Before ever speaking into a microphone, think about this: who is your audience? 


I was teaching a news anchoring class to a group of broadcast school students years ago. The students were provided a variety of stories to select from to deliver in the mock newscast. It was a role-play situation and I told them to pretend they were broadcasting the news on radio in Atlanta.


I was dumbfounded when one student after another selected their stories completely at random – news stories from Pittsburgh, national stories, traffic, sports. What they selected to read was a complete geographic and subject matter grab bag.


After admonishing two or three of them for this, I stopped the whole class and laid a foundation for them which I didn’t realize they were missing. As no one had ever told them before, I shouldn’t have assumed this.


Before doing anything on-air, know your audience.


If you’re hosting a sports talk show in Atlanta, your audience, and therefore your topics, your guests, your delivery, is going to be totally different than if you’re hosting a country radio morning show in Dallas. That seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many hosts – especially inexperienced hosts – neglect trying to understand their audience before they begin delivering their show.


Geography, gender, age, interests, all of these should be taken into account before you say one word in order to deliver the best show possible.


Remember, you’re not doing this show for yourself.


I run into this mistake with sports talk show hosts all the time. Far too often, hosts end up talking about what interests them, not what interests their audience.


This is a particular struggle for me with my station here in Jacksonville during the summer. We don’t have a professional baseball team and without football in-season, too many of my hosts rely on talking about their favorite baseball team to fill air time. In Jacksonville, FL in May, June and July, I turn on my station and far too often hear conversations about the Mets, Pirates, Cubs and Red Sox. Our audience doesn’t care about these teams.


This may be the worst habit we have.


Talking about what interests you while ignoring what interests your audience is indulgent, selfish and, candidly, stupid.


Why would a host do this?


Because no one ever told you different? Well, now someone has.


Far too often, it’s because the host is lazy and didn’t prepare the show adequately and needs to fall back on his or her comfort zone topics as a crutch to fill time?


Focusing your show on what your audience wants to hear seems so obvious, but it something many hosts don’t carefully consider.


It was the greatest challenge we had when I worked with Colin Cowherd at ESPN. We had 300 affiliate stations; what could possibly appeal to all of those different people equally? The answer is nothing.


Someone in Nashville and someone in Los Angeles and someone in Portland and someone in Madison, WI and someone in New Jersey aren’t going to have the same sports passions, but you can play the odds. We discovered that everyone likes the NFL at least a little bit so we talked mostly about the NFL. We discovered everyone likes funny stories, so Colin told funny stories. Along with that we talked about big, marquis personalities who everyone does have an opinion about: LeBron, Kobe, Tiger, Tom Brady.


Who are you trying to reach? Who will be listening? Who do you want listening? What is that person’s needs?


These are the questions you need to ask yourself before turning the microphone on.


Dig deeper.


When will your audience be listening?


A listener to morning drive has different needs and motivations than a listener to overnight radio. A listener at 7:00 AM might need traffic and weather. A listener at 10:30 PM, probably not.


How will your audience be listening?


Will they be listening live on the radio or days after recording on a podcast?


Is this a talk show or podcast where people will listen in their office, in their car, on weekends? Should this content be specifically timely or do you want people to listen months from now?


Take all of that into consideration when constructing your show.


As with any business, the more you know about your customers, the better you’ll be able to deliver them. If you’d like help analyzing your show’s audience and delivering content more tailored to them, I’m here to help.