By Andy Beaubien, BPR
When was the last time you heard a radio listener say that they were passionate about a radio station that they listen to? Probably not as frequently as one would like. Many factors can cause a decline in listener passion. One of them is the strict adherence to format rules and structure. Highly formatted stations leave little room for spontaneity. In fact, spontaneity is often discouraged and considered to be a “deviation” from the format. Whereas a format can provide a station’s programs with structure and direction, it can also prevent on-air performers from being creative and using their talent as a means to connect with listeners.
I recall specific instances when a program director praised me for properly executing a format and in turn discouraged me from developing a persona within that format. Of course, not every presenter has the ability to be spontaneous and creative. However, strict adherence to the format leaves little or no room for growth on the part of the presenter.
Next time you conduct a listener focus group ask the question “Do you like to listen to a station whose presenters are highly predictable and talk about the same things from one day to the next?” Chances are that few listeners will respond in the affirmative.
The element of freshness is fundamental to human communication. People who say and do the same thing all the time are boring. Interesting people offer us ideas and observations that are fresh and new. Talk radio is founded not just on information but opinion and insight as well. Without it, talk radio would wither on the vine. To a degree, the same applies to other formats. Listeners want to be surprised. This does not mean that listeners want to be shocked or offended but rather that they want to be exposed to new ideas, thoughts and observations.
People are passionate about things that excite them and stir their imagination. Unfortunately, modern day radio too often fails in this respect. As entertainers and informers, we must be prepared to present our audiences with programs that offer both consistency and imagination. Otherwise, they will go elsewhere maybe even leave radio altogether.
Passion is contagious. Repetition does not create passion, creativity does. As has been said many times, “If what you’re doing isn’t working try something new.”
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