Lauree Austin on KLOVE reminds me a lot about RULES and how sometimes, the heart of a human can emote so powerfully, that the strategies and rules we’ve grown accustomed to have very little place in attempting to corral the connection of engagement.
Talent Coaching is by far the most satisfying part of my daily routine. I have tremendous passion for the music and finding each station’s unique flavorings through local data and listener interactive information, but in the end, one is tangible; a human being sharing their soul through a series of strategies that either allows them to impact the soul on the other end of the listening, or the opposite of that, by missing ingredients that have the power to connect the soul at the transparent parts of us, we can also shoot content into the ether that never lands on the human heart.
When John Frost and Chuck Tyler found me in NYC, I was programming a mainstream Top 40 for CBS Radio, yet I had been Born Again and living for Jesus for more than 20 years within secular broadcasting. It was a 10-year-old demo from the former iHeart station, Star 98.7 in LA that had gotten Frost and Tyler’s attention and ultimately made my first entry into day-to-day Christian broadcasting at an extremely high level, becoming the afternoon drive talent at Salem’s 95.9 The Fish in Los Angeles.
John Frost listened to my demo right in front of me, when we first met, and that was embarrassing, except for one thing; his genuine laughter at the interactive parts with listener phone calls. He focused me in this area, saying this was the sweet spot and he was correct, as the listener interaction on the show began almost immediately from my first day on-air.
A Conflicted Soul Can Produce Powerful Connections
As a seasoned believer and user of the CCM format, there was internal conflict as I enjoyed the quick banter and fun, or funny moments with the audience, and while I never ended that part, I noticed that I couldn’t convey a true story of heart within the 45 second parameters that had been set up for me.
A listener would lose a job and want prayer, or one would have a breakthrough in an area they had been hoping for and these nuggets were more powerful than the fun, funny and crafty, because they had an ingredient in them that I had nothing to do with, God’s response or personal relationship in the lives of the people listening to the Fish.
Within a month on air, I broke the rule and began airing long form conversation and while it felt like a violation from the crush and roll or fast payoff type of content delivery, something happened at the Fish in LA that hadn’t happened since their launch almost 14 years earlier. We began to crush ratings goals in Orange County hitting heights, up to that point, unobtained and unimagined.
I remember the next John Frost visit, as he was an incredible support system. He acknowledged the longer breaks, admitted his desire for the shorter ones, but clearly saw that the new tactic was working. We learned together in that time and had one of the most powerful Holy Spirit moments in Christian radio happen to us next when a homeless man called the station and inadvertently created the most effective radio promotion in the format. I will share this moment in the next article, but now, I want to highlight a heart connector who couldn’t stop herself if she tried.
Reluctant to Change
As a consultant, the greatest issue I find in dealing with a new radio station or a new client is the trouble with ‘change.’ We are creatures of habit, so when I suggest new rotations or categories on music, I can literally hear the twitching through the phone, and if we’re on Zoom or Teams, I get to witness it face to face.
I do not feel like there is one size fits all, and I DEFINITELY DO NOT BELIEVE that if it worked at WAY FM, it would work everywhere. But when it comes to connecting with your audience through longer form breaks, I believe it’s a skill we should be encouraging our talent to attempt.
As recent as five years ago, radio still thought a podcast was to put their on-air show together as they played it on the radio and let listeners listen to it at a different time. How sadly we were mistaken, YET it’s in this desire of the audience for longer form content where those who take the risk to attempt it will see the fruit from it, simply because they tried.
When Lauree first aired on K-LOVE, I remember disagreeing with her wholeheartedly as she talked about how her air fryer may have been the worst purchase she ever made. I also remember the break going on a bit and the Talent Coach in me knew I could help her make that point with a couple less words than she used.
Imagine Jesus and the Fish If He Had an Air Fryer
That wasn’t me being picky or trying to find her in error, that was me being completely drawn into EMOTION of a break that she was executing. Had I NOT been in radio, no part of me would have ever thought about the break being shorter.
While there’s not a lot of spiritual talk in a break of air fryers, when you are constantly in Him, He is constantly in you and HIS light will radiate through you when you don’t even think it’s possible. I had breakfast with Brooke Fraser Ligertwood from Hillsong Worship and discussed this very thing that morning, and she told the story of a teenage girl who heard one of her pop songs on the radio in New Zealand and how the young girl’s life was transformed for God through that song. Through THAT Song…
There was Lauree on KLOVE talking about one of the podcast offerings from KLOVE and how it convicted her about her prayer life, because her prayer life wasn’t the greatest. This was on KLOVE. A woman, utilizing a moment to share about a product on the podcast shelving at KLOVE, but then doing something unheard of, being HONEST about her own walk.
The audience will not relate to Lauree the same way, if she was on the air pretending to be a woman full of the greatest faith. They would hear someone untouchable. But instead in her transparency and honesty, she caused the greatest EXHALE in KLOVE listening, because a whole bunch of women and men, too let out a gasp and said, “Thank you Lord, me too!!!!”
Thoughts and Prayers
Lauree cannot equip the saints by acting like she’s got it altogether, but when she’s transparent, she can give them the greatest road blocks of encouragement along their attempt to walk out their faith fully. Lauree wants a better prayer life. I bet she has one now, this was back in the Fall, and as the audience is glued to her heart, I guarantee their faith is getting stronger too.
The listener is not trying to be in a life riddled with sin, but the exact opposite, and the on-air talent that presents themselves in a way that says they have it together, when in fact they do not, is not helping this listener in any capacity. A lie cannot do that.
During the KLOVE Pledge Drive, Lauree used a metaphor about rounding the bases in a softball game to coincide with KLOVE’s attempt to hit the goal at hand, and she told a story of how she had fallen in a softball game after hitting the ball a mile, rounding the bases and how it took everything in her to get up to score. “Get up Austin,” she yelled at herself as if she were the coach, probably recalling the real-life scenario in which she was sharing, but in one of life’s moments, her own personal one, she made a powerful analogy to the audience on rounding third and making the run that would count the most.
I didn’t have to wait until the next break to see if her analogy worked. I knew her from her story and once I knew her, I liked her and once I liked her, I began to trust her and once I trusted her, I gave.
And the best part of it all, is that she didn’t manipulate me or her audience into reacting, she just showed up and shared her heart. Now, if we could just clone her.
Since 1991, Rob Wagman has been known first by his faith, and then by his skills in the secular side of this Industry, and now is known by his versatility, having succeeded in both radio and records in multiple formats from Christian Contemporary, Rock, Alternative, Top 40, Rhythm, Urban and Hot AC, in various roles from On Air to Programming to Marketing and Promotions. Wagman has worked in all of the Top 3 markets, LA, NYC and Chicago, and returned to LA in 2012 as his entry way into CCM, in PM Drive at KFSH, 95.9 The Fish before becoming the Network PD for WAY-FM.
In 2013, Wagman launched Straight Path Media + Entertainment, a consulting firm which hyper focuses on talent and each station’s greatest need for growth, supplying a la cart programming services for branding, from music strategies, promotional and marketing think tank brain storming, promo and imaging creative, talent coaching and airchecking. Wagman presently coaches 27 air talents, consults 13 stations plus 4 clusters. Contact Rob Wagman at StraightPathMandE@gmail.com