40 Secrets From Successful Morning Shows

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40Shared with permission from talent coach Steve Reynolds.

I was asked two weeks ago by Radio Ink to develop the list of the 40 things all successful morning shows do, regardless of format. The article is linked here, as seen in their annual Top 40 issue. Here’s the list you can compare against your show:

  1. The show has an overarching content strategy, or “plot”, unique to them and different from everything in the market.
  2. The cast is well-defined where each member is different from the others. And the core cast is seen as likable.
  3. The show has significant and meaningful points-of-differentiation from other entertainment choices available.
  4. The show is fun to listen to and there’s lots of laughter.
  5. The cast is vulnerable in sharing stories about their lives so the audience says, “They’re just like me.”
  6. The program is driven by the topics of the day, knowing the highest equity topics equals the broadest appeal.
  7. They’re always honest with the audience.
  8. The show (its cast and the content they do) matter to the audience.
  9. Collectively and individually, they prep relentlessly, always looking for the right topics and doing things with them that’ll intrigue the audience.
  10. They’re friendly with the other departments in the building and work tirelessly to help those people reach their goals so they’re treated the same.
  11. They rely less and less on canned prep services because they can create their own content.
  12. They understand that “facts tell and stories sell”. They are spectacular story-tellers.
  13. They are highly inquisitive of the world around them and that drives content development.
  14. They are confident enough in what they don’t know and love to be challenged.
  15. They take smart, strategic chances and are not afraid to “fail up”.
  16. They have mechanisms in place to resolve internal conflict when it appears.
  17. They care about each other as people and can move the audience to care about them.
  18. They have a positive relationship with the managers and don’t see them as adversaries.
  19. In prep, they develop more than they need so they can truly do the A-level ideas and be graded as such by listeners.
  20. They’re innovative and their ideas turn P2s into P1s.
  21. They have at least one significant daily benchmark on the show which defines their sense of humor and causes habitual listening.
  22. The egos in the room are healthy enough to drive stardom but not so great to cause division.
  23. They let others associated with the show know how valuable they are to the success of the team.
  24. They know what’s going on locally, even reading the actual paper.
  25. They belong to local civics groups.
  26. On-air, they don’t forget the value of the basics, like giving the weather and time and promoting the rest of the radio station, its personalities and promotions.
  27. They have a strong interest in “retail politics”, knowing that meeting listeners will get them to use the show more.
  28. They don’t say no to something because there isn’t a talent fee attached.
  29. Each cast member holds a distinct point-of-view on every topic.
  30. They can create conflict and drama to hook listeners.
  31. The cast never loses touch with its constituency.
  32. The show is constantly innovating, coming up with ideas that fit the brand which communicate the show plot, reflect pop culture, or define who they are.
  33. The cast does “narrative story arcs”, which are entertaining, multi-day chapters of a story to get listeners to come back again.
  34. They are highly motivated to win and never lose their work ethic.
  35. The show is predictable so the audience is comfortable with them, but not so predictable that they become vulnerableto something fresh across the street.
  36. Each cast member replies to listener emails, voicemails, and social media posts so they know they’re being heard.
  37. Each understands the personal and professional goals of the others in the room and works hard to help them achieve them.
  38. They love and welcome discomfort knowing there’s growth in that path.
  39. They evolve as people over time and can bring the audience along for the ride.
  40. With longevity, they care about and give back to their community and communicate they love living there to listeners.