Gavin Puszczalowskyi is the Co-founder & Director of the Pips. He is also a freelance radio presenter. You can follow Gavin on Twitter at @gavp77
They are back. Clarkson, Hammond and May with The Grand Tour. Big production, cult following and compelling viewing. For me, they are the perfect radio show & here is why.
It is clear that Clarkson, Hammond & May have a great friendship and a natural rapport between them. The irony is that often on Top Gear of old they would leave each other behind if something went wrong on a challenge but in real life when it went wrong for Jezza, Hammond and May stuck with him and stayed as a team.
But it is also clear to me that they have been worked on as characters on how they will come across together on screen. 3 people, 3 personalities, 3 sets of opinions, to make that work on screen it takes planning.
Jeremy Clarskon – Intelligent, rambunctious, sometimes aloof, controversial but also very silly & childish.
James May – Sensible, calm, the voice of reason, the teacher to the naughty pupil that is Clarkson.
Richard Hammond – The mischievous little brother, can be childish and join in with Clarkson, can sometimes be sensible and team up with May. He is the gap between the 2.
It’s a perfect winning combination. And it didn’t happen naturally. It took work. How can Clarkson who is clearly a very intelligent person be so silly & keep setting things on fire?
You feel part of the gang watching 3 grown men lark around driving some of the world best cars, setting things on fire & watching them push vehicles off cliffs. It’s fun, compelling and you wish you could join in.
So how does this relate to radio? Well as a presenter, how do you want to be perceived by your audience? Have you taken the time to think about it?
Are you the sensible one who is calm and composed or are you the cheeky sarcastic presenter that can be a bit childish?
As a presenter, it is always the right thing to do to stop & think about your perception and how you wish to come across on the air. Clarkson, Hammond & May did on the TV.
The new format of the Top Gear started in 2002. Clarkson, Hammond & May got together in 2003 and let’s be honest, the first few series were not brilliant at all. It was very much work in progress. A lot of work.
But it was given time to grow and develop because it wasn’t under the spotlight like the Chris Evans Top Gear which was lambasted by the majority. (On average, more people in their millions tuned into the Top Gear series with Chris Evans than 3 of the first 4 series of Top Gear when it came back in 2002)
The Top Gear dog, the Cool Wall, the original Stig was all in black and the list goes on of ideas that didn’t work and were removed or didn’t quite work so were changed to make it better.
And this is radio. Constantly look at what you do and if it doesn’t work, get rid, think of something better but if you think you have the basis of something good then think of ways to improve it.
Always look at what you do and see if it works or not and see if it can be improved. And give it time to grow. Everything needs time.
When something happens in the world of motoring, normal motorists and people within the car industry care about what Clarkson has to say. He has built his own brand so that people care about what he has to say. He is not the only celebrity to do this.
Piers Morgan – People actually care about what he has to say, if they didn’t he would not have over 5 million followers on Twitter.
Making a great impact at the moment with his opinions and views on the current plight of the world is James O’Brien on LBC. I have seen many a video shared on social media of his views because they are put across majestically and because people care about what he has to say.
And this is the challenge for all presenters. Build up your own brand so that when you speak, people care about what you are talking about. This is particularly pertinent to local breakfast shows. If something happens in your broadcast area, you need to have built up a brand so entrenched within your locality that people care about what you have to say. This way they tune in. People care about what you have to say.
Presenters, make people actually care about what you have to say.
Top Gear of old was not full of crazy ideas to begin with. Richard Hammond once did a feature of how to escape a car that was sinking and how did a car react if it was struck by lightning? He sat in the vehicle, the car was hit with electricity, he started the car and that was it. Clarkson drove from London to Edinburgh & back on one tank of petrol to see if you could, and he did. Great.
Compare that to driving to the North Pole in a car, driving into Chernobyl or getting to France across the Channel in an inflatable car turned boat.
At some point in the office at Top Gear people stopped asking why and started asking why not?
They pushed themselves. Why can’t we do this? What is actually stopping us? Yes they have the resources and the team to actionize the ideas but the most important question is why not?
And that brings it back to radio.
Many people ask how and why? How many people ask why not?
Because people at Top Gear started asking why not, they grew from a normal car show into something much bigger. So it all depends how big you want to grow and how much effort you are prepared to put into an idea that could turn your station/radio show from normal to stand out.
The next time somebody comes up with a big idea and logistically it looks difficult, don’t ask why/how? just ask why not?
Top Gear did. And look what it did for them.
So for me, if you add up all of the above and mix it together, the best radio show and the one I take inspiration from is actually a TV show.