How To Get People To Call in to Radio Stations, Like They Used To.


Real people are more entertaining than radio presenters.

I’m talking about listener phone calls. There’s something special about phone calls on the radio. They’re authentic, unique and unpredictable and the presenter becomes more real when they’re talking to a listener on the phone. It’s hard to get listeners to call in these days. It never used to be.

Let me take you back in time, 20 years, it’s 1996. The radio station is 2GO on the NSW Central Coast, just outside Sydney. For a couple of years I was on 7 till midnight, Monday to Friday. Getting calls back then was easy. They would call about anything and you could just have fun with them…

The main reason it was easier to get people to call into radio stations 20 years ago, was because THEY COULDN’T TEXT! Why do radio stations allow people to text? Has radio forgotten it’s an AUDIO medium? Think about it, you’ve worked hard to get people to listen to you, you’ve motivated them to interact with you and when they’re holding the very device that they can talk to you on, you ask them to write to you.

These day, I present the Breakfast Show on BOBfm. We cover the Home Counties of Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. I get plenty of listener phone calls. Mind you, I’ve never had to work so hard to get them.

Obviously, I NEVER give out the text number on the air. I don’t even know what the BOBfm text number is.

The other problem to get over is that most people don’t like going first. Whenever a buffet lunch is laid out, even if you’re hungry, you’ll wait till there’s a queue. Casinos know this, in Las Vegas they pay people to play empty tables. They call them shills.

Here’s how I’ve tackled that problem on BOBfm; Straight after the radio show, I go through the phone log from that morning. I look for numbers that have never called us before and I call them back, every one of them, every day. I thank them for calling and if they sound good, I ask them if they’d like to be on my Super-Callers list.

This is a list of people who’ve said it’s OK for me to call THEM during the show. I call them off the air, tell them what we’re talking about that morning and ask them if they’ve got a story based on that. If they’ve got a good one, I put them on the radio. After I’ve put a couple of them on the air, the phones start to ring.

And I manage them, I’ve got all of their details logged in a Google Drive file and I update it constantly. I have what time they get up in the morning, so I don’t wake them up, when they were last on, so I’m not using the same people all of the time and I rate every call I use on the air and only call back the ones that are consistently good. These people are my shills.

And just like at 2GO, twenty years ago, they call about anything and I have fun with them. Here’s the really cool part. When listeners learn that your radio show is an interactive experience, amazing things can happen.

Two weeks ago, I got a call from a Dad whose daughter, Nadine was trapped in a lift in a block of flats in Welwyn Garden City. He gave me her mobile number and I called her on the air. I called the lift company on the air, listeners called in with suggestions on how to get the lift moving (jumping up and down didn’t work). I kept checking back in with Nadine until the fire brigade showed up and rescued her.

Last year, some other phone calls got us on ITV news…

If you want to get more phone calls on the air at your radio station, stop reading out loud what listeners have written and start having actual conversations with them on the air and you’ll get plenty of phone calls.

And real people are more entertaining than radio presenters.

Craic on!

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If you enjoyed this Craic, please click “like” and tweet a link. If you’d like to talk to me about it, call me on +44 1438 422106 between 6am and 9am (UK time) this week on BOB fm.

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