James Cridland: Sit in front of Twitter and watch @tonyblackburn’s account on a Saturday morning, and you’ll see something a little unusual.
Tony Blackburn is probably the most well-known radio presenter in the UK. On-air since 1964, he joined the BBC 50 years ago: in a video released last week, he tries to find the radio studio he first used in Broadcasting House. He was the first radio presenter on the top 40 station BBC Radio 1, and has been part of the UK radio scene ever since on both BBC and commercial radio.
With a long career, and at the age of 74, you’d expect him to be taking it easy. But he’s clearly have none of it. You can hear him on a local Kent commercial radio station, as well as two local BBC radio stations, and the national BBC Radio 2: Europe’s most listened-to radio station, where he presents a weekly show, Sounds of the Sixties. (You can listen to his latest show at the end of that link. Do – you’ll hear a broadcaster at the top of his game).
So: back to his Twitter account. It’s a mix of self-promotion – his plugs for his show on KMFM obligingly contain a sponsor credit – and poor jokes: “A truck full of tortoises crashed into a truck full of terrapins. I thought: that’s a turtle disaster.” (This column is translated into German, and it’s at times like these that I feel sorry for my translator).
However, his Twitter account is slightly different on Saturday morning. That’s the time of his “Sounds of the Sixties” show – which, in spite of starting at 6am he insists on doing live. Every week, after his show – he thanks his listeners. One by one. On Twitter.
“Very kind of you, Tanya, thanks,” he responds to one tweet. “I hope you’re having a great time,” he says to a man called Gary, who tweeted that he was listening while backpacking around Romania. “Glad you enjoyed it,” he writes to Alan, who tweeted that he’d caught the entire programme.
He doesn’t need to thank his listeners – but when you follow his Twitter account, as 80,000 people do, you get the feeling of a polite man rather than, as many can appear, a star who’s too important to talk to the likes of you. (Incidentally, when you meet him – as I’ve done – he’s just as friendly).
We probably all have good examples of someone who bothered to say “thank you”. Consultant and technologist Fred Jacobs recently shared another example: AccuRadio’s John Gehron, who has made it a policy to always respond to everyone.
I’m reminded of a radio station in Edmonton, 102.3 Now Radio, which had a rule for all on-air talent that they must personally respond to every single Facebook message, tweet, or SMS message. It can’t have done them badly: they rose, very quickly, to be #1-rated.
So, while I’d probably not recommend his appalling taste of bad puns, there’s plenty to learn from Tony Blackburn. If someone takes the time to contact you, you’re never too big to thank them.
By the way – thanks for reading.
James Cridland is a radio futurologist – a writer, speaker and consultant working with the brightest radio brains in the world. He has worked for the BBC and Virgin Radio in London. Join over 2,500 other radio professionals and subscribe to his free weekly newsletter (in English) at https://james.cridland.net