5 Programming Tips for Political Season

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Political season is upon us and news/talk shows and stations are gearing up for one of the busiest news and revenue generating cycles for the format.

While it may seem obvious to some that wall to wall coverage after the conventions is the way to go, to others, that’s the last thing you want to do. I fall in to the latter camp. The good news is you will have plenty of added content to choose from.

Whether it’s today’s storyline of the GOP’s VEEP choice and what it means for the race, or great audio of the Vice President telling a group of mostly African-Americans that Romney’s plan will “put y’all back in chains,” the stories, audio and supporting video for your website are endless.

Your programming decisions during this time should be based on striking a balance between meeting the expectation to educate and inform while not forgetting to entertain and offer a hideaway from the endless political browbeating. As the national, state and local media begins to bombard your audience, think of your show as being no different from a campaign robo-call during dinner: Yes, you can be informative but you can also be overkill, annoying and too one sided.

Going into the election months, here are some tips:


1. Produce for the Segment of Your Audience that Is Not Hyper-Political

One of the more important things to remember during the election year months of September and October, especially a presidential one, is to produce or program for the segment of your audience (which may be larger than you think) that is NOT hyper-political. Even a news/talk audience which is generally informed and interested in the political spin cycle does not want a 24/7 Fox News show shouting how the president can do no right. Nor are they seeking an overload of unfounded claims the Tea Party Express “is coming to get you.”  What people are searching for — if they are being honest — is honesty in a just the right amount dose.

2. Broaden Your Programming

You are are likely to be sampled more during this time by new or occasional tune-ins. This a great opportunity to showcase your many talents and not just the political animal in you. Women who are more inclined to prefer music over news may also be inclined to stick around or come back if you remember to feature programming targeting broader issues that matter to them.

For example, take the recent news of U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr.’s struggles with Bipolar Disorder and whether or not he is fit to serve. We decided to broaden the topic to better understand the disorder with a leading university psychiatrist. Then, we took it deeper by exploring the question: “how can you spot a teen in trouble who may or may not be bipolar?” This was targeted for the many parents – and women in particular – listening who may be struggling with the demons of teenage/college life. You need not look further than the Aurora, Colorado massacre to know that some parents have had this issue on their minds recently.

3. Explore the Local Issues

If you are live and local, you have the advantage of being able to cover local political issues and candidates. They are more likely to immediately and perhaps more directly effect your audience than the national election. Tackle those ballot propositions. Book your local candidates running for office and have both sides on for a debate. A good debate moderated by an informed and entertaining host can make for good radio. Get at the truth. Take no prisoners. And deliver your audience what they are begging for: truth wrapped in informed entertainment. Just know where and when to ditch the politics for the fun, and the other news of the day.

4. Stay on Top of the Day’s Big Political Story

Another helpful reminder is not to shy away from returning to the big political story of the day. Take a breather and separate an hour or two with very different content. Just remember to tease and time stamp when you plan to return to it. This time a fresh angle may come to you, a new guest idea – or not. But if it’s the story everyone is talking about you don’t want to appear to be out of touch, so return to it and let the listeners tuning in just for that story know that you are on top of it.

5. Go Big

Land an interview with either the President, VP or the GOP candidates. If your show is in a swing state (Ohio, Penn, Fla, WI, Nevada, CO, etc.) the campaigns are saturating these markets with media and they ARE having the candidates do radio. It may be a long shot but don’t let that stop you. Imagine the press you’ll receive.

Below is contact information for both national campaign headquarters, but it’s best to call your local campaign office and work your way through the back door. Those folks are likely more aware of your show and its value. They can then be an advocate for pitching the national communications office to get it on the calendar. Ask to speak with media relations/communications representative and pitch ’em hard on why an appearance on your show would benefit the campaign. If the candidates are not available then ask for a high-profile surrogate. Go for it!

– Romney Believe in America: 857-288-3500.
– Obama for America: 312-698-3670


Have any tips to share for political season? Leave us a comment below.

Written by Brian Holt, Executive Producer, KFI/Los Angeles and RLC Talent Coach



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