I think of our regulars the same way a pub landlord thinks of his.
It’s good to see them a couple of times a week, but if they’re popping up every day it becomes a worry.
For some people, a quick chat with a presenter they consider a friend or an adversary is enough. We love hearing from them just as much as they enjoy taking part in the show. They may call every other day, but they don’t expect to get a call back and certainly don’t feel personally slighted if they don’t get on-air every time. In our broadcasting boozer, these are the punters who are happy you remember their name and what they ordered last time, but don’t leave a tankard behind the bar.
As well as putting off passing trade, a rather unattractive sense of entitlement develops in callers who are used too often. It starts out as familiarity but it can get annoying, rude and quite nasty if left unchecked. Therefore I would suggest a caller who does any of the following things should set off alarm bells:
- They recognise the producer/ assistant’s voice, and assume you recognise theirs.
- They tell you a long and involved story before saying they don’t want to go on-air – total waste of time, you’ll watch caller after caller give up while you’re listening to their monologue.
- They ask what you’re talking about today – they’re not listening, they just want to get on-air.
- They end the conversation by asking whether and when you’re going to call them back – they’ll then call you several times to ask why you haven’t done so and may suggest there’s some sort of conspiracy against them.
I am not for one second suggesting the production team responds to any of the above with rudeness, but you may need to be quite firm – especially in the case of scenario number 4. The good news is that most of this unpleasantness can be averted if you make things clear from the outset.
Now, it’s totally up to you whether you take this advice, but it’s taken me several years and a stalker to hone this technique and I think it’s pretty failsafe…
- Always check the caller’s name, even if you think you know who it is. You’ll avoid scenario number 1.
- Your second question should be “What do you want to say to (presenter’s name) today?” It makes it clear that you’re not there for a private chat – you don’t want to be anyone’s favourite, trust me. Point 2, sorted.
- Don’t get involved in situation 3. It takes too much time and they’ll add nothing to the show.
- Never tell anyone you’re going to call them back unless you want them to put their phone down so you can call them straight away. So much can happen during a phone-in show – a change of tack or a complete change of subject – that you just can’t commit to it. Welching on the deal just isn’t fair to the poor person psyching themselves up, waiting for the phone to ring. It can also leave you trapped in a never ending and increasingly sweary spiral of the madness that is number 4 FOR THE REST OF YOUR NATURAL LIFE.*
So, back to the nice regulars in our metaphorical pub – they’ll still be standing patiently in your sonic snug with no tenner waving or finger drumming – treat them right and they’ll keep your talkshow tills ringing**until closing time.***
You get to know them, they get to know you, and you can play wonderful radio games together, like this one. Time gentlemen please**** for one of my favourite bits from this week. I give you Dave Luton, Dennis in Dunstable and Hey Matty Bum Bum.
*OK, maybe a little dramatic, but you catch my drift.
**I know, this is getting silly now, I’ll stop.
***I didn’t stop. I will now.
****I promise that’s the last one.