OK, get your face out of your spreadsheets, music logs, and CPR reports for a moment, and remember how people think and talk about your radio station, and in particular, your morning show.
In the umpteen focus and Listener Advisory Board groups I conduct every year, it's always insightful to have a conversation with listeners about the station's heritage morning team. What's working? What stands out? What is “appointment listening?” Have you ever met a member of the show?
And for the really strong shows, how do they describe their attachment? Usually, with these three words:
“They're like family.”
And what do families do when the going gets tough? They stay closer together, deriving even more value from their relationship during those rough patches. At times like these, it's less about benchmarks, contests, or time checks. Yes, those expected elements still matter. But listeners tune in your personality show to hang out with your “family.” It's about the storylines, the put-downs, the drama, and the intersection of real life and radio.
In my focus groups, I love to go around the room and ask respondents “Who's your favorite cast member?” – the one most relate to/connect with. And for the truly talented and well-defined shows, listeners know exactly who to choose and why.
This will hit home for you when you watch “Dinner With The Gaffigans.” It's not on HBO, Netflix, or Disney+. It's on YouTube, and is obviously not a show that was “green lighted” by absolutely any network executive.
The show's plot? You're having dinner with comedian Jim Gaffigan, his wife, and his five young kids. The photo at the top of this post shows exactly how homey, warm, and real this concept is, as the family eats pizza together, acting like…well, a family. And the audience has their running chat dialogue as the Gaffigan's sing, eat, talk to each other, wipe their mouths, and enjoy a meal together.
It's not “Reality TV” as we've come to know it – which is about as authentic as professional wrestling. In Jim Gaffigan's new “series,” there's no showrunner, nor is there anyone doing the talents' makeup or hair. “DWTG” is sloppy, amateurish, poorly shot, and decidedly real.
Technically, it's complicated….NOT. The whole thing is shot on a single smartphone – it moves around, shakes a lot, and is as basic as it gets. The audio's terrible, sometimes making it hard to hear what the kids are saying.
And it works. Because you can't fake family. Especially now. And that's exactly how a growing number of viewers is responding:
We've talked about Twitch.tv on this blog over the past couple years. A number of radio personalities have begun “broadcasting” from this gaming site – a perfect venue of taking an audience behind the velvet ropes. Bubba the Love Sponge was the first radio personality I know of to go up on Twitch, where it's as interesting to see him shopping for groceries at Publix as it is watching him do his regular radio show.
For many years now, I've implored radio's cream of the crop to install cameras in the studio to provide an even deeper connection between fans and the cast. Better yet, take them into the jock lounge, a music meeting, or other real life moments in a radio station.
Of course in this COVID-19 era in which we now live, those quaint WKRP-like scenes have become few and far between. But that's precisely why showing where the show is broadcasting from now – the den, the spare bedroom, the basement – wherever – provides even more charm, and total reality.
In the last few weeks Facebook is full of those WFH spaces, as we all show off our crude, but homey new setups – the places where we're now doing our jobs – pets, kids, and all. That's especially true of your air talent – all of whom are going through the same travails as the rest of us. Except their jobs are to make us feel better.
Radio faces or not, listeners want to see behind-the-scenes action – the laughs, the bickering, those awkward moments, the spilled coffee, even the tears – in other words, real life.
And now that just about everyone's life has become all too real, radio personality shows can offer an even deeper level of escape and distraction. And a video component enhances that.
Beyond sharing a meal with your audience, what about watching a rock n' roll documentary together – a virtual and communal experience. I ran across this Facebook post from Debbi Calton, former midday monarch at WMGK/Philly. Look what she's doing with her free time:
So, why not put together “viewing parties” with a daypart jock and their audience, enjoying a concert doc together on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu? Of course, food and beverages could make these moments more homey and special.
I'd love to watch a “Gimme Shelter,” “It Might Get Loud,” or “Stop Making Sense” hanging out with music sherpas like Pat Martin, L.A. Lloyd, Dave Kane, or yes, Debbi Calton (pictured below right) The technology allows fans of the music and your personality the opportunity to do just that. And still maintain safe social distancing.
Not surprisingly, use of live, interactive video on Facebook Live and Instagram Live has exploded since the COVID-19 outbreak. A Bloomberg story by Sarah Frier and Kurt Wagner last week explained how Facebook is seeing a “dramatic increase” in the usage of these immersive video tools. As more and more consumers are holed up indoors, video calling, messaging, and chat are growing exponentially. As the rest of the country jumps on board, this trend will only accelerate.
At a time when we're alone, we want to be together. It's a quest for intimacy. And for many, radio personalities are important parts of their “life circles.” Maybe we cannot be in the same room together or even the same arena anymore. But we can create virtual parties, get-togethers, and meet-ups – integrating our best personalities and listeners who want to engage.
Of course, there are sponsorship angles here, too. And why not? We can always enjoy watching our favorite things on the comfort of “fill-in-the-blank of your local furniture store chain here” sectionals and lounge TV chairs. And of course, there's food and beverages to be enjoyed, not just by the cast, but at discount pricing for the audience. “Remember we still deliver and offer carry-out.”
As listeners are now home alone, sitting in their apartments and condos, hopefully surrounded by a family member or two, they're looking for a connection, a friend. And it is poignant, scary, and uncertain moments like these when they need a warm hello, a good laugh, and a knowing smile more than ever.
That's the opportunity your personalities and shows now have. To make a personal, human connection that will never be forgotten, months and even as years go by, we talk about this virus in the rear-view mirror, like we do 9/11.
I'm looking forward to the day when I'm once again sitting in one of your conference rooms with a dozen or so pizza-eating listeners talking about your station. And I'm hoping I hear them talk about some some of the amazing radio you did back during the coronavirus crisis. They will remember the radio you're doing today.
And all you need is an iPhone.
And please pass the pizza.
Thanks to Bill Jacobs for the tip. You can access “Dinner With The Gaffigans” here.
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