The Three E’s Of Personality Radio

E is the fifth letter of the alphabet. And in the radio personality business, E is the most important letter. It stands for the 3 E’s of personality radio.

There’s not enough show biz today. Programming has become too reliant on science and not enough on art. It is too calculated. Too precise. Too literal. There’s an alarming lack of imagination and fun. As programmers try to perfect the sound of their stations, the entertainment value is polished out.

We need a serious injection of the three E’s of entertainment:

Exaggerate, Embellish, and Energize.

Some personalities take issue with this concept. They think I advise them to lie, rejecting the idea because they feat it’s dishonest. But they’re missing the point.

The Three E’s Of Personality Radio

The three E’s are basic tools used in storytelling. The Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams, demonstrates:

Ninety percent of all the books published each year are non-fiction. But the fiction books – the 10 percent –  comprise 90 percent of all book sales.

Fictional characters in movies, novels and TV shows seem real even when we know they are not. We know fiction to be untrue, yet we treat it for a time as if it were true. We are simultaneously naïve, believing what we are told, and savvy, aware of the deception.

This concept is about adding sizzle to a radio show by painting pictures with words that cause stories to be more exciting, dramatic, and enticing.

.For air personalities, executing great stories on the air is a bit different, of course. Each story must be consistent with your character profile. And, it has to be authentically believable. From there, use your imagination to make it stand out!

You already do it in real life with every story shared with friends at dinner. It happens when posting on social media. We all put our best foot forward, exaggerating the good, downplaying the not-so-good.

Apply the same concepts on the radio.

Apply The Three E’s

Each of the three E’s can be used to make segments on the air more interesting. Here’s what each means:

Exaggeration is telling a story with flavor by “turning up the volume” on details to make it more important. Think of the classic “fish story”, where a fisherman exaggerates the size of the catch that day. It’s making everything seem bigger than it really was. Tommy Chong says the key to selling a story is to exaggerate the facts and think, “biggest, best, and most”.

Embellishment is building interest by adding details that may not have actually happened but could have. Storytellers often take a creative license in setting up a dramatic moment.

Enhancing a story is adding action words that give the story life and energy. An ordinary event can be exciting when the story is enhanced with colorful language.

The Three E’s happen when artists invest time in preparing the story for performance and inject it with showmanship.

Here are a few examples:

  • Promos: It’s not “come find the (station) tent at the event”.  Make it, “Join us at the mobile broadcast center” or “Mobile Unit #17”.
  • Positioning: The station doesn’t simply broadcast from the “(call letters) studio”.  Dress it up. At launch, Z100/New York broadcast from a tiny studio in New Jersey. On the air, it was “Live, from the top of the Empire State Building”. Note: Their transmitter was on the Empire State Building.
  • Stories: I had a show once that took winners backstage to meet Phil Collins and Genesis at a concert. They found out that Phil played ping-pong backstage to relax and get ready for the concert. That’s mildly interesting trivia. On-air, they described the moment when Phil beat the show 21-3, then went out and nailed their performance on-stage!

The Last Contest Promotion

Many years ago, Jack McCoy created the greatest radio promotion of all time. The Last Contest sounded larger than life. It lives on as an inspiration to this day.

Yes, it’s dated. But listen to the artistry in the promos:

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The Last Contest is a tremendous example of The Three E’s. Think about it when brainstorming a new campaign.

For example:

A client station gave away a pair of tickets to every sporting event in the city for a year. Great prize, right? Larger than life. And the station had very little response. I believe it was because they counted on the value of the prize to drive response. The story was about facts, filled with the number of tickets to each event.

Shortly after, the same station gave away center-court floor seats tickets to a single NBA game against the Lakers. The promos painted a picture. It was filled with imagery. Listeners could imagine being at the game.

The contest attracted more than four times the response of the first promotion.


The Three E’s are a critical part of the entertainment process. Air personalities will be more successful by learning to exaggerate, embellish, and enhance stories. Learn the concepts. Then practice until it’s mastered.

The Three E’s and the Power of Personal Stories

Exaggeration Is a Key to a Great Story

Do You Polish Entertainment Out Of Your Show?

Play to Win: Avoid Not-To-Lose Tactics

Build a 5-Star Personality Brand Seminar on Demand

Tommy Chong & the Key To Personal Stories

By Tracy Johnson

Recognized as one of America’s most innovative radio programmers and managers, Tracy Johnson’s broad background in traditional and digital media spans more than 25 years and has influenced hundreds of radio stations, programmers and personalities. 

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