Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Trust is the foundation of long-term relationships that matter. You trust your best friends. You trust your husband or wife. You trust your mom and dad. You trust God. If you commit precious time each day to listen to a radio personality, it's likely trust is a big reason.

Sadly, trust is becoming a rare commodity. The list of things and people we don't trust seems to be growing. We don't trust politicians. We don't trust "the media". We don't trust our bosses. We don't trust many of the people we work with. We don't trust salesmen. We don't trust advertising. I could go on and on, so could you.

Consumer skepticism about advertising has made live-read personality endorsement commercials increasingly popular with radio advertisers and radio sales people. Advertisers know they gain instant credibility from the trust relationship successful radio personalities have with their listeners. Radio sales people love live-reads because they produce great results and repeat business from their clients.

While personality endorsement commercials are great making money tools for advertisers and radio stations, Jonathon Brandmeier reminded me that live-reads pose a real dilemma for radio personalities concerned about keeping their listeners. During his recent presentation at TalenTrak 2008 he told the audience, "I don't like live-reads". He explained, "Listeners know when you're faking on the air. I can't read a commercial for something I don't care about or believe in. I can't compromise." Therein lies the difficult choice for radio personalities. Do you go for the money or protect the trust relationship with your listeners?

The right choice in this dilemma is contained in the old adage, "short-term pain produces long-term gain". Trust is becoming more rare and more valuable each day. Guarding the trust established between radio personality and listener preserves this essential element of their relationship and increases the likelihood it will continue for a long time. Protecting this trust also ensures the ongoing value and effectiveness of live-read personality endorsement commercials.

There are plenty of money making opportunities for radio stations and personalities contained in the products and services personalities really love and actually use.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Measure of Great Radio Personalities

Bob Lefsetz is a music lover, brilliant music critic, and remarkable philosopher. I subscribe to his "Lefsetz Letter".

After watching the CMA Awards the other night Bob wrote, "I felt strangely disconnected from last night's CMA Awards... The music. That's what bugged me. It was just too formulaic." He went on to describe what he thought was missing. "Our stars used to sing about real life. They used to tell us about us. By exploring the fringes, the limits, delivering insight that eluded us."

Reading Bob's words, I got to thinking, isn't the ability to explore real life -- it's fringes and limits -- and deliver insight that eludes listeners a measure of great radio personalities, too?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wisdom from Radio Legends

Recently, I attended something called TalenTrak 2008 in Chicago. It's an annual event created by The Conclave to inspire and educate radio personalities. TalenTrak delivered big-time on both accounts.

Radio legends Larry Lujack and Jonathon Brandmeier were the featured speakers. They put on quite a show. Their passion for radio and its possibilities lifted the conference room at Columbia College. Their performance demonstrated radio's unique ability to create intimate human relationships. The stories they told about their lives in radio -- the ups and downs, the successes and failures -- really resonated with the audience. Lujack and Brandmeier established a real connection and emotional bond with everyone in that room. It was great radio.

Here are some nuggets of wisdom for aspiring radio personalities from the success stories of Uncle Lar and Johnny B:

Don't copy anyone. Be yourself and you'll be distinctive. There is nobody exactly like you. Lujack said it this way. "One of my advantages was not being able to hear big-city radio growing up in Caldwell Idaho. I never copied anybody because I didn't have anyone to copy." Here's Brandmeier's perspective: "I don't know what's going on in radio. I don't listen to other shows. In my head, I'm the only guy on the radio."

Constantly expand what you know. If you don't know more than your listeners, you can't add much to their lives. Lujack “read newspapers and magazines for seven hours a day” to expand his knowledge. Brandmeier said, "I read everything. You gotta to be aware of the world around you. The more you read the more you have to react to. It's like filling a cooler with meat. I just keep filling it."

Don't present anything on the radio that you don't really care about. If it doesn't ring your emotional bell, if it's not interesting, meaningful, or fun to you, forget it. It won't matter to your listeners if it doesn't matter to you. Brandmeier put it this way, "if you're not curious about it or care about it, don't talk about it. The audience knows."

Find the right boss -- someone who totally believes in you. Don't go to work for people who want to change you and what you do. They'll make your life miserable, destroy your confidence, and then fire you. Lujack and Brandmeier's careers took off when they found PDs who believed in them. Lujack was fired repeatedly by bosses who didn't understand or appreciate his often "cynical, sarcastic, negative" attitude on the radio and insisted he change. He refused because, "it was easier to be me than somebody I was not. I believed me would work." It sure did once he found Pat O'Day at KJR in Seattle. "He was the first PD who encouraged me to be me." Brandmeier found Don Benson who heard him breaking format doing a midday music show in Milwaukee. Brandmeier recalled, "I would start talking to listeners on the radio the minute the programmers left the building for lunch. I figured they wouldn't hear me while they were eating." Benson heard him. He called Brandmeier with an offer that changed his life. "There's a voice inside you that wants to get out. How would you like to let that voice out on a morning show in Phoenix?" Brandmeier took the job at KZZP. The "voice" Benson heard attracted a few listeners. "They let me do whatever I wanted", remembered Brandmeier, "and the ratings tripled."