The Breakfast Show rules

Staff Writer

Tom Watson is president of A.C.C. Consulting & Marketing International with clients in major U.S. markets as well as in Europe and Asia. Tom consulted the Australian Radio Networks in the 90's, taking TT-FM from AM to FM and putting  MIX-FM on the air in Sydney.

Today Tom shares with us some basics of what should go into a breakfast show. It's well worth having a look through each point he makes to see whether your show could benefit in being reminded of some, or all, of the breakfast basics….

There is an old saying that is still true today, “So Goes Your Morning Show, So Goes The Rest Of Your Day parts”.

As I have recently traveled into medium and major markets, I am hearing some of the basics of what makes morning shows successful being forgotten.

Even with stations that may be on top in morning ratings, they can be better if they will just remember WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO THE LISTENERS. You are not there to entertain yourself, you are there to entertain the listeners…period.

A good breakfast “team” is defined  as; “Real people relating real things to real people”, or…. “interesting people relating interesting things to interesting people”.

If you live a boring life and don’t involve yourself in the things your listeners are interested in, how can you possibly talk intelligently about THEIR interests on the air?

The breakfast show is about THEM NOT about YOU and what you like or don’t like. This doesn’t mean you can’t express your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and beliefs,  but make them tie into what the listeners are talking about.

Breakfast is a lot of hard work…it is fun but exhausting. Because of the hours you have to go to bed, get up, and are expected to be bright, alert, and interesting, it requires a lot of personal discipline.

Front-Load each Break. Every time you open the mike, give Call letters/slogan, Time, Temp, forecasted high temp for the day, your name, any local traffic info, pre-promote a feature or bit coming up in the half hour, (appointment setting) THEN go into your pre-planned bit or feature.

Don’t give double-time…pick either analog or digital and stick with it, don’t fluxgate.

Keep in mind that you have someone listening in the morning for about 20 to 30 minutes at the same time each day, period. They are not hanging onto your every word. They are busy running around getting ready to start their day, in the shower, making breakfast, doing their hair, etc.

Be succinct, distinct, and say things in a clear, concise, conversational manner.

Make a list of breakfast activities you think your listeners are doing and drop them into breaks, i.e. “As you’re having that last cup of tea and heading out the door” or, “As you are making breakfast for the family" etc.

When people wake up, they take a “reality check” before putting their feet on the floor. They want YOU to reassure them that everything is OK for them to start their day. They say to themselves;

“I wonder what happened while I was asleep… what’s going on in my world today”. 
“What’s the weather going to be today…how do I dress myself and my family”
“Are there any traffic problems that will make me late for work / school”
“OK Mr. DJ… put a smile on my face quickly then shut up and play my favourite song”

Say things that make the listeners say to themselves “WOW! I didn’t know that” or make them smile, make them feel an emotion about something…either happy or sad.

Decide what “benchmark” features and bits you will do each day at the same time.

Develop a Clock…or get a sheet of paper and divide it into 4 sections and write in stop-set times for each quarter-hour. Write in what bit/feature you want to do in each quarter hour.

Local items are most important. Fun items that relate to your target are second.

Meet daily with entire breakfast program crew to go over what worked and what is planned for “tomorrow”

Breakfast show promo daily & for Saturday and Sunday.

Live the lifestyle of your demo and target listener. Don’t be a hermit and just go from home to work and back home again. Get out and get involved in the community.

Take notes as you drive around of things you see and relate that to the listeners… new shops, buildings etc.

Twice per year take the day off and drive around your market during the hours you are normally on the air. Make notes of what you see going on and be informed.

Use the telephones to enhance your show or a specific topic. Don’t just put callers on the air without a plan.

Know when to “bail out” of a call. Know when the punch line is coming up and then don’t try to top it. Remember, leave them wanting “more” not “wanting you to just  shut up and go away”.

Stay away from “inside jokes” that the listeners have no idea what you’re talking about. If you do these, fill them in on what’s going on.

I didn’t hear any pre-promoting / appointment setting of items of interest coming up in every half hour. Listeners need a solid time to connect their listening to a station when filling out an Arbitron diary. Interesting observation, the best example of this type of pre-promoting has been done for years on NBC’s TODAY SHOW. They are always promoting what’s coming up in every quarter hour. That’s how they became the #1 morning TV show in America…along with having great talent.

If you have a daily feature or bit that you do at the same time every day, when you finish doing it today, pre-promote it for tomorrow (Horizontal promoting). This is also what I call a “sound trigger/benchmark”. Whenever a listener hears the same feature every day, they know what time it is in the hour as they are getting ready for work.

I heard a song ending and the jock started talking without any idea how they are going to end a break. Never go into a stop set unless you know how you are going to end it.

I have always coached morning talent to remember these basic rules of success;

When the listeners wake up, they want to know what happened while they were sleeping. Give them “survival information”.. time, temp, forecasted high for the day, traffic.

Do your home work and come to work prepared. Look up on the internet the topics you are going to talk about and make sure you have the correct information.

Is there something big happening in your market, or around the country, that is top of mind with your target audience. Some call this “water cooler talk”.. the things people talk to their friends about every day at work, school, the gym, etc.

When I was with Benchmark Research Company, and now with my own Consulting Firm, I tell clients they needed a “Benchmark” in every half hour in the morning show. This takes homework and pre-planning, knowing where these bits/feature will go in each half hour throughout the show.

Brevity is the soul of wit. Keep your bits & features short and on point..don’t ramble and get into two or three differ topics in one break. There are exceptions to this rule but they need to be well thought out prior to the show. If you’re doing an on going topic for an hour, take two or three quick calls and move on. People getting ready for the day don’t have 15, 20, or 30 minutes to just sit around waiting for a punchline.

I am a big believer in “The Best OF” show promos. Every morning, run audio on the entire show and find several great items from today’s show and make a great promo. These promos should be on the air within 60 minutes from the end of the morning show.

When they come to depend on you to start their day, everyday, then you have “bonded” with your listeners. If you are careful, you will keep them for a long time.

Tom is available for consulting in Australia. Contact him at [email protected]

Comment Form

Your email address will not be published.

Recent comments (0)
Post new comment


See all