How Chris Evans builds strong audience relationships

He is the broadcasting legend who has returned to Virgin Radio UK.

But how has Chris Evans built an audience that has followed him over more than two decades?

In an interview for Mindshare UK’s Huddle, Dominic Carter, EVP and publisher, The Sun, sat down with Evans to learn how broadcasters and brands alike can foster strong audience connections. Here are the highlights; watch the videos for the full fascinating detail.

1. Know yourself

DC: How do you build an emotional connection with your audiences?

CE: “If you know who you are, or you have an idea of who you are, as opposed to the story of who you are, the story writes itself.

“The way that I’ve built up this relationship with an audience is by not letting the story overtake the beating heart of what it is.

“If you really want to build up a connection with your audience, the first thing you’ve got to do is build up a connection with yourself. ‘Who am I?’ ‘What am I saying?’ ‘Is it real?'”

2. Don’t force it

DC: What does a real relationship between a presenter and their audience look like?

CE: “The first thing that you do is you put it out there and see what happens.

“Sometimes you might have to orchestrate (feedback) because some people might be so happy just listening. But you know pretty soon whether you are hitting the mark and who with … You can’t force-feed it.

“All the shows that I love and the podcasts that I love and the books that I read – they’re like-minded people. We like people that are like us.

“You go and you find your audience and hopefully your audience finds you. It’s a question of the people that engage your services trusting you and being given time.”

3. Facilitate a need

CE: “Anything that people that I love advertise, I buy so much of it … I’m a big fan of these spoken ads.

“If you own your show, you own your audience, but not in a sort of cynical way, because they also own you. Then you should also own the products that … you’re celebrating.

“You get an audience and then you facilitate what they need. I will not say ‘buy this book’ unless I really mean it. Personal recommendations for me is where it’s at now.

“Not only can you not take your audience for granted, you can’t exploit them unjustifiably.”

4. Be consistent

DC: How do you change the way you behave depending on the station that you’re presenting for?

CE: “I don’t think you can change the way you work … (If) you hire my circus, my circus comes to town. Why hire that circus if you then want to change the juggler?

“Consistency is massively important … identifying the fact that you have a connection with your audience, you have a following, and you follow them as much as they follow you.

“I get as many recommendations from my listeners … as I give them. And once you’ve got that two-way street thing going on, you can never betray the trust.”

5. Mean what you say

DC: What sort of mistakes do people make when they’re engaging with their audiences?

CE: “Number one thing, from my point of view – you’ve got to mean it. If you phone it in, then that’s fine, but then you’re going to have to (use tactics like) give away a million pounds every Friday or every Christmas … It’s not my philosophy.

“You’ve got to mean it. They know when you don’t. You know when you don’t.

“You’ve got to get up there every morning. You’ve got to mean it. You’ve got to enjoy it. You’ve got to have thought about it.

“It’s got to have a beginning, middle, and end. Things have got to have moments. There’s lot of amorphous stuff around, nebulous stuff. Whenever I’m writing scripts, I say, ‘Well, where’s the moment here?'”

6. Feel strategy in your body

CE: “Somebody said to me the other day, ‘How do you think things are going?’ I said, ‘I have no idea because I try not to think about things. But I’ll tell you how I feel things are going.’

“Drop out of the mind, drop down into the whole body … You have your IQ, your intellectual intelligence; you have your EQ, your emotion intelligence’ and you have your BQ, which is your gut intelligence.

“Get into your body. What does this decision feel like? What does this decision need? Where are we with this market? Where are we with this programme? Where’s the love here?

“I know it sounds woo-woo but honestly that’s it … Success is a byproduct of making the right decision. If you are successful, but secretly the decision you made is eating your inside for the rest of your life, that’s not going to be successful.”