Like real people (and I’m not suggesting your audience is not real people), radio listeners come in all shapes and sizes. But when figuring out how to inspire active participation, there are four basic types of listeners. Understanding what motivates each type of caller is critical to generating more callers.

How to Inspire Active Participation

Listeners naturally fall into four distinct categories. Each uses the radio a bit differently, and some are easier to attract than others. Two of the four probably already call in more than you like. The other two types of listeners are more challenging to inspire but have greater value. Here’s a summary of each:

The Superfan: A superfan listens to a ton of radio. Hopefully, a disproportionate amount goes to your show. They listen closely and when they hear a mistake, they call you out. Superfans usually call each day, sometimes multiple times. They come to every appearance and act like they’re your best friend. Some even assume they are cast members, taking the liberty to interact with real listeners on your behalf. It’s nearly certain a Superfan will carry a meter or fill out a diary, but dealing with them can be creepy. It’s easy to get them to participate, but that doesn’t mean they should be on the air.

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The Prize Pig: An affectionate name for Contest Players, Prize Pigs call whenever there’s an incentive. The prize doesn’t matter. They want something and have a gift for being Caller #10. Prize Pigs come to promotions dressed in station T-shirts (yours or a competitor’s) with their entire family and immediately ask, “What do you have to eat?” followed quickly by, “What do you have to give away?”. They are more animated than Superfans and can be good on-air contributors. Prize Pigs are most likely to participate in the rating process, so be nice to them. They are active callers, but often hear the phone number and assume it’s a contest. They swear and hang up when they find out it’s a phone topic.

It’s easy to inspire active participation from Superfans and Prize Pigs, but personalities wishing to mine the phones for quality content must dig deeper.

The Two Most Valuable Phone Callers

The Invited: This caller is valuable but isn’t naturally inclined to call. They have a strong point of view and usually a good story, but they don’t make it on the air because they won’t call unless specifically invited. They don’t know your phone number and often miss the invitation to call. The Invited would participate if it were easier. They’re intrigued, engaged, and willing to be part of the show, but they don’t feel welcome. When calling in the past, they got a busy signal or nobody answered. If they happened to get through, they were on hold for 15 minutes until the air talent had time to talk to them. By that time, they lost interest and hung up or lost enthusiasm. Therefore, they’re no longer a good caller. The Invited won’t go out of their way to call.

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The Inspired: The final category is the holy grail. The Inspired are people who would never consider calling a radio show or associating with those who do. However, they can be reached when emotionally engaged, provoked, and motivated. The Inspired are often great storytellers, well-spoken, and full of energy. It takes a lot to get them to call, but they make terrific contributions.

Radio shows must become proficient to inspire active participation in all four categories.


For many reasons, the volume of calls is at an all-time low. With a strategy to build interactive content that provokes strong responses, listeners in all categories – even The Invited and The Inspired – will engage. But you have to work to inspire active participation.