These Rules of Radio are my rules of radio, things that I have learned during my career in radio broadcasting. Maybe you have realized the same truths in your career, or perhaps there is something here you can learn from if you are early in your career. My hope is that you can pick what works for you and leave the rest. If you would like to read The Rules of Radio Part One, you can find it HERE on HisAir.
Rule of Radio #5-80% of your success is just showing up.
No way around it, you must be there, behind the microphone ready to roll!
Showing up is showing up with the right stuff! Showing up means you are in place, show prep already done. You have had breakfast, lunch, or whatever meal it is, so you are not eating while on the air. Believe it or not, eating while on the air is a huge distraction, especially if you are doing morning drive!
The showing up process includes showing up with sufficient time to ensure that all show prep is done before hitting the air. That would mean your news, trending, phone topics, interviews; and whatever features you have are all prepared for airing. Sound effects and music beds are at the ready. When you arrive with all prep done, that gives you the luxury of dumping all of it or some of it when breaking news takes precedence or some topic that was not planned for takes off.
If you are on a team show, each team member has certain duties, and they must be done on time. I have been on team shows where one member or another shows up just in time to hit the air (or late) and has not done any prep for the show. Let’s face it- this is disrespectful to the other team members as well as the leader of the team. It is awkward, but it must be dealt with. I know some are capable of just “winging it”, and doing a good job, but I contend that even if you are one of those who can wing it, you will be so much better with all pre-show prep complete.
With everything ready to go, allow yourself 10-15 minutes of quiet time before entering the studio.
Rule of Radio #6-The little things make a wonderful difference.
When I was a kid growing up in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, WCCO was the radio station that was on in our house. Mom and Dad loved that station! It was a giant in the market! Boone and Erickson did the morning show, and they were true personalities. Steve Cannon was in the afternoons and owned the market.
The things that made me turn up the radio to listen intently were the little things. Perhaps it was a door opening in the studio and somebody talking to one of the hosts. It was unplanned (or was it?) and the hosts made something of it. Since the voice was not directly on the microphone, it added mystery and as a result, I would turn up the radio. They were wizards at the little things.
Little things you can do are pausing and drumming your fingers on the table for emphasis. When editing phone calls, leaving in the callers breathing, or other little noises us humans make when speaking with each other. These little things bring listeners into the world of the caller, living vicariously through their sounds.
I have a comical off-microphone voice I will occasionally use to make comments from the corner of the room. This voice comes out of nowhere, commenting on what is going on in a game we play called “Bible or Not”. It is a small thing, to be sure, but I believe it adds to the listening experience.
Using sound effects and/or music beds is a great tool. For instance, I have a spit-ding sound effect that I will use whenever I want to make a funny point; or to do take off on my wife’s brother who lives in Texas and his accent. Whenever a topic comes up that is romantic in nature, I have a music bed to make the point. It sounds like music you would probably hear at a restaurant in Paris, France. Whenever we talk about a show, like the house the Brady Bunch was filmed in being sold, we use the theme song to the show. Sure, it could be done without the sound effects or music beds, but those little things add so much to the show.
If we are not theater of the mind, we are nothing. Those little things make a magical difference.
Rule of Radio # 7-If you stumble, get up and keep running.
There is not one radio personality that I know that has not had a bad break. Perhaps a mispronounced word, a piece of cued up audio that did not fire, or a set up of a topic that just went nowhere. What ever it is, we are crushed. I know this firsthand, many times!
Here is the deal: you are human, and you will make mistakes that everyone will hear. To quote Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off Just Shake It Off”!!
I have made mistakes that were monumental, and it influenced my attitude, ruining the rest of the show. Maybe you experienced that as well. You hang on to the mistake and by doing so, lose focus on the rest of your performance.
If that happens, it gives you a wonderful opportunity to be self-deprecating and humble. That’s always a plus! Remember also, you have a whole new audience tuning it after your flub so try to avoid hanging on to your mistake. Believe it or not, most people listening do not ever notice.
Rule of Radio #8-Know the rules, so you know when to break them.
All rules are made to be broken! Almost every single rule, if not all of them, I have broken at one time or another. In the world of radio, being flexible is of paramount importance. You never know what each day will bring, so you must have the ability to break any rule at any time. Having made this point, you need to have a good reason why you would break a rule. Will it make the on-air break funnier, more poignant, or better in some other way? If so, break away!!
Johnny Stone is the afternoon show host along with his wife, Stacey, at WGTS 91.9 in Washington, D.C. Also owner of StoneStudiosLLC which produces a weekly two hour show for Country radio stations and various other production needs for radio and television stations.
Contact Johnny at [email protected]