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Sterling Tarrant
KSBJ Houston / Production Director

The Last Step



Everyday for 23 years Ray told Rhonda that he loved her.  “I love you Rhonda” he’d say as he’d head out the back door.  “Love you too, Ray” she’d say back.  That was Rhonda and Ray.  23 years.  Love you.  Love you too.  A good marriage, but kinda dull.

At the start of year 24.  Ray walked out the back door without saying I love you. 

Rhonda, who was upstairs noticed the silence.  Something was amiss.  As she walked down the stairs she was startled to find something strange at the front door.  Her cell phone was laying there.   Suddenly it beeped.  And it displayed a message.  Four simple words:

“Open the front door.”

Outside was a sixty gallon clay pot full of flowers.  Tied around each flower was a satiny silver ribbon with red script.  Ribbons exclaiming “I Love You, Rhonda!”   Standing a few feet behind was Ray, who got down on one knee and read Rhonda a love letter.  Not once did that letter have the words “I Love You Rhonda” in it.  Instead it described his love for her and their relationship in terms of a lovely bouquet that he needed to help grow.

Rhonda fell more in love with Ray that day, (and, hey, it was a really great anniversary evening.)

Rhonda and Ray show a picture of what messaging is like on many Christian radio stations.   Most stations after deciding on a promotion, make a message that tells their listeners just the basics. It’s the “I love you, Rhonda” approach.  Sure, it’s an important message, but it’s common, un-exceptional, and it’s not going to result in a deep romance. 

It’s missing the last step.

When people ask me what I do as a Production Director, one of the things I say is:  “I get you to fall in love with my station.”  How do I do that?  It’s by taking the idea of a promotion, or event, or of something were “selling,” (and that includes giving to the station)  and tying it into a way that connects to her heart. 

That’s the last step.   It’s taking “I Love You, Rhonda” and wrapping it in a sixty gallon clay pot full of flowers.  It’s figuring out the message from a promotion and connecting it to production.

Because, production is just the flowers, it’s “prettifying” the message, using audio tricks to bring attention to it, but only if you have a memorable message first.

So, with that long introduction here’s my main message:  Every month I’m going to write something here to showcase the last step.  Hopefully with the goal of helping you think of ways to do better, more memorable messaging that causes listeners to fall even more in love with your station.

This is a good stopping place to go check your e-mails.  Maybe come back tomorrow and finish this article then, because, since this is the first one, I had to take time to do a set up.  When you come back later you can start at the following piece of audio, and read from there.  In the meantime, try an experiment.  See if the story of Rhonda and Ray sticks with you, try at least to remember this...

“The Last Step means you try to say... more than ‘I Love You Rhonda, I Love You Ray’”



Part 2 - Why it’s better to not come right out and say it.

Thanks for listening to the spot above.  Kind of a “groner” wasn’t it?  I’ll get back to that in a moment.

In the meantime, can I just say “Halloween stinks”

(Although most of us would use a word other than “stinks”)

It’s because we have to deal with coming up with an “alternative” and no matter WHAT we do, we’ll still have complaint calls from listeners who would NEVER wear a costume, but are still just as grumpy as a six-year-old who’s had a too tight rubber band on their Spiderman mask snap them on the cheek.

So I won’t come right out and say “Halloween S***s”

Just like I won’t come right out and write a Light the Night spot that just says “89.3 KSBJ presents ‘Light the Night,’ a Halloween Alternative for you and your family. It’s a great way to introduce KSBJ to others. Our website has all kinds of funny sayings that you can print out and wrap on your candy.   As you see your neighbors out under the Milky Way on October 31st, give them something that will make them Snicker.”

Talk about a “groner.”  Sorry.

Now going back to the spot above - yes, it is kind of a “groner” too, but only because you’re not a KSBJ listener.   Our listeners have a strong emotional connection to Susan O’Donnell, and when she talked about giving out 3 foot Pixy Stix on October 31st one year, I knew I had the angle of how to show the light the night concept.

The spot is about not hiding on Halloween, but about showing God’s light, and it was a winner when I could use Susan’s personality to sell that message.  Her personality has a much stronger connection in the mind of the listener than silly little candy wrappers, so I used that connection to highlight them. 


Spiritually, we are all about connections.  There is a reason that Jesus spoke in parables.  They’re word pictures that connect you to spiritual concepts.  Our challenges in life connect us to finding out about God’s love for us.  Even the Holy Spirit is God’s ultimate connection to our Savior.  I found this thought from J.I. Packer that illuminates how this is part of the character of the Holy Spirit.  Packer says:  “The Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder onto Jesus, who stands facing us.  The Spirit’s message to us is never, ‘Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me,’ but always, ‘Look at Him, and see His glory; listen to Him and hear His word; go to Him and have life; get to know Him and taste His gift of joy and peace.”

That’s the ultimate light in a dark night.  The Holy Spirit gives us insight, and through that God becomes more real to us when we work to figure Him out.

And even though it may seem counter intuitive,  our messages to our listeners become stronger in their minds when we don’t come right out and say them.  They become stronger when instead we illuminate them, and let their brains make the connections.


Sterling Tarrant, the Production Director at KSBJ never had a Spiderman costume.  He had a home-made Superman costume, and just to let you know...tights are not very warm on Halloween.

Also, after the Light the Night song came out, his 8-year-old daughter asked him if Susan O’Donnell lived in that place on the Gulf freeway that had the big rotating spotlight on it.  He said no, and quickly changed the subject so he wouldn’t have to explain what an “adult establishment” was.

You can reach him at either, or through his website