How do German radio presenters and program directors look at personality radio? And what defines a unique character from the average radio voice that’s being heard on air?
In part 1 of this article, we learned that not only music, but also content and personality engage listeners to tune in (our out). The UK and USA do have a real personality radio history, while in Europe’s number 2 media market things happen by the book. Two personality jocks and a PD, all from Germany, discussed about the why (and how to change it).
Backup your radio talent
“Program directors don’t have the guts to let talents develop themselves.” Hans Blomberg, host of the bigFM morning show, sees this as the main reason for the lack of radio personalities in Germany. “I have learned in the past ten years that no personality can survive alone. He needs the back-up of his program director and general manager. Practically every PD wants me, but almost none of them will defend me when it’s necessary”, says ‘Morgenhans‘ Blomberg, who is one of the rare controversial jocks in German radio.
Envision long term success
As a stunt he once grabbed the breast of his female co-host, she replied by slapping him in the face. Live on TV, for 2,2 million viewers of the national song contest. “You go over the limit, break boundaries and learn from mistakes. The problem is that when image values are not high enough after half a year, many PDs get weak at the knees. Radio personalities should be given time to become the listener’s best friend. I was lucky to meet the right PDs in my life.”
Don’t break talents down
Program director Martin Liss of NRJ (ENERGY) Germany was working at bigFM when Hans Blomberg started to work there ten years ago. “Back then, many PDs and consultants considered every extra word to be ‘too much talk’ that resulted in almost draconian punishments. The rule was that someone like Hans has to be broken. They would tell him: you only have to say three things: good morning, this is Radio XYZ with the biggest hits of the 80s, 90s and today. Hans was a protégé because the PD valued his talent.”
Learn to coach talents
According to Martin Liss, German radio broadcasters often don’t have the know-how to cut those rough diamonds; to develop talent. A character like Hans Blomberg is not here because, but despite of the system; he’s one of the very few that didn’t have all his wrinkles ironed out. If a PD and his greatest talent trust each other, it is ususally the start of great success.” He thinks that the German radio industry still has to learn a lot, be it from British consultants, American books, or other resources.
Do what works locally
BAYERN 3 radio personality Matthias Matuschik doesn’t care that much how radio is done in the UK and USA and what is “supposedly great” there. “We import a lot of music from these countries, which is good, but for other things we should go our own way. We have a big and important market of our own, and should recognize it accordingly. I have never ever listened to consultants who tell me that I should do something, just because it works elsewhere.”
Make talk breaks matter
A personality should not irritate in between, but add something to the music, Martin Liss says. “Everyone can play Britney or Lady GaGa, almost no-one can present a show like Hans or Matthias. However – allowing a presenter to talk more doesn’t necessarily result in more substantial talks. That could explain the reflex of old-school PDs that say: you’re a talent, but from now on keep your breaks under fifteen seconds. Our problem is that we’ve been systematically breaking talents for over fifteen years. That’s a shame.”
Focus on your content
The ENERGY PD thinks that music is no longer a USP for mass appeal stations. “As soon as we recognize that the answer to ‘4 hits in a row’ is not ‘5 hits in a row’, we’ve made it to the first step. People expect from us that we play LadyGaga, Bruno Mars and all that wonderful stuff, but the interesting question is: what happens in between songs that’s more exciting than what other stations do in between the same songs.”
Increase your personal strenghts
Martin Liss thinks that DJ coaching should focus on bringing out the best in talents. To encourage and support them, and not only focus on their mistakes. “Characteristics that make someone good, special, unique, interesting and exciting should be brought out even more. To me, someone is a personality if he or she can add a personal touch to what happens during the show in an authentic way, to which the listener can relate. In a short amount of time, I should be able to create a portrait of this person in my mind.”
Avoid being pseudo personal
“There are presenters who have timelines that mention what their listener is doing at any given moment… so they can tell ‘em what they’re doing. That’s like a manual on how to breathe in and breathe out”, Matthias Matuschik says. “My listeners don’t want to hear from me that today is a nice one to dry the wet laundry outside. To make a real connection and to create the need to print the fourth edition of an autograph card, other thinks are important.”
Be yourself on air
“Ich rede einfach so wie mir der Schnabel gewachsen ist” (he talks like he naturally does), says Matthias Matuschik. He considers it the most important thing when presenting on the radio. “I don’t talk like they’ve learned me to do it. When I think back, I see myself standing in the schoolyard with people around me, listening to the stories I was telling. It has always been talking like this. I don’t go to the radio station to suddenly change my behavior and become a Grinsbügel” (a smooth sounding presenter with a smile).
Let sidekicks complement you
Hans Blomberg likes to create some controversy once in a while, also because bigFM is a young station. “I cannot make personally radio just by provocation. That would be cheap. But these are exactly the things that create attention and that sticks to people’s minds, and as a personality you can’t please everyone; you have to find your own way.” To still be able to cover the whole spectrum, he gets help from his co-host Susanka. “She can cover the things that I can’t.”
Let others handle complaints
How important is the program director? “He is important by telling me: do whatever you like”, Matthias Matuschik replies (audience laughs). “A personality can be polarizing – people love me, or they hate me – so there’s not much in between. I’m on air in (the conservative) Bayern, on a public radio station, so I do get two page handwritten letters from a 64-year old lady who got a wrong impression. I’m lucky to have a boss that says: you don’t have to answer this; I’ll do that, and don’t worry; everything is fine.”
Avoid scripting your show
While many German radio presenters have parts of their show or even the entire show scripted, Matuschik reveals that he never uses written copy. “I don’t have anything against writing down key words or bullet points, but personally I don’t do this. I do prepare myself, but it’s all in my mind. When an idea gets inside of me during the show, I change my plan – I might spontaneously take phone calls from the audience and see what happens.”
Find your inspiration outside
The best way for Hans Blomberg to find his inspiration is in the evening at the bar. “I’m not lying. We get ideas that we wouldn’t find before the morning show, when we’re under time pressure, and also not in the daily meeting afterwards. We go to have a drink in the evening and suddenly topics are just flowing. Often we say: this is what we’re gonna do tomorrow! So our best ideas are created in the evening and we always make sure we can jot them down.”
Give your honest opinion
The bigFM morning host and his sidekick always want to honest. “That’s why we always look for topics where we can have a real discussion about.” When the presenter and sidekick do share the same opinion about something, a third person will be brought in. “We will never play a role where one pretends to have a contrary opinion. We stay loyal to ourselves and say what we think. That makes a personality, and then stations don’t have to worry about the content – the personality creates it.”
Don’t fear people’s criticism
Hans Blomberg recently talked to a colleague of another station. It seemed like this person was already very influenced by the commonly accepted rules of the radio format book. “On the air he repeatedly said sorry for his personal opinion about a certain topic. He went even further by deleting negative comments from this Facebook page, because he was afraid that people might not like him anymore. It’s hard to become a personality when you think this way.”
Read also: Radio Personality Creates Stationality