(Programming) 40 Secrets from Successful Morning Shows




Steve Reynolds


The great folks at Radio Ink asked me for the 40 Secrets of Succesful Morning shows. This was one of the most fun articles I’ve had the chance to write. These apply, regardless of format. What secret do you think I missed?

1. The show has an overarching content strategy, or “plot,” that is unique to the show — and certainly different from everything else in the market.

2. The cast is well-defined, and 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, non-radio entertainment choices available.

4. The show is fun to listen to and there’s lots of laughter.

5. The cast is vulnerable and share 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 have the broadest appeal.

7. Cast members are always honest with the audience.

8. The show (its cast and the content) matter to the audience.

9. Collectively and individually, show members prep relentlessly, always looking for the right topics and doing things with them that will intrigue the audience.

10. They’re friendly with the other departments in the building and work tirelessly to help those people reach their goals, and they get the same treatment in return.

11. They don’t need to rely much on canned prep services because they can create their own content.

12. They understand that “facts tell and stories sell.” They are spectacular storytellers.

13. They are highly inquisitive about the world around them, and that drives content development.

14. They are confident enough to know 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 arises.

17. They care about each other as people and can move the audience to care about them too.

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 that way 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 that defines their sense of humor and drives habitual listening.

22. The egos in the room are healthy enough to drive stardom but not so great that they 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 newspaper!

25. They belong to local civic 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 lose touch with their constituency.

32. The show is constantly innovating, coming up with ideas that fit the brand and communicate the show’s plot, reflect pop culture, or play off who they are.

33. The cast does “narrative story arcs” — 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 it, but not so predictable that it becomes vulnerable to something fresh across the street.

36. Each cast member replies to listener e-mails, voicemails, and social media posts so listeners 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 show they care about and give back to their communities and communicate that they love living there.

Steve Reynolds can be reached at st*****@nc.com or 919.821.4700.

RadioInk Link: HERE


  1. And, a piece of good advice from a PD I used to know: Before waffling on ad nauseam about something that just happens to strike your fancy, always run it through the “WGS*” filter.
    * (Who Gives a S**t)


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