By Bill McMahon
The Authentic Personality
EAGLE, Idaho — It’s not easy being a radio personality. They work in relative isolation far from their listeners. They can’t see or hear them. Most radio studios don’t even have an outside window. The only immediate feedback personalities get on their performance is from those working with them in the studio. If they work alone, there is no feedback in the moment.
Oh, radio personalities get plenty of delayed reaction to their work, but it often does more harm than good. The phone lines light up or they don’t. Texts, Tweets, Facebook posts, and emails deliver all kinds of mixed messages. Some are glowing with praise and love. Others state clearly and unequivocally, “you suck!” After the show, the confusion continues. An enthusiastic PD might proclaim he loves a bit the personality hated, usually without offering specifics about what made it so good. Later, the GM weighs in saying, “I didn’t get that phone segment you did in the 8 o’clock hour and I don’t think it was relevant to our listeners.” Problem is the personality thinks it’s the best thing he did all morning and his followers on Twitter and Facebook seem to agree. This is the real world of a radio personality where everyone has an opinion on what they do and the opinions are anything but unanimous.
It’s no wonder even the most successful radio personalities with consistently high ratings can be very insecure. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a personality in Los Angeles 25 years ago. It was shortly after I began consulting his station. It was our second or third meeting. We were still in the “getting to know you” stage, sizing each other up. He had just signed a five-year no cut $850,000 per year contract. A well-deserved reward for his talk show being number one in its time period. Yet, he seemed as anxious and insecure as a guy with no ratings or track record of success.
I had to know where his fear was coming from. It was incomprehensible to me. I asked him if he ever imagined the success he was experiencing. In a moment of complete candor he told me, “I had no idea I’d ever achieve this kind of success on the radio. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t really understand why people listen to me.” So then I asked him how he felt about the future. He answered, “I’m worried I could lose it all just the way I got it, without knowing how or why or when it might happen.” Wow! Talk about an epiphany.
My experience in Los Angeles that day and with hundreds of radio personalities ever since has made me realize that good coaching is not only hugely important to a personality’s development, but also vital to their well-being. It’s not easy being a radio personality.
Every radio personality I’ve ever met wants to get better, no matter what their level of talent or stage of development. They’re hungry for constructive feedback and ideas that will help them learn how to be the best they can be. Here are the things I’ve learned radio personalities want and need most from a coach:
- Someone who “gets me” and “believes in me.” This is the foundation of a coaching relationship. The coach must be able to regularly and consistently recognize and articulate what makes the personality special and appealing to listeners. Most importantly, he must be able to demonstrate why he believes the personality will succeed. Nothing inspires and motivates a personality more than a coach who believes in him and can explain why. Nothing helps a personality overcome their doubts and fears and set aside all the confusing and conflicting opinions about their work more than recognizing their own strengths and fully understanding what makes them appealing to listeners.
- Someone “I can trust and respect”. Trust is a function of genuine concern about the well-being and best interests of the radio personality. It’s about being honest at all times. Radio personalities can spot BS and manipulation a mile away. They hate it. There is no relationship without trust. Respect is earned by demonstrating an ability to help the radio personality recognize, refine, and more effectively present their best ideas on the radio. In other words, by helping them acquire the skills and techniques that will make them better. Trust and respect flow from showing that you truly care and can help them be the best they can be.
It’s not easy being a radio personality, but good coaching can make the job of whole lot easier and lots more fun and satisfying.
Bill McMahon, CEO of The Authentic Personality, is a longtime talk radio station and talent consultant who has played a role in the development of the careers of many leading hosts over the past three decades. He can be phoned at 208-887-5670 or emailed at Bill@AuthenticPersonality.biz.