Like Curly said, “There’s just one thing.”

If your “thing” isn’t touching the listener’s emotions in some way, you have no chance of getting their attention or keeping it. That’s where stations I see on Facebook — and most of their websites — are failing now. They’re either promoting an on-air contest or re-purposing someone else’s content.

Every air talent on the station should be on the website and social media daily with something original, something that touches an emotion whether it’s funny, heartbreaking or uplifting. Hopefully, it will come from the content they had for their show.

Digital, social media, mobile or however you want to label it it’s nothing more than the newest content delivery device.

Motion pictures, radio and television came before it as ways to convey entertaining content to the masses. The carrier isn’t the star, the content is. We can’t get caught up in the uniqueness of the latest conveyor of content and forget that without something to convey these devices are about as useful as a bottle of fine wine with no corkscrew.

Don’t think in terms of “How will this look on (device)” or “We need something to post on (whatever).” Instead, think about what you’re going to convey that will generate an emotional response from the listener. Those are the kinds of things that will get people talking.

A Scary Word?

There is a word in our language that is used a lot. It can bring great joy…. and great heartache even when it says the same thing. It’s one of those “ear of the beholder” things.

It’s a word everyone wishes they knew the meaning of. Some say they do but they really don’t. It’s their best guess based on what they think are the facts. Problem is facts have a way of changing as time goes by.

They go around talking about it as if they do and some people listen and become disciples of these “gurus.” Others, well, they’re too caught up in just surviving the now to worry too much about the future.

Right now the radio business’ future is said to be at the mercy of how well we can “monetize our digital assets.” I’m certainly not here to argue that. Anyone knows there is money to be made in that space.

I would like to remind you, though, that we still have a thriving business that delivers profit margins that other businesses can only dream of. However, at the time when all that wonderful profit has been put in more danger than I can remember, we are systematically taking apart the very thing that got us to the dance; that has given us those digital assets that we now spend so much of our time and resources to develop.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we should be hard at work bringing those things to the fore that will yield profits for us in the future. I just don’t see why it’s necessary to kill off what we already have and replace it with the new toy.

If we use good basic best practices for both, we will not be replacing one with the other. We will end up with two healthy businesses – both with great margins. Now that’s a future we can all look forward to.

Repetition…..or just bad songs?

turntable

A survey just out is revealing some interesting things about what listeners are thinking. But, then that’s what research is supposed to do, if you know what to ask and how to ask it.

Playing the same songs over and over again is one of the more talked about factoids from the survey. Really? For years we’ve heard that from listeners but quite awhile ago most researchers came to the conclusion that this was one more way the respondents were telling us the station was playing bad songs.

In the past several years, as any research vendor will tell you, music research budgets have all but disappeared. I know one in particular that still does research for labels but doesn’t do any for radio stations when a few years ago that was the majority of their business. Another has gone out of business altogether.

In the absence of hard information about what the listeners like, don’t like or are tired of programmers are left with no choice but to monitor each other, look at spin charts susceptible to hype and listen to label reps who are doing their jobs when they promote their products with whatever tools and angles of persuasion they have.

So is it really repetition or are we paying the price for not asking the listeners like we used to?

Where Is The Edge?

standing on the edge

There has been an almost ongoing discussion in the trades, newspapers, various blogs and even Facebook lately about the direction Country music has taken….at least in the mind of the writer.

“Bro Country” has become part of the lexicon of Country. “She’s too Pop, he’s too Country” discussion/arguments are commonplace.

It really does remain the decision of the beholder as to what the genre is or is becoming. And, ultimately the fans who buy tickets and downloads and even some CD’s will decide whether it’s right or wrong.

Country has always had those that push the edges. Buck Owens was certainly a departure from the Country norm of the 60’s when he came along. So was Waylon, Kenny Rogers, The Judds and of course, Garth.

Currently Eric Church is generating a lot of conversation about the edge with The Outsiders. While I really like the song I wonder how a song with not even a tiny connection to the genre can be put in the same category as The Dance or Ain’t Going Down when we talk about pushing the edge of the format. Sure it will get downloads and of course it will go over big in concerts because that’s the kind of song it is…one that, in a crowd gets everyone on their feet. But does that mean it is Country? Does that mean Country radio should play it because it’s Eric Church?

I don’t think so.

It certainly won’t be the first song played at a Country concert by a Country artist that never makes it on the radio. Every artist knows there are concert or bar songs and there are those that will play on the radio and be accepted on that stage. The radio listening environment is a lot different than a bar or a concert venue.

Does the song represent the next evolution of Country? Did The Dance? The Outsiders doesn’t sound Country to anyone’s ear. In 1990 neither did The Dance but it was a phenomenal success because even though it didn’t sound like the other songs on the radio at the time it was an evolution. The Outsiders is a revolution.

Bottom line: Country will always be a force in American music that is home to a lot of different styles as long as we remember evolution not revolution.

It’s about Emotion…

it's about emotion

There’s been a lot of talk in the Country press (again) about how Pop PD’s are influencing Country radio’s target and the music the stations are playing. I was in the first big wave of Pop PD’s that came to Country in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I remember the same conversations going on back then.

Bottom line is (of course) a radio station program director doesn’t make those calls. He/she reacts to what their listeners are telling them. That is, if they’re smart.

I read recently that Nashville is trying to give radio what it wants. I sincerely hope they were using “radio” to describe the listeners. If not I think we’ve found the problem.

All the folks in Nashville or any other “ville” have to do is listen to their muse and write about the emotions of life. People react when they hear something that touches their emotions. Same goes for a radio station. It’s successful when it understands what makes its listener and potential listener react emotionally.

If Nashville and radio concentrate on that we’ll all be fine…

Productivity

 

protuctivity

We’re lucky in that most of us don’t work in a factory or punch a time clock. “Joe Lunch Pail” doesn’t live here.

No, we live in a world of creativity, not one of the mind numbing sameness a factory worker endures day in and day out.

We do have one thing in common with those folks though; we’re human.

Being human we’re susceptible to falling into a mental slump that robs us of our productivity whether it’s creating the next great promo, making a big sale or putting widgets together efficiently.

Several years ago I heard a story about a man who owned a factory. The factory was experiencing a slowdown in production. The man had gone through all the usual steps looking for reasons but was not able to uncover the problem. He was at a loss so he called in a consultant.

The consultant spent a week in the factory and on the final day told the man to turn the lights up in the factory. The man was hesitant feeling like maybe he had wasted his money but he took the advice and sure enough at the end of the month his production had increased.

He called the consultant with the news and was told to turn the lights up again. Sure enough the end of the month came and production had once again gone up. This went on for a few more months when the man finally told the consultant he couldn’t get it any brighter in the factory with hurting everyone’s eyesight. The consultant then told the man to start turning the lights down every month. And, you guessed it, the production continued to improve in quantity and quality.

A psychologist will tell you that it’s called The Hawthorne Effect. In truth the lights going up and down was only part of the experiment that produced the story. It’s generally thought that the attention being paid to the workers was a large part of the success.

Bottom line: The workers were stimulated and at their best when their environment was changing and they felt a more active part of their circumstance.

For the sake of brevity in this post I am not going to make a list of things you can do for yourself or as a manager for your employees. The idea is there. Run with it. Your life and your career will benefit.

Music?

As long as I can remember I’ve programmed and advised with the thought that; the music won’t win for you but it will beat you if it’s not right. If you’re a client or former client I’m sure you’ve heard me say that at least once.

There is something going on right now in our (Country) format that is making it harder and harder for stations to get it right. I’m sure it’s a problem in other formats as well.

For years those less fortunate relied on those lucky enough to have a budget for music research to be the guiding lights in the format. We knew that we could panel stations in our region that did research and use their musical moves to stay out of the ditch. The problem started a few years ago as consolidation and tight budgeting cut music research budgets from more and more stations. To paraphrase, “we have met the less fortunate and they are us.”

A vicious circle has been created. I use the word “vicious” reluctantly because it might be construed as an indictment of some fine folks just doing their jobs, many of whom are my friends.

It was pointed out to me recently by someone very familiar with both research and records that in a lot of cases these days it just takes a good promotion team to get conversions because of the lack of music research being done. “One monkey sees the other one doing it and decides it must be a good thing.”

So, what’s the solution? The easy answer is to figure out how to get music research back in the budget or get it in there for the first time. Otherwise depend on your consultant, if you have one, to supply you with a valid safelist. And, if all else fails quit paneling and cast as wide a net as you can when putting your own safelist together.

I still believe it won’t win for you, and I am absolutely sure it will beat you if you don’t get it right.

The more things change…

old-radio

I’ve got a couple of quotes to share with you. The first is from Bob Dylan. While it’s over 40 years old, it still rings true: “The Times They Are A-Changin’.

I’ve been in radio for most of the time since Bob Dylan wrote those lyrics. I can tell you that his line was then, and has been since, a universal truth. And each time a change happened, there were always those that were quick to predict catastrophe.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own circumstance. It’s easy to just see the changes that are directly affecting our daily lives. Radio trades and blogs are full of news about layoffs and cutbacks. We’re all well aware of the “changin’ times” we’re in. And, we’ve all heard the predictions of catastrophe.

I mentioned I had two quotes to share. There is a Biblical verse (Zechariah 9:12) that talks about being “a prisoner of hope.” In one way or another we are all prisoners of hope. We’re hoping we don’t lose our job or part of our income. We’re hoping someone does something about the economy. We’re hoping we get better at what we do so we can have more security and more rewards.

My question to you is: What are you doing about it? What are you doing to keep up with the times as they change?

Unless you own a Radio company free and clear, you’re in the same boat as everybody else in this industry. As they say, “We’re all in this together.”

Not one Smart phone or tablet or Internet site is capable of creative thought. That will always be your salvation against whatever “changin’ times” you find yourself in.

Instead of worrying about new technology and what it might do to you, embrace it and find ways to make it work for you. Instead of worrying about the budget you don’t have, find ways to work around it. Use the creative side of your brain. It’s what got you here in the first place.

Manager’s top worry: digital dashboard.

A recent article in Inside Radio shed light on what’s keeping Radio Managers awake at night.

In radio’s collective bed, it’s the connected dashboard keeping managers up at night. That’s according to a Kassof & Co. survey that finds four-in-ten executives and managers are most concerned about what the impact of internet access in the dashboard will do to in-car listening.

That’s nearly as many as those who are worried about Pandora (18%), satellite radio (13%) and mp3 players (13%) combined. Kassof says when those who say the connected car poses at least some level of challenge to radio, the number who worry about the digital dashboard jumps to 83%. Radio’s own digital platforms are also seen as a challenge by some broadcasters: 8% think podcasts will siphon away listeners; another 7% said iHeartRadio was a threat.

So, what can you do about it? You have to treat it like you would any other attack. In this case the dashboard could be considered a Flanker as well as an Offensive player. The first rule is to be as good a radio station as you can be. Is your programming truly compelling? Have your personalities connected with your audience…both over the air and online?

In my last post I asked if you’re station was evolving. Does it sound like it belongs in today’s world…your audience’s world?

Here’s the bottom line: No matter how many choices people have their habit will always be formed by whichever service they form a connection with. We have an advantage over the music only services; we have local personalities talking about their hometown. Satellite and Internet Radio have personalities too, but besides the huge cume advantage over them, there is no way their personalities can talk about the local things that impact the audiences’ emotions the way local radio can.

As long as we don’t help the other dashboard inhabitants in their quest to take away our advantage we will continue to be the leader. However, if companies continue to take local programming off stations in favor of national shows we lose our biggest advantage.

They can’t beat us. However, we can beat ourselves.

Evolution…Not Revolution…

There’s been some talk recently about the Country format and its new found partisans in 18-34 and especially 18-24. What does it mean? What should a Country programmer do? Is it time to split the format? Has Young Country’s time come once again? Or, maybe “Hot Country?”

I’ve read a lot of opinions as one by one all the “experts” weigh in on the subject. As someone who came to the format at the beginning of the last big influx of young listeners I have, perhaps a slightly different take than some. And this is important: The folks coming to our party now are doing so for different reasons than those busy learning to line dance and two step in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Back then it was the demise of CHR and a hunger on the part of its disenfranchised cume for new music. Country is all about new music. It is the only radio format targeted at adults that has current music as its base. We were like a beacon in the musical dark to them then.

Now, it’s about music discovery.

The Internet has done a lot of things to us and for us. I watched my four daughters grow up at the same time the Internet was developing. I saw them use it in particular for one of their biggest passions; music. They all have eclectic tastes. While we still play a big part, the days of Radio being the sole vehicle for music discovery are gone. That’s OK as long as we’re still in the game when our music is discovered and new fans go looking for a place to get a steady diet of the Howdy Hits.

It’s OK as long as we remember we must evolve our radio stations to be relevant to today’s fans, the new and the old. And, if you’ll remember that is exactly what happened the first time around.

Some stations are already making the move to a more contemporary presentation. While the lexicon of our society hasn’t completely changed over the past 20 years there have been additions and deletions to the everyday way we communicate. Do your air personalities sound like your core’s contemporaries or their parents? Does your station imaging carry who you are and what you want to be famous for to the audience in ways they will understand and identify with? Are you involved with events important to your target?

The basics are the same. But, the people we are talking to never stop changing.

Is your station relevant to today’s Country audience? If you’re not sure call me for a confidential conversation.

It’s About Trust…

I was going to write about managing difficult talent, and managing up to a difficult boss. Then I realized there is no, “one size fits all” when dealing with these types.

So, this isn’t going to be one of those “5 things you can do to be a better manager” pieces.

But, there is one thing.

I have been blessed in my career. I can honestly say that I’ve never worked for a difficult boss. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a certain managing up style that worked best with each one. Mostly it was always being honest with my opinions when asked and making sure my responsibilities were well handled. Of course you could write paragraphs more about both but that covers it in a nutshell.

Now, managing “talent,” well, that’s a different story. True, they have expectations of you just like your boss, but it’s amazing how different they react when something goes wrong!

Your boss hired you. They vetted you before they hired you. They know what you’re about. The talent on the other hand was either already there when you arrived, or they are someone you hired. Either way they don’t know you as well as your boss.

And, the most important thing to any relationship being successful; they don’t know if they can TRUST you.

The old adage “action speaks louder than words” applies. It will take time for them to realize that you are someone they can trust. It was always my intent as a manager to make sure those folks I was entrusted with managing knew I always had their back. When everything else in their life seemed to be going the wrong direction they could always depend on me for straight answers and all the help humanly possible to get things back on track. It only takes one or two of those occasions to come along before they understand you

In the meantime the most important thing you can do is be patient, be consistent and be honest.

In the end you will have the kind of relationship that spurs creativity, cooperation and success!

Passionomics

It’s another morning and you’re on your way to work. You’re really excited and passionate about getting there and getting started…right? If you’re like eighty-five percent of the work force, then the very opposite is true as most people are far from passionate about their jobs.

Fully eighty-five percent of the work forces hate their jobs! This is an epidemic and a global problem. What’s wrong with this picture? For most people it’s a matter of how they are viewing their job and the daily routine it brings.

Passionomics Defined:

Passionomics is a word I heard or read somewhere that, when defined makes a lot of sense. The definition is, “A formalized system to merge your personal passions, dreams, goals and hopes with the economic feasibility to make a concrete reality for yourself and the world around you. Passionomics is the opposite of ‘rut.’ Unfortunately, even in Radio, most people don’t have it.

The Benefits of Passionomics:

When your dreams become a reality, you are more likely to be happier and excited about each new day. You will be more likely to embrace the blessings and minimize the curses by having the energy to properly deal with daily challenges. If you’re passionate about who you are and what you’re doing, the world and everybody in it will be better off and the ultimate beneficiary.

The Challenges of Passionomic:

People are distracted! These ‘distractions’ come in many forms, sometimes disguised as the choices life presents. These choices impact your results, your outcomes and your destiny. These, “Focus Busters” must be managed if you’re going to be successful.

There are always forces that get in the way of achieving your goals. While there are things that we can and cannot control, it really comes down to choices. For example, why is it that eighty-five percent of the work force hates their job! It is because people are making bad choices, or good choices that don’t turn out as planned, then throwing either internal or external temper-tantrums along the way.

You have choices to make every day. For example, you can ask yourself with every situation that comes along if that event is a blessing or a curse. Since most people choose “cursed,” then the temper tantrum begins. What’s wrong with this picture? Examine your own ROE, “Return on Energy.” A good ROE will give you a good ROI, “Return on Investment.” Turn the negative energy into positive energy. If nothing else look for the, “lesson” every bad situation brings with it.

Perhaps the most outwardly identifiable quality of a person with “passionomics” is that they are “action orientated.” Here are a few simple steps to move you toward your passions and away from the status quo:

  • Step 1: Set some time aside to get quiet and think about your whole life. List all of the times and all of the people, places and things that really turned you on and made you happy. Then match those things up with your daily activities. Start small and grow as you go.
  • Step 2: Take Time to Think and Plan. Think about where you want to be in 18 months, and then list what needs to happen to pull it off. Lay out a plan that will realistically get you there.
  • Step 3: Be hungry for momentum by focusing on high payoff tasks. I didn’t say that you would love every task, but you need to embrace every task that moves you closer to your passions.
  • Step 4: Surround yourself with pictures that promote your passions. This will feed your inner sense of urgency to make it happen within your own time frames.
  • Step 5: Read books and magazines that teach your own areas of interest…your passions. There is enough information available to you right now to help you be successful…find it!
  • Step 6: Do it! Don’t just talk about it. Talking about won’t help you get there unless you’re talking to somebody that will help you get there financially, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.

A successful Radio station stirs a variety of emotions in its audience. If you do not have true Passion for what you are doing, you will never have the ability to effect your listener’s emotions.

The New Year

Sorry, but this week I will not have a year-end best of or worst of list for you. I won’t have predictions, hopes or desires for Radio in 2013 either. I do, however, have some wishes for you, my comrades in Radio:

If you’re an owner or group head, I wish you well with your lender(s) and/or board. If you’ve been in business for more than a minute you know they’re the folks who really run the company. You just get the nice office and the pleasure of having to deal with people who most likely don’t understand or care about the problems you face in heading a company that is best run with long term thinking but must deal with the “I want it now” attitude they possess.

It’s easy for those lower on the food chain or a vendor like me to get upset with “corporate” and wonder how we’re to achieve the desired goals the way Radio is operated today. You’re getting it from all sides. And you wanted the big chair?

If you’re a mid-level manager such as a GM, DOS, OM or PD, I wish you well in converting the resources you’re given to the goal that his been set by “corporate.”

I also wish you well in keeping the fires burning inside those in your charge. Your creativity in this area is your best friend. Remember, money isn’t the only elixir.

If you’re an on-air talent or salesperson, I wish you well in your interaction with the listener and the advertiser. You have a common enemy and a common ally all wrapped into one: The Internet. I could write a book – or at least a short story – on how to best take advantage of the Internet and turn it into an ally. Suffice to say, as with the mid-level manager, your creative resources are your best friend.

If you’re one of the many that has been displaced by the perfect storm Radio has encountered over the past few years (the economy and over leveraged Radio companies with debt coming due), I wish I could tell you to just hang in there and it will get better. It won’t. You’ve already heard that Radio will never be the same again; believe it.

There will be some re-hiring but not back to the levels we once enjoyed. For you, I suggest you take a realistic inventory of your assets if you haven’t already. What can you offer an employer or what can you offer as an entrepreneur?

The worst thing any of us can do is put our future (and that of our family) in someone elses hands. You must take control and move in a direction your skill sets take you.

With that, I will close by saying Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and may God bless us all.

Do you Relate?

Mark Kassof has just published results of a survey that show a large majority of radio listeners, regardless of format prefer to listen to a station they can relate to.

Maybe there needs to be a discussion/study about what “relate to” means.

Some will take this as yet another reason for live and local programming. The naysayers continue their rant against syndicated morning shows and voice tracking. While I am a proponent of live and local personalities for every show the fact is that great talent can relate to their listener no matter what city he/she happens to be in.

The real problem is we are quickly doing away with not only our starters but our talented bench as well.

Our listeners are telling us they would like to listen to personalities along with their favorite songs. They can get music they can relate to in a lot of places but will choose Radio because we can add to the experience with a relatable person between the songs.

But I wonder for how long….?

Being Thankful

It’s that time of year when we are all supposed to start thinking about the things in our lives that we are thankful for. At the risk of piling on, in radio that gets harder to do every day.

I am not going to waste your time finger pointing. We all have our villains in this play. And we’ve all certainly had our fill of name calling, etc. in various broadcast minded blogs and news entities over the last few years.

Actually it’s been building since 1996 and it will continue until either radio is driven into irrelevancy or the investment community gets cashed out by broadcasters smart enough to see that those big towers can still spew cash out the top just like an oil well if drilled properly.

I know I sound a little Pollyannish thinking that day may come and that’s OK with me. I prefer thinking about what is possible rather than ranting about things I cannot control.

Think about the number of radio stations not owned by these few companies being characterized as the assassins of local radio. While they do make a lot of rules that others end up having to follow because of their influence over or ownership of syndicators, rep firms, Arbitron, etc. business is still being conducted in thousands of radio stations every day owned by real broadcasters.

As long as real broadcasters are in our business in ownership positions what is possible is worth thinking about. And that my friend is something to really be thankful for.

Transition?

This week’s Billboard Country Update features an article by editor Tom Roland on the “transition” Country music is currently going through. It brought back memories of my introduction to the format in the late 80’s.

I was fortunate to be picked by Shamrock Broadcasting to be the program director for the launch of KMLE in Phoenix in October, 1988. Up until that time I had no Country experience. As it turned out it would have only hurt our efforts against what at the time was called “The Mother Church” of Country radio, KNIX.

A Country programmer would have most likely succumbed to his or her experience and created “KNIX Light.” I didn’t know any better so with the help of our consultant Rusty Walker we created a Top 40 Country station giving the Country Lifegroup in Phoenix a clear choice.

In a way, that’s what is happening now. As the Billboard article points out there are a lot of Top 40 and Rock programmers in charge of Country stations today due to the corporate downsizing going on in several companies. The article contends this is the reason for the edge many of the new acts in Country (Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, etc) have to their music.

Not sure I totally agree. Going back to my own experience I know we never intentionally “leaned” our music adds, moves or drops one way or another. We let the listeners decide.

Considering the volumes of information programmers now have at their finger tips it would be difficult to argue anyone but the listeners who are buying the music and listening to Country radio are driving what is coming out of Nashville and playing on the radio.

We experienced a notable shift in the sound of Country music from 1989 through the early 90’s when folks like Garth came on the scene. There were others, of course but let’s face it, Garth was the focal point. Was that because Country radio intentionally stopped playing folks like George Strait, Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, etc? No. In fact I remember Rose Colored Glasses among other traditional sounding titles being played on KMLE up until the time I left to join Rusty as a consultant in early 1991.

Eventually the new wave of artists with their own take on Country took over. Now, it’s happening again and the listeners appear to like it.

In the past programmers have tried to split the format into all sorts of configurations. A couple of survived, Legends and Texas Country both thrive where there is an audience. But there has to be a meaningful number of listeners and that still remains squarely in the middle of the Country lane.

We’re not moving away from Country music’s roots, we’re continuing to be influenced by them. Today’s programmers are challenged, just as we were at KMLE, to balance their musical product between the different sounds in today’s Country music. And, to remember the listener is always smarter than we are.

“The Business”

We’ve all heard the term, “the business” when someone refers to being in radio. I wonder, though, how many of us have ever stopped to think about what, “business” we’re really in.

I’m sure each department in a radio station would have a slightly different take on the question. Sales and the investment community would be quick to say we’re in the advertising business. It’s our job to partner with our clients and help them sustain and/or increase their business.

Engineering would (probably) talk about our license to be a public servant to the community. I’m sure some in the department would also talk about other opportunities our tower and side band brings to the table.

Programmers usually talk about the music. After all, it consumes the majority of our broadcast day in the music based formats. Besides, it’s what a lot of us got into, “this business” for, right? Mixing with the artists, record company, “SWAG”, etc. Music is what we see written about in the trades all the time. It’s what drives most conversations and panels at conventions and seminars. Some would swear it’s the very heartbeat of, “this business.”

Here’s a hot news flash for you: They’re all right, but unfortunately, in the big picture, they’re all wrong.

Years ago, railroads drove the country’s economy. Railroads owned land, built towns along their right of ways, and employed thousands. Even though these companies branched out into other investments, they continued to believe they were in the railroad business. They were wrong. Because they failed to realize they were in the transportation business, they lost their status as the driver of America’s economy, and the wealth that went along with it. Imagine what it would be like if they had realized that the means for economical, fast transportation would evolve. Today, instead of flying American, United, or Delta, we would probably be flying Union Pacific, Baltimore and Ohio, or Santa Fe. If the railroad barons had realized that getting people and goods from point A to point B was all about movement, and as different ways of movement or transportation evolved, became major investors or entrepreneurs in those fields, they would still be a major force in our economy today.

Consider Smith Corona. Theodore Levitt wrote about the company in his Harvard Business Review article, “Marketing Myopia.” Smith Corona made typewriters. Their advertising and corporate philosophy said, “we are in the business of making the best typewriters money can buy.” The fact is they were in the word re-production business. Smith Corona suffered from product myopia. They were so focused on being the best typewriter company, they never saw the computer age coming. They could have easily evolved to the leader in the personal computer field had they realized and marketed themselves as the company for word processing and reproduction.

There’s a lesson for every one of us in what happened to the railroads and Smith Corona. Don’t let the name, “radio” or the immediate responsibility you have every day hold you captive. Take a step back and realize that through the sales, technical and music, “business” we do every day, there is one constant. It’s the one thing that will sustain us against Satellite radio, Internet radio, and any competitor who hasn’t figured out….that we’re in Show Business!

We cannot let ourselves be labeled in the listeners mind as anything else but a place to go for entertainment. A place they can depend on when something happens. A place they can always depend on in times of need. We can’t be everything to them, but if all we do is play music, sell spots, and run PSA’s, we’re planning our own death. The emotion that comes with being all the things talked about above will be what makes listeners continue to be loyal to our radio station, even though there may be a music service available to them without commercials, or with fewer interruptions.

Big, fun locally oriented morning shows, well branded, fun radio stations, good neighbors in the community are all things the Satellite and Internet can’t offer, especially if we’re first on the ladder in the listeners mind.

Think about “the business” you’re in today. Think about how you can make your radio station stand out as more than a music box. Those are the things that will sustain us, and help us grow.

One more thought to ponder: When you examine your business ask yourself, “am I maximizing my revenue opportunities?” If you’re selling spots, and making a few dollars off your website the answer is an emphatic NO!

Your revenue stream should include elements from every single component of your business; from the tip of the tower to the windscreen on the microphone. There are opportunities at every turn and you should be making money from them. If you’re not, I’d suggest you get your best creative minds together and find out why. Maybe even call in some outside help.

If Radio is to continue to be a viable business it will have to not only get back to the basics of entertaining it’s listeners, it will also have to be aware of, and take advantage of all the possible revenue opportunities it possesses.

Meet My Friend AIDA

With a tip of the consultant’s Diamondbacks hat to my old friend Ray Edwards I’d like to tell you about AIDA. No, it’s not a government acronym for another social policy or secret weapon your tax dollars will pay for.
This is about Attention, Interest, Desire = Action.

If you’ve ever taken any copywriting courses you may have already been introduced to AIDA. Ray comes from that world via a long and successful career as an air talent, programmer and general manager in our world. He’s now one of the most sought after copywriters in Internet marketing.

He also teaches people to write compelling sales copy for the Internet. I sat in on one of his classes, the one he gets $10,000 for, and that’s where I learned all about AIDA. Of course Ray knew I was but a poor broadcaster and let me sit in for free! Besides he’s an ex-client and owed me a few.

If you’re like most programmers or sales people you are constantly looking for a sale. Whether it’s selling someone on listening to your radio station for the first time, or getting them to listen longer or more frequently remembering AIDA will serve you well.

  • Get their Attention. This could be anything from on-air promos to in the market visibility. There is an old saying; “fish where the fish are.” Find out where your potential listeners are in the market and make sure that area of the market is a big part of your on the street and on the air marketing. If you have the budget for other types of marketing you’ll know where to aim your dollars.
  • Capture their Interest. Do the air talents know who the station is targeting? Do they know what really Interests the target? Is it possible they can become authorities on any of those Interests?
  • Create Desire. Your creativity should be in high gear for this one. Think theater of the mind when writing promos for contesting and morning show imaging. Give them the opportunity to win prizes they can’t buy, for instance. Make sure people are talking about your morning show.

Action will show itself in better ratings and, over time, your radio station will become not only the radio brand in the market, but a leader in the community which opens even more doors to success.

The Rules…

The leader…that’s what we’re all trying to be in our markets, or at least in our format. If you’re the offensive player in your market you have a different set of rules to play by than the leader who has their own set of rules to successfully defend against you.

My late friend and mentor, Rusty Walker used to say all leaders should play “dofense” at all times. That is, play by the defensive rules with an offensive mindset.

So, what are these rules? A couple of weeks ago I said if you don’t know them find out if you want to be successful. A couple of people thought I was not being very nice by not sharing them so here they are. If you’re not sure what any of them mean drop me an email or a call and I will be glad to discuss them with you.

Offense

  • The main consideration is the strength of the opponent to be attacked.
  • Attack at the opponent’s most vulnerable point….in a key benefit area.
  • A technical breakthrough or advantage can be helpful.
  • Attack narrowly…then broaden.
  • Catch the defense off guard.
  • Go all out when attacking your opponent….BE PREPARED TO LOSE!!

Defense

  • Always play defense first.
  • When attacked, know which attacks are useful, and which are useless.
  • Parry all useful attacks.
  • Encourage all useless attacks.
  • Attack yourself! Find and correct your own weaknesses before a competitor does.
  • Never underestimate, or overestimate the power of the offense.
  • Power used against an adversary at the right time always brings more power.

10 Rules of Discipline

  • Study your enemy.
  • Avoid predictable attack.
  • Muster all natural advantages.
  • Favor no one weapon.
  • Use all available weapons.
  • Plan calmly, attack with emotion.
  • Guard your planning and your spirit.
  • Use perception, not sight.
  • You are always at war; accept it and stay ready.
  • Have the courage of a strategist. Do not veer from the rules.

DEFENSIVE RULES AGAINST A FLANKER

  • Be as good a radio station as you can be.
  • Weaken or dismantle the competitor.
  • Make a lot of noise.
  • Use hybrid forces; morning show, tactical contesting.
  • Be true to your strategy.
  • Be well focused on primary target.

Strengths & Weaknesses

Do you know your station’s strengths and weaknesses? Not from your point of view but from your listener’s? Are you sure? Have you asked them lately? If you haven’t you need to consider either a perceptual research study or some listener panels to either find out or make sure you know what you think you know.

I’m not in the research business so please don’t think this is a pitch to sell you on using me for the study or to moderate the panels. I AM in the business of helping you capitalize on your strengths and improve your station where you are weak.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term, “point(s) of differentiation.” In a head to head battle it is imperative you establish at least one. Find your strength, make sure it is in a meaningful area to the listener then capitalize on it. That will be your point of differentiation. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, and can’t afford to find out, pick one in a meaningful area to the listener and develop strength in that area. Again, that will become your point of differentiation.

Be careful in head to head battles, however. It’s too easy to pick music, either quality or quantity as your battlefield. After all it takes up most of the hour and it’s what people come to you for, right? They may choose your type of station because they are a fan of your musical genre but if that’s all they are listening for you have a problem.

Music attacks are the easiest to parry. How many times have you heard stations trying to one up each other on quantity? Not only does it become white noise to the listener, it can be an expensive proposition for the station as it sacrifices inventory for long music sweeps.

Instead consider developing a personality for your radio station. I learned this lesson a long time ago when I was working for an owner who also had Channel 10, the local CBS TV affiliate. All of its newscasts had gigantic ratings! In fact there was a joke in the agency community in the market. The competitors were channels 4 & 6. The agencies joked this was the only town in America where 6 + 4 didn’t equal 10!

How did they do it? They focused all their marketing on the station, not the news personalities. They knew that, being in a medium market, they were not going to keep good people for long. They were headed for major markets or the networks. They certainly hired the best talent available for their openings but those persons became part of the machine, not the driver. There were no “franchise players.”

While I am a big proponent of big morning shows I also know that it is imperative that those shows be a part of the station’s personality.

Remember when Howard Stern was still on terrestrial radio? Most of the stations that carried his morning show had the same rating graph, a big share in the morning that was cut in (at least) half the rest of the day. Those stations were a morning show with a radio station attached. Is that the best way to make money now and continue to grow in the future? Ask any of those GM’s what happened when Howard decided to go play in another sandbox.

Is the big morning show important? Sure. It’s the most important piece of the puzzle. But it should be a part of the radio station’s personality as projected through all of the talent, the station imaging, contesting, community involvement and so on.

If you build the station with roots that deep you will be around for a long time.

What!? No, it can’t be!

You mean Ries and Trout were wrong!? First in doesn’t win?

It may be hard to believe that one of marketing’s most basic axioms could be wrong but apparently it is, at least when it comes to Smart Phones.

Of course IBM made the first Smart Phone. They called it “Simon.” It was released to the public in 1993 and marketed by BellSouth. By today’s standards it was crude at best.

Then came the Nokia 9000. The Nokia 9210 was, arguable the first operating system. Also worthy of more than a little note is the Windows Mobile system.

But it was Apple that took the Smart Phone from a high end device to the everyday mobile user. And that is why I consider it first on the marketing ladder as far as the average person is concerned. I know you may want to argue with me on that point but first realize how far ahead of the rest of the world you are due to the business were in. You will never be an “average consumer!”
According to an AP story that ran in our local paper this past week there were four Android phones shipped for every one iPhone in the second quarter. That’s up from a ratio of 2.5 to 1 a year ago. Android powered phones now have 67% of the market compared to 17% for the iPhone.

So, how did they do it? Marketing? Distribution? A better product? You could make a good case for all three.

So what does that mean for radio? Not much by itself but it does teach a valuable lesson.

If you are the heritage radio station in your market and/or in your format, or maybe you’re one of two long standing stations in a format you may think a newcomer can’t come in and cause you serious trouble. In fact, he can not only cause you trouble he may even beat you if you don’t play good defense.

There are a few examples of this in the Country format over the years. I had the privilege of being a part of some of those battles. There are a couple in particular that come to mind.

KMLE vs. KNIX in Phoenix. Of course that battle continues and goes back and forth with both stations experiencing good runs at #1 in the format but neither can muster enough these days to stay in the top 5 in the market.

KUBL in Salt Lake City launched after years of playing album and classic rock. There were already two successful Country stations in the market. The leading station ended up going out of the format. The other, a locally owned and paid for station continues as #2 in the format. The scary thing about this story in the short time it took for the leader to go under.

If you’re the heritage or leading station in your format and/or in your market and don’t know the rules of defense then find out what they are immediately. In these days of crowded dials and few experiments don’t be surprised if a low billing station or a crowded cluster in your market suddenly sees a big target and dollar sign on your back.

Let’s Make Some Money!

That IS why we go to work everyday…right?

The pressure for revenue has never been more intense. Managers are being asked to create revenue from every conceivable part of the stations. Here are three possibilities that, at first glance might seem to stretch the boundries but after all, that’s what we’re all being asked to do these days. The more creative we can be the better our product will withstand the pressure.

Sell block sponsorships. It can be as little as an hour and as much as an entire day or daypart.

For instance; consider the impact a client who needs to reach people at work could have if they were allowed to own your station for all or part of your nine to five programming. You could offer it to one or two clients at a time who are not competing. They get all the spot avails plus special IDs and live talent credits.

Ideally they would use the spot time to do vignettes. These stories could be tips on how to do anything that involves using their product(s). If they insist on spots you must insist on producing enough messages in different formats so as not to cause fatigue among the listeners. Because only one or two clients are involved you should be able to up the music count in these hours with credit going to the client for presenting more music to the listener.

Along this same line, sell your streaming in blocks.

Again, the best use of this tactic would be to produce vignettes instead of spots. Besides tips on product usage the vignettes could take the form of chapters in a story that includes the client and their product that starts and ends within the block. Or, it could just be an interesting story; “brought to you by” the client.

If you’re concerned about your staff’s ability to produce copy for this type of approach consider hiring a freelance writer. For a couple of hundred dollars you can have all you need for the project. Google “freelance writer” and you should be able to find a person who fits your needs. When I did I got 1,250,000 hits!

Remotes have long been used by Radio to premium price advertising, and by clients to enhance their presence on a Radio station’s air. In most cases a client will buy the station’s package of pre remote spots and promos and the two or three hour on site remote with the talent doing live cut-ins from the “event.”

What if your station had more than one remote package for sale? Are their clients in your market that would either like to afford more “remotes” or can’t afford your full package but would like the benefits that come with a remote?

Consider breaking your remote broadcast package into three levels.

Level One: The full package. You know the drill on this one. You already have it in place. Just make sure there is enough value to set it apart from the other two levels and allow you to add a significant up-charge for it.

Level Two: This package contains almost everything Level One has except there is no talent on site. Again, make sure there are enough “extras” in your full package besides the talent to make it clearly better. The spots are pre-recorded as live. Promotion department staff members are on site to insure any premiums for listeners who attend the remote are handled properly.

Level Three: This is an appearance package. Spots run before and during a talent’s appearance at the retailer’s store. While there the talent will hand out gifts and do all the things they usually do at a full blown remote with the exception of the cut-ins.

All three benefit the station by allowing it to premium price commerical avails, and the client by enhancing their presence on your station.

It’s a win-win.

Influence…

I can’t think of a single person in this world that isn’t trying to influence someone to do or say something. Our whole life revolves around our power to influence our surroundings to give us a better to life…to be happy.

But where does the power to influence come from?

When we are young just about everything and everyone influences us. We have very little free will. We’re told when to get up, when and what to eat, what to say and when to go to bed. Of course, if you’ve ever been in the armed services you know that carries over to your adult life too!

As we begin life’s road toward maturity it’s get a bit harder to influence us. Anyone who has ever had children knows that. By the time we hit maturity we’ve gained just enough knowledge about the world to be somewhat cynical of anything or anyone we are not familiar with.

So, how do we get to know people? Facts and factoids about products and issues of the day?

The Internet of course.

We can easily spread our opinions and thoughts in a hurry to more people than we ever could influence before. That ability to influence is what made Social Networking the next “Big Thing” for marketers. Whether we are marketing ourselves to potential listeners/viewers/readers or our advertiser’s products, done the right way we can make our message much more impactful by joining in the conversation going on in these various spaces. That doesn’t mean out and out plugs for whatever you’re pushing. It does mean being an active and known participant in the conversation(s).

The secret is to become familiar to your potential audience. What does familiarity bring? Credibility. Credibility is Valhalla for marketers, and the Big Step that leads to the ability to influence.

Be careful though. As you consider your point of view on your favorite social networking site remember; anything you say can and will be used against you…

Coming Back

This is my first chance to publish in awhile. Before I had to go on hiatus to tend to family business I was regularly writing about whatever seemed to be the hot topic of the day. While I have been away from day to day consulting I have not been away from radio. I have continued to keep up with news in the trades while networking with friends and clients.

Seems strange that I would be writing about the same things three years later and still be writing about current issues.

It seems all we’ve done is talk about the problems we all know are there. Is it the economy that has held solutions back from letting us move forward? Could be. It usually takes creativity and money in varying amounts to solve the issues we face in life and business. It also takes recognizing the problem instead of talking around it like it doesn’t exist.

As broadcasting rushes toward it’s digital future some of us continue to all but ignore the present. I have heard countless people, smart people talk about how we are in the content business. I agree. In fact I suggest it is the only way radio is going to survive once we lose our exclusive hold on the dashboard. Yet a lot of these same people are responsible directly or indirectly for the continuing “thinning of the creative heard” in our ranks.

We should be to the digital world what musicians and singers are to music radio.

Producing content is our strength in the battle to stay relevant yet we continue to discount it in the name of the bottom line. I may sound like a radio dinosaur saying this, but I don’t think anything will change until broadcasters regain control of the broadcasting business replacing bankers and investment firms. Or, the folks now writing and cashing the checks begin to realize the cash cow does need to be fed.

In the meantime it is up to all of us to do our jobs with the tools available. To use our creativity to solve problems created by the lack of resources. I know, we’ve been doing that, but we must continue. Nothing ever stays the same. This is our new reality. Those of us who love radio will deal with it and succeed.