Developing Today’s Radio Talent

Dave Charles is a global broadcast and creative media strategist with over 4 decades of radio, talent development, and new format creation.

He worked for Austereo in the 90’s and formed ESP with Greg Smith.

Dave is now the President of MRI (Media RESULTS International). He writes today about developing today’s radio talent :-

Everything has changed for radio because of social media’s impact. For some it represents a threat, while for others it is an opportunity to re engage with its listeners. It’s the most amazing renaissance of our lifetime. And, we are a part of it.

One of the key aspects of developing your radio station is the talent you hire and the way you train them in this area of social media. Many stations are far behind in this area and need to pay attention as their listeners are being informed and entertained by other sources to numerous to mention. The internet is so powerful. ‘Where do you want to go today’? The possibilities are endless as we all know.

Every successful station is defined by their personalities. Merrick and Rosso, Hamish and Andy, Kyle and Jackie O are (or were in the case of M&R) successful because they are compelling to listen to. If you miss their show, you might miss something that your friends will be talking about.

From my experience, good talents possess these qualities. They are original, risky, topical, local and above all engage their listeners to participate. During my 16 years in Australia I enjoyed great talents like Martin/Molloy, Jamie Dunn, Wendy Harmer, Hamish and Andy, Ugly Phil, Doug Mulray and Kyle Sandilands. Today, radio is challenged to find new talents that will keep their appeal high and ratings strong. Radio is not looking for D.J.s anymore.

I’d like to comment on talent and stunts. For years this has been a part of contemporary’s radio’s culture. Some stunts are fun, funny and good spirited. In other words nobody gets hurt. Other stunts are harmful and put people in dangerous or extremely embarrassing situations. I hate these kinds of stunts. I think they can do more to destroy your personalities and station image they you can even measure. Stunts are a part of the reality experience. On TV you have the ‘Amazing Race’ now in its tenth season. ‘Survivor’ in its 15th season. These shows are highly produced with big budgets. Most radio stations attempt stunts in real time and throw caution to the wind. Most stunts are entertaining, while others (with a twist of fate) can go terribly wrong.

Nobody could have predicted the worldwide uproar with Kate Middleton and the Royals. SCA imposed an embargo on radio stunts because of this incident. Some will say we lost one of radio’s greatest creative angles. The Stunt. I think it’s time to regroup and rethink radio stunts. As a tactic they can create great word of mouth. The problem I have is that PD’s don’t have the experience to create stunts properly. One of the best radio stunts ever was ‘The Fugitive’. It was completely engaging and fun to listen to. If you’re not good at constructing stunts, don’t go there.

Today’s radio is competing with social media content such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for TSL. Radio needs to adopt and adapt to this wave of new media smartly and integrate social media into the mix to connect with their listeners or face being left behind and irrelevant.

Many stations don’t have a social media strategy. Now’s the time to get one. PD’s haven’t thought about how to integrate social media into their programming mix. I’ve found that many on air talents are using social media without a plan. How much is too much? How do you weave Tweets and Facebook into your show? What’s your exposure and liability? At what point does it become a tune out and destroy the mood that your music is trying to create.

YouTube has now surpassed TV in viewership. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are engaging consumers on a very wide scale. Radio needs to lift its game and find a better way to be a part of the new media landscape or be left behind.

PD’s need to consider how they’re developing their talents for this new era of social media communications.

Talent tips for today’s radio

Look for talents that possess a creative curiosity about life and have the ability to talk about. Encourage them to get out and experience the local scene. Those talents that hang out in the station with their radio friends are usually void of any real experiences to talk about. Don’t hire DJ’s, hire creative people who can inform and entertain with focus and purpose.

Every talent you work with must have a smart phone. It’s a tool they can’t afford not to have. I now ask talents to use their videos on their smart phones to capture real moments. Then I ask them to practice describing what they saw. This is a great new technique to help them improve their ‘turn of phrase’ and storytelling. Ask yourself.  When you go to a party, who do you hang out with? I’ll bet it’s with the most interesting and funniest person in the room. The problem with most radio personalities is that they have allowed their formatics to get in the way of their creativity. I blame the PD’s for this. It’s their job to coach talents and develop some new thinking and approaches to their show.

There are some terrific APP’s that can help talent to prepare better and more engaging shows. Beyond Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn there’s Tunein Radio which allows you to hear any station in the world in real time. Pinterest, Flipboard. There are many entertainment sites as well that allow your talent to be focused on the hot topics for their shows.

PD’s need to see every talent for a few minutes each day to help them focus their show. I have created a show outline for each talent based on their shows time. It’s important that they identify with what the audience is experiencing at that time. Most talents tend to be oblivious to that and miss making the connection with the listener. I’ll send you my morning show talent prep guide for free if you make contact at or my global media email is [email protected]

The top three things I raise with talents in my sessions are:

  1. Learn to adapt quickly.  Example, Twitter is now the world’s leading source for news.
  2. Be responsive.  Beyond content there is context. This means that you need to make sense of what’s happening and relate that to your listeners.
  3. Create value for your listeners.  Talents currency is the value of their content.  Is this content worth sharing with a friend or is it forgettable?

Here’s my essentials for talent:

  • What’s on everyone’s mind today? What will your listeners to talking about?
  • What are the hot topics today?  New APPs?  Celebrity gone bad?
  • Who stepped into the poo?  What is the consequence, the fall out and the running comments on this?
  • Seize the moment.  Only live radio can do this.  If you’re voice tracking in other dayparts you lose this ability to get on a hot subject.
  • Personal experiences.  Treat your audience as you would a friend.  Share your experiences and observations.
  • Who made a difference today?  Give them credit.
  • New things.  Stuff that caught your attention.  Be the source of new things.
  • The new creativity is ‘Data informed’.  Facts about the way our world in changing becomes currency for your listeners.
  • Listen, interact, react, and engage.  This is a great way to sequence you content and show.
  • Redesign creativity.  It’s more about the romance than the science.

Above all, great radio is theatre of the mind.  Have fun!

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