Like many people I grew up watching Saturday Night Live and I still quote lines from it with references that are increasingly lost on people with each passing year. Because I’m a superfan one of the podcasts I go out of my way to listen to every week is ‘Fly On The Wall’ with Dana Carvey and David Spade. Each episode they bring on cast members, hosts and other people in the SNL orbit to reminisce about their experiences on the show. Predictably the conversation often turns to the show’s creator Lorne Michaels, leading Carvey, Spade and the guest to launch into their Lorne impressions because seemingly everyone has one. Recently, they had the man himself on for a two-part episode and one of the nuggets of wisdom the SNL legend shared with his former employees applies perfectly to radio personalities and on-air content.
They were discussing how Lorne could tell whether a sketch was destined to create some of those memorable, quotable moments that turn it into a recurring sketch and eventually a movie. His answer was simple, the common denominator is one word, “Fun”. When the cast members seem like they’re genuinely having fun and they’re able to bring the audience in on that fun, those magical moments tend to happen. I know that may sound simple, but I believe it’s a true and very powerful statement. Audiences pick up on when we’re having genuine fun, or when we’re being professional and faking it to mask our dislike for what we’re performing, and that ‘genuine fun’ is incredibly contagious.
But, the second part is equally important. I hear lots of on-air shows that sound like THEY are having fun, but they do little, or nothing, to bring the audience in on that fun. I call it having a party for one, or two/three on team shows, instead of having a party for everyone. A great metaphor for why this is bad to do is the party next door. Anyone that’s every lived in an apartment has probably heard their next-door neighbor having a huge party. At first, it’s kind of interesting to be a voyeur and hear that party going on, but quickly it becomes depressing, and ultimately annoying, that we weren’t invited to the party. Shows that are too internally focused tend to sound like either a party the audience wasn’t invited to or, even worse, a party they were invited to but it’s 100% focused on the hosts having fun instead of them. Think my wife inviting you to my birthday party, where of course all of the presents are for me, but upon arrival she also tells you to think of a story to share about how great I am and informs you that she’s come up with some awesome party games that Andy’s going to play while we all sit and watch him have fun. Sounds like a terrible party right? At least for everyone but me.
So, what’s the solution for shows becoming a party for everyone. First, evaluating all of our features/benchmarks/daily content decisions to make sure we're more externally focused than internally focused. Then, coming up with engagement angles to make each segment more interactive so we can air TONS of listener audio throughout the show. Finally, engaging with our audience consistently on social media and taking the time to respond to them in the comments. It’s also important to close the loop on social by doing some fun off-air digital content the day prior that sets listening appointments for specific times the next day, scheduling some of those to be immediate and post during the show for on-air content coming up soon and extending fun on-air content that gets great engagement by doing something longer form to share to web/social (Like a video, podcast episode or both) after the show.
However, radio talent who aren't having fun on air themselves need to find some way to rediscover that joy they had when they first started on air. After all, it should be the fun part of the job!
What do you think? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.