Radio Lessons from the Real World – #46 – Hostage Negotiators

There are few jobs where the weight of the world truly rests on your shoulders. Jobs where your actions actually have life or death consequences. The work of Hostage Negotiators is not enviable, but sadly vital, when real life meets Hollywood and innocent, regular people doing innocent, regular things suddenly find themselves in harms way.

This work requires a generous skill set; a deep understanding of human nature and the science of psychology, razor sharp communication, the ability to read a situation and a complete stranger in an instant, saint-like patience and the ego-less conviction to know whether to press on through discussions or find another means. It is as precise as brain surgery, as delicate as artistry and as unpredictable as war.

Without trying to minimize the complexity of what is involved in a hostage situation, there are three golden rules people in this profession live by:

Go slow. Speed kills.

Talk about the perpetrator’s situation and remove emotion.

Have them say ‘yes’ often.

Powerful and profound yes?

And are these three golden rules not almost the same as the ones we use every day when we are creating compelling, memorable radio shows?

Go slow. Speed kills.

Be aware of word economy but take the necessary time to connect the audience to the moment, paint mental pictures – whether it’s for one of the Big 5 stories of the day or reminding listeners how to play a contest you have played every day for years.

Talk about the situation.

The star of the show is not the broadcaster but rather the topic of discussion, or the interviewee or the listener calling in to be part of the show. Great shows reflect the real world rather than trying to connect through self-indulgence or outbound topic creation.

Have them say ‘yes’ often.

Winning shows set the tone of the city. Their positivity and fun factor help create a mood for the listener that is positive and readies them for the day ahead. They are upbeat and energized. They are likeable. Trustworthy. The audience sees them as more than voices in the car; they are friends, voices of reason, a beacon of joy in an otherwise dull and repetitive Monday. They represent rescue from monotony.

The roles of goofy radio host and hostage negotiator are obviously miles apart, and we all know radio shows don’t save lives; but the good ones DO make lives better.

About Ronnie Stanton

Aussie kid living in Canada. His office job is VP – National Brands and Programming for Corus Entertainment .  Ronnie also consults radio stations and coaches morning shows all over the world. He can be reached

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