Personality Research Secrets Revealed! pt 2

Co-Founder and Insights Director

There's no hotter topic right now than the personality show dramas, spearheaded by the epic Kyle & Jackie O saga (cue v/o "In a world …).

But what really goes on behind the scenes at the radio networks, when plotting the next chessboard move? Whether at times of turmoil, ongoing maintenance, or succession planning?

This is truly a high-stakes, dark blend of art and science, where research plays a mostly hidden role …

Yesterday, in Part 1, Eriks revealed the background to personality research, how it used to be done and what has filled the gap now. Today, he reveals the practicalities of personality research and which show, in his 30+ year career, is the all-time best-testing team he has ever seen …

The Practicalities …

  • Most personalities/shows are not actively disliked by listeners, unless especially polarising (see below). So you're not normally dealing with negatives – the biggest enemy being indifference.
  • The two most important elements being Familiarity and Favourite
  • Most shows are not familiar outside of their station cume, which makes sense, but can be quite deflating when faced with the figures. Listener's lives don't revolve around the choice of shows in a market!
  • Also, researching non-breakfast and drive music personalities is usually a waste of resources. There's high unfamiliarity, even with station fans, because listening is mostly background or channel-surfing for ad-avoidance in-car. Teen-night shows can sometimes feature high-personality for testing.
  • Talk is a different proposition, as foreground personality is critical in every daypart.
  • Not to diminish the role of music presenters, because they make a big difference to connection and execution values, and should use their own social media tools to build long-term engagement and TSL with fans. The role of fans in diary-keeping is a separate large topic!
  • The Favourite or Really Like/Love score separates the "sticky", "must listen every day" shows from the Like It/It's OK "wallpaper" show that's not disliked, but doesn't cut through either.
  • The sticky shows have very high Familiarity&Fave not only with P1 (Preference1/Loyal) listeners, but also P2s (Non-Loyal/Cume) who might listen to another station for music or other content, but habitually come to you at breakfast or drive.
  • How not to be wallpaper is another big topic, but essentially it's how you build a show that touches emotional hot-buttons and connects with your  listeners' everyday life.



  • Polarisation cuts through and will be reflected in research as divided between positives and negatives. Whether a good or bad thing depends on context.
  • Top talk personalities will often test highly polarised, because they are there to provoke reaction and debate, and ratings&revenue are the ultimate deciders.
  • Polarised love/hate music presenters are a calculated play, and require strong management to keep the reins on excess, while still attracting "car-crash" listening. The ever-more fragmented media environment means an inevitably higher premium on game-changing, disruptive content. Something to keep in mind in the final wash-up of 2013.
  • Multi-media talent can be challenging to test, e.g. coming from TV to radio, as you can never be precisely sure which part of the likes or dislikes come from the past or present. Can come down to asking very specific and elaborate "probe" questions to clarify.
  • Open-ended questions are a very useful tool, as you explore the reasons Why? for a person's response. I've found this a valuable way of identifying the real drivers of a show's appeal. They may not be what you think, and can really help in development and marketing.



Beyond the likeability scale, there might be a more in-depth set of questions, measuring different attributes of a particular personality/show – depending on what's important or of concern to the brand. The end result being a profile of what's great, what needs developing.

Examples are my sense of humour, never know what will happen next, work well together, sometimes too crude when kids are around, tell it how it is, easy-going, and so on.

And The Winner Is …

In over 30 years of running personality research, the all-time best-testing team I have ever seen … with the lowest unfamiliarity in the general population, very low dislikes, and the highest favourite scores is … Hamish & Andy! Quelle surprise 🙂

Be Careful What You Wish For

There's a lot of chatter on Radio Today about reality-show contestants leap-frogging the pipeline, a word-picture in itself.

Given the intense scrutiny and researching of personalities behind closed doors, you want to think very carefully about how you would feel about this in the metro gig.

As has been well canvassed on Radio Today, reality-show people are run through extensive psychological testing up-front, so they know what it's like to perform under those pressures.

With the high profile, perks and rewards of the big break on breakfast or drive, comes the bright spotlight on you as a product and corporate assessment of your ROI. And why a manager/agent is often used to buffer the distraction, and handle the relationship.

Any Questions?

Personality research can be a complex activity with many dimensions, but it can go to the heart of both content and business success, affecting all involved in the brand.

And we're also at the point where Social Media Analytics will increasingly play a part in personality KPIs. If you're not running your own show page and Twitter account now, why not?

I welcome any questions, feedback, discussion that may help  better understanding of how it all works, and the implications.


Eriks Celmins is Managing Director of Third Wave Media and InsiderFocus, consultant for research, strategy and content. Find out more here.

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