Tracy Johnson Archives - Airchecker
Home  »  Community News  »  Tracy Johnson Archives - Airchecker
Tracy Johnson
Secret To Managing Talent: Treat Them Like Dogs
TracyJohnsonBlog 0 , ,  
Treat Them Like Dogs Main Image copy

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
TracyJohnsonBlog 0 ,  

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
TracyJohnsonBlog 0 , , ,  

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.