Chris McCoy is the morning man on WMGQ-FM in New Brunswick, NJ, a suburban New York City radio station 30 miles south of Manhattan. He rises well before dawn and makes the 70-mile trek from his South Jersey home to the WMGQ control room through unpredictable weather and traffic conditions. Before most of us awaken, he’s already pored over countless newspapers, magazines and websites preparing for his weekday morning radio show. He’ll open the mic and greet his faithful listeners with topical information, entertaining lifestyle stories and an infectious smile that permeates his every word.
Chris McCoy is the reason why AM and FM radio will survive, fending off a never-ending army of would-be radio-killers from MTV to Pandora. All have failed to silence this century-old medium because for all the luminosity of shiny new technology, radio, at its core, is about people and community.
“What goes between the music is unique to me as the host and cannot be found anywhere else,” says McCoy, sharing the secret to his longevity as an on-air talent. “They love the music, they like the human contact.”
In a tech-savvy world where anyone can program their own radio station online or play their favorites via iPods and smart phones, thousands of Chris McCoys do their homework and make the experience personal on radio stations all across America.
I met Chris during his 14-year tenure at WMGK-FM, Philadelphia, an Adult Contemporary powerhouse in a Top 10 radio market. He flipped from middays to mornings for a 13-year run at crosstown rival WBEB-FM. And he’s now eight years into his current gig at WMGQ, just far enough from Philly to honor his non-compete contract.
No curated jukebox or streaming music service can replicate McCoy’s life stories, pop culture banter and, of course, that audible smile. Still, technology provides a critical link to connect him with his audience. “I engage listeners on the station’s social media pages,” says McCoy. “I like to get their opinions on current events or share a recipe or two. It’s another way of staying in touch.”
He takes part in Habitat for Humanity projects in the local community. His family joins him at station events. And he excels at getting listeners to share entertaining personal stories on-air on the WMGQ call-in lines.
His approach to radio and connecting with listeners offers valuable insights others would be wise to emulate.
“Know who your audience is and super serve them. Give them what they can’t get from online music services. And most importantly, don’t become predictable. Surprise them in a good way, now and then.”
These are the qualities that make a great radio personality and a radio personality great. They’re also the same qualities that can jumpstart an advertiser’s impact when that trusted radio personality delivers your marketing message.
If your brand isn’t leveraging the power of radio personalities like Chris McCoy, you’re overlooking a powerful tool that’s been around for 100 years because it works. New technology and audio delivery systems will continue to thrive and splinter market share, but none will extinguish the little AM/FM engine that could.
Because at its core, radio is about people and community.