The Art of Teasing

“I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn’t park anywhere near the place.” – Steven Wright

Before we launch into my thoughts on how to tease, a joke…

A skeleton walks into a bar and says…

…the punchline, is next…or at least at the end of this blog post.

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I listen to a lot of sports-talk across the country, in search of great talent creating entertaining content.  Here in Seattle, I often listen to the station I helped launch, 710 ESPN Seattle.  It has a number of good shows and and some really strong on-air talent.

One of them, Mike Salk, is becoming one of the best teasers in radio.  You can learn a lot by listening to what he does, and then thinking about how he does, um, what he does.

His teasing certainly grabbed my attention when I was listening a few years ago…

“Coming up next, DeMaurice Smith, looks like he has solved the labor issue, Matt, and I think he needs a raise for it.  A behind the scenes story you’ve got to hear, next…”

What’s so great about that?  Well, it’s great because:

  1. Mike’s teasing a story (NFL) that a large portion of the audience cares about, thus his tease appeals to the largest portion of the audience, possible.
  2. He’s taking you behind the scene to give you insight into something that you care about and probably can’t get anywhere else at the moment.  This is key – he’s delivering value to the audience.
  3. He was right – I did have to hear it.

So what makes a great tease?

Well, again, picking a topic that resonates with your core audience, and then promising to deliver value, in this case, insight into the NFL labor issue, is what makes this tease so darn great.

Okay, I get it.  So how do I learn best practices in radio teasing?

There’s so many ways to go about this.  Often times, simply replacing the
noun and/or the verb in a sentence with generic terms works:
  • Poor example: DeMaurice Smith has solved the NFL’s labor issue.  That’s next…

    NOTE: Why should I now stay through the break?  You just gave me the pay-off, or punch-line to the story?   It’s like telling the Stephen Wright joke above like this: You couldn’t park anywhere near the fire hydrant factory.  I used to work there.

  • Example 2: The amazing thing one football insider has done, and why it’s important to you.  That’s next…
  • Example 2: The second most important man in football has done something incredible.  The behind the scenes story, and how it may save this NFL season is next…

As you can see, by pulling the noun out of the tease (Smith) I’ve tapped into the listener’s curiosity, thus you have a chance of holding them through the break.

Payoff:

Now that you’ve delivered a great tease, pay if off right away.  If your listeners were kind enough to wait through the break for you, reward their diligence by giving them value right away.  No screwing around.  No phone numbers.  No joking with the board op’ about his goofy lunch.  None of it.  Again, Listen to the whole clip of his tease and subsequent pay-off, (NOTE: commercials edited out) and you’ll hear that he wastes no time in getting right to great, compelling, entertaining, insightful content that his audience cares about.

Skeptic: It’s not about teasing, it’s about great content! 

Yes, there is no question that great, focused, entertaining content is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do as a host or producer, but once that’s accomplished, it’s also important to celebrate your great content!  Let your audience know about all the great stuff you have coming up, next, in 15-minutes, etc.

Is a tease guaranteed to hold the audience through the break?

Nope.  I can’t guarantee that you will hold the audience through the break, but teasing will most certainly give you a better chance of doing so, and may lead to their return after the break. It will also make your show seem more interesting. And remember, in simple terms, high ratings are achieved by having the largest amount of people listening for the longest time possible.

How did Mike get so good at teasing?

  1. Mike is smart and talented, so he’s got a solid foundation.
  2. Reps.  Mike is on his way to his 10,000 reps that Malcolm Gladwell says is so important in his book Outliers.  If you want to be great, you have to find a way to get your 10,000 reps.  Make a podcast.  Do it daily.  Post it on Facebook.  Promote it via Twitter.  Technology has changed everything and now allows you to become great with or without terrestrial radio.

More hints…

Take the what out of the tease.  This means “A-Rod is set to return Saturday” becomes “A-Rod breaking news is next” or even bigger – “we’re just getting in some breaking news about A-Rod and we’ll tell you what that is, next.”
Or…
Taking the who out…”baseball’s most loathed player returns Saturday. We’ll tell you who, and why we loathe him, next.”  Or, “breaking news regarding one of the most hated players in sports is next.”
If you want to grow ratings, teasing works.

Okay, now the joke I promised: 
A skeleton walks into a bar and says “give me a beer and a mop.”

Which reminds me one of the most important things about teasing: make sure your tease, unlike the punchline of my joke, has a great pay-off.   

We’ll be right back…