A worldwide pandemic, social unrest, protests in the streets – these are the headlines captivating the country. They are also some of the reasons “Why Great Talent is Needed More Than Ever,” according to talent coach and consultant Steve Reynolds of The Reynolds Group.
For years Reynolds has heard the same story many in the industry have also heard: CDs are going to kill radio, Spotify is going to kill radio, podcasts are going to kill radio. “It’s never come true, especially in what we have seen in the three or four months with COVID-19 and with the protests for Black Lives Matter,” he said during a recent webinar held by P1 Media Group and Benztown. “Talent is the quintessential element of a radio station. Great talent can’t be duplicated anywhere else. It’s the X Factor that brings people back to radio that all the other mediums really don’t have. Our ability to bring comfort to and connect with the audience is unparalleled.”
Great talent, he continues, is real talent. “You can’t bullshit listeners. They know when they’re around the real deal,” Reynolds says. “You can’t fake it until you make it. You have to be real all the time. That’s our true power. You can only bring trust to the brand by the people who are on the radio.”
The circumstances of the last few months have been challenging for radio talent, who after being forced to broadcast from makeshift home studios due to the pandemic, now have a country attempting to return to some sort of normal amidst social unrest following the death of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed.
Reynolds has advice for air talent trying to find a way to relate to their audience during these unique times. “Authenticity and relevancy drive everything,” he explains. “If the audience believes that you’re inauthentic, they are never going to give you a fighting chance. Consumers only hang around brands that are authentic. Relevancy is critical.”
When Reynolds hears shows claim they are the escape from the topic, “I think that’s nonsense,” he says. “I think people are searching for connection and context… you want the audience to think ‘I wonder what their take on this is? … People are not looking for an escape from the topic, they’re looking for an escape from the seriousness of the topic.”
The critical X Factor, Reynolds says is tone. “I can say the same sentence a variety of ways. One could be super aggressive, puts you in your silo, makes you defensive and angry. I can also say it another way that is compassionate, understanding and open. And that’s really what I coach.”
A piece of advice Reynolds shared with shows and talent that he works with who were struggling with how to address the protests that have rocked the country in recent weeks: “I want you to think… If you were in church yesterday, what would your preacher say in the sermon and how would they say it? What would the tone of that be? That’s what I want our show to sound like… Connection, brand building, that’s why great talent is needed now more than ever.”
Five Tips To Improve Your Show Tomorrow:
- Stop looking at social media for feedback. “I don’t believe in all the positives and I don’t believe in all the negatives… it will give you a warped perception of what is good and what is bad.”
- Grow your points of differentiation so you are even more unique. “Every show I work with I ask, ‘what are only we giving them that they can’t get from anyone else?’ What do you give [the audience] that is dramatically different from anything else?”
- Be about the radio station. “Commit to making the other personalities on the stations stars on your show and then work super hard with them to help them make you a star on their show. That’s a brand!”
- The audience does not get the little stuff. “We believe in nuances… we’ll change the music bed… we’re going to move the benchmark. The audience doesn’t hear any of that. Be committed to doing big things because in this cluttered world, big things cut through.”
- It’s not the topic that makes the audience come back, what makes them come back is what you do with the topic. “This goes back to point number two about doing something different. Any show can get on the air and talk about the protests but the show that got an African American preacher on air to talk about their view of the protests, that’s something different. It’s what you do with the topics of the day that makes you sticky in the moment that creates this vibe that the audience will miss something special if they don’t listen.” – Jay Gleason