Monday Memo: Which of These 7 Mistakes Are You Making On-Air | TALKERS magazine - talk media trade : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

Monday Memo: Which of These 7 Mistakes Are You Making On-Air

| August 30, 2021

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — And isn’t that question the ultimate consultant caricature? Actually, the coaching process is more often pointing to what-WORKED on-air and why. Catch ‘em in-the-act-of getting it right.

To that end, some shortcuts, the George Constanza Method: “Do the opposite” of…

  1. Failure to engage quickly after on-hour news. Smart news/talk stations train listeners to check-in on-hour, for a quick news update, “THROUGHOUT YOUR BUSY DAY.”  Do this well, and you’ll add diary entries and PPM hits.

Hosts’ failure to fully-distill — and quickly-pose — the call-in topic, is a common reason for tune-out following newscasts.

  • Too often, the host has not yet, in his/her own mind, crystallized a specific call-in proposition, let-alone scripted it.  So the host “thinks aloud” until one comes to mind.  Big mistake when asking the attention of busy people driving, high-TSL users.
  • Instead? Hosts I coach will chant this in unison: Make the-very-FIRST-thing-you-say after the newscast a question which includes “YOU” and/or “YOUR.” And if you’re really good, you’ll also toss-in “FEEL.”  Don’t take my word for it.  Try it.  You’ll love the results.


If you cannot reduce your topic to such a question, you’re not prepped.  Script it, for use re-setting throughout the hour.

  • Then deliver the supporting set-up: Your opinion, the-purpose-of-which is to make the phone ring.  Do this right, and half the callers will agree with you, the other half will disagree, and they’ll use your show to hash-it-out.
  1. Unintended, unconscious, unnecessary exit prompts. Example: “NOW, WITH OUR FINAL CHECK ON TRAFFIC, HERE’S RON!”  It may be your last scheduled traffic report for the day.  But…
  • Why rub the listener’s nose in it?  Even if you won’t deliver traffic later, don’t emphasize your limitations, and send listeners channel-surfing for survival information elsewhere, especially now that real-time traffic information is on smartphones and in dashboards.  And if there were a major tie-up, Ron would stick around, right?
  • What else are you doing that sounds-like-something-is-ending?
  1. Extreme predictability: Yes, your station’s package must be predictable. News-and-weather-on-hour is logical and convenient.  Execute consistently and you’ll be habit-forming.

But your product should change day-to-day, especially in talk radio and personality-driven music morning shows.  Topical content should surprise listeners occasionally.  One day, your show might be all-about a breaking news story.  The next day’s news might suggest a moral dilemma you can invite callers to weigh-in-on.  Another day, if it’s a slow news day, you might try a lighter, “evergreen” topic.

  1. Annoying spots. There are no “stopsets.” Commercials are part of the programming. Broadcast is what digital competitors call “the linear feed.”
  2. Not teasing the next quarter hour. What’s coming up after the commercial break?  After the newscast?

And, as you convey that, don’t say what YOU will be doing (“WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT…” or “I HAVE TICKETS TO GIVE AWAY…”).  Speak listener language.  “TELL ME HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT…” or “WE COULD PUT YOU IN THE FRONT ROW FOR TAYLOR SWIFT AT THE CIVIC CENTER FRIDAY NIGHT…”

  1. Not teasing same-hour-tomorrow, especially important for non-music AMs largely heard on car radios.
  2. Squandering in-game promotional opportunities. At client stations, we relentlessly promote morning drive in baseball games.  Fans may only cume the station for games.  And because most baseball games are on at night, the next daypart most fans hear is morning drive, prime time.  Tell ‘em whassup on “FIRST THING TOMORROW MORNING.”  Least-useful in-game promo I’ve ever heard: voices of players, telling me that this is the team’s station DURING games.  Like printing “banana” on the yellow peel.

Holland Cooke is the author of the E-book “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books (click the banner on this page). He is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet.  And HC hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice