(Programming) Why Name Checking Matters

Jeff McHugh




Let’s say you’ve been doing a daily radio show on the same station in the same city for many years. Your show is successful, your station is consistently in the top three, everyone that listens to your show must certainly know your name, right?


My first learning experience in name recognition was working with Jack Murphy at WKZL Greensboro. Our station and Jack’s show were the dominant #1 in all our target demos and had been for 7-8 years.

That’s when I noticed a tiny, overlooked statistic in one of our regular research reports and I asked Bill Moyes of Moyes Research Associates about it. (I don’t remember the exact statistic, but the conversation was something like this…)

“What does this mean, Bill, ‘market familiarity – 54%?'”

“That means of all the people who listen to radio in this market, only 54% have even heard of Jack Murphy.”

I was shocked. I thought, that’s IT? A measly 54%? I harrumphed that we were the top dog station in town, and felt better when I learned that 54% is an outstanding number. Many great shows don’t get more familiar than 35-40%. And that’s the leadcharacters on the show. Secondary characters, producers, interns, and even some co-hosts are even more unknown.

If you go right now to San Diego, where Jeff and Jer have been on the air successfully since Noah came to dry land in the ark, you will find surprising numbers of listeners who cannot tell you which one is Jeff and which one is Jer.

Even successful shows have many, many listeners that come to your station only occasionally as a second or third choice. And, you would be surprised at the number of new residents moving to your listening area every day. Those people don’t know you or your cast either.

Personality radio is effective when listeners form a personal relationship with the on-air characters on a show. Listeners begin to think of the host, co-hosts, producers, and regular callers as friends or even as part of their family. That’s when their listening loyalty turns into big ratings.

Knowing your name and the names of your on-air cast is the first step in forming that relationship. Here are five practices that will lead to increased name recognition for your show…

1. Name checking in most segment setups. “93.3 WMMR, the Preston and Steve Show, with Kathy Romano, and Caseyboy is here too…”

2. When a new person joins an ongoing discussion, introduce them by name. “Producer T-Bone just walked in; tell us what happened at the Trace Adkins show….”

3. Address each other by name. “Mocha, you were at Rogers Centre for the Blue Jays game when fans started throwing beers…”

4. Save the word “you” for the audience as much as possible. “If you are buying Halloween candy, wait until you hear this couple’s argument about what to give trick-or-treaters!”

5. Build the cast names into show imaging.
a. Produced character clip promos are a great practice. Example:“The World Famous K-Roq, with Kevin (clip of him saying something that demonstrates his character) and Bean…” (clip of his voice and character.)
b. If the show has a name, never give the show name alone. Always give the cast member names too. Example: “Jack’s Morning Glory with Kiah and Tara Jean on Jack FM.”

Let me put it this way: Randy, Dave Ryan, Michelle Stevens, and I listen to more radio shows than most people in North America and even we have trouble knowing who is who on some shows without proper name-checking, even after a couple of listens!

You may at first feel artificial as you mindfully remind listeners what name goes with what voice, but it is a discipline that will help form that emotional bond with your audience, and that is what ultimately leads to better ratings.

Jeff McHugh is a media talent coach for radio, TV, and podcasts at the Randy Lane Company. www.randylane.com





  1. Good advice. I would also add that names should “roll off the tongue” in the English language if you are broadcasting in English.

    I notice many stations, both TV and Radio, are now encouraging announcers and presenters to keep “ethnic sounding names” that are virtually unpronounceable in English, and more importantly, unmemorable. I suspect that these announcers may have even lower recognizability factors than are identified in the story above simply because the names don’t “click” with the audience.

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