There is a standard that you can use to make every
bit, every break, and every piece of production the best it can be
at communicating. It’s the on-air bullseye. The better you hit the
center, the more compelling a talent you’ll be. Here it is:
Let’s take a look at each section. Review the
questions and examples below to help you see how well you’re hitting
THE INNER CIRCLES
Connect. Am I living my life on the air? Am I
comfortable in sharing my warts and all? Am I talking like a real
person and not like a radio person? Am I open to admitting what I
don’t know? Do I use “concrete words” - in other words do I talk
about specifics like “spilled milk and spark plugs” and not just
“messes and repairs?” Do my listeners get the impression that I’m
being moved by the songs just as much as they are? Are you present
with them, and not just spinning the tunes?
An example: John Maxwell
says “Everyone communicates. Few connect.” Opening a mic and
reading a liner is communicating. Tying the idea of that liner into
mowing your lawn or running errands or another detail of life is
Entertain. Do I use humor? Do I try to disarm my
audience by surprising them, causing their minds and emotions to let
down their guard? Do I have an on-air persona that’s tied into my
personality? Am I inviting in the words I use on air? Do I see my
role as one who welcomes guests to the party?
An example: I had a
friend at a former job that was notoriously cheap. He even went so
far as to put bricks into his toilet tank to displace water to help
him cut down on water bills. We lovingly referred to him as a
“cheap jerk,” and that was to his face! Lunch conversations with
him and his brown bag were enjoyable as we heard of his latest cost
savings. He made us laugh, because in the back of our mind we were
always thinking about ourselves and whether we would go as far as he
did to save money.
Do you have a persona
like that? Are you the cheap one, the neat freak, the klutz, the
Mom who’s doing the best she can, or the creative one? How do you
define yourself on-air? Listeners are entertained when they can
light-heartedly identify or compare themselves to your persona.
By the way, someday I’m
going to produce a radio feature called the “cheap jerk minute - 45
seconds long because we didn’t want to pay for 60.” That is a
feature that would entertainingly connect, and it would also...
Inform. Are you a trusted source? Are you there for
them? If a tornado was spotted would you re-record your voice
tracks? Can they trust that you are keeping an eye out for their
safety? Do you give your listeners new and interesting insights
about life? About your town? About how to serve?
An example: Our afternoon
show informs mom’s how they can find inexpensive activities to do
with their kids through a “Houston on the Cheap” benchmark.
Remember that informing is also about: “What’s the meaning behind
that song? And how can its lyrics change my life?”
In-between Connecting and Entertaining, you’ll find
the realm of the “Host” - the one who welcomes people in and
makes them comfortable.
Between Entertaining and Informing is the realm of
the “Presenter” - the one who can bring a weekly movie
review, or do an interview with the Mom blogger about child
And then between Connecting and Informing comes the
realm of the “Newscaster.” The one who lets me know what’s
happening and why it affects me.
Effective and compelling communicators can hit
the dartboard in all these areas. They can live in all three realms.
THE OUTER CIRCLES
Persuade. This is where production comes in. ALL
radio spots and promos have to persuade in some way, whether it’s to
move a product or service in the commercial world, or show a benefit
and get listeners to support the station in the non-com world. In
my opinion, if production doesn’t attempt to persuade the listener
in some way, then that production isn’t needed. Persuasion marks
the difference between spots, sweepers, and everything else on the
The best way to get a
message to persuade is to build it using the inner circles. It
Connect to the listener’s life, (once again - use their
concrete and specific life situations).
Entertain them, (use the power of words and audio to
enhance the experience in their mind, and don’t forget the
all-important “surprise” which makes the message memorable), and
Inform (get the main piece of information in, and
don’t blather on. Throw me to the website where I can get the info
on my own time).
Audio persuasion is done by positively imprinting
the message in listeners minds over an extended period of time, so
that when they need the product or service (or the life changing
message of your music) they think of the appropriate advertiser (or
However, to get them listening for extended periods,
you have to provide an on-air product that connects, entertains, and
informs. Are you starting to see how it’s all interconnected?
This leads us finally to the outer ring, which is
the most important one of all: BELIEF.
Every radio station has a belief system, a lens
through which they bring the world to the masses. It may be that
“we’re the place to party,” or “we’re the place to catch the latest
news.” The great thing about what we do in Christian radio is that
our stations have the best belief system of all! It’s your mission,
your vision, and everything on the air needs to shine through that
Our PD, Susan O’Donnell, recently brought in a local
pastor to have lunch with us, and to remind our Programming team
again of how to communicate our faith in a real way to the
listeners. His name was Dr. Stephen Trammel and one thing he said
blew me away.
He said: “When I preach, I know that at least 80%
of those listening to me are hurting in some way, and I bet it’s the
same with your radio station.”
I believe it. I just had the opportunity to go to a
family camp full of Christian families. Families headed up by
successful Doctors, Lawyers, and Pastors. Everybody started the
week with the veneer of “having it together,” but by Friday, all
that was sanded off. I was amazed how person after person stood in
front of the group, tears streaming down their cheeks, sharing their
That pain is found in marital problems, health
problems, financial problems, child rearing problems, work related
problems, school problems - and that list is just the tip of the
iceberg! With a list like that it’s easy to believe that at least
80% of listeners are hurting to some degree.
Fortunately, the belief system found at Christian
radio tells the listeners that “through the fog, there is hope in
the distance” as Toby Mac sings. I believe that If God has given
you an on-air signal; you have a responsibility to serve your
listeners by pointing them to that hope.
So print this bullseye out. Take every element you
hear on your radio station, and throw it up against it like a dart.
You’ll find some elements just connect, some only entertain, and
some just inform. Check to see if your productions do all three and
persuade, and make sure that everything aligns with your mission and
The closer that you can involve every item, in other
words, the closer you hit the bullseye, the more you will be
absolutely compelling and attractive to listeners. They will
connect with you, laugh with you, learn with you, and love you more
in your attempts to live out that hope.
Sterling Tarrant is a 34 year radio veteran who
specializes in how to connect to listeners, primarily through
copywriting and production in his position as Production Director at
KSBJ in Houston. For over a year he’s been creating a new show prep
www.takingitdeeper.com that helps stations generate ideas for
their communications. It also helps on-air talent quickly find ways
to spiritually connect listeners to songs in short, fun,
non-threatening, real-life ways. You can reach him at