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Your Aircheck Notes

| May 14, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND — Tell me THIS doesn’t validate the consultant caricature!  I’m in a rental car, driving the pattern…  or camped-out in a hotel, waiting for room service to deliver the BLT and Diet Coke, and more packets of that in-room coffee.  I’m… listening.  Stealthy, almost gumshoe, eh?

Relax.  Notes which follow aren’t necessarily about you, personally.

On second thought, DON’T relax.  Be psyched.  Be stoked.  Bring your “A” game, every day.  Because the dang consultant gets paid to listen.  Your concern is people-who-don’t, “real people,” listeners, each a potential PPM panelist or diarykeeper…and prospect for your retail advertisers.

So here are some generic Do’s-N-Don’ts, based on many miles along the winding radio road:

Prep Better

Asking for callers?  Distill a specific proposition BEFORE your show. Don’t just think-aloud on-air until you come up with one.  Yes, actually script your opening.  Make it lean and inviting, so listeners won’t wander-off.  We’re merely sharing their attention.

Avoid reading from the newspaper, for three reasons:

1. It’s yesterday’s news.  Be today, now, since-the-ink-dried.

2. It sends the dangerous message to subscribers that they already have the information we’re offering.  And non-subscribers don’t regard the newspaper as vital.

3. It’s not written for the ear.  T.M.I. is rampant.  WHO CARES about the name-and-title of whoever at the Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences announced the Oscar nominees?  Read the list.

Listen better…when you’re not on-air.  Not to radio.  Listen to people.  Eavesdrop on everyday life.  If you’re doing talk radio, you’ll find yourself doing political topics less.

Listen Better (when you’re on-the-air)

One reason Larry became The King of Talk?  He picks-up on things his subjects say that other interviewers miss.

Talk less than callers and guests.   That’s another reason Larry became King: Short questions force people to open-up.

Speak Second-Person Singular

Radio is an intimate, one-to-one medium.  So avoid saying “THOSE OF YOU” or “ALL OF YOU.”  There’s only one of me.  Instead, say “YOU,” lots.

And say “YOUR” and “YOU’RE” more.  If you can’t find a way to, you might be talking about boring stuff.

Don’t Talk Like a Radio Guy

Say “LIVE BROACAST” instead of “REMOTE” (which is what real people call the TV clicker).

As you listen to your aircheck, ask yourself “WOULD I WANT THIS PERSON IN MY CAR POOL?”

Don’t Waste Listeners’ Time

“LET ME ASK YA THIS…” is radio Styrofoam, and sounds inexperienced.  It’s your show, just ask.

Don’t thank callers for waiting on hold.  You’ll scare-off would-be callers who are too busy to.
(Retail advertisers love busy people.  Every time they get out of the car, they spend.)

Leave “IS” out of timechecks. “WXXX NEWSTIME, 702” sounds more authoritative.

Also leave out of timechecks: “MINUTES BEFORE/PAST THE HOUR OF.”  Do digital timechecks.

Seduce Listeners into Giving You MORE of their Time

The way Arbitron ratings are calculated – diaries or PPM — keeping listeners even just five more minutes each time they tune-in could as much as DOUBLE your ratings.   So when you tease, really tease. “SPORTS NEXT” is not a tease. “WE NOW KNOW 3 OF ‘THE FINAL FOUR’” is.

Most-under-exploited way to maximize TSL from your existing cume: Get someone to listen same-time-tomorrow.


RU @Speed-of-Life?

Why Not Just Say “Don’t Listen?”


Read/see/hear more at, and follow @HollandCooke on Twitter.  And meet HC at Talkers/New York, June 6.

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Category: Advice