Monday, March 11, 2013

If You Want To Be A Radio Personality

It has been too long since I recycled a Jay Trachman treasure:

Focus on four areas, which I think are universal necessities for putting yourself across as a "friend" -- someone who's "for real" -- and training the listener to pay attention.

1.  You've got to be speaking to someone specific.
Not a demographic, not an average - someone who is very real to you (even if it's a fantasy), and with whom you feel comfortable. Two reasons: first, the safety this Personal Listener affords you - to block out the masses and picture yourself with this one valued friend - allows you to display a spectrum of emotions you'd never reveal to a crowd of strangers. (More about this in a moment.) Second, when you truly believe you're talking to one person, everyone listening who seeks companionship from his/her radio will fantasize that this person is them.

The Personal Listener has a name, a family, a history, an occupation, a hair color and all the other attributes required so you can picture him or her in your mind when you open the mike. And their primary reason for being there is not the music or the information you offer; it's to spend time with you, because he or she enjoys your company. Not what you do - who you are.

2.  You've got to be focusing on the person you're speaking to, rather than the words you're saying.  

Otherwise one hears strange inflection patterns and often a hyped energy level that sounds phony. A programmer tells the young jock, "Be up and bright!" It's nice when you are, but it's not appropriate coming out of a soft ballad. When you say the station identifier - no one could possibly be that enthusiastic about something they say every five minutes for four hours. You can announce those words and say them authoritatively - but when you feign enthusiasm, you destroy any chance that the listener will relate to you as a person.

3.  In order to be perceived as a friend, you must behave like one.
That means doing the things all human beings do. Among them: showing the spectrum of your emotions. Sometimes people are happy; sometimes they're sad. Sometimes they're angry and sometimes they're tender. You don't have any friends who don't show all these emotions - and more - to you, over a period of time. It's something people expect from one another. You can't achieve emotional intimacy - friendship - with your listener without doing it.

4.  You have to prepare material for your show.
Most important, you need to be armed with Life Content when you walk in the studio. Life Content:  brief bits about your life experiences and your responses to them. Anything which caused you strong feelings is worth talking about with your listener. Most jocks don't do show prep - especially after the morning show. I've heard every excuse in the book. But the bottom line is, they almost uniformly fail to entertain.

Most of the jocks I hear who don't prep rely on station slogans, positioners, promos and whatever other liner-card junk they can come up with. One of the hallmarks of the DJ who has nothing to say is that those crutch phrases get repeated way more than the programmer or consultant requires. These DJs train the listener to tune them out anytime they open the mike. Ultimately, a survey-taker comes along and asks people what they like least about the station, and they'll reply, "The DJs talk too much!"  They don't talk too much - they don't say anything worth hearing!

Entertainment means: enabling another to experience his or her feelings in a safe environment.  Make a person laugh, make them cry, make them shake their fists in anger - you have committed entertainment. Every bit you do should lead to an expression of emotion, calculated to make your listener feel something in response. This is exactly what the music you play does.  You need to do it, too.

Being a radio performer isn't rocket science... But it does require some understanding and a good deal of work - both before air time and during.

Or... you could settle for being an interchangeable jock who wonders why you can never make much more than minimum wage...

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