketing opportunity that’s potentially more valuable than external marketing campaign.


Benefits Of Going All Christmas Music

There are advantages, of course. That’s why so many stations make the flip.

New Cume: Thousands of new listeners come into the station, many of whom are unfamiliar with the primary benefits you normally offer. This can spike your ratings over the short-term and provide an inexpensive marketing opportunity to promote your brand.

Music Relief: If your regular format playlist is generally tight, and library-based, Christmas music offers relief from fatigue and may preserve the library. And when those songs return, they sound fresh again.

Brand Statement: Christmas music makes a positive statement about your brand, particularly if you represent values that are more traditional and family-oriented, such as AC or Christian.

But in the long term, is it good or bad? Should you take the plunge and go all Christmas?


Why You Should NOT Go All Christmas Music

The argument against it, of course, is that going all Christmas takes you out of format, the reason listeners come to you every day. You fear that you’ll be virtually inviting your existing audience to go elsewhere! And they might.

In other words, there’s risk. The decision, then, rests on whether a) the increase outweighs the loss, and b) if your fanbase is strong enough that they’ll return when the specialty programming is over.

Further, there’s little evidence that the infusion of new listeners are retained after December 25. Once life gets back to “normal” and listeners settle back into their routines, they typically return to their favorite station. And, since you’ve been playing Christmas music, you haven’t been able to leverage the attention by demonstrating your regular format.

Stations have used promotion techniques, such as launching a major contest to hold onto the audience. In some cases, this works for stations, if it’s promoted in advance and supported with external marketing.

Some Christian stations try to recruit new fans by issuing a “30 Day Challenge”, a tactic designed to turn the holiday audience into January listeners.

Results of both are inconclusive, but worth consideration.


All Christmas Music As a Marketing Tool

For many years, a popular strategy is to use Christmas music as a palate cleanser to introduce a format change or significant brand adjustment. If you’re not known as the station for Christmas in your market, this is perhaps the most effective reason to flip to all Christmas.

While some listeners may be upset with a flip to all Christmas, the marketing aspect is valuable. Viewed as a marketing strategy, playing all Christmas music is a way to reflect the mood of your market. In that way, risk is mitigated.

mike-mcvayCumulus VP/Programming Mike McVay has been in charge of stations that have gone all-Christmas for over 20 years. He explains why it works:

“If you looked at raw numbers — let’s say you started with 100 people and you lost 20 of them because they don’t like Christmas music (exclusively). You’ll get 30 people coming back in because they do. There is audience turnover but the net is a larger audience. Some people put it on all day and leave it on at work. That’s not unusual. But what also plays into it are the little promotion and production pieces that people are fond of — soldiers saying hello to their families, little children talking about their favorite Christmas toy or (gift) wish. So there’s a lot of goodwill beyond the music that makes (the format) very big.”

And Christmas music absolutely, positively reflects your market’s mood. It will attract new listeners that may know nothing about your station. In that regard, if you do it right, risk is virtually eliminated.


Tracy Johnson
Tracy Johnson: 5 Writing Tips For More Exciting Information Segments
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5 writing tips for news

Most stations have some form of information segments on the air. It may be a formal newscast, sports updates or a celebrity gossip feature, but at some point you will benefit from some writing tips for more exciting copy for information segments.


[tweet_box design="box_09"]5 tips for writing more exciting and engaging information segments.[/tweet_box]


One of the biggest problems in newscasts and information blocks is the lack of creativity and storytelling in the writing process. Stories are full of information, data and facts. Copy is usually too long and the language is stiff and formal.

News is programming content, and if it’s going to be on your station, you should put some time and effort into making it the best it can be.

Here are 5 writing tips to add more life and energy to your news and information elements.


Writing Tip #1: Find an External Entry Point

Just as an air talent should focus on a listener-oriented hook to capture attention quickly, every story should start with the target audience’s interest in mind. That can be the difference between a compelling story and one that nobody cares about – or pays attention to.

Here’s an example of an interesting hook:

If you’ve ever wondered about whether you’re alone in the dressing room when you try on clothes, you’ll want to know about the security guard going on trial today…

When you put the copy in terms they can relate to, it takes on a different complexion. Imagine how much more interesting this is than starting with facts like this:

Attorneys for both sides will present opening statements this morning when a security guard at a local department store goes on trial today…


Writing Tip #2: Write Like You Speak

Isn’t it amazing how otherwise normal people suddenly become different, less-interesting personalities when they start reading a news story? It may partially be due to the way they read, but usually it’s because of copy that’s not being written for the personality.

Always avoid formal language. This “news-speak” is obvious in copy delivered by news services. Why? Most of the time, it’s written for print, and print language is plastic and official-sounding. It’s not meant to be read. Yes, you can read it on the air, but you’ll be boring and less relatable. Rewrite it in your own voice, the way you speak. Writing for the spoken word requires an informal style, and it’s best when customized to the news presenter.

On a client station, I heard a story about an attempted plane hijacking, in which the newsperson said that the crew “managed to subdue the culprit” so that the plane could be landed safely. In everyday language, do you know anyone that typically uses words like subdue and culprit?

Do you mean, “The crew grabbed the bad guy and got away from the cockpit so they could land the plane and wait for the cops?” Then say that.

Here are some other typical examples:

Arthur C. Clarke is not “the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey.” He’s “the guy who wrote 2001.”

You didn’t get it from “a Fire Department spokesperson.” He’s “Tom Philbrick from the Fire Department.”

News language is not relatable in the spoken word. Say it like you were telling me a story   the lunch room. Use words that real people actually say to each other.


Writing Tip #3: Where Before What

In Journalism School, you may have learned to emphasize the five W’s: Who, what, when, where and why. That’s great for the newspaper, and it applied in the past to electronic media, but times have changed. Focusing on the facts in the lead usually causes boredom, and boredom causes tune-out.

Here’s a typical example of a news story on many radio stations:

 Wichita police were summoned to a burglary at a convenience store last night downtown on Maple in the 300 block. There were no injuries, but law enforcement investigators were not able to apprehend the two armed suspects. The altercation resulted in the suspects getting away with an estimated $2,300. They got away in a green late-modeled Toyota. A police spokesperson asks for anyone with information on the incident to call the police hotline at 333-3333.

Kinda boring, huh? Here’s another way to say it:

If you heard the sirens last night at the 7-11 downtown on Maple, a couple of masked gunmen stole over $2,000 and got away in a green Toyota.  Nobody was hurt, thank goodness, and the police are still checking into it. If you have some information, let us know and we’ll put you in touch with the cops.”


Writing Tip #4: Use Exciting Language

Don’t be boring. Ever! Add life to news copy to make it come alive. Simply injecting action words and descriptive, colorful language can make an otherwise ho-hum newscast into something far more interesting.

Here’s how:

Quotes: Authorities don’t “issue a statement”, they “claim” or “insist”. It’s not

Don’t Use Big Numbers: They’re boring, and offer no perspective. Instead of referencing the “national debt has just increased to over $18 trillion”, make it meaningful: “If every man, woman and child in the United States were to send the government a check for $150,000…we could almost get out of debt.”

Verbs, Not Adjective: Adjectives don’t add color to the story, they add clutter and bulk. Verbs, on the other hand, introduce action. Using terms like, “flipped into a canyon”, “exploded in flames” and “raced to the scene” make the story come alive.

Write In First Person. No pronouns. An over-use of words like, “he/she” or “they” is bland and unclear. Find other ways to describe the person referenced.

Don’t Reference Unknown Sources. Nobody knows the spokesperson at the mayor’s office. It introduces another reference that’s hard to interpret and the story bogs down. Just say, “They mayor’s office says…”

Use Present Tense.  It’s critical to sound fresh, new and current, and that can happen if you write in present tense. Instead of saying, “The ongoing murder trial heads into it’s third week today…”, rephrase it with new information, such as, “The murder trial that could change the way you feel about taking your kids to after school care is on center stage this morning when….”

Active Voice, Not Passive: Use an immediate voice, such as, “The quarterback tells us”, rather than, “told us”. It adds excitement.



Writing Tip #5: Write Short

Reading copy is easier with short, crisp sentences and easy to pronounce words. It’s also more exciting, faster-paced and listeners understand it better.

Avoid Commas:  It adds a pause in delivery and requires more from the news reader.

Short Sentences: Writing in short, crisp sentences with one thought per sentence is clearer and more effective.

Short Stories: Keep most stories to 2-3 lines and rewrite the story each time it airs, rotating details and perspective. That keeps it fresh and more interesting.

Long Words: Always replace long words with short words when possible. The goal is to be clear and creative, nots prove you have a large vocabulary.

Technical Language: Part of your job is to simplify the story for easy consumption so break down technical language foreign words and scientific references in a way that makes sense to the audience.


Writing Tips: Conclusion

You’re not writing for a newspaper, composing an investigative report or submitting a term paper. That means facts should be sequenced for the medium.

The goal for every report should be to tell a story that makes the listener see and feel it. Use colorful language describing it as if you were telling the story to a blind person, because when you think about the listening experience, listeners are indeed blind.
Want to find out more about creating great information elements for radio? Check out the tools and resources here and watch this webinar on demand: Make Information a Tune In, Not a Tune Out



Tracy Johnson
10 Ways Your Show Would Be Better If You Were More Like Trump
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Love him or hate him, he’s the winner. Donald Trump defeated everyone to win the most powerful position in the world. What can broadcasters learn from it?

It Was About Emotion, Not Facts

He did it in the face of a hate-storm from both political parties. And he did it without backing down from outrageous comments, claims and attacks on opponents, individuals and groups.

He did it by appealing to the emotions of a small, but loyal fan base that grew in size and volume. And they spoke loudest on November 8.


Regardless of your politics, you have to admit that Trump has excited a dissatisfied, disenfranchised segment of the public. He’s activated millions of fans, many of whom had little to no interest in politics or voting.

Air personalities should adopt many of The Donald’s attributes to improve their radio performance.

Trump speaks in headlines.

He communicates with simple words, delivered quickly, colorfully and it’s easy to understand. Dumbed down? Maybe. But it connects with the masses.

He makes his point in easily digestible, memorable hooks. He doesn’t get bogged down in details (some suggest it’s  because he doesn’t have any). The public’s attention spans are shorter than ever. Audiences are jaded. To cut through the clutter, we have to be quick. Tight. Short.

The lesson: Lead with a powerful hook that gets far more attention than details, data and information. Is that as it should be? Probably not. But it is true. And you can’t change it. So use it to your advantage.


He is Unique

Has there ever been a candidate like Trump? He isn’t like anyone else, and he is proud of it. In a past U.S. election, Republican John McCain kept claiming to be a “Maverick”, yet everything he said and the way he said it didn’t support the claim. Trump truly is a Maverick. Everything about him fits the label, and he wears it with a boldness that is both annoying (to some-maybe most) and magnetic. He doesn’t conform to expectations. He disregards authority. He defies the leaders of his party. And he never stays from that character.

The lesson: Define the boundaries of your character brand. Know your personality and stay within it. Then be the biggest, boldest, most high-profile version of that character you can possibly be.


He’s consistently unpredictable.

Until the last couple of weeks, Trump didn’t read from the teleprompter. He winged it. It’s unfiltered. Spontaneous. It’s maddening to some, refreshing to others. Every time he appears in public, there’s anticipation.

It’s almost become must-see TV. You never know what will come out of his mouth, but you expect it to cause a reaction.

The lesson: The art of creativity is to be consistent, yet fresh. Deliver the audience’s expectation with a well-planned agenda, in a creative, unexpected way. Plan content in great depth, then deliver it naturally.


He Assigned Memorable Labels (mini-brands).

Little Marco. Lyin’ Ted. Crooked Hillary.

He names his opponents, exaggerates the point with colorful anecdotes (“As soon as Lyin’ Ted puts down the Bible, he starts lying.”), and repeats it over and over. “We’re going to build a wall…”, he claims (a somewhat generic statement) but then punctuates it with a twist: “…and make Mexico pay for it.”

The labels stick because they’re simple. They’re easy to remember. They’re funny. But most of all, there’s enough truth in the exaggeration (at least in the perceptions of the public) that the labels work. It’s maddening to his critics.

The lesson: Brand your content. Assign appropriate, memorable labels to features, original breaks, recurring content and characters. Then demonstrate and reinforce it every chance you get.


He Repeats Himself

I repeat: He repeats himself. In every interview and speech he says the same thing in simple concepts and in different ways. This is not an accident. He is careful to be very clear in making a simple point.

In the primaries, he didn’t just say that “We’re winning the polls.” . He turned up the volume by saying that he’s “attracting millions and millions of people to vote” and that “The polls are so much in my favor, there’s no way they can catch up” and “I’m even winning the polls with (special interest groups)”. When the polls turned against him in the general election, he kept repeating that the polls were wrong and the system was rigged. The polls were wrong.

His simple talking points are reinforced with repetition and demonstration. That makes it memorable. Is it shallow? Call it what you want. But when is the last time any other candidate said something you remember the next day? By reinforcing claims with his outrageous personality, and clearly repeating the points, he’s memorable.

The lesson: Just because you say it on the air doesn’t mean listeners actually get it. You have to constantly say it, demonstrate it and market the attributes you want to be known for.


He Owns His Brand

Trump didn’t claim to be a politician, nor does he want to be. He wanted to be President. He claimed to be a businessman who knows how to make money and negotiate deals. And he backed up the claims.

Others can say it as much as they want, but Trump truly represents it. Your brand is what the public assigns, and he owns this brand. He knows people hate him, but he also knows that’s the price of admission to have an impact. He stays out of the Zone of Mediocrity.

The lesson: Know who you are, and what you are not. Use strengths to your advantage. Ignore your weaknesses. Stake your claim, then say it proudly, in many different ways every single day.


He Sounded Like He Was Winning

He was always positive and upbeat about his chances. It’s almost as if he willed it to happen.

His confidence borders on arrogance…or maybe it’s arrogance bordering on confidence. Trump acted like the winner from the day he started. Criticism didn’t change him. When he lost a state, it didn’t change him. He assumes the attitude and position of a winner.

The lesson: Confidence is a powerful thing. It attracts followers. Listeners can feel it. When you turn on the microphone, you have to know “I’ve got this”.


He Changed The Game

Trump not only leveled the field, he changed the game, and forced the candidates to adapt. When Rubio acted like Trump, it blew up in his face. The day of the Indiana primary, Ted Cruz went on an all-out attack on Donald. He was destroyed in the vote, and dropped out later that day.

Every time a competitor tried to play his game, they lost.

The lesson: Never respond to a competitor. Not other stations or other personalities. Focus on your audience, your fans. If a competitor affects your audience, react your audience. But never your competitor. Change the game. Play it on your terms. Ignore the competition because you can’t beat them by being more like them.


It’s Not About Spending Money

Trump generates press and attention. His campaign  spent far less than other candidates. Opponents complain about the press coverage, but he is always doing or saying something that causes interest, and talk.

And, he always is available for an interview or appearance.When he did spend on an ad, it was a news event. This spot aired one time, in one state. And it generated millions of dollars in buzz from free plays on the news and in social media.



Trump Was All-In

He plays to win, not to do his best and try hard. After the Indiana primary, he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “I only won because I went for the knockout punch.” He’s a businessman who just happens to be one election cycle away from being President.

The lesson: Are you willing to do whatever it takes to become a celebrity that just happens to have a radio show? Are you committed? Are you all-in?

 Trump’s win was a great success story. You can’t deny that, whether you’re celebrating or crying. Thee’s plenty that you can steal borrow to apply to your station or show.

Now, go make radio great again.

Tracy Johnson
Tracy Johnson Blog: The World Series, Mr. October And Your Radio Show
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I love this time of year. Baseball’s playoffs leading up to the World Series and the end of a long story told over six months. It’s great theater, with many great stories.

It also comes with lessons for radio stations and air personalities.

One of the most quotable and colorful players in the history of baseball, Reggie Jackson once described himself as “The Straw That Stirs The Drink.” Depending on how you view it, his hubris, ego, confidence or arrogance made him a lightning rod of controversy in his 20 year career, and earned him the nickname Mr. October.

Making Mr. October

Reggie had a flair for the dramatic, punctuating his considerable achievements by hitting three consecutive home runs in the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. This added to his legend, and is in fact, the moment that Mr. October was born.


Jackson was a great major league player, but he was even more special because he understood that he was also an entertainer. At home, Yankee fans chanted, “Reg-gie, Reg-gie” when he came to bat. On the road, he was greeted by a round of boos every time he stepped to the plate. And not just boos. Opposing fans would curse at him, throw things at him, hurling insults at him and his family.

Whether it was a strong positive or a strong negative, Reggie got a reaction. He touched nerves. He had the courage to be himself with no apologies. Sometimes his opinions didn’t go over well with management or the media. That included his boss, George Steinbrenner.

Reggie didn’t care.


Be Like Mr. October

In your life, and on your show, you can tip-toe through life and avoid confrontation. You can play it safe, avoid controversy so as to not ruffle feathers. When your show is over, you can reflect on it and say, “I made it through another day,” then prepare for tomorrow. Or you can be bold, finding a way to be in the spotlight. That takes time, preparation and effort, but it also takes courage and an inner strength focused on your purpose.

If you truly want to be the best at what you do, prepare for boos. Making a difference and resonating with a fan base means standing for something, standing for something means causing others to boo you. It comes with the territory. That takes courage, conviction and a burning desire to stay out of the dreaded zone of mediocrity.

Step up and be counted. Dare to be great. Be somebody, boldly and with conviction because, as Reggie once said when asked if it ever bothered him to hear the boos:

They don’t boo nobodys.

Tracy Johnson
4 Coaching Tips to Help Air Talent Bring Personal Stories To The Air
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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.

For example:

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.

Tracy Johnson
Tracy Johnson Blog: What Radio Talent Can Learn From Taylor Swift
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She’s obviously wildly successful, wealthy and a household word. You may not like her or her music, but regardless of your opinion of her, there’s a lot that Taylor Swift can teach you about radio performance.

Hard work and innovation are critical, and Taylor has developed an influential presence through her strong work ethic, but has also been smart.

Performing a radio show is hard work, and I know that many personalities can (or should) admit to letting things slide and coasting from time to time. You fall into a pattern and soon your show becomes a production line as you churn out one mediocre after another. It’s okay, but it’s not delighting your fans.

Taylor Swift can’t get away with falling into a cycle of mediocre work, and here’s what you can adapt from her example to energize your show.


Stop Playing It Safe

Listeners don’t respond to ordinary. Being merely good is the price of admission They demand excellence. Yet show after show sounds like they’re simply going along with the status quo.

You hear other personalities producing certain types of material, so you go along with what seems popular. Don’t believe it? Then why does virtually every show in existence carry the entertainment report? Why does everyone run the same features?

Great shows must innovate and take some chances. They must stand up for the art of the performance. If you’re afraid to try new things or fall under scrutiny, then how will you grow?

In 2015, Taylor Swift took issue with Apple’s decision to allow free trials of Apple Music. During those trials, artists wouldn’t be paid royalties if their songs were played. Rather than remaining quiet, she called out Apple on its decision and stated that she would not be releasing her album through the service.

Apple quickly changed. Eddy Cue, Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, tweeted, saying Apple “will pay artist[sic] for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period.”




Other artists didn’t speak out. They didn’t stand up, probably because of their fear of going against Apple, but Swift wasn’t having it – and her actions influenced change. That’s leadership, and leaders get attention.

I’m not saying you need to pick fights and burn bridges but you should certainly step outside of your comfort zone. Stop creating the same content, playing follow the leader, and settling for acceptable.

Innovate, come up with new ways to bring value to your audience, and be willing to risk a little. The rewards can be amazing, but they don’t come without hard work and a little risk.


Swift has developed impressive connections and learned that by leveraging relationships, she creates something new and exciting that introduces her to a much wider audience.

Taylor is no stranger to collaboration, and she took it to a whole new level on Bad Blood. The video features Kendrick Lamar, Jessica Alba, Lena Dunham, Lily Aldridge, and Selena Gomez.

As an air personality, there are countless ways to entertain your audience through the contributions of others. Set up your partners to deliver a great line. If you are working solo, make your audience the star. Showcase their stories, their contributions and punchlines.

The listener doesn’t care who actually delivers the entertaining moment, but they do remember where they get it. Sometimes giving up some control creates more attention.


Be Flexible

As you know, Taylor Swift launched her music career as a country singer in 2006, and a few years later slid into pop crossovers. Her transition from country star to pop sensation was complete.

It was a smart move that has earned her a number of awards including ten Grammys, five Guinness World Records, an Emmy, and 23 Billboard Music awards. Her success has also earned her a spot in Time’s 100 most influential people in the world. She’s achieved that through her talent, obviously, but also through a willingness to be flexible and to pivot into something different.

A common mistake in radio programming and performance is relying on simple approaches and formulas without adjusting to a changing environment. It’s amazing that air talent still basically “does their four and hits the door”.

If audience engagement is limited to creating a decent radio show and maybe tweeting a couple of messages during your time slot, you’re missing opportunities. To win today, you have to be active both on and off the air. How can you create a video presence for your brand? Are you using social media to lead the audience to a deeper relationship? And, perhaps even more importantly, do all social roads point back to your radio show?

We don’t know what Taylor Swift’s career would look like if she hadn’t adapted, but there’s no doubt that she wouldn’t have the level of celebrity she has now. The talent would be the same, the content would be just as great, but it would be a very different audience and likely a very different outcome.


Emotional Connections

Brands are evolving past telling their own corporate story. Now, they’re focusing on telling great stories that lead back to their brand. It’s less about promoting a specific product and more about using storytelling techniques to make an emotional connection.

Taylor Swift’s greatest skill is the ability to write and share relatable stories from her heart, through her music. The emotional connections through her writing is sticky

Taylor’s storytelling reminds us of the experience of being human, our own thoughts, and our own emotions. It also reminds us that others feel the same so we don’t quite so alone. That requires a certain amount of vulnerability. The ability to open up your heart and share emotionally is a key trait for radio personalities.

Using storytelling skills is more than just a few words worked into a break as a point of reference. It’s about sharing what people actually relate (and react) to. This is what forces them to listen, care, and want to share with everyone they know because they felt something when they experienced it.


She’s In The Moment

Ever been to a Taylor Swift concert? A funny thing happens there. She’s not on her phone. She isn’t surfing the internet or texting her friends. She isn’t checking out YouTube, responding to a tweet, posting on Facebook or adding pictures on Instagram.

She’s performing. She’s in the moment with her audience. You owe it to your co-hosts, your station and your audience to do the same. Focus on every detail of your show. Plan. Prepare. Stay in the moment. You may think it doesn’t matter, that you have plenty of time to talk to your massage therapist during the commercials or while the songs are playing. It matters. It’s all about being invested in your art and being 100% present in the moment.

There’s plenty of time to return those email messages after the show.


Tracy Johnson is one of the world’s leading talent coaches and programming consultants. Find out more here.

Tracy Johnson
Are You Screwing Up Your Station With Bad Music Research?
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Every programmer wants a bigger promotion budget and more research, but in radio’s current climate of cutting costs in every possible way, that’s just not going to happen. So programmers have learned to adjust to lower budgets and changing consumer behaviors by transitioning music research to online surveys. That’s a great idea, but a disturbing trend has emerged over the past few years, and it’s resulted in many stations screwing up their station with bad music research.

It seems that the goal has been to get information on listener’s music tastes in any way possible way, with a focus on quantity and frequency, not quality. Declining response rates and changing patterns of online behavior have turned a great idea (online research) into a powder keg that could be blowing up in your face.


Problem #1: Sample Sizes


Today, if you’re doing music research, chances are you’re using some form of online methodology, particularly for weekly callout. But music testing online isn’t nearly as fun and engaging for them as it once was, and listener response isn’t nearly what it has been. Plus, the world isn’t quite as anxious to provide their feedback and opinions.

I see stations with fewer than 50 respondents per week. To compensate for a small sample, stations roll two weeks together. This distorts the picture of what’s happening NOW. And when you break the data into demographic cells, the sample size is worse than the ratings services…and that’s not a good thing.

So if you’re doing online callout, chances are you are having trouble getting a large enough sample for quality results, and those that do respond probably are the same ones week after week. Those frequent, eager respondents become “professional” survey responders, distorting the data even more.

You would be better off with no research at all.


Problem #2: False Sense of Security

Then there’s another growing trend. With a wealth of music information readily available, stations are lulled into a false sense of security that there’s plenty of free  research from:

  • tracking playlists from other stations in the same format
  • following up-to-the-minute national chart
  • monitoring songs being downloaded or what’s being searched on SoundHound or Shazam.

This is all good information, but it can’t replace information about your listeners in your market.


Solving the Problems

Conducting online research is a reasonable solution, and a good one if you do it right. Many research companies offer affordable solutions and most give you the option of having them manage the process from start to finish or provide software to let you do it yourself.

To fix your research problem, follow these guidelines:

1. Recruit a Broader Sample

Change how you are attracting respondents. First, eliminate your music “club” and open the research funnel wider. That Listener Advisory Club puts up a barrier to participation by requiring a decision to make a commitment. Just the act of “joining the music panel” reduces and distorts the sample.

And get beyond your station’s database and existing reach. Target all respondents who like the music you program, not just those who also happen to listen to your station. You can expand the sample by establishing partnerships with advertisers, organizations and local websites and investing in some targeted social media ads.


2. Promote It On The Air

I’ve never understood why programmers resist asking for response on the air. Stations rarely demonstrate how the survey impacts airplay. It’s almost as if we’re conducting top secret experiments and don’t want the results to be known, or even that the questions are being asked.

Don’t just run promos. In fact, those promos almost never generate reaction. There are better ways to drive response.

  • Coach air personalities to promote the current survey, especially when introducing a top-testing song. For example: “Here’s another song you’re telling us you can’t get enough of…It’s the third most popular song in (city) this week. Love to get your thoughts on it, too. Vote now at”.
  • Turn research results into a weekly countdown of the Top 10 or Top 20 songs, and promote how they can vote (coincidentally by rating the songs!)
  • Get rid of the language of “We really care about your opinion” or “You can influence the music we play”. It means nothing to the listener. It’s generic. Be specific.

3. Ask for Less, Get More

Most music surveys are too long. Stations are testing as many as 40 songs at a time, and then asking perceptual questions on top. Listeners just don’t have the patience for it. And if they do make it all the way to the end, they’re probably just clicking on a button to get to the end so they qualify for the prize.

So test fewer songs in each survey. What if you just asked for response on 3-5 songs at a time? You could have multiple surveys active at the same time, asking less of each respondent. Make it easy to respond quickly.


4. Complete The Feedback Loop

The #1 thing that causes listeners to stop responding is when we don’t communicate the impact of their opinion. They fill out the survey, click submit and they don’t hear from us again until we ask for more information. We need to share the results with them consistently and regularly.


On October 18, I’ll share more details on how to improve music research results, including a plan to improve your results and your ratings in 30 days. Here’s a preview:

This webinar takes place at 1pm eastern time on October 18. It’s free to everyone, but you do have to register in advance. To attend the webinar, sign up here.


Tracy Johnson
Tracy Johnson Blog: This Study On Radio Contests Should Scare You To Death
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Most radio stations conduct contests and promotions, especially during ratings periods. There’s a good reason for it, too. Ratings respondents are far more likely to participate than non-ratings respondents. But, as we’ve been warning you for years now, most stations are failing to maximize their contesting strategy. This study on contests should scare you to death.

Published by Carolyn Gilbert and her team at Nuvoodoo, there are several important take-aways that should get your immediate attention.


Study on Contests: Pick Up Prize or Send it Out?

In a world where I can order practically anything online and have it show up at my door in a day or two, why on earth do you think that listeners would be willing to drive across town to pick up a prize? They won’t. Check this out:




Only 1/3 of PPM respondents think it’s worthwhile to come to the radio station to get $100. This number is far lower for those who are not likely to end up in the ratings panel.


Takeaway:  If you can’t send prizes out (be sure to send with signature required to prove delivery), deliver them in person. This makes an even greater impact on listeners. But, we can’t afford it, you say? Then don’t do the promotion. Seriously.


Study on Contests: Listeners Don’t Believe You

Why do many contests seem ineffective? Listeners think your promotions are rigged. This has been going on for years, but now 50%…HALF… of ratings respondents are skeptical. They know you’re trying to get them to listen more and listen longer, but that isn’t really the problem. The issue comes when they don’t think the prizes are legitimate or that real people are winning.




Why, you probably wonder? There are several reasons:



  1. Winners are rarely announced or celebrated. And even if you do announce the winner, they probably don’t actually hear it. This is particularly true if the promotion takes place through online registration. When that promotion ends, do you send an email to all entrants to let them know who won? For every giveaway? Completing the feedback loop is critical. It’s also an opportunity to promote the next chance to engage, and perhaps even gather more information via a post-promotion survey
  2. If the campaign is a call-in to win promotion, do them right! Provide enough access so listeners can actually get through, then answer your phone! How many times do they have to hear a busy signal before they stop trying? Is it a surprise that they don’t believe the contests are legitimate? They’ve never gotten through, and don’t know anyone who’s won a prize. And, they never see or hear the prize being awarded. Their conclusion? It’s bogus. You’re bogus. That’s why this Epic promotion that was all about telling the story of a winner had such a dramatic impact on the market. It was believable, and demonstrated the payoff.


Study On Contests: The Bottom Line

As Nuvoodoo concludes in their article:


Consumers demand more transparency from all businesses in 2016. Radio stations need to give high touch, human-scaled service to keep their edge in the face of new media competition.


How are you making your promotion efforts more believable?

Access all of the Nuvoodoo information here.

Tracy Johnson is one of the world’s leading talent coaches and programming consultants. Find out more here.

Tracy Johnson
Tracy Johnson Blog: Personal Story Competition
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Calling all air talent:

Following the webinar It’s Not About You, It’s all About You, a seminar detailing how air talent can bring stories from their off-air lives to the radio, I’m pleased to announce a Personal Story Competition.

All air talent is invited to submit an example of telling their best personal stories on the air.

By sharing your examples of personal stories, everyone in radio can benefit from your expertise and ideas.

Send entries in mp3 format to or just send me a link (or embed code) on Sound Cloud.

All entries will be posted, and available for voting through October 31. After voting is concluded, I’ll make short comments on each entry, and award the entry receiving the most votes with a more in-depth critique of the personal story entered.


Tracy Johnson
4 Coaching Tips To Help Talent Tell Better Personal Stories
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It's not about you main graphic

By Tracy Johnson

Every air personality should make it a priority to create unique, original content from their personal lives and observations, but most of them don’t have the 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.

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 mistakes talent makes 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 directly to the emotional essence of the content immediately.

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 all internal? Now, you can make this much better by finding a stronger entry point. By making it relatable:

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.

For example:

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.


For more on how to tell powerful personal stories on the air, check out my webinar It’s Not About You, It’s All About You.

Tracy Johnson Blog: Stop Obsessing About A Station App
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by Tracy Johnson

Apps are all the rage. Now that most of the population carries a smartphone, stations have elevated developing a dedicated app to a much higher priority. How’s that working out? And do you really need a dedicated station app?

The short answer: There’s nothing wrong with having an app for your station or for your show, as long as you have realistic expectations, develop it for the right reasons and actually put time and resources into keeping it relevant.

And, there’s no doubt that more and more listening will be taking place on mobile devices. So having a mobile presence is critical to your future success.
What The Research Shows

Let’s look at the numbers. In the United States, 49% smartphone app users tap on less than 10 apps in a week. (Survey by Localytics conducted by Research Now).

Less than half of all smartphone users tap on fewer than 10 apps per week. Does your radio station need a dedicated app?
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Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center report reveals that 62% of smartphone users had less than 20 total apps on their phone. Among those, 46% use just one to five apps per week.

More surprising, in a finding reported by eMarketer, many apps are deleted the same day they are downloaded. And after 30 days, only 3% of all newly downloaded apps still had active users.

Not surprisingly, apps installed for organic reasons, as opposed to the result of paid app-install ads, are more likely to be retained. After 30 days, an organic app install was 156% more likely than an ad-induced install to result in continued usage on Android phones.

So maybe you don’t really need one.

4 Reasons You May Not Need an App

There are plenty of app developers that can produce a good-looking app quickly and somewhat affordably. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

1. Audio Is Already Available.

First, the primary reason for having an app is to make your audio available on mobile devices. In that regard, there are options.When users can get thousands of audio streams on apps like iHeart, iTunes and Tune In, why would they download an app that offers just a single station?

Maybe it would be better to point your attention to getting your stream on those services.The counter-argument, of course, is that your station is unique, and has a fan base. The app could provide community for those fans. Evaluate your brand objectively. If the station is a commodity, without a loyal and passionate fanbase, don’t get an app. Don’t develop an app hoping to turn it into more fans. Apps won’t build fans.

2. Website is Responsively Designed.

One reason managers are drawn to apps is that they’re designed to fit mobile devices. But if your website is responsively designed, it functions as if it were an app already. It will adjust to the user’s screen. If your site is not responsive, you’d be much better off investing in that, rather than producing an app.
RELATED: Here’s a Cheat Sheet on Free Publicity For Your Show

Don’t launch an app just to fit a mobile screen. WP Hatch can design and manage your site quickly and affordably. Go here for details.

3. Will We Really Generate Revenue?

Another argument for apps is to add a revenue source. While it may be sexy to take that sponsorship package that demonstrates how exciting your digital presence is, this is a weak reason to create an app. Revenue derived from mobile apps is sustainable only if it delivers value to advertisers over time.

4. Our Website Is A Mess.

This is a sad commentary on the state of radio websites, but I’ve heard this more than once. Some programmers want a station-specific app because their website is a cluttered, jumbled mess and they know they can control the content on the app.Fight the clutter battle on your website. It will get far more traffic than your app.

If You Already Have A Station App

Maybe you already have an app, or have decided to get one. Now what? Three key things:

Manage it. Make sure it’s working, and keeps working. You can’t set it and forget it. As software is updated and new operating systems released, many apps have a tendency to break. If it doesn’t work, even once, chances are the user will delete or ignore your app. And they won’t tell you about it. So it’s up to you to launch the app and use it every day. Make sure it’s functional.

Program it. The primary reason anyone will use your app is to listen to your station, either live or on-demand. The app should be consistent, but it shouldn’t be static. Update the content regularly (daily) and use it to promote your station features, contests and content.

Promote it. They won’t find it on their own. It must be promoted. How will it be promoted? And what unique selling point makes it worthy of the time and resources dedicated to driving awareness?

Most smartphones are loaded with dozens (or hundreds) of apps, but that doesn’t mean users are actually using them, or even keeping them for long.

What It Means For Your Station

Look, I’m not against an app for your brand as long as it delivers value for listeners. Just make sure you’re developing the app for the right reasons and are able to devote resources to keeping it fresh, relevant and useful.

It’s a crowded competitive arena, and stations have limited resources. If you decide that an app fits your brand’s strategy, do it and do it well. However, based on my experience, most stations would be better served investing their resources (money and time) elsewhere.
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Tracy Johnson
Air Personalities: Never Ever Say THESE THINGS On the Air
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Usually, I hate lists like this. It seems simplistic, and well, list-y.

But I’ll make an exception.

Evaluate your show and listen for habits like this that subtly infiltrate your performance. Please add your own to the list!


About The Talent

“[Jock Name] along with you”
“[Jock Name] keeping you company”
“[Jock Name] on your radio”
“Our (midday, afternoon, night, overnight) jock”
“Hi, it’s Johnny Jock checking in with you…”
“I’m (name) until (time)” (and who will you be after that?)
“I’m ___ with you ’til _[time]_…” (just because your show is over, doesn’t mean the listener is done)
Promoting/Introducing/Backselling Music

“And the year was xxxx/We’re taking you back to xxxx” etc.
“That was (artist) that we heard from…”
“ and before that (back selling song)…” (We’ve been listening to radio long enough to know that when you are back announcing songs, the song title you say next was “before that!”)
“As we travel along in song together”
“As we travel back to [year]…” (don’t make me feel old!)
“Just ahead of [artists and or music sweep name here]” (like they are threatening to overtake us or something!)
“Let’s get back to more music…”
“Let’s keep the music rolling…” (really bad when used EVERY single time you hit the ramp)


Service Elements

“___ degrees on the outside”
“14 and a half minutes after 10” (Really? You need to be this exact down to the second with time? In fact, I’m not sure you need to give the time at all…except when promoting an upcoming feature)
“17 minutes before the hour”
“Sitting on [temp or time]”
“It’s xx degrees at the airport” (I’m not at the airport. Why would I care?)
“Currently it’s 58 degrees outside” (never use “currently”…it’s assumed!)
“It’s [time] here on 93X” (and everywhere else in the Time Zone)
“It’s 8:51, Nine minutes ’til eight, thirty-nine minutes ’til 9:30, if you gotta be there at 10, you have an hour and 9 minutes…”
“It’s presently (time/temp/both)” (“presently” actually means “soon”)
“The current temperature right now…” (from the Dept. of Redundancy Department)
“The wet stuff” (it’s rain, okay? Snow is not the White Stuff, either. Nobody ever says, “It’s the Wet Stuff outside. Looks like it might change to the White Stuff. I’d better get my boots.”)


Radio Terms

“Remote broadcast” or even just “remote” (they have no idea what that means)
“Meet and Greet” (they have no idea what that means…and it’s not exciting)
Any mention of a “desk” as in “newsdesk,” “weatherdesk,” “trafficdesk.” (I have never seen such a desk in any furniture store)
“Right around the corner” (how many times have you heard a jock say that a particular holiday, concert or other event is “right around the corner”? Where’s the corner?)
“Another long block of non stop rock”
“Control Board” or “Board” or “Controls”


Promotions and Contests

“Kxxx, where the winning is easy” (no…it’s not)
“Your chance to win” (they don’t want a chance to win. They want to actually win)
“The cue to call” or “the touchtones” (What the heck is that?)
“What station just made you a winner?” (and why am I such a loser?)
“Win tickets to” (They don’t want tickets…they want to experience the event)
“You just won yourself ___” (you can’t win “yourself”)


“Come on in and see the fine folks”
“Cruise on by and check it out…”
“Stop ON by…” and “Stop ON in…” (leave the word “On” out)



Dates, Days, Months: we all have calendars.
“Feel-good Friday”
“Cranking it up in JAMuary”
“Welcome to a Wednesday” (oh, you got there first?)
“Winning Wednesday”
“[Jock Name] with you during the month of Zeptember”
“Here on your ___day…” (who else’s?)
Just Plain Cheesy, Lame Radio Phrases
“And, if you’re listening in the car, thanks for the ride!”
“And, just a reminder…”
“Coming at ya” (it sounds like a physical threat)
“Here in the air-chair with you” or “Here in the big chair”
“Hiways and biways”
“I’m tellin’ you” and “I’ll tell you what” (just tell me. Don’t tell me that you’re going to tell me first)
“All roads lead to [where we’re broadcasting live]”
“At the Radio Ranch…”
“Broadcasting ‘live’ from…”
“Hope your day’s going well so far”
“I gotta tell you” or “Let me tell you”
“I wanna say ‘hi’ to ___ for checkin’ in” (what’s with all this “checkin’ in?” Are we conducting bed-checks or something?)
“Did you know…” or “Didja know…” (I guess I didn’t, until you told me. Thanks for making me feel like an idiot)
“Don’t touch that dial!”
“Glad to have you along…”
“Good morning!” (as a throw-away…too many jocks use it to hit the post, but do they MEAN it? I bet listeners could tell)
“Here’s what happening in our community…” (just tell them!)
“Let’s go to the phones…” (won’t the crappy sound of the call alone tell them this?)
“Lock it in to [station name]”
“Stick around” (also see “Hang Around”)
“Up next…”
“We’ll be right back…” (where are you going?)
“We’ll take more calls on the other side” (used when heading into a stopset. The other side of what?)
“We’re having a great time, here” (Don’t tell me, show me)

Have some of your own to add to the list? Let me know by email

And some bonus contributions from you!


From Dan “Tiny” Michaels, WAYZ-FM:

When doing an endorsement, NEVER say “Be sure to tell them that (jock name) sent you.” You’re giving the client an INSTANT barometer for whether or not your endorsement is working.

“Smart phone.” In this day and age, everyone has one, and those who don’t, don’t care. You can just say “download the app…”

I always tell jocks that saying “degrees” and “outside” is unnecessary. When you’re giving the weather and you say, “it’s 62,” listeners know you’re talking about the temperature, and that it’s the temperature OUTSIDE. Why would you give the INSIDE temperature?

In Production, never say, “…and more!” This is just a way to end a list of services and/or attractions. If it’s worth saying “and more,” it’s worth telling them what “and more” entails. And, to be honest, if you’ve listed EVERYTHING, is there really more?


Dick Wilson, morning star on KCMO-FM/Kansas City adds:

“Out and about”

And: I think people should stop trying to hit the post. It sounds like 1950s radio.

And, why do stations run ads for clients (especially casinos) that refer to their events “promotions”. That’s an insider term.

Tracy Johnson
TracyJohnsonBlog 0

Okay, so this is, like, an article about, ah, all those, um, bad habits air talent picks up, you know. Know what I mean? Fix these things and you can be super-better at your, um, job and stuff. You know? Whatever.

All air personalities develop crutches. It may be repeating  certain phrases (‘How you doin’ on a Thursday?”), running thoughts and sentences together or even just saying, “uh or um” all the time. Inserting these “filler” words into conversation slows the pace and gets in the way of communication.

Those little fillers happen when searching for the right word or waiting for our mouth to catch up with our thoughts. Soon they become ingrained and we don’t even hear ourselves using them, but it’s a barrier for your listener. In fact, at times she may hear nothing else.

It’s a huge potential problem for all broadcasters. Kevin Olmstead, who became famous for winning over $2 million winner on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, points out that breaking up a statement with fillers causes a loss in confidence from your audience. For example, read the following lines and compare how they sound:

We’re going to hunt down terrorists and bring them to justice, dead or alive!


We’re going to, ah, hunt down terrorists, and, um, bring them to justice, uh, dead or alive.

The second one demonstrates less confidence, doesn’t it? It sounds tentative and lacks conviction.

You can overcome those habits. First, you have to know they exist. Kim Welter, a member of Toastmasters and a former English teacher says,

 We seldom listen to ourselves, so we don’t know what the pattern might be,

This is where a program director or talent coach can help. If that’s not a possibility, air check yourself and pay specific attention to those little thijgs that stand out as crutches.

Once those things are identified, go to work on breaking the habit. Here’s how:

Change Your Posture. If you normally sit down to perform, stand up. If you typically lean back, lean forward. Getting out of the comfort zone can sharpen performance.

Pause Between Sentences. So many personalities run sentences together. One though bleeds into another with no pause or inflection change. Get into the habit of pausing just slightly between sentences.  This will separate thoughts and listeners will find it more understandable. And more relatable. This will also help eliminate filler words. “Uh and um” occur when personalities feel (usually subconsciously) that they have to keep talking.  But pausing between sentences can actually add more drama and impact to presentation.

Pausing is also effective to break the habit of using the same words over and over. Focus on that one word that is a crutch, and every time you start to say it, just pause briefly. Collect your thoughts and move on without the word. This feels awkward at first. It’s natural to try and fill all dead space with something. But it’s not awkward to the listener. It’s perfectly normal.

Prepare The Break. Performing spontaneously is important, but too many personalities take that to an extreme. Plan the structure of each break and know what will be said before you say it.  Visualize how the segment will flow.

Work on Body Language. Sometimes habits recur when personalities perform with their head down, or their eyes closed or staring straight ahead at the microphone. Stop this practice. Make eye contact with your co-hosts. If you don’t have a co-host, fake one. Tune a television to a channel with talking heads, and make eye contact with them. Or buy a mannequin to sit across the console. Or mount a poster on the wall.  Speaking directly and making eye contact helps eliminate distractions.

Focus. Breaks get off track when personalities try to do too many things at once. Stop trying to multitask and focus on the conversation. Be in the moment. If you’re thinking about the next segment, the next song, the next element…or worse, texting a friend…the habits will get worse.

It takes discipline and attention to detail to get rid of bad habits, but you can do it!

Thanks to The Blade for examples and help in creating this article.

Tracy Johnson
Don’t Make Programming Decisions Based on PPM
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Now that the larger markets are well into the PPM Era, with ratings measured by meters rather than the old diary methodology, it’s clear that stations sound different. In one ways, it’s an upgrade. We’re tighter and much of the fat has been trimmed. In other ways, not so much. We’ve sacrificed branding in the interest of keeping the momentum moving forward. This is most evident in how stations are imaged.

In many cases, producers have been reduced to creating a package of short, generic positioning statements that do little more than repeat the station’s name. That’s not branding. And it’s not imaging.

[tweet_box design="box_09"]Producing the sound of your station to manipulate a ratings service is the tail wagging the dog.[/tweet_box]

Proper imaging through production i the art of communicating an impression through a carefully crafted sound. How do you want listeners to know you? Are you hip? Smart? Irreverent? Funny? Whimsical? Imaging paints a picture of who you are, transcending the words chosen in the message. You don’t have to say you’re the station for local music and concert connections. Just be it and demonstrate it. This is powerful.

As programmers and consultants analyze ratings data, breaking it down into 5 minute increments and fine tuning the science of ratings manipulation-(Side Rant: Yeah, great idea to jam 8 minutes of commercials in the last quarter hour. It’s unlistenable and advertisers get almost no value, but we score a few more occasions in the front half of the hour)-imaging has become sterile, another element in our creative palette diluted and dull.

It’s become a collection of facts, information and teasers that add no color to the listening experience. We aren’t allowing our creative types the freedom to be vibrant, bringing our brands to life.

Imaging is marketing. All great marketing campaigns stoke the emotions with provocative imagery. Budweiser connects their brand to your experience, whether that’s  horses playing football or nostalgic feelings about your youth. It’s all to position their beer. Dove shows women how to be embrace their inner beauty. Campbell’s Soup taps into the feeling of safety and comfort of home.

Coca-Cola never promotes the soft drink by telling you that “It tastes great because it’s made with vanilla extract. We put in just the right amount so it works at cookouts in the backyard or on the go at the beach. Try some Coke today and share it with a friend. We know you’re going to love it”. Or, to PPM the message: “More vanilla extract than Pepsi..that’s the secret of Coke.”

It’s easy (and fast) to bang out factual copy. Write some liners that promote “90 minutes commercial free starting at 9am” or “The perfect station at work”. But it’s boring. And it’s not effective. Because it’s factual and not emotional.

  • Creative, clever writing. Notice I didn’t say long copy. You don’t have to sacrifice brevity for effectiveness.
  • Colorful voice talent. Find a voice actor that represents your brand values in tone and personality.
  • Communication. Everyone on your team must share the vision of your brand’s desired personality.
  • Active management. You can’t set it and forget it. Imaging adds stationality, and that demands constant attention.

Imaging is your opportunity – many times per hour – to influence listener perceptions, to implant your brand any way you want. Don’t waste it.


For more insights ideas and articles like this, visit our website at  Tracy Johnson Media Group provides programming consultation to radio stations worldwide, with an emphasis on personality radio.

Tracy Johnson Blog: How Do Today’s Personalities Differ From The Past?
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Scott Shannon, my personal radio hero and legendary programmer and personality in NYC, recently said in response to a question of what makes his show successful (Inside Radio interview):

People enjoy looking into someone else’s life. If you can put yourself out there and make it interesting, that’s a big part of a compelling morning show. As many people have said in the past, it’s like “Friends” or “Seinfeld”—you have characters on your show and you try to bring out their personalities and things that would be interesting to other people. Sometimes you might have to magnify their characteristics but that’s called show business. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s intriguing and sometimes it’s sad. It’s different every day.

The formula for success on the air has changed…no doubt about it, and Scott’s show is a shining example of remaining relevant by evolving over time.

How have personalities changed? That’s just one of the topics addressed in this podcast.

Listen as I speak with Jamie Ashbrook of (based in the UK)  on the evolution of air talent, and a variety of other talent-oriented topics:

<iframe width=”100%” height=”166″ scrolling=”no” frameborder=”no” src=”;color=ff5500″></iframe>

What can you add to the list? How has the art of on-air performance changed since you got into the business?

Tracy Johnson: This Is How to Hijack Local Topic
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It’s my position that every personality should be able to talk about any topic. The key is the entry point, how they approach the topic through their character and within the audience’s expectation.

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, one of the local issues was the length of time the “walk” light would be on in pedestrian crosswalks. An initiative was introduced to add 3 seconds to the duration. Believe it or not, a political firestorm developed and this controversy became a topic that everyone was talking about.

Here’s a great example of a radio show capturing the moment in a local topic.

On CHR 101.3 The Bounce, the morning show normally wouldn’t deal with politics or really much of anything serious, but Turk, Rachel & Amateur Alex found an entry point that fit their character and show perfectly.

Their angle? What will we do with the extra time in the crosswalk? This video resulted:

It’s fun, light, and fits their personality like a glove. The show inserted their character into a local topic.h

This is an example of what it means to know your listener and be actively involved in the lifestyle of the audience, reflecting what’s relevant by making it relatable.



Airchecker Welcomes Tracy Johnson
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Airchecker excited to announce Tracy Johnson. A new contributor to the Airchecker community. The Tracy Johnson Blog will be exciting with today’s best news on the execution of radio delivery. We know his blog will fire up  radio professionals resource information to make you better.Tracy Johnson is the CEO of the Tracy Johnson Management Group.

Tracy Johnson

Founder, President and CEO Tracy Johnson has a long and decorated career as a broadcast executive, specializing in programming, marketing, talent coaching and management. He has been recognized as Best Programmer in America by Radio Inkmagazine and won numerous industry awards. Johnson was VP/General Manager and Program Director of San Diego’s top radio cluster for more than a decade.

Johnson has written three books about developing on-air superstars that have been described as The Bible of Personality Radio. The books have been a guide for tens of thousands of personalities and programmers in over 40 countries.

His career has been built on creating dynamic brands (both on and off the air) through personality and promotion. Since 2007, Johnson has helped over 700 brands increase their influence through engaging audiences and building direct, one-to-one relationships with existing and new listeners, viewers, readers, visitors and customers.