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The Power of Production

Every day in the sports talk radio universe we find ourselves examining which stories to talk about, which angles to focus on, which guests best fit our subjects and which hard hitting opinions will elicit the strongest emotional response from our audience. One thing that sometimes gets lost though in the process is how production can factor into the daily plan to enhance the presentation. Over the past 10 years we’ve witnessed a strong number of sports radio stations migrate to the FM band which forever had been known as the destination for music. So if music is what people have come to expect on the FM band then doesn’t it make a little bit of sense to utilize the two together?

HeadphonesWhen it comes to the sports format we often see that a number of stations compete for the all-important demographic of Men 25-54 with classic rock, alternative rock and modern rock radio stations. In some markets you’ll even see Top 40, CHR and Hip-Hop enter the mix. When you dig deeper you find that many of your listeners whether they’re hardcore or casual fans, also spend times with music brands. They’re clearly telling you that they have other interests beyond your brand of content and when they’ve received what they need from you, they’re going to seek out other forms of entertainment. This is where opportunity comes in.

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I believe the feel, sound and entertainment value of a radio station is critical. The messaging should capture the feel that the radio station is fun and in sync with what’s relevant in society. When it comes to music I want titles which are more current or popular over the past 10 years and I often look for them to be up tempo and instrumental. That’s because I want the pace to always be moving forward and because I want my hosts to be heard clearly without having to battle vocal harmonies and loud screams. Listen I grew up on Led Zeppelin, ACDC, Black Sabbath and Bon Jovi and some of those bands songs will always be cool to me but if the sound of your brand captures the feel of what mattered 30-40 years ago then I believe you’re at an instant disadvantage because the cool-factor of the radio station is gone.

ledzepWhen older titles from 30-40 years ago are featured it makes people feel old and out of touch plus the style of what you’re showcasing is targeted to the latter part of your demographic which makes you sound like “the older sports station for adults” versus the fun, hip sports station that is built for today and tomorrow’s audience. It can also damage your on-air personalities because it makes them appear out of touch even if they’re not. As a rule of thumb I believe the goal should be to connect with the 32-35 year old male. If he knows about it and thinks it’s cool, then that’s what should be on the radio station. When a popular movie comes out on DVD and I know it’s been well received by the public and people are using quotes from it in daily conversation then that’s something you should be looking at to utilize either in your shows or promo production. If a popular artist is coming to town, bumping into a segment with some of their tunes/intro beds or using one of their hooks for a creative rejoin makes you sound slick. It tells people you recognize what’s happening and you’re focused on satisfying their tastes.

One other area where production can be extremely helpful and at times even critical is when it comes to launching a new personality in a market or a brand new talk show. When change happens listeners immediately put up their guard. They want to often know “why was the other show removed, who’s this new personality, why should I listen to him/her and what’s this new show about“. Until the show hits the airwaves and an identity is understood, the only preview comes in the form of production via coming soon promos.

WWEOne brand that truly gets this and does an excellent job at it is the WWE. You don’t have to be a fan of professional wrestling to understand the concept. Simply put, their creative team develops a character behind the scenes and creates promos to capture who the character is. They then air those promos for weeks leading up to the wrestler’s debut and by the time the individual appears, the audience usually has a grasp on who they are. It’s about creating hype and interest and the WWE does it extremely well.

Case in point watch this video below. This is the promo for a group called “The Wyatt Family” which features a guy named Bray Wyatt as the deranged leader of a twisted cult. At the time this promo was launched the audience had no familiarity with the trio. As of today they’re one of the most popular factions on WWE programming. This is an illustration of great character development, strong production, consistent marketing and crisp execution.

Now some stations place little emphasis on the sound of music, production and relevant audio drops and that’s their choice and many have success doing it that way so there’s definitely more than one way to skin the cat. For yours truly though I’d rather play to the strengths of what I know the local audience is currently into rather than tell them to take what I give them or get lost. The reality is that we all like music, movies, comedy and sports and when a station can deliver great sports content and surround it with a presentation that’s youthful, fun, fresh and entertaining then you stand a better chance to connect.

To wrap this up I’ve attached a few audio samples below which will illustrate some easy ways to make people feel connected to your show/station better. I’ve shared these philosophies with numerous producers and hosts over the years and many have taken advantage of it to help improve their programs. I hope that by thinking of the value production can play in shaping your show/station identity, that it also serves you well in the future.

In most cases you can tell a story through promo production but there’s also other options to explore such as creating some forward momentum through creative rejoins and producing customized feature opens to lead into created segments. The style of what you use should always fit the story or content direction and in most cases it should be in line with the sound of the radio station. I assure you that by putting the extra time into your presentation will help you gain a deeper appreciation and respect from your audience as well as an improved listening experience and it won’t take long before they’re letting you know about it.

 Promo – Coming Soon “The Damon Bruce Show” (courtesy of Jeff Schmidt)

Rejoin – Oakland A’s-What’s Going Down

Rejoin – 49ers-Don’t Stop The Party

Production Piece – A Tribute To Al Davis

Feature Open – 1 on 1

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