Being authentic

Staff Writer

Stephen Nolan, from BBC Local Radio Northern Ireland, has presented at Radio Days Europe overnight Aust/NZ time.

He’s a talk show host with something to say about being authentic in order to win audiences. His view is that authentic radio program is powerful.

Whilst the audience come from different walks of life, some are very articulate, some are uneducated, but it is all about authenticity.

Nolan doesn’t do programming meetings or airchecks to review the show, but they do something unique;

“we compile a brochure each year about the changes we’ve made to listener lives”.

The brochure has examples of big things such as helping a listener to completely change government policy, to small changes such as an older listener called Jean whose husband died and due to the public transport route. Jean was unable to visit his grave; the program empowered her, and the result was that the bus route was changed to go past the local graveyard.

Stephen Nolan say being authentic in talk radio is about affecting change. It sounded remarkably similar to the show style that John Laws made famous years ago.

Nolans view is to help make the listener powerful, and a part of the production, and then to lead with that story for 7 days, much like newspapers do with a story.

A further observations was that Nolan finds it useful to manage your production team regarding how they think about audiences.

Do they treat them with real respect?

Nolan says he abhors some production teams who can in some cases become “a group of self selecting people in product team defining intelligence [of a listener]”.

His view is “to help anyone feel confident enough to come to air… and we don’t measure intelligence on how articulate a listener is, our job is to get the story”.

So what can all talent, Newstalk or Music, take from this session:

– Find content that affects people lives
– Be committed to it, work it into something
– Stay with it, give a story time make it campaign-able
– Putting people on air who are there for their content, not your judgement of perceived intelligence
– Show your fallibility, it will help gain you the listeners trust

Fundamentally Stephen Nolan is driven to build listeners trust. That he says, will translate to bigger ratings in the long run.

Dirk Anthony is at Radio Days Europe for Radio Today, Dirk is an internationally recognised radio consultant, and can be contacted here.


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