Successful morning shows are like real-life soaps on the radio, with a role for radio personalities and listeners who tell authentic stories that engage the audience.

The Radio Festival 2012 featured a session called #1 at Breakfast, where Absolute Radio’s on-air personality Christian O’Connell interviewed 4 successful morning show colleagues. One of them knows how to turn a weakness into a USP: he’s got a “dysfunctional” team, and a love-hate relation with his co-host. “It’s like working with an ex.”


“In the 40-year history of Clyde 1 and Clyde 2,

only three people have presented the breakfast show”



George Bowie, Graham Liver, Leanne Campbell, Simon Hirst, Radio Festival 2012

Clyde 1 breakfast show presenter George Bowie (left) illustrates that leading radio stations often have a successful morning show with a radio personality who’s present in the market for a long time (photo: The Radio Academy)



Secure morning show consistency

Radio personality George Bowie is waking up Glasgow and the rest of West Scotland since 1996 on Clyde 1, where he interviewed many celebrities in Bowie @Breakfast; from Tony Blair to Robbie Williams. Once again it goes to show that the #1 radio programming law (content consistency = listener expectations = audience loyalty = ratings growth) is correct, when we listen to what Bowie says: “I’ve never thought about it before, but in the 40-year history of Clyde 1 and Clyde 2, only three people have presented the breakfast show. I think that’s part of the success.” He says it’s important that you give your audience time to get to know you(r morning show). “They will get involved and feel comfortable.”



Clyde 1 logo

Receive local audience goodwill

He thinks that the other success factor for Clyde is localness. In a market where many stations (have to) rely on network programming and content syndication by putting national brands on local frequencies, the two Scottish Bauer Radio stations have local roots and intend to keep it that way. “We’re the only radio station in our area that’s just for Glasgow and the West, which gives us a good advantage as well.”



Turn listeners into sidekicks

It can pay off to form a different morning show team line-up than your competition, and to make some (smaller) team changes. For 12 years, Bowie had a female co-presenter (“the boy-girl thing, which is going on in every radio station”). When his last co-host got pregnant, but was difficult to replace, the team decided to go back to the basics with just one presenter and use the audience as a sidekick, instead of having one present in the studio. He remembers that “it took a bit of convincing to talk the management into it” but that they took the chance in the end. The result? “Last RAJAR we went up 20% at breakfast. We are number 1 by a mile.”



“Ten minutes after a doctor had a finger up my bum,

I was interviewing the leader of the county counsel”



George Bowie, Graham Liver, Leanne Campbell, Simon Hirst, Radio Festival 2012

BBC Radio Lancashire breakfast presenter Graham Liver (second one from the left) aims to include personality and originality to his news-driven morning show on the public broadcaster’s local station (photo: The Radio Academy)



Tune into your community

As a local edition of the national public broadcaster, BBC Radio Lancashire (one of the most listened-to local radio stations in the UK) has a morning show that’s more based on information than entertainment. “The plan is to give people a sense of the day; what’s going to be happening along their road”, presenter Graham Liver explains. He knows it’s important to speak about local events, especially if your radio station has older listeners, like they do. “The unique thing about the Radio Lancashire breakfast show is that when you plug into it anywhere else in the country, it will sound quite strange. Our audience is predominantly over 50 and they really do care about where they live.” All content is tailored towards those people, therefore he’ll talk more about Downtown Abbey than about The X Factor on the air.



BBC Radio Lancashire logoTry creative storytelling techniques

The station always wants to find an original angle to deliver news and public service content, to make it more interesting and engaging. “To promote male cancers, I was checked up live on the air. Ten minutes after a doctor had a finger up my bum, I was interviewing the leader of the county counsel about why 1,000 people are losing their jobs. It’s all about setting the right tone, spinning plates, and keeping a pace to the breakfast show.”



Present news with personality

BBC Radio Lancashire has a large number of journalists reporting on what happens in the county. “The thing that maybe frustrates our news team a bit sometimes, is that our listeners will probably remember me talking about problems I’ve had at the house, rather than a nicely crafted package that one of our news team has done.” Liver wants to be a personality in the morning, as he’s convinced that this is what listeners want. “We’re not a local version of the Tonight program.” He says that in terms of great local content, events that involve listeners, and promotions for good causes both work well. And snow, of course:


[audio:|titles=Graham Liver speaks at the Radio Festival 2012]



“It’s like working with an ex”



Leanne Campbell, Simon Hirst, Radio Festival 2012

Capital FM Yorkshire’s Simon Hearst, here on stage with 107.6 Juice FM’s Leanne Campbell, says that the tensed relationship with his male sidekick actually helps to give his morning show an edge (photo: The Radio Academy)



Highlight remarkable local citizens

“We are real, born and bread in Liverpool, and idolize the city; idolize the people”, says Leanne Campbell about the unique selling point of 107.6 Juice FM and the morning show Juice FM Breakfast with Adam & Leanne. She’s seen the station grow from a small local radio to a big city competitor, 2012 being “another record year” in the ratings book. Campbell enjoys to have regular listener interaction through phone-ins. Among the regular callers is a funny elderly lady, who is incredibly popular with the audience because she’s an interesting personality. Apart from that, they do all kinds of stunts around (sometimes little) events in the news, like when British actor Ricky Tomlinson, a well-known person in Liverpool, had his caravan stolen:


[audio:|titles=Leanne Campbell speaks at the Radio Festival 2012]



Capital FM Yorkshire logoStimulate team dynamics & chemistry

Simon Hirst of Capital FM Yorkshire knows it’s key to choose people with distinctive characters for your morning show team. Female co-host JoJo Kelly is there since the station launched as Kiss 105 in 1997, Hirst and co-host Danny Oakes joined in 2003 (when it was Galaxy). “Dysfunctional” is their USP: “Me and Danny used to be very good friends. We don’t particularly like each other, and we bring this onto the air. It’s like working with an ex.”



Observe daily life details

Listener’s personal stories are another important part of Hirsty’s Daily Dose. “Over the years, I’ve trained the audience to send their stuff in.” The result is a content-rich, reality-based morning show which is open-ended every day. “To be honest, I don’t really know what’s coming up on tomorrow’s show or next week’s show. I’ve got a few things in my head, but that’s about it. It’s almost like a real-life soap opera, and none of it is made up.” Being a hit music station, Capital Yorkshire likes to pull some stunts during the morning show as well. His following examples show that when you combine detailed life observations with out of the box thinking, it often leads to creative radio:


[audio:|titles=Simon Hirst speaks at the Radio Festival 2012]



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