It's a new feature on JacoBLOG today – with a retro name: Throwback Thursday (#TBT). I've gone back into 16 years of archives to dig out some of our best posts from the past.
Today's entry, which originally appeared in 2017, guest-authored by the world famous Sheri Lynch, has more page views than any we've ever published. And it's no surprise. Sheri is an award-winning radio broadcaster, recognized multiple times by the Alliance for Women in Media for her outstanding and realistic depiction of women.
She has been named one of the Most Influential Women in American radio every year since 2010. Nominated ten times for the radio industry’s highest honor, the National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Award, Sheri is a unique talent and role model in the radio industry.
Sheri is co-host of the syndicated “Bob & Sheri Show,” which was headquartered for 19 years at WLNK/Charlotte, before moving to Beasley's K104.7/Charlotte a couple months ago.
Together with Bob Lacey, the show has been together since 1992, and is heard on more than 40 U.S. stations, as well as radio outlets throughout the world.
You don't reach this level of success without knowing what moves the needle emotionally for your audience. Sheri is a student of the game, and has developed that intuitive touch. In today's post, she shares her insights about the universal topics that truly resonate with people, whoever they are and wherever they live. If you're an on-air personality, take good notes. – FJ
Dynamic and compelling listener interaction is the secret sauce of a great radio show. Engaging callers reinforce the crackling sense of immediacy and intimacy that distinguishes radio from all other mass media. Lively, entertaining play between callers and hosts validates, for everyone else listening, that they’ve chosen the right show, the right station, the place where all of the fun is happening.
Real people are always better than even the most slickly produced canned bit. Except when they aren’t – and the blame for that falls squarely on the host. It’s not the caller’s job to entertain the audience; it’s your job. Think of it this way: you throw out a topic, a caller sets the table, and you jump in and juggle the plates. Great air personalities have killer improv chops and even more killer listening skills. It’s not just that they can make the phones ring – they know what to do with the calls that come in.
If you want the phones to light up, don’t think only in terms of topic. Think instead of human behavior. Listeners aren’t just TSL and AQH. Listeners are people. And people, when you boil it down, are in the business of meeting basic human needs. Everyone is focused on having food, shelter, relationships, money. Throw in animals and you’ve got a basic recipe for understanding the species.
Over the course of my career on Bob & Sheri, I estimate we’ve thrown out more than 5,500 different phone starters. (I’ve got the notes I’ve taken on those topics and callers piled up in boxes in my office because I’m just that kind of radio weirdo. I also keep notebooks filled with ridiculous statements my partner makes just because it amuses me to torment him with his own cringe-y words. Can you tell that I used to be every teacher’s pet? And every middle manager’s worst nightmare?)
Here’s how you can turn these five basic human needs into endlessly entertaining and often hilarious radio:
Everyone eats. It’s that simple. Food is so compelling that TV long ago figured out how to make whole networks based on nothing but eating and cooking and talking about food insanely profitable. Food is a window into personality and culture. There are endless variations on the topic:
Weird Food You Ate At Someone Else’s House. The One Thing You Eat Every Day. It’s Not Christmas Without _____ On the Table. The One Food You’d Trade for Sex. If You Could Only Eat Five Things For Rest Of Your Life…and so on and so on and so on. Foods That Should Never Be Together. Your Dog Licked It and You Still Ate It. Seriously. Food can really be the most fun thing ever to talk about.
Everyone sleeps somewhere. With shelter as your foundation (see what I did there?) you can spin in countless directions. Haunted Houses are an obvious October topic. But what about:
Who’s Crashing On Your Couch, My Ex & I Still Live Together, Lived In My Car/Tent/Camper/Workplace, The Nastiest House You’ve Ever Been In, Redneck Yard Décor, and one of my personal faves: No One Is Allowed To Come To My House – those were some fascinating people to talk to.
Listen, you absolutely want to talk to a guy who has 23 deer heads mounted on his living room walls. Especially when that guy tells you each of their names and what his ex-wife thought about them. But that guy isn’t going to call to request a Bruno Mars song. He’ll call when you throw out Decorating With Dead Animals. Oh, and definitely ask your listeners if they have People Living In The Basement or Backyard.
Hint: there are more ex-husbands sharing shed space with lawn mowers than you could ever dream.
Family, romance, friendship, coworkers, neighbors. People tend to cluster in packs, right? Oh sure, you may have a hermit or two living in caves in your market, but those folks are the rare exception. People hang out with and are driven crazy by other people. Like each of our core five, relationship-oriented topics are also very easily made topical. Melania not moving to the White House?
How about Married But Don’t Live Together or A Job Keeps Us Apart or even, My Love Is Totally Confused By America. So much extraordinary content can be mined from relationships – Met And Married In A Single Weekend. He Cheated On Me With My Own Mother. Co-workers Who Give You The Creeps. I Secretly Love One Kid Best. My Neighbors Probably Hate Me Because _____. I Saw It At Walmart.
If you run out of ways to talk to listeners about the relationships in their lives, you might be in the wrong business. Which, by the way, may inspire you to take calls on I’m Secretly Afraid That I’m Really Terrible At My Job.
Ever since 600 B.C. when King Alyattes stamped out the first coin, human beings have been super keen on money. And money has almost nothing to do with math. Money is all about emotion. Some of the best stories you’ll ever hear start out being about money and end up being about everything else. There’s money you find, win, earn, lose, spend. There’s money you steal, beg, lie about, pretend to have. Money you marry for, money you throw at someone in hopes they’ll love you for it. Money is everywhere.
The Most Money You Spent On A Date. Money You’re Hiding From Your Partner. Money You Found – And Kept. The Worst Thing You Ever Did For Money. Money Your Cousin Borrowed and Never Paid Back, My First Paycheck Was _____. And, during the holidays, it’s always, always a great idea to take calls on Insane Christmas Spending, The Presents I Bought For Myself, and The Christmas Moment Money Can’t Buy.
I don’t know about you, but most of my Facebook feed is taken up with pictures and posts about pets and kids. Honestly, more pets than kids. Cats alone apparently own the Internet. In 2015, humanity spent more than $60 billion dollars on their pets. The fur children! The fur babies! THE INSANITY! (Side note: radio sales needs to get a bigger piece of that $60 billion, don’t you think?) Pets are so huge that if I owned a radio station, I’d give a talking bird a little air shift and then just sit back and giggle at all that pet retail money rolling in.
Anyway, there are roughly, oh about 60 billion different ways to talk with listeners about animals. There’s the obvious: My Dog Destroyed It, Crazy Thing The Dog Ate, Stalked By My Cat, Mom Loved Poodle More Me And She Admits It. There’s all sorts of fun to be had with farming. Remember when the news broke that cows are actually more dangerous than sharks? Bullied By Cows. Terrorized by Turkeys, Hog Farming Horrors.
Think farming doesn’t fit your urban demos? Think again. Funny is funny and a great story told well entertains your audience whether they live in a condo or a cabin. Adventures with Wildlife. Camping With Critters. My Dog Eats Better Than We Do. Endless, endless, endless possibilities.
Maybe you noticed how many of these five core subjects overlap? Love and money and animals and houses and people and jobs, the wins, the losses, the chaos and all of the countless other moments in our lives that are big and important and tiny and trivial and scary and wonderful.
This is the stuff that makes the phones ring. Making those phones ring is the easy part. It’s what you do next that makes the difference between just executing a break and creating unique, compelling radio. That’s the hard part – and a whole ‘nother Top Five.
More Guest Lists
- Steve Goldstein: 6 Ways Podcasts Are Different Than Radio
- Valerie Geller: 5 Things Radio Program Directors Should Start Doing (if you’re not already…)
- Rich Homberg: The 5 Things Today’s Radio Personalities Can Learn from J.P. McCarthy
- Blubrry’s Todd Cochrane: 5 Things You Should Know About Podcast Measurement
- James Cridland: 5 Countries You Should Look At For Radio Ideas
- The Power of Music Passion - October 21, 2021
- Addressing My Car Radio Paranoia 3: Let's Fix It - October 20, 2021
- Radio's Car Radio Paranoia 2:What If Eric Rhoads Was Right? - October 19, 2021