“It takes a certain kind of fool who likes to hear the sound of his own name.”
This ancient wisdom comes to us from the Eagles’ “Desperado” album in the 1970s. In those heady days, during the rise of FM radio in America, it seemed all an air personality needed to do was say his own name on the air to become recognized and remembered.
In the decades since, we’ve seen radio penetration and daily use remain strong. We’ve also seen the rise of hundreds of cable TV personalities, thousands of personality writers/bloggers on the Web and more media gurus and political pundits than ever.
What does this mean for a radio talent? It means there’s more competition than ever to own a position in the mind of a listener as a real personality.
If you want to be more than a friendly voice between songs or an average talk show host or news reader, you must build your own personal brand.
It’s up to you
Who’s in charge of that brand? You are.
You should not count on your program director or general manager to build it for you. While they almost certainly will help a personality with aspects of a campaign to become known, liked and remembered, their main efforts will focus on bigger-picture concerns such as ratings, revenue and expenses.
Even in the days when a morning show brand was constructed carefully by in-house managers, at the end of the day it was still best that the personality took charge of his or her own image in order to move on to endeavors at other radio or TV stations — or today, online.
What is a personal brand? It’s the perception that a personality occupies in a consumer’s mind.
These days, the hardest part is occupying any cerebral space at all. Clearly, just being on the air isn’t enough. So what’s a personality to do?
Start with a “What can I be known for” brainstorming list. Don’t be critical at first; just write it all down and then go back later and pick your best shot.
A morning show host of my acquaintance wanted to be known as the guy with the insider contacts at the biggest sports team in town. He wanted people to know that he cared about those less fortunate than himself by doing charity work. Most important, he wanted listeners to think of him as being consistently funny.
After 10 years in one market, it seems clear that he is pretty well known for his contacts at the team. He accomplished this by developing friendships with players and having them on the air with regular frequency, year round, not just in season.
He picked four major charities, each of which had big events for which he served as master of ceremonies, with his image on their printed materials and online.
Capturing his third brand attribute of being consistently funny has been much more of a challenge. As we all know, comedy is tough. Fortunately he has surrounded himself with funny people, and he has featured many traveling comedians on his show.
By the way, he made the majority of these arrangements himself. He did not rely on a PD to find him charities or make dates for him to attend their events. He booked his own on-air talent and he forged his own player relationships.
Okay, maybe you’re not funny, don’t like charities and couldn’t care less about sports. Here’s a small list to get your brainstorming started.
A) You offer the best personal advice of anyone in your market. You’re so good, you’re the local Dear Abby.
B) You know more about local politics than anyone, and people in your city think that’s important.
C) You have amazing musical knowledge. You’re so good, you make Dick Clark look uninformed.
D) You’re Mister Concert. You bring on every band. You know them, they love you. Artists are on your show constantly.
E) You are totally hot-looking and people want to be associated with you because of your looks and friendly persona. The opposite sex finds you irresistible. (Trust me, if you are, you’ve known it since you were 18.)
F) You know sports trivia so well, you can tell a caller who won the 1929 World Series without even looking it up on the Web.
G) You have an amazing voice. It’s so deep, sensual or unusual that people know you as soon as you open your mouth, even off the air.
H) You are Ms. Everywhere. You attend every major and minor event in your city. Hey, even if it’s a public library reopening, you are there.
I) You’re the Twitter dude. My lord, you have 100,000 followers in a market that only has 30,000 residents.
Is there such a thing a personal brand for radio executives who aren’t on the air? You bet there is; and if you’ve made it this far into the article, you’re smart enough to know that you should be developing your own personal brand attributes. This is true of any professional in any department of a media organization.
In today’s radio environment, I advise being known for more than one thing on your brainstorming list. Build a strong brand through words, action and personal responsibility.
The author is president of Lapidus Media. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.