Hard to believe it’s been a full 7 weeks since we launched the newly expanded version of After Hours with Amy Lawrence. The nights are absolutely flying by, and it’s not just because we’re having a blast. I’m definitely enjoying myself–and I’m so thankful to be part of an enthusiastic, creative team. Time is also flying because we’re using every single show to improve the product, appeal to new listeners, and expand the brand. We want to package the right mix of humor, information, opinion, production, fun, phone calls, personality, and social media. Keep it moving and keep it fresh; make it entertaining. Those are the goals; that is our stated mission. But HOW? How do you take a plain old sports radio talk show and turn it into appointment listening? The million-dollar question!
Earlier this month, I was honored to represent CBS Sports Radio at a talk radio conference in Atlanta. The only female on a panel of 6 hosts from around the country, I was asked to share insight on the entertainment aspect of what we do. To get organized, I used the flight to Georgia to put my thoughts down on paper and came up with far more than I expected. All these years of experience definitely aren’t going to waste, ha. As I scribbled my notes, one idea prevailed over all the others. The key to captivating a network audience is being unique and different, delivering a product listeners simply can’t find anywhere else. For me, that starts with passion and a contagious energy. It’s not an accident that I’m always ravenous after wrapping a 4-hour show. I pour everything I have into my work every night, burning calories the whole time! It’s also important to be genuine, authentic, relatable, inviting, inclusive, and conversational. Each of these qualities helps to court a national audience, no matter what the topic.
To finish our panel discussion in Atlanta, the moderator asked us how we set our shows apart from the other available options. He reached me last and qualified the question. “Apart from the obvious, what makes you different, Amy?” Yes, my gender alone makes me noteworthy. Being a woman instantly attracts attention. It also invites extra criticism. A double standard will always exist. I have to be more knowledgeable, more prepared, more polished with fewer mistakes where my male counterparts are naturally given the benefit of the doubt. When I was relatively new in the business, I had more than one boss suggest that I downplay what made me different, that I try to blend into a world dominated by men. One manager told me to stop smiling so much while I was on the air; another said laughing would take away from my credibility as a female. It took awhile for me to realize I don’t need to hide or cover up or de-emphasize my distinct perspective and approach to sports radio. In fact, that’s what makes my shows entertaining. There isn’t anyone else out there quite like me. Equal parts sarcastic, salty, emotional, and irreverent, I refuse to take sports too seriously. While there are sobering topics like domestic violence or major injuries, sports generally provide an escape for fans. The majority of the time, the subject is not life or death, so why treat it that way? I want to make listeners laugh, and I want them to know I will laugh at myself. I’m not perfect (it’s impossible to be perfect while hosting 4 hours of live radio per night), so I make fun of the fact that I always mix up my cliches or have trouble remembering dates.
By expanding to 5 shows a week, we have time to experiment with creative ideas. One of our most popular is the After Hours “Hall of Flame,” born from a mistake I made on the air. Typical! “Hall of Fame” came out the wrong way, and now we have a brand new Hall for the most outrageous and laugh-out-loud-funny sports rants, tirades, errors, and filibusters. We’ve also introduced “Hump Show” (middle show of the week) and “Bite Me” (most compelling audio over 24 hours). Listener favorites include “Ask Amy Anything” (sort of) and “Nerd Alert!” (impressive stats to make geeky the new cool). We threw a Super Bowl pregame party complete with chili cook-off and vintage football jerseys. Our “Question of the Night” frequently travels outside the lines. Who doesn’t want to join in the “Great Bacon Debate” or the “Worst Sports Apologies of All Time”?? I never stray too far from the games and events, though. In the first few weeks, we’ve touched everything from NFL to college hoops to NBA to golf to the college football playoff to NASCAR to hockey. February’s always a fun month to show off my versatility.
In the end, the creative use of features, music, production, guests, phone calls, social media, and outside topics falls flat if I can’t convince people of my knowledge and credibility. Entertaining the masses eventually boils down to who I am, how I deliver my opinions, and how I relate to a diverse audience. To date, the response is overwhelming. Even when the feedback is negative, people are investing enough time to develop a strong reaction. The show is grabbing attention across the country because I finally learned the most critical ingredient for entertainment: never fit in when you were born to stand out. The treasured poster I hung on my wall as a kid spotlighted a small white flowering tree in the midst of a forest sea of green leaves. The caption? “To be different is often a wonderful thing.” I had no idea the power of those words over the course of my life and my career.
Just as the title of this blog indicates, my form of radio is unconventional, unique, and always passionate. Me in a nutshell.