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Gifford: Radiodays Europe — Day Two

| March 17, 2015

Special to TALKERS magazine

By Larry Gifford
Consultant/Talent Coach


giffordlarrywriterMILAN — iHeartMedia syndicated morning host Elvis Duran addressed 1,200 delegates at Radiodays Europe Monday (3/16) telling his story of success.  Ahead of taking the stage, Duran shared with TALKERS magazine how his definition of success has evolved.

“What was important to me as snot-nosed kid is not important anymore.  Now, success to me is just being happy and really wanting to wake up and go to work.  You know, maybe 10 years ago I didn’t want to wake up and go to work because I was usually hung over or whatever.  Now, I actually enjoy going in.  To me that’s a successful day: just wanting to do what you do.”

On stage, Duran talked about the building blocks he used to achieve longevity and relevance.

–       A lot of luck.

–       Never believing he’s bigger than the show.

–       Finding new ways to help people, including and especially listeners, to tell their stories.

–       Working alongside people he trusts.

“The people we work with and who support us are the most important.  Without them I could never see myself going to work every day by myself.  I couldn’t do it.  I would not succeed.”  He mentioned during the session there are currently 15 to 20 staffers on the show, including editors, producer, and co-hosts.

iHeartMedia VP of Talent Development Dennis Clark peppered in his own ideas of what makes shows like “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show” successful:

–       They prep for the moment. Be “now” with your listeners.

–       They know what topics they are good at discussing on-air and everything they are bad at becomes taboo on the show.  For example, you’ll never hear Duran discuss politics.

–       Everyone on the show has a defined role. This helps the audience connect with the show and understand everyone’s purpose for being there.

Elvis also shared a personal story about how he had decided to quit radio 14 years ago because he didn’t feel as if he was adding anything to the world.  And then 9/11 happened and everything changed, including his understanding of the responsibility he has to the listeners.  “I’m doing everything I can to serve the people.  We make ‘em laugh and that’s serving them.  And also giving them things to think about and making them feel good about themselves.  That’s serving the people.”

Responsibility came up in another session here too.

“We should have never called.”  That’s the hindsight conclusion of Mel Greig, known as the “Royal Prank DJ” from Australia.  Greig no longer sees the entertainment value in “taking the piss out” of some unsuspecting stranger and she urges radio talent to focus comedy on themselves instead.

Greig was fired after a prank call in December 2012. She used a fairly poor English accent to impersonate the Queen and called a London hospital to get a status update on the Duchess of Cambridge. The bit took a tragic turn three days later when the nurse who was duped by the radio stunt committed suicide. “I felt complete and utter blame for her death.  My name was in her suicide note.  She was thinking of me when she killed herself.  It’s hard to let that go.”

Now, two years later, Australian radio still isn’t ready to welcome her back on the air, but she has an itch to use her voice.  She says would consider relocating to the US or Canada for the right opportunity.

A session titled, “What If Psychologists Ran Radio Stations,” was an interesting dive into radio from an outsider’s perspective. Consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier “diagnosed” radio as having a borderline personality disorder with histrionic tendencies.  “Basically,” Ferrier says, “We have an underlying fear of abandonment and we try to dance, sing and be really entertaining so people don’t turn off.  But it’s quite a glib and superficial way to grab a connection with your audience.  Radio at its best has a profound meaning in people’s lives and people in radio get too distracted with trying to be funny or say the next big thing or whatever.”  Ferrier’s suggested course of action is for radio to embrace its vulnerabilities.  He notes strengths are quite boring, so accept dysfunction. He referenced Avis’ campaign, among others, “We’re #2. So, we try harder.”

The final day of Radiodays Europe is on Tuesday (3/17) with a full slate of speakers on personalities, the connected car, engaging the next generation of radio listeners and more.  Follow along on Twitter #RDE15.



Larry Gifford is a radio programming consultant and talent coach ( and host of the Radio Stuff Podcast.  He can be emailed at

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Category: Analysis