Giving Yourself Permission to Be You On-Air Personal Worksheet
By Angela ‘the girl with many last names’ Stevens
Lead with Values: Every break contains a value,
spoken or unspoken. Even “fun” is a
Values Important to My Station:
Values Important to Me:
Determine your Personal Filter: Every person has a unique point of view. Who is your on-air character?
(Ex: I’m a stressed mom, I’d like life to be easier sometimes, but I realize I’m a mess and I laugh at it.)
Questions to ask:
- What makes me laugh/cry?
- Who’s pain do I feel?
- Who’s problems do I like to solve?
- What do I do well (on and off the air)?
- What’s my comedic personality? (exaggeration, self deprecation, etc.)
- Who do I relate to best?
My Personal Filters Are:
My Station’s Filters Are:
Give Yourself Permission to Experiment
- Lead with your values to minimize backlash. Usually backlash comes against a perceived set of unequal values. They want to know you’re reflecting their values.
- Ground yourself in support. It takes courage to be daring, having other people to support you will make it easier. Talk to your PD, GM, Consultant, Co-workers, ask for their support as you try new things.
Permission Slip Exercise:
What do you refrain from doing on the air because you’re afraid someone may disapprove? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Who am I afraid will disapprove? ______________________________________________________________________________
What’s important about having their approval? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What might you need to let go of in order to give yourself permission to try it? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What’s one way you could execute this while still holding the values of the station and your listener? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
I, _______________, give myself permission to experiment and be authentically me on air this week. Signed, _________________________________________________________________
That is how much K-LOVE has paid to acquire six stations from Cumulus: WPLJ in NYC, WYAY in Atlanta, WRQX in Washington D.C., KFFG in San Jose, WZAT in Savannah, GA, and WXTL in Syracuse, NY.
Cumulus needed the cash and K-LOVE has it. They’re not sorry and neither should you be. Here is my humble recommendation to individual station operators: get hungry, stay humble, and innovate!
K-LOVE has built its mega-network to scale. I’d contend that one of the best ways to ensure local Christian radio stations thrive is to do the same. Create a Co-Op within the industry with shared resources. Jon Hamilton suggested this very idea in 2017. Perhaps, it’s time. We could take a lesson from Ace Hardware, which has turned the local hardware store into a $5.1 Billion dollar Co-Op ,competing with the big national chains.
Imagine a world where local stations shared production resources, the very best talent, fundraising strategies, music testing, contesting, and promotions. Each local station GM/PD would still be empowered to make the best decisions for their market but as part of the Co-Op would have access to the supply-chain and commit to a standards of excellence for being in the Co-Op.
Let’s do it. Who’s in?
The greats in any field make their craft look easy. Michael Jordan has even apologized for that fact. Radio is no different. I was asked to share what it takes to create great on-air content at Positive Alternative Radio’s Vision Week. In my observation, it starts with this:
- Schedule Daily Creative Time
You’re not Tom Hanks. You can’t wing a compelling performance. In fact, even Tom doesn’t wing it most of the time. When he makes an appearance on a talk show, he comes prepared with stories. Stories crafted to perfection. Many on-air radio people wear multiple hats and go from meeting to meeting, directly into the studio to do their show. This is a recipe for mediocrity, at best. You must organize your time to maximize creativity. Spend a minimum of 1 hour per day planning and writing your show before it starts. If you get writer’s block, do what bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert recommends to overcome: set a timer. Turn off social media, grab your notes, and force yourself to sit there with a blank page and write out your breaks.
- Ask Questions
Filmmaker and showrunner Brian Koppelman uses the expression “the answer to a movie,” as if a movie is a problem. But, of course, it is. It’s the problem of unlocking the viewer. To gain enrollment. To have them let you in. To get a chance to tell your story, and then, even better, to have that story make an impactSeth Godin in This is Marketing
What is the answer to your show? How will you unlock your listener today? To have them let you in. Ask yourself, what does she need today? Does she need to laugh, be encouraged, or maybe informed about a major storm? Focus on her needs, not the stations. Ask, what do you want her to feel with each break?
On the air, before you share a story about your life or experience, ask your listener an open- ended question to set it up. Ask her what she thinks about the subject first. Questions show interest, create understanding, and build rapport.
- Own Your Show
Retired Navy Seal and author of the book Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink argues there is only one way to get better at your craft, and “it’s the way of discipline”. There is no shortcut. To be remarkable, you have to do the work. Take ownership of your show and don’t make excuses for not prepping.
Have you ever had a hard time hearing what a radio personality was saying? How about listening to the radio and knowing the jock was voice-tracked? Maybe the levels were off, or the DJ sounded too muddy.
In radio, audio is your medium. There are no visuals. All content is sound-based, making the quality of that audio paramount. Radio stations may have the best on-air personalities and content, but if the audio sounds dull or loose, your listeners are more inclined to switch the station.
A prime example of sloppy audio is when a song is trailing, and the listener can’t make out the jock’s important commentary. Details matter. Those loose sound elements and hard-to-hear segments are costing us.
Here are three simple, but effective ways for all stations to improve their sound quality. And while some may sound intuitive, many radio stations are missing the mark.
1. Roll off the low end on the mics.
I know many jocks enjoy hearing the tone of their voice. But rolling off the low-end allows listeners to actually HEAR the jocks over the heads and tails of songs, music beds, and sound effects.
After all, most people are listening to us in their cars. We are competing with background noise from the road or kids in the backseat. So, while this may seem obvious, let’s focus on creating clear, crisp audio for our listeners. I encourage you to read through how NPR gets its signature sound. True, they are using Neumann U87s, but the secret is less about the mic and more about how they roll off the low end.
2. Request higher quality audio files.
When you begin with low quality, you end up with low quality. You can tweak a couple of things, but you can’t bring back clarity and intelligibility.
As an audio guy, I prefer uncompressed wav files. But I know most people just send mp3s. So, whether it’s voice tracks or spots, request mp3s at a bit rate of 320 kbits/sec, no less than 192 kbits/sec. Some may push back on sending such large files. Some claim the file size doesn’t make a difference in the sound. But I’d argue that you absolutely CAN notice a difference. A 60-second spot at 192 kbits/sec is about 1.2MB (megabytes) in size. At 320, that same spot is 2.4MB. If an additional 1.2MB is going to fill up your hard drive, you might have other problems.
The lower the bit rate, the lower the quality of the audio. Cymbals become sloshy, and voices lose their clarity. With radio, you are already fighting against signal loss and interference. But my guess is, even if you have a low power signal and not a 50,000-watt flamethrower, you still want your audio to sound as clear and crisp as possible.
3. Rely on humans, not automation.
A human must touch every piece of audio that plays on the air. In particular, you need a human to run sound if you are a smaller station with tracked shows.
And these humans must do more than drag and drop audio files. Audio levels vary when you receive files from clients or syndicated jocks. If you drag and drop those files into cart numbers and let the automation clean it up, the result will be loose, muddled audio. When you don’t set the pulses or triggers manually, you are at the mercy of whatever dead air is at the end of the audio. Your automation may automatically correct some silence, but my experience is people trump computers.
Another issue is letting the on-air processing take care of the levels. When you rely solely on automation, the overall sound will continuously fluctuate as the processing adjusts to each audio element. Same with music. Just by having a human load the audio into your system, they can pay attention to the levels and adjust accordingly. Think of them as quality control.
When a jock is live on the air, they control when songs begin and when she starts and stops talking. Don’t we always want to portray a live show? If your station is receiving tracks from a non-live jock, have your audio person load their tracks in like they were a jock live on the air. Have their tracks start right after the downbeat of that last song and lead right up to the post of the next song. Put in the effort to make a tracked show sound as tight and fluid as a live show.
Too many stations still struggle with dead air. A song is ending. The singer’s last note is bellowing, and as it fades out, a tracked voice announces the artist’s name and song title. A long pause follows. Then listeners hear an abrupt switch to a pre-recorded voice saying the station’s name. Another moment of silence. Finally, after all the stops and starts, the jock gets on and talks. We can avoid these unprofessional sequences if we have humans paying attention to dubbing the audio in and tightening up when elements start and stop.
Don’t be lazy with your audio. It’s your product. Raise the bar. Make your audio sound the best it can sound. Don’t let listeners change the station before a poignant or funny thought.
People can sense the difference in quality audio. They might not be able to put their finger on it, but they know when something sounds cheap instead of polished.
About the Author:
Luke Broersma has degrees in music and audio recording. He worked at K-LOVE and Air1 for 15 years as a multimedia producer, making spots and creating videos. He currently works at CURE International, continuing to make spots for radio, and video documentaries.
“It’s not show friends, it’s show business”
– Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) in ‘Jerry Maguire’
Have you ever noticed how many of your friends are not hosting radio shows? They aren’t cut out for it. Your real-life friends probably think it’s easy to do radio … a few of them may even start a podcast but no one, not even you, will listen. Love ya, pal, but who has time for that?
Many Christian radio stations are branded with imaging that includes “your friends” or “family friendly”. That’s a wonderful brand promise: no swearing, talking about sex, or saying anything kid-inappropriate. My dentist is family-friendly too, but I only go when mandated, every six months. We must be more than “clean;” try, compelling.
Lest we forget, radio is show business. You don’t work in a factory and have a shift. You work at a radio station and have a show. Shows are written, edited, and produced. They can’t be winged.
“To wing indicates the capacity to play a role without knowing the text, and the word itself came into use from the fact that the artist frequently received the assistance of a special prompter, who …stood … screened by a piece of the scenery or a wing.” Stage Magazine, 1885.
The quality of a show hinges on its combination of prep and production value. Finding show prep (topics) is half the work. The other, harder, half is figuring out what to do with your prep. That’s where the production comes in. Taking the raw prep and creating something magical out of it, that makes a show.
Producing a show requires using everything at your disposal to curate the perfect moment for your listeners. Every break. Filtered, edited, outlined, and re-edited before you open the mic. Let’s examine each step.
- Filtered: Do your listeners care about this topic? Is it relevant?
- Edited: Everyone has the same access to Facebook and can see what’s trending. Listeners don’t need or want you to read to them what you saw on the internet. They want you to tell them a story in a unique and compelling way.
- Outlined: Determine the emotion you’re looking to convey. (A) Now, put the emotion up front. (B) Then, figure out your exit. Finally, practice how you’re going to get from point A to point B.
- Re-edited: Could you make it shorter? Should you add some audio candy (a sounder, clip from YouTube, or a perfect piece of music to fit underneath the break)?
For team shows, try putting a 30-minute production meeting on your calendar pre-show to review all your prep and determine what elements are needed to enhance the content. This small investment of your time will pay huge dividends.
Help me…help you. I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally published on AllAccess.com
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GM to PD: “What happens if we invest in developing our air talent and then they leave?
PD to GM: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?
Christian radio is now in that blessed season between summer and Christmas known as “Fundraising.” This holiday also includes decorations; like signs with your phone number, tables covered in decadent food, and kind volunteers hovering over your station’s phones.
Maybe you’ve noticed that many stations and networks bring in coaches and consultants to optimize their fundraising performance. Yet, many of these same stations don’t provide coaching for their air talent outside of their fundraisers. Why is that? Isn’t a personality’s performance important the rest of the year?
The greatest advantage radio has over streaming music services is our air talent. Alas, personalities can also be our greatest liability if they’re dull. Talent coach Valerie Geller says, “There are no boring stories, only boring storytellers.”
So, what do LeBron James, Lauren Daigle, and Oprah have in common, other than being incredibly talented, affable, and at the top of their respective fields? Each has a coach to help them discover their blind spots and continually improve their performance. A blind spot is an area where a person’s view is obstructed. You can’t see what you don’t see and you can’t hear what you don’t hear. We all need a trusted outsider’s perspective.
I feel passionately about this: everyone in CCM radio should have a coach who understands the PD, who understands the talent, and who truly understands the mission of Christian radio.
If you don’t currently have a coach, please ask for one. If your station won’t provide one, I’d encourage you to take responsibility for your own growth and hire one yourself.
In the wise words of philanthropist and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
This article was originally published on AllAccess.com