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Cultivate Celebrity at Your Station

While some things have changed in radio, the importance of star power hasn’t

Credit: iStockphoto/soberve While radio brands for specific formats can be difficult to establish and grow, the cult of individual personality on radio airwaves arguably is more vibrant than ever. When stations are able to establish radio personalities as celebrities, the rewards are huge in terms of ratings and revenue.

As we all know, when you go for the gold, the action almost always requires risk. In order for stations to develop personalities, they must commit to larger salaries for talent, superb program directors, significant marketing effort and a willingness to fail and try again.

Because of the risk, the semi-automated jukebox has become the fallback position for too many music stations. How can you convince your owner or corporate structure to take the risk for personality development?

First, you must be willing to put your job on the line based on performance. Next, remind the powers-that-be about the benefits of having a star in-house.

Here’s what a true personality for your morning, mid-day, afternoon or even evening show buys you:

Relationships with your listeners

People relate to and bond with someone they like or find fascinating. Once that voice and name are embedded as a memory, listeners pay attention to what your station is broadcasting. You are no longer background noise. Your personality will drive action.

Listeners will attend your events to be part of the family. They will take part in your fundraisers for charity. They will relate to each other as having your personality in common. They will join your personality on Facebook and follow him or her on Twitter to glean as much as they can about that person and to feel a sense of belonging in a fun community.

Relationships with your clients

Personalities can endorse products in a way that will actually sell them. A simple live-read — even without actual endorsement — can be very effective for clients. When clients meet and bond with personalities at your private parties or at their place of business, it will make a difference in the size of the order you receive and for how long that schedule will be broadcast.


While people can and will set a DVR for TV shows, no such easy product exists for radio — and live personalities with a following can create consistent, habit forming tune-in. The only TV equivalent is live sports. Stations that run as jukeboxes are now competing with a plethora of live streaming services online, many of which are now used on mobile in cars.

The competition is ramped up every year, whether it’s giving people exactly what they want or sounds that are similar to what they already like. I’ve got six apps on my mobile phone right now that deliver everything from rare live concerts to on-demand songs.


Once upon a time, there were rare stations that could generate buzz based simply on their call letters or name. That time has passed. Now it takes names of personalities to make the news, get a pop in social media or be discussed around the coffee machine at work. “Did you hear what so-and-so said this morning on the air?”

Again, I urge you focus on this particular reality: It’s a rare personality who can thrive without a great program director (or series of program directors). Most of these performers — whether projecting their own personality on-air or devising another — require a manager who is part psychiatrist, part motivator, part expert in the culture of the locale and, above all, an excellent listener and problem solver.

Hiring, managing and promoting air personalities bring great risk and tremendous reward. Are you ready for the challenge?

Next month: How to find the right personality for your station.

Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. He can be reached at [email protected].