People want to know what makes for great radio. It goes a little deeper than market research and brand awareness, though that adds to good radio. Here are five things I think are most important and I hope are reflected in my shows.
1. OWN THE STAGE Too many radio stations hire presenters as if they were counter staff at McDonalds. Managers treat them like robots and they sound it. Radio is still entertainment [see below] and the first thing they would tell you in theatre or performance is to OWN THE STAGE. It is a level of (almost athletic) confidence that shines through without trying. People who own the stage don't read liner cards -- they ingest them, and then SELL liners... they SELL the music they are playing... they SELL themselves and the stations they are on.
2. RADIO IS PEOPLE For all the talk about brands and brand management, radio is still, at the end of the day, people talking to people. One has to have a real and sincere interest in the listener. It is easy to hide behind the microphone, but would a presenter still do most of the dross they do over the air if it were face to face in some listener's living room? This doesn't mean radio should be done wearing a shroud or can't be fun or a little silly -- just think of the listener. Talk to them on a one-to-one basis, as valued friends and you can't go wrong.
3. RADIO IS ENTERTAINMENT Too many radio stations do not treat the studio like a stage, and the presenters like entertainers. People want a friend and they want to be entertained. Even the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 is, in its own way, a form of entertainment. If you can't be slick and entertaining, love what you do 'til it hurts, then get out of the studio!
4. KNOW THE RULES SO YOU CAN BREAK THE RULES Because radio is personal, (not mass-produced hamburgers), it takes people who can adapt the rules to the individual needs of the station at the time. This is not an invitation to free-for-all anarchy, but stations need to instil enough confidence and basic instinct of radio in their people to handle the situation without a memo from on-high. Presenters need to keep to format, but still put a little of themselves into the broadcast.
5. RESPECT THE MUSIC It doesn't take a "we don't talk over your music"-type policy to not talk over the music. It is common-sense respect for the songs. Turn the speakers up in the studio, dance around and enjoy the music. You're actually getting paid to do this!!
Charlie Wolf can be contacted here and you can read more about him at www.mediapro.co.uk