February 11, 2018

By Jeff McHugh

There is an old quote for aspiring writers, “mine your life to the bare walls.”

That practice of turning your real life experiences, inner thoughts, emotions and opinions into content also applies to being a successful radio or podcast personality.

Your audience connects with your show emotionally when you share your life with them. Listeners are drawn to your authenticity, vulnerability and the openness of a best friend-style relationship.

However, telling tales about your divorce, children, in-laws, dates, spouse, neighbors and co-workers on-air can sometimes cause problems with those relationships.

A well-known example is an emotional scene from the film Private Parts where H
oward Stern and his wife argue after he discusses his wife’s miscarriage on the air.

When using your personal life as content, combine these guidelines -- with your own common sense -- to keep your work and real life (mostly) harmonious.

Choose the middle path. You can avoid hurting anyone’s feelings or you can have a successful radio show. You cannot do both. Share everything you can just outside the comfort zone, but stop short of devastating your relationships for ratings.

Have “the talk” early. Disclose your job to new people entering your life just as you would disclose an incurable STD to a new dating relationship; warn that being involved with you carries certain risks and give them an opt-out. When they ask if you might discuss them on your show, say yes.

Promise exaggeration on-air, honesty off-air. People appreciate knowing that you might be blowing things out of proportion on your show to entertain the audience, but that you will be 100% genuine with them in person. Pledge to handle disagreements straightforwardly off-air regardless of what you say on-air.

Set and honor boundaries. Be as open as you dare, but certain areas will be off-limits. For example, in one of our workshops a rock morning show host disclosed his young son’s learning disability diagnosis to his partners and requested privacy, which they honored until he was ready to discuss. Keep any promises you make to keep certain details private.


Getting REALLY Personal On-Air