Connecting With the Audience On a Deeper Level By Andy Meadows

Many on-air shows, solo and teams, are only creating surface connections with their audience. They opt to keep it light by choosing low hanging fruit content, ignoring the big things (or just mentioning them to check off a box) and not digging enough to find their angle. That lack of connection is why they don’t light up the phones unless their doing contesting, have nothing to turn into digital content after the show and ultimately why they underperform at ratings time. But, with a little coaching any show can be taught to establish deeper, lasting connections with their audience. Here are a few of the keys to connecting more deeply.

First and foremost, we have to learn to listen. One of the biggest misconceptions in radio is that being a good talker is the most important thing. We often look for people who have ‘the gift of gab’ and can fill any awkward silence with words that are well delivered and at least loosely on topic. That often leads to shows that are more for the talent themselves then for the listener, topics are chosen based on internal interest instead of external, and breaks are often twice the warranted length. In reality, the most important trait of a successful on-air personality is their ability to listen. If we really want to connect with someone, all we have to do is listen to them and eventually they will tell us how to connect with them. That’s why it’s SO important for on-air talent to engage with listeners every chance they get, working the phones, responding to comments on social media and having meaningful conversations with them at events. We cannot connect with someone if we don’t know a LOT about them and one of the WORST things we can do is assume we know everything about our audience based on very little information.

Getting good at that first step helps us master the second, identifying interesting storylines that will appeal to our audience. Storylines are the key to opening up all kinds of topics (Current events, pop culture, personal stories). They take things of narrow interest and make them broad appeal. Let’s use the Oscars this weekend as an example. Ratings were up for this year’s event, however, only 5% of Americans tuned in, meaning of course that 95% didn’t. That’s the rationale that many shows use to ignore the event all-together or just recap a few of the winners and move on. But, the truth is, even though only a couple of us actually watch the Oscars, MANY of us have an opinion and talk about it even if we just saw a couple quick clips of it on social media or YouTube. Again, the trick for taking a narrow appeal event like the Oscars and making it mass appeal is identifying the storylines. Once we’ve done that we can brainstorm and develop our angle (Or angles if we’re hitting it multiple times) for how we’re going to talk about it on air in a way that’s relevant and interesting to our local audience.

Here are a few example storylines and angles from this year’s Oscars:

  • (Silly) I would’ve never guessed a cheesy 1992 comedy, ‘Encino Man’, would have such a massive impact on the Oscars by helping to launch the careers of this year’s best actor and best supporting actor. What silly 80s/90s comedy will impact next year’s Oscars, or what other Pauly Shore movie? (This could work on a station with a core demo in their 40s and 50s)

  • (Frustrating) Did you see the lady in the white dress blocking the view for people three rows behind her. What would you do if you paid $750 for a seat only to end up staring at someone’s bad fashion choice?

  • (Inspirational) It’s never too late. 64-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis just won her first Oscar. What thing have you always wanted to accomplish that you’ll commit to doing within this calendar year?

  • (Funny) Jimmy Kimmel’s bit that landed awkwardly in the room, but likely had everyone at home laughing was when he said this in the opening monologue (Play clip or deliver yourself) ‘If anything violent or unpredictable happens tonight, do what you did last year…. Nothing”. What unpredictable thing would you have liked to see happen last night? (Then go into some extreme and silly examples).

  • (Uncomfortable) Hugh Grant’s awkward night, before the scrotum comment on stage he did an uncomfortable red-carpet interview that made you feel bad for the reporter just doing her job to try and get something out of him. Why wouldn’t Hugh just keep walking and choose not to do the interview or, better yet, stay at home if he doesn’t want to take part in an event?

  • (Emotional) If you didn’t tear up a little bit during Ke Huy Quan’s acceptance speech, about going from being a Vietnamese refugee to an American Oscar winner, than something’s wrong with you. What has someone in your life overcome to achieve something great recently? (There’s also the Indiana Jones/Harrison Ford storyline with Ke Huy Quan as well.)

What do you think? How did you approach talking about the Oscars this week? More broadly, how do you typically connect with your audience on a deeper level? Comment below or email me at

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