Often in Radio you’ll find yourself on the air broadcasting to a particular audience that you are clearly not a part of. It may be your filling in on a sister station, or were so keen to get your first country gig you didn’t even stop to check what music the station played.

All though I’ve been on air for a few years now my current On Air home is 97.3 FM in Brisbane and its format is right up my alley, I know a lot about 90’s music and class songs by Mariah Carey, Madonna and Whitney Houston as my specialty subject. Until last week when i was asked to fill in on the ICONIC 4KQ. 97.3’s sister station. A station I had grown up on as a kid, that my parents had playing in the house all the time. This station is legendary in Brisbane and plays nothing but Classic Hits. And it’s awesome. But my knowledge of hits from the 60’s and 70’s isn’t as sharp or finely tuned like my instant 90’s recall.

Even though your on-air confidence assures you that you will be OK. A lot should go into preparing for a shift on any station that you’re not actually in the demo of.
When in the situation of broadcasting to a demographic that you’re not part of, it can be hard to relate, connect and keep the attention of those whom the station is trying so hard to serve. Take a step back for a minute and really think about who it is who may have their radio on at the exact second you go to air and what it is that they may be doing at that particular time. Relating to a person, especially of a different sex and stage of life can be difficult, awkward and dangerous for a station that may even lose a listener if you alienate them by saying something careless, insensitive or factually incorrect. A couple of tips :

  • Don’t remind listeners how old they are or how long ago anything took place. They already know, they were there, and you possibly weren’t. Look for connection of an event or tune that doesn’t sound condescending.  Saying “a flashback to 1989” or “we’re going way back to the decade of perms and Prince” isn’t cool. Especially if the demo feels like that was only yesterday, they themselves had a Perm and Prince LP collection. (Luckily, I had both). Instead maybe try something like “coming up we’re playing a song from the guy who…” or “If you were dancing on the Carindale basketball court when the Blue Light Discos were there, you’ll love the tune I’m going to play for you next.”
  • When broadcasting at various times of the day, don’t reflect on what you’d be doing if you weren’t in the studio, rather reflect on what THEY would be doing. Just because you normally sleep in on a Saturday morning doesn’t mean your  listeners do. Saying “Gee I never knew the sun came up this early” may annoy the mother of 3 who has been up since 6am. Instead, your listeners might relate better to something like this: “If you’ve been up with the kids since real early this morning, join me for your third cuppa, while we play the new one from a former Aus Idol runner-up next.
  • Preparation for any shift is key. Do your research and have more facts, titbits, grabs and good stories than you’ll need. Unique bits and pieces from any given year can help. Sound bites from historic events, anything that can help you paint a picture in their mind and evoke a memory that will leave them smiling.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Go as far as to list everything you think your core audience may be doing in the next few hours. You have to communicate with them, and find a connection. Connection is key. Connect with them and you’ll win them for life no matter how old you are, they think they are or how little you both actually have in common.

Oh, and its never a bad thing to fake it till you make it. You don’t have to be in the demo to be sympathetic to the demo.

Liam Renton has 20 years of radio under his belt as an Announcer, a Program Director, an Executive Producer and was recently voted Number 35 in the airheads Greatest Solo Jocks of all time Poll.