Those who know how I became a media practitioner will appreciate that I nearly didn’t become a DJ, but was well on my way to becoming a doctor. An unfortunate incident in my second year involving a few fellow students, and (several) trolleys of prescription medication, put headphones around my neck instead of a stethoscope.
I do, however, think that there are several lessons DJs could learn from doctors and it has very little to do with bedside manner. In fact, doctors may actually learn something from the DJs in that regard! DJs should see their radio show like a medical practice, and approach it that way.
Both professions rely on building relationships; it’s about people coming back. Radio presenters want the audience to return to the show, daily, weekly and monthly. This is good for revenue and ratings, which are often used as indicators of success. Doctors want the same thing; people coming back to their practice who spend money for the service received , so it’s also about the bottom line.
In both instances, the audience and the patients have appointments. Radio shows make daily appointments with their listeners; the show starts and six and ends at nine,. That is a very specific recurring appointment. We even go as far as creating special appointments at different times of the show (appointment listening) to keep the audience tuned-in and to give them more reason to visit our show.
Radio’s appointment is easy; you simply tune in at your own leisure. Doctors are different. You have to call, be put on hold, speak to the receptionist (who has a doctor like attitude) and then generally choose a time that is convenient for the practice and not you as the patient. Once you’ve navigated making the appointment and travelling to the practice to make it on time, you are confronted with the waiting room. Doctors are so bad at keeping appointments they’ve created an entire space to waste your time. This space is often populated with large refillable water bottles with paper cups, well-paged magazines and old dining room chairs, all for you to use and enjoy while your time is being wasted. If the practice’s waiting room was like a radio show, you would have tuned out long ago.
So why don’t we walk out of the doctors practice when our time is wasted, like we would tune out of a radio show, when we feel it isn’t worth our time or attention?
It is a question of value. We need the doctor. We don’t need the DJ.
We need the doctor’s opinion, insight, training, experience and understanding to make a diagnosis. We need access to their network of other doctors. and equipment and we need to access their ability to write medical scripts. Do we need a DJ’s opinion, insight, experience and understanding? There is nothing life and death about the DJ on your radio.
There used to be, but it has been replaced by mobile connectivity and our inability to reinvent our value offering. Yes, you can be Dr. Google and self-diagnose and you might even find a second year med student who will sell you some prescription medication, but most people will opt for a trained professional when it comes to setting a broken arm.
As an on-air team, have you asked yourself why people tune-out or not tune-in at all? It happens with doctors too; there is an element of choice that the patient has if they feel underserved. Identify elements that aren’t offered elsewhere or where the show is better qualified and make these great, make them part of your appointment listening regime. Advertise them to new audiences and if they are as good as we think, our existing audience will recommend the show in the same way they do their GP or paediatrician!
Doctors continually train, read and attend seminars to remain as a registered practitioner. Do the same. Continually invest in your own career, from technology, time and travel to education, expertise and entertainment. Don’t underestimate your audience and what they can do without you.
Don’t give the audience and opportunity to tune out.
Remember that most people will choose to wait for the Dr. despite having an appointment that hasn’t been kept to.
Like going to the doctor when you’re not sure what is wrong, a listener isn’t always going to know what they want, they will just know they want something. Give them something every day. If you went to the doctor with an inexplicable ache or pain and the doctor didn’t question you or give you a good prod, you may reconsider going back their next time. Radio shows are the same; the audience have an entertainment ache, diagnose it and deliver the right script to solve their problem.
Make use of specialists when needed
These could be for music, research, insight or opinion. There is something comforting in knowing that your doctor has referred you to a specialist once they have examined you. It could be the value of a second opinion, or the fact that they have said they aren’t sure, but this helps build a trust relationship over time. No need to use the microphone to push ahead to prove you’re right. Get an expert to back you up or offer an opposing view, the audience deserves a proper consultation every time they tune in.
Every patient has a file, so should every show. In your daily show file keep the prep, what worked, what didn’t work, what was the mood and temperature of the audience. Did the topic receive more phone calls or voice messages? The same goes for any other piece of relevant info that can make your next entertainment diagnosis better. Keep the scans, scripts and x-rays. You never know when you might need to refer back to them or use them again.
Like self-diagnoses and medicating, self-entertainment can only work or be effective up to a point. As radio people, we need to push the entertainment threshold beyond that point so that audiences choose us and find value in our product and service. If we can’t do that, then we need to get used to the receptionist and waiting room and hope that the doctor will see us soon.
Tim Zunckel is the regional media business advisor – Sub Saharan Africa – at Internews. He is an audio ambassador, trainer, creative and media mentor. He writes in his personal capacity and can be found on all popular platforms, @timzunckel
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