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Must Have Personality Traits for Radio Talent

This is the time most folks set goals with the intention of charting a course to a better year. Many stations set ratings or revenue goals. But there are so many variables, it often becomes an exercise in frustration. But air talent can have a more impactful, compelling show by developing key personality traits that are the backbone of on-air success.

Having a radio show doesn't automatically lead to success. Being heard doesn't put us on a path to a personality brand any more than having a paint set makes us an artist. Every personality is unique and each personality has traits that set them apart. ut there are common personality traits every air talent needs to win.

The traits are evident in personalities from Seacrest to Stern and DeDe to Duran. And each is a skill that can be developed and improved.

Personality Traits: Interest

Winning personalities take an interest in the audience. They may not live the lifestyle of a listener but they understand what is happening in their lives. One of my coaching philosophies is that a radio show is Not About You... Yet It's All About You. Great personalities like Oprah use this concept.. She understood, related to, and took an interest in, her audience.

Great personalities are also interested. They are curious, and genuinely like to learn more about listeners, callers, and how things work. Curiosity makes them great at asking interesting questions. And, they are interesting. Personalities are unique, one-of-a-kind characters that cannot be replaced easily. They have a distinct perspective. DJ's talk about topics. Personalities relate stories and reveal character through content.


Everyone thinks they are a likable person. We have characteristics that friends, family and even some coworkers find attractive! But likability is more complicated in the entertainment business. What is it about Ellen, Tom Hanks and Jimmy Kimmel that makes audiences feel good watching and listening to them? It's a likable good nature, and it's a skill that can be learned. Great air personalities change a room when they enter. Magnetic personalities attract a crowd. You've met folks with that endearing charisma.

Likable people are generally upbeat, positive, and full of energy. They come across as genuine, natural and authentic. They exude warmth, intimacy and make you feel they care. Personalities can develop these traits by turning up the positive energy and turning down the sarcasm.

Work Ethic

Everyone is working harder than ever, and yet there aren't enough hours in the day or resources at the station to do it all. Great performers find a way to get it done. When suggesting new ideas, promotions or tactics to most radio shows, the #1 response is usually one or more of the following:

  • There's not enough time.
  • We don't have a team of writers and producers that can crank out content or jokes like Fallon or Kimmel.
  • Yeah, we set up a Facebook page but don't do much because the station won't provide an intern to update it.
  • That tease wasn't creative because we were editing a phone call we recorded yesterday and had to hurry to get it on the air this morning.

The excuses are endless. And some are valid. Look, it's hard. But being a celebrity is a full time job. Being a DJ is part-time. Leading a community of listeners is a commitment. It's 24/7. Say "yes" to opportunities to meet listeners. Be active in the community. Speak at events and appearances, whether there's a talent fee or not.

Ryan Seacrest earns a gazillion dollars working about 100 full-time jobs. Yes, he has an entourage to support his empire. But it wasn't always like that. When Ryan worked afternoons at Star 98.7 in Los Angeles, he spent many mornings in San Diego studying Jeff & Jer. He asked questions and learned to connect with audiences. It was an investment in his career. His success didn't just happen. He earned his fame by making it happen.

Every job has obstacles. Knock them down and invest time and resources in the one sure thing: you.

Show Biz

Great talent has a sense of show biz. Of all personality traits, this may be hardest to learn. It comes naturally for some. For others, it can be difficult. But here's something each air talent can commit to: Every break is important. A typical morning show on a music oriented station is on the air four hours a day. It's normal to have four "talk" breaks per hour. That's 16 opportunities a day to entertain the audience. Don't waste those opportunities. Make each moment count. It may be the one chance that day to impress and win a new listener.


Great personalities are authentic with an aura of honesty in their presentation. A standup comic can play a role for a 20-minute set, performing the same routine night after night. An actor can make you believe the character for a short time. In radio, a personality creates over 240 shows a year, about 1,000 hours of original material each year. Listeners sense when it's fake. This is particularly true of the most active and engaged listeners, who also happen to be the biggest fans and those most likely to participate in a ratings survey. Strategy and content can be perfect, but will fail unless delivered by genuine, honest personalities. Build a personality profile based on your real life personality. It is the foundation for a sustainable personality brand.

Thirst For Learning

To remain relevant, be a learner. Change is constant, so adopt an attitude of: "I am a student and always need to learn."

Passion for learning is part of what has driven Howard Stern's amazing career. He is never satisfied with a show, no matter how well it was performed. I just can't walk out of here and say, ‘I did a good show today and I'm very satisfied. No, I gotta know, do you think I did a good show and are you satisfied? And that's the neurosis and that's the source of all problems for me. This anxiety drives excellence and feeds a desire to adapt each day.

Conclusion How many of these key personality traits do you have? All of them? If so, you're probably a dominant personality. But maybe you have the talent, but need to polish the skills. There's help available. Get a talent coach or find a mentor to help. Or become a member of Insiders, which is like a Virtual Talent Coach. But start today. Your career hangs in the balance.

This article is a special Radio Online contribution from Tracy Johnson, CEO, President of Tracy Johnson Media Group


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