Internal VS External Talk Breaks By Andy Meadows

It’s critically important to the successful operation of a music-based radio station over long periods of time that we program the music externally instead of internally. However, choosing the music we’re going to play is only one of the many programming decisions we make daily. The other two major daily programming decisions involve what happens between the records, strategic imaging and what our on-air talent choose to talk about. Let’s focus on the latter since it’s the harder of the two to manage, coach and control. 

Almost by default, most on-air talent start off with internally focused talk breaks. Frankly, it’s hard not to. Our personal interests are the things we know well enough to sound reasonably knowledgeable and interesting talking about them. Plus, it’s easy to talk ourselves into the trap that most of our listeners probably like many of the same things we like (Which is rarely that true depending on our age, interest, gender, personalities, lifestyle and the age, interest, gender, personalities, lifestyle of our station’s average listener.) Just like when we’re staring a new romantic relationship, we should never begin an on-air relationship with new listeners talking too much about ourselves and our interests. Also, the longer on-air talent do this the harder it is to correct (the old horse out of the barn adage.) 

So, how do we make this transition to choosing and talking about content externally in a way that’s much more likely to attract/retain the interest of our listeners? First, we start with a basic understanding of the stations core demo. (Shockingly there are many working on-air talent that don’t know their station’s core demo.) Then, we do a deeper dive by meeting many of them on-site at events, within the community, talking to them on the phone during our shifts, engaging with them through email and even more so on social media. From that we begin making educated guesses as to what they’re interests are and we begin studying those, watching, listening and reading up on the same things they are most likely to care about. We begin working some of those into segments to see what they engage with by starting conversations that we bring them in on through the phones, web/social. As we find things that stick, we turn them into regular benchmarks and features so we have promotable daily listening appointments. 

By this point we’ll know our listeners, and they will know us, well enough that we can not only choose topics they are likely to relate to, but also find our own angles to add to that content and expand on it. Then, before we know it, we’re communicating like old friends that connect via the radio for a minimum of fifteen to thirty minutes per day and they’ve been converted to die-hard P1s. 

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