Joel Raab

“Personality” is the operative word. Anyone can recite facts or read someone else’s prep. That’s a deejay. A personality has a point of view. When you play that new Luke Bryan song, people want your opinion, not faint praise.

Besides music, what do your listeners really know about you? Do they know where you like to go, what you like to eat? What you’re binge-watching on TV this week? PS: Please don’t be one of those air talents who says, “I don’t watch TV.” If that’s the case, pick a different profession. Your listeners are watching TV, so you had better do so, too.

If you’re doing a Nashville News type of feature, give as few facts as possible about each story. Say just enough to give the listener the idea of what’s going on. Then, look for the emotional angle. What’s your reaction to what happened today (for example, T.J. Osborne coming out)? Has anyone in your family gone through that? Sharing (within reason) helps you connect. How much is too much? That’s for another column, but the adage "less is more” probably suffices here.

Anyone can tell your listeners what’s going on. They can read it on their phones. As air personalities, listeners want to know what you think. Often, they look toward you as an opinion leader, especially concerning country music. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain, too (“I like it, but maybe not his best effort … what do you think?”). That makes you more real. There’s nothing worse than insincere praise. Listeners have radar for that.

“You” is the operative word in connecting as a personality on the air and social media. “What’s going on with you?” “How do you like playing the game?” “What’s your family doing this weekend?”

How are you prepping? Perhaps a better question is, “Are you prepping?” A few thoughts on prepping:

1) Make sure you’re getting the listener’s attention quickly at the beginning of a break.

2) Know how your break is going to end before you start. Have a strong “out” ready to go.

3) Map out each talk break before your shift so you know what you’re doing and where you’re going each time you crack the mic.

The bond between country radio listeners and air talent is somewhat unique to our radio format. Those who have worked in other formats will testify to that. Take advantage of it. Have a point of view, reveal some aspects of yourself (without going overboard), be relevant, talk about what people are talking about and keep it entertaining. Keep it concise, as bite-sized bits work best.

It doesn’t have to perfect all the time! But it has to be real. In fact, imperfection sometimes makes talk breaks sound more real (though don’t overdo it).

Ask someone you respect to review your work, even if you don’t work for that person. You’ll be surprised at the positive response you’ll get to a request of that nature, no matter what market or career phase you’re in.

Be open to getting better if you want to grow, and never stop growing. — Joel Raab

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