How to Win the Ratings – The Breakfast Show Blueprint – Part 3

Greg Smith is a Director of Radio Today.

In this series of articles I wanted to explore the key ingredients of a top rating breakfast show.

I’ve enlisted the help of prominent programmers & researchers, people much smarter than me, to tell you how to win the ratings in radio’s most important daypart.

You can read part 1 with Jon Coleman and part 2 featuring Todd Wallace. Today we get insights from Randy Lane (left).

The Randy Lane Company specialises in talent coaching and personality branding for radio and television personalities. Jimmy Kimmel, Ryan Seacrest, Carson Daly and scores of others have been coached by Randy Lane.

The three most important qualities for breakfast shows today are:

1. Authenticity
2. Humour
3. Storytelling


People today are immediately attracted to authenticity because so much of what they encounter on the internet and in the media is hype and fakery. Pop culture, sports, political and religious icons continue to be exposed and fall on a regular basis.

Being authentic on radio begins with having a clear point-of-view on every topic discussed. It’s critical to deliver your POV with passion AND with respect to the opposing viewpoint. The second and deeper level of authenticity is augmenting your opinions with stories. Your opinions and stories together reveal your character. Authentic characters connect with listeners emotionally and create a personality brand that listeners remember.


Who among us doesn’t love to laugh…especially to start our day? Humour trumps and masks many deficiencies. Self-deprecating humour is endearing and increases your likability. Observational humour relates to our daily experiences and therefore is highly relatable. Awkward humour can make us uncomfortable yet it connects with us emotionally, we feel it immediately.

The Power of Story

We communicate and learn best through stories. Stories are sticky. Listeners remember captivating stories more than any other content on breakfast shows. Stories are so powerful that medical patients will go with a procedure based on stories from other patients over a procedure that is statistically more reliable.

Ultimately, it is our stories that define who you are as a personality. They reveal the memorable parts of your character that are relatable and universal to your audience.

Harold Ramis created blockbuster movies such as Ghostbusters, Animal House, Caddyshack that demonstrated the power of story. Listen to how he and the writers used their real-life experiences to create many of the stories in Animal House.
or hear it here

Five Fundamental Principles of Storytelling – The Master Skill

  • To tell a story succinctly before you go on the air, start by asking yourself the five "W"s (who, what, when, where, why). This will give you the basic outline of the story's beginning, middle and end.
  • Paint a picture by making your story sensual. Dig for details by bringing in the five senses (I see…I hear…I smell…I taste…I feel…)
  • Ask yourself "What's at stake/Hook Headline?" to add drama to the story. In a simple story about forgetting your anniversary, your relationship is potentially at stake. Then, use the "What's at stake?" answer to design your hook headline. Ex: "My wife has kicked me out of the bedroom!" 
  • Include personal reflections or realisations to narrate your story. As things happen in the story, share your inner dialogue. So you walk in the front door empty-handed and you see your wife's face. A sentence like, "It suddenly dawned on me… is today our anniversary?" stops the action for a second to add more tension to the story.
  • Use only the details that are pertinent and move the story toward its payoff. Avoid tangents.


Randy Lane can be contacted here

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