On-Air Content Development

Coming up with original on-air content daily on our own is incredibly challenging. We don’t have a team of writers, there’s not always an obvious thing that everyone is talking about that day and even the most creative among us have the occasional creative slump. Figuring out the exact process that will work for us will take time and a lot of trial and error. But, here are five steps any on-air personality or team show can take to put themselves in a better position to hit the airwaves daily with content that’s more developed.

Spend time on it. Trying to fully develop all of our on-air content the day-of is a really bad idea. Some days we’ll get lucky and find the magical combination of being in a creative zone while being gifted a bunch of topics we can add to and personalize, localize and energize. But that is highly unlikely to happen consistently every single day. That’s why most successful shows have about 80% of their show put together before they even walk into the studio that day. Then if they happen to get lucky and come up with more day-of content than expected, they either save some of it for the following day or do the same with some of their pre-prepared content. Remember, we don’t get rewarded for being the first to talk about something on air, we get rewarded for doing it the best.

Dig deeper. Any possible topic we’re considering generally has one or two pretty obvious angles that the majority of personalities are going to recognize and run with, either because they’re overwhelmed, lazy, inexperienced, or because they are rushing it out of the fear of not being first. But, great on-air talent always dig deeper by brainstorming a couple of possible angles allowing them to choose the one that’s most likely to work well with their personality and connect with their specific audience. I go through this exercise regularly with shows I’m coaching and they almost always come up with a few angles on the spot without being given the topics ahead of time.

Run it by others. Part of the reason doing the deep dive brainstorm sessions in our aircheck meetings works is because we create a mini focus group with the show, their manager and myself all working on it. Obviously having a couple minds working on developing show content is going to work better than just one or two. Even with that, and especially without, it’s a good idea to also run our content ideas by other people, co-workers, friends, family and even listeners who call in for other reasons (which is also a great way to pre-seed phone topics!) I can’t count how many times over my career I thought I had come up with the best possible angle only to run it by others and have one of them suggest a tweak, or another angle entirely, that made it substantially better. Plus, at the end of the day if it’s our voice delivering it on-air, we’re the ones that ultimately get credit for it.

Start small and work our way up. Going from doing no fully developed breaks to multiple breaks per hour is unrealistic. We have to ease our way into it or it will overwhelm our daily schedule and we’ll likely give up on it all together. Instead start with a manageable goal of fully developing one or two content breaks per show, that we repeat later in the show. Then move on to one per hour and eventually two or more per hour.

Get more mileage out of our developed content. Turning a self-contained break where we just talk about a topic into an engagement break where we bring the listeners in on it via the phones allows us to fill three or four slots instead of just one. Not to mention the fact that it improves the sound of the show by turning something that was internally focused into something that’s externally focused. We should also always be on the lookout for ways to extend our content to digital, whether that’s recording a video in studio or on-site somewhere in our market where we experience something we discussed, doing a zoom interview with someone involved or a deep dive into a subject as an episode of our after the show podcast.

Overall, content development plays a big role in the success of a show, but it’s not easy, especially day in and day out. Which is why some shows make the mistake of just ripping and reading from a prep service without adding anything to it. It’s also why there’s an enormous gap between serviceable on-air talent that don’t really move the needle or add much value to a station and successful shows that add enormous value to every station they’re on.

What do you think? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.

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