Tracy Johnson: 7 Ways to Gain Listener Credibility

Every day, we tell listeners what we think of them.

They can sense when we think of them as a large mass of audience. And they feel it when we treat them with respect and show them we love them by speaking with them personally, warmly and intimately.

That’s how radio personalities gain listener credibility, and it is an important key to advancing along a Personality Success Path.

In real life, we want friends that like us, not just tolerate being around us. As they spend time with you, the relationship deepens. Building a listener fan base is a similar process. But unless the audience gets to know you, they’ll never like you. And without liking you, they won’t value the relationship enough to become a fan.

That’s where gaining listener credibility comes in.

7 Ways To Gain Listener Credibility

Credibility is important for all brands, including a personality brand. On the air, a personality brand depends exclusively on an individual-you. If you’re not believable or authentic, it’s hard to get traction.

Here are 7 ways to work on building that brand.

1. Show Some Respect

Respecting the audience starts with understanding that this is not about you and what you have to say. It’s all about how the audience feels when they listen to your show. Only when personalities connect with the interests and values of the audience will they have a chance to succeed.

That’s at the heart of the It’s Not About You, It’s All About You concept. But connecting with listeners starts with understanding them and relating to them based on who they are.

There’s a process to help understand your audience better by building a Target Audience Composite. This will help craft content and stay in touch with their lifestyle, behaviour and values.

With a deeper understanding of the audience, it’ll be easier to sound like “one of them”. One of the highest complements listeners pay an air talent is when they say,

“I like her. She seems just like me.”

2. Deliver What You Promise

It drives listeners crazy when we promote something as coming up at a specific time, and it doesn’t happen. Or even if it doesn’t happen on time.

They notice when that feature scheduled at 7:20 comes on at 7:24. And in a world where every moment counts, this is a big deal. The only thing worse is starting it early, causing listeners to miss it.

If you tease a song, then drop it, you lose credibility. Some personalities don’t think of it as a big deal. They think listeners don’t pay enough attention to notice. If they don’t notice, it probably wasn’t worth promoting, or it wasn’t promoted well. So the tease was a waste of time. 

That means personalities must take preparation and performance discipline seriously. It’s important to execute with precision and hit those time markers.

3. Be Unpredictable

Consistency is critical for a winning radio show, but predictability is death. There’s a big difference in those terms.

Consistency is dependable execution of the personality brand position so listeners get what they expect.

Predictability is repetition and sameness to the point of being bored.

Great personalities build a surprise into every break. Not to the point where you shock the audience with content or elements that don’t fit the expectation, but plan twists and unexpected delights they don’t see coming. 

4. Be Authentic

Authenticity isn’t the same as truth. But authenticity always rings true.

Authentic personalities are true to their on-air persona. Stay inside the boundary defined in the personality brand profile

Then, perform with a vulnerability. Be a real person, true to who you are. That’s one way to gain listener credibility. Over time, they can grow to love you for it.

5. Be Enthusiastic

Nobody likes to be around negative, cynical or sarcastic people. It brings us down. And listeners tune into their favourite radio shows to be put into a good mood.

Bring a positive and upbeat personality. That doesn’t mean to only talk about positive things. Nor does it mean you shouldn’t demonstrate a broad range of emotions in presenting content. Rather, it’s about the overall tone. Be positive.

This goes for every exchange with listeners, on and off air. Listeners form an impression with every contact. Keep this in mind when you meet them in public. In fact, a personal meeting often carries a greater impact than what you say on the air.

6. Stay Fresh

The relationship with the audience is a romance. It may start with a lot of sparks, but the newness wears off fairly quickly.

Personalities must constantly update, evolve and develop new material. Otherwise, listeners have a tendency to become bored. 

Take steps to evolve on a regular basis. This will keep the show familiar, yet fresh. Then, conduct a full analysis once per quarter

7. Avoid Inside Talk  

Listeners don’t know what a control board is or that you’re wearing headphones. And they don’t care.

Talking about things they can’t relate to is the fastest way to drive a wedge between you and the audience. 

Work on always talking to them from their perspective, not yours. This is common sense, but it’s amazing how many shows have a case of IMEWEUS, a condition that is talking about us more than them. 

That’s not to suggest there’s no room for personal stories or comments from a personal perspective. It’s a matter of creating a listener-first orientation in all presentation on the air.

This extends to every aspect of performance, including how segments are set up and contests and promotions are explained. Even the best listeners aren’t tuned in that much. Explain even the simplest concepts assuming they know nothing about it and are hearing it for the first time. Because most of the time, it is.


Building a fan base takes time, but time along won’t result in a large audience or successful career. Advancing through the 5 Stages of Growth in the Personality Success Path goes much faster when you gain listener credibility.

These 7 tips won’t guarantee success, but they’ll give you a much better chance of becoming a wildly successful radio personality.

Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.

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