Steal These Topic Ideas

I happened on an article on Guy Kawasaki’s web site from a couple of years ago with a brief synopsis of the book “Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing.” The book made the rounds in marketing and advertising circles, but me thinks that there is a lot to be learned here for broadcasters, outside of the marketing arena.

The book outlines 9 major themes that folk talk about, that is, the 9 overall themes  the average, everyday man on the street finds to be compelling conversation topics. After going throughout the list, and comparing the list to successful talk hosts, the best of the best almost always hit on all or most of these themes.

  • 1- Aspirations and Beliefs (what we are/what we could be: religion)
  • 2- David vs. Goliath (fighting a powerful and/or common enemy)
  • 3- Avalanche About to Roll (keeping up with the latest trends)
  • 4- Contrarian, Counterintuitive to Challenge Assumptions (defying conventional wisdom)
  • 5- Anxieties (our rational/irrational fears/uncertainty)
  • 6- Personalities and Personal Stories (emulation of interesting or inspirational people)
  • 7- How-To Stories and Advice (practical and pragmatic)
  • 8- Glitz and Glam (addiction to celebrity)
  • 9- Seasonal/Event-Related (in the now)
I’m not saying this is a bible, matrix or talk show topic grid for a successful on-air topic, but this list could be extremely helpful for taking your topic to the test before you hit the air. If your topic doesn’t nail on one of these, there is a good chance it will fall flat on the airwaves. Of course, the best test of all is simply to ask yourself: “Is this a topic that I would find ‘normal’ people talking about in an everyday situation.” Want a good topic? Sit in a coffee shop and eavesdrop on conversations. Listen to what “people” are talking about, that’s the best place to find a topic that works.  What are the everyday people talking about? Steal it-use it.

Postscript: Please don’t use the word “topic” on the air. Normal people never use it, only radio people. A radio personality that says “Our topic is” should be taken outside to the transmitter and shot.

*John Ford is a Broadcast programming professional with nearly three decades of experience in local and network major market radio Programming and Consulting. Including stints as a VP of New Media Sabo Media, Network Programming and Imaging at ABC Radio Networks, Greenstone Media. Programming, Imaging and Morning/Talk positions at WIOD/Miami, WLLZ/Detroit, KZPS/Dallas, The Edge/Dallas, Zeta 4/Miami, WSHE/Miami and others. John’s also an uber-geek who holds numerous Apple Technical Certifications and enjoys breaking and fixing code and kit. Reach him at his website