Stop Being Vague On-Air By Andy Meadows

Like it or not, technology has shortened all of our attention spans. When we’re watching a show and a scene is dragging on a little longer than it should we reach for our phones to entertain us during the lull. In a zoom meeting that could’ve been an email we open another browser to watch some sports highlights. Reading a blog  that’s restating something the writer has already said in previous blog posts, we throw on the earbuds and supplement it with one of our favorite podcasts (that one hits a little too close to home.) My point is, there are countless things available to us today to distract us if, god forbid, we’re bored for even a few seconds. So, in radio we have to work extra hard now to attract and retain our listeners’ attention at all times. Being less vague and more specific will help us do that. Here are a few ways that being too vague negatively impacts our daily programming.

1) Teases: Regardless of what it’s for, general teases do not work on the radio. Saying ‘more great music coming up’ has never convinced a single listener, who was planning on changing it the second they heard an ad, to stick around. Adding the type of music helps a bit, and is good branding, but it’s still unlikely to work. A specific song or artist they’re into is a step in the right direction. Adding an interesting tidbit about that song or artist makes it even more likely to work and is also more entertaining. Gamifying it by making it part of a fun, interactive music game is even better (SIDE NOTE: It doesn’t have to be attached to a prize). Similarly, most of the content teases I hear are either too general to work because they don’t tell the listener enough to pique their interest or conversely too revealing because they giveaway the headline or the out (or on-air talent’s take/angle). Great content teases start by first identifying the hook of the content break and then crafting a tease to that hook. Another teasing mistake established shows make is just teasing to the segment/feature name instead of the specific content within that content container on that day. Existing listeners may know what that segment/feature entails, but new listeners who are coming in at all times don’t. Not too mention, specific teases are more likely to work on all listeners. Also, I know it's basic, but it bears repeating. All teases should tell the listener exactly when to listen for what we’re teasing, ‘next’ if it’s the very next element after what we’re going into, ‘in x minutes’ if it’s less than 10 to 15, timestamped ‘at x’ time if it’s more than 10 to 15 minutes out.

2) Promos: When done right, recorded promos and imaging are a very effective way to tell existing listeners about our major contests and promotions. What I mean by done right is short, specific on the listener benefit and repeated often. The minutia of details are for the station website and the personality should be left to the on-air personalities (we call them that for a reason). Jockless stations can rely on the voice talent to add some personality with funny, well written and executed station promos. But, there have to be A LOT of them or they will wear very quickly. Stations that have on-air talent should use them to add that personality and breathe life into whatever the station is promoting rather than the big voice guys and gals. It’s ok to be a little vague in the ‘save the date’ type teases we run a week or two prior to starting a major contest but we still want to tell listeners the main reason why we’re asking them to make that appointment to be by the radio starting at x time on x date.

3) Outside marketing: With the tight budgets we’re all now dealing with, opportunities to use outside marketing to promote our radio stations are few and far between. So, when we do get those opportunities it’s important that we make the most of them by being VERY specific about what’s in it for that potential listener if they choose to sample our stations to participate in one of our contests, listen to our new morning show or be entertained by our regular programming. A few quick things I’ll say about that. Don’t promote a new morning show until it’s got it’s legs under it and gelled enough so that it’s actually worthy of promoting, which I can help with (coaching new shows is one of my specialties). The trick to using outside marketing to promote any station’s regular programming is first identifying the strategic points of difference of that station within the market and finding a concise and specific way to explain that in the few words or seconds that come with whatever outside marketing we’re doing.

Part of the reason radio still dominates in car listening is because it’s one area where distractions are somewhat limited since drivers are hopefully focusing on the road. So, by design we’re competing with a few less options. Plus, our stations are strategically built to perform well in this environment. But, we’re still dealing with drivers who’s attention spans have changed over the years and are therefore more likely to switch to something else if we’re not being specific enough to attract and retain their attention.

What do you think? Comment below or email me at

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