Making the Emotional Connection with Your Listeners

Dave Charles – ByrnesMedia

With so many information and entertainment sources to draw from, radio talent must lift their game to a new level.

“Creating Emotional Moments On Air” is a subject that my consulting associates Tracy Johnson and Alan Burns used to practice in extremely competitive markets like San Diego, New York and Los Angeles.  Tracy and Alan wrote a book called ‘Morning Radio’ which is still available through the NAB book store, and is a brilliant collection of concepts that are still relevant for today’s on-air performers, particularly the Morning Show talents.

Let’s look at some of the key things that you can apply today to make your talent shine.

Radio faces many new competitive challenges from the internet, and now social media, led by Facebook and Twitter.  Listeners are bombarded with too many messages.

The key is to be very immediate and as local as possible on your station.  The essence of new media is that it’s very personal and specific to those included in that social network. So if your station is not engaging listeners on a emotional and real level, you’ll lose them to personal networks. 

The thing that will differentiate your station, is that you must now reach your audience on an emotional level. That is your new mission.

How can we create those emotional moments on air?  Ask: In what ways can we cause listeners to be afraid to turn off the radio because they might miss something?  How can we turn a local topic into a real life drama that listeners will talk about? 

To achieve these emotional connections, you need to evaluate your station through the eyes and ears of your listeners.  How?  Through ‘listener advisory meetings’.  Listen to what your listeners say and how they say it to get new clues for real, fresh contact. I’d do these groups every month.  Ideally have no more than 10 to a group.  Moderating these groups requires the creation of great questions. 

There are NO RULES to make the great emotional connections work.  In fact, you need to break the rules and take risks.  Creative risk taking is the key.  Taco Bell said to its customers to ‘think outside the bun’. You need to think outside your format to get a fresh perspective.  Be open to new ideas and new creative approaches.

Start by adjusting your objectives for the station.  Set non-ratings goals.  Set some non-revenue goals and then set some NEW listener-related goals.

Start by getting to know your listeners again!  What’s on their current radar?  What’s their buzz all about?  What’s their point of view on the hot topics?

Where do you need to focus to achieve emotional connection for your station? What part of your station is under performing?  Don’t let it sink, fix it! 

The Toronto Maple Leafs, in 29th place, just traded 6 players.  Talk about a shake up.  You know that even if they don’t win another game, the Leaf fans will be happy that they did something on a very emotional level.  They changed the makeup of the team. They ripped the heart out of the team and put in a new one.  That’s as emotional as you can get. 

I did a bit once where I suggested that the city ‘FIRE THE MAYOR’.  The reason was that every year he allowed the city street repair budget to blow out so by the time Winter came, pot holes sprung up like mini swimming pools.  He eventually called my show and we had a very good chat and a good laugh at his expense.  That’s emotional, that’s seizing the moment, and that’s what I’m taking about.  If you allow your station to be bland then you are the problem, not the talent. FIRE YOURSELF!  I know many good actors who have died on stage and film because of a bad script and then got equally bad direction.

Let’s look at some of the biggest primal emotions to target.  Greed, Fear, Anger, Disgust, Empathy/Sympathy, Adventure, Humour.

Nothing endears you to your listeners faster than being the most high profile cheerleader in your community.  What charities do you stand up for? What causes do you champion as a station? Do you lead the volunteer-ism in your community and do you get credit for it in some tangible way?

The best primals are being played out in the nightly news.  Haitians have lost everything. Grief and sadness is a huge one.  Does your talent know how to be very good when things are very, very bad? 

Here’s how to construct those emotional moments on air:

  1. Keep it simple.
  2. Say the same thing many different ways!
  3. Approach the story or bit from multiple angles.
  4. Repetition produces perceived importance.
  5. Use production to demonstrate it.
  6. Fly without a net. Take some creative risks.
  7. Make a commitment to whatever you do.  Don’t do it half way.

Radio can’t afford to be background.  It’s in danger of that now.  You need to make emotional connection everyday.  Believe me, it will make a huge difference in the performance of your station. 

Let us hear about your best emotional moments.