Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Biggest PD Mistakes

  1. Forgets that the most important part of the job is to protect the station's license.
  2. Still thinks that it's a sales versus programming world and as long as (s)he gets ratings (s)he has done the job.
  3. Doesn't worry about heavy radio-users or passionate fans of the kind of music the station plays.  Targeting takes care of itself.
  4. Does whatever it takes to win.  Ethics and fair treatment of his/her employer and coworkers do not matter as long as the station is winning and profitable.
  5. Has a 'not invented here' attitude about new ideas and approaches.  Doesn't bother to network or seek objective opinions of knowledgeable counsel.
  6. Under-estimates the competition.
  7. Sees radio as a craft, not an art.  You can get everything you need to know by copying winning radio stations in the same format in other markets.
  8. Feels that people are replaceable.  As long as everyone is working as hard as possible, everything is fine.
  9. Thinks that business management is the GM's job and time management is a sales thing.
  10. Doesn't need research.  (S)he knows what listeners want.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Three Parts Of Prep

The last in an enduring series written by my friend and hero, Jay Trachman:

One of the nice things about teaching is that it helps one to organize his own thoughts. While explaining to a Jock Doc student recently about how to create Life Content, it occurred to me that the process has three distinct parts, which ought to be kept separate, lest they pollute each other.

Life Content: you, talking about your own life; Sharing the little emotion-causing experiences with your one listener. A lot of them seem so trivial when you're experiencing them, that you forget them by the time you're on the air. Yet these are the kind of raps that individualize you, reach your listener, and bond you to him or her.

Part one of the process is "research": gathering, "standing outside yourself" and noticing that something just caused you a significant emotion.

Then, "getting it down," saving the thought until you can deal with it more thoroughly. The best tools for doing this are a pocket pad, a microcassette or mini-sound recorder. When something happens that you think you might enjoy Sharing with your mate or your best friend -- make a note of it!

You see, when you're talking to someone in real life, the two of you go back & forth in conversation. Eventually, something will remind you to mention the experience in question. When you're talking with your listener, you get no such outside cues; you have to do all the work. That's why you have to make the notes. My own, collected over the past few days: "hummingbirds" ... "wind while biking" ... "radishes."

The second step is your show prep. Here you take the notes you made, and flesh them out into raps. "We've got hummingbirds in our garden! I never saw one in my life until yesterday, except in books, and I'm out watering the garden when all of a sudden, this thing that looks like a fat butterfly swoops in and *stops*! I mean, he's hovering in mid-air, wings beating a mile a minute, this pint-sized miracle, right in front of me! Then off he goes! For a minute, my heart was beating as fast as his wings!"
  • "Did you ever notice while biking, that you're always pedaling into the wind? Whenever I go to the post office, I can feel the wind in my face as soon as I turn the corner, and I always say to myself, 'Brisk wind today; it'll be nice when I'm coming home...' And then when I'm on the way back, instead of a nice tail-wind, it's still blowing into my face... Because, obviously, there really isn't much wind; it just seems that way when you're pedaling... Sometimes I think life's a little like that, don't you?"
  • "I guess this is the end of the cool-weather crop season; my radishes and lettuce have both started to bolt; we're picking them as fast as we can, but they're still setting flower heads; one of the radishes blossomed overnight -- which means it's no longer edible, right? Right. Another little lesson, learned the hard way -- pthbthbthbt!"
Notice how I've led to a feeling at the end of each bit; with any luck, you (or my listener) experienced some feeling in response. That's the whole reason for doing the bit.

Now comes part three of the process, and I can't over-emphasize the importance of keeping it separate from the other two: the editing. You don't ever want to be editing while you're gathering or writing, because it shuts down the creative process. I'd rather throw a bit away later, than miss one because my "censor" was working, and I told myself, "Naah -- that's not worth Sharing..."

Editing means taking the bit I created, then examining it to decide which details are necessary to set up the ending ("kicker") and which just add time. Also, does the structure set up the ending? Does the kicker express my feeling strongly enough so there's a good chance my best friend will respond?

The research is your life... The prep is taking your experiences, identifying the emotions you experienced, and figuring out how to make your best friend feel something, too... The editing is making it fit within the format requirements of brevity and structure, making sure the kicker is strong enough. These are the three distinct parts of creating raps. Keep them separate. You'll enjoy the process more, and find yourself working more productively when you do.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Brand" new? Nope

In 50 words or less, here is an abbreviated history of brand identity on American and Canadian radio.
  • Fibber McGee And Molly
  • The Jack Benny Show
  • NBC
  • The Mighty 690
  • 77 WABC
  • Color Radio
  • 93 KHJ
  • Westinghouse Broadcasting, KDKA
  • WCCO, Real Radio
  • WSB, Atlanta
  • Paul Harvey News
  • The Big 8
  • Cash Call
  • The Best Variety
  • K-Lite
  • CHUM
  • EZ
  • The Most Music
  • CKNW
  • Froggy
  • Magic
  • Continuous Country
  • 12 in a row
  • Mix
  • The all new…
  • Country 105
  • BOB FM
  • Double Your Paycheck
  • Kiss
  • Jack
.. and the tradition continues.

How does your branding stand up?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Opening Your Promotional Tool Kit

An Example Of Each Implement:
  • Build awareness.  Million dollar cash grab.
  • Force listening.  $1,000 song of the day.
  • Create sampling.  Premiums:  t shirts, stickers, refer magnets.
  • Packaging.  Thousand song weekend, lunchtime requests.
  • Loyalty/regularity.  Points program.
  • Coupon/Discounts.  Commercial free Monday, at work kickoff.
Before employing these tactics, always ask yourself what your competition will do to top it.

Be prepared for that response and decide if you will have to top IT as well as how and when you'll do so.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Learning From The Students

On April 28, 1949, WGRE-FM was the very first ten watt educational radio station licensed by the FCC.  Its first official broadcast was a tribute to the President of DePauw University at the time, Clyde Wildman, who was unable to attend the inauguration of the new radio station because he was in the hospital at the time.  The students operating the radio station presented him with an FM receiver so he could hear the ceremony from his hospital bed.

The station’s programming has been worth listening and paying attention to ever since.

For example, this decade-old Operator’s Manual (pdf) which is still well worth emulating as you discipline and train your talent.

You're Not Ready

... until you ask:

Does Nielsen/Numeris have all current facilities information?  Have we reviewed the market slogan file?  Are any stations in the market reporting a slogan that they are not using on-air as per frequency standards?  How might this impact us negatively or positively?

Has there been any shift in audience composition by demographic or gender?  Has there been movement in sharing patterns with key competitors?  If so, is there a real trend?  Should research parameters be adjusted accordingly?

Does the most recent book analysis uncover opportunities to recycle available cume?  Do current TSL trends indicate library rotations may require adjustment?

In the U.S., have we tracked zip codes for diary placement, return in target demos, highest AQH versus cume counted, etc.?  In Canada, where privacy laws restrict this info, have you used your own database to understand where your listeners live and work?  Does the marketing dept. and their outside vendors know how to exploit this data to maximize ratings and strengthen cash flow?  Do they have access to audience mapping technologies?

Was there anything abnormal in the previous survey?  When was the last time the station ordered a diary review, PD Advantage or other in depth study of PPM usage?  Do we know if we get more credit for slogan, call letters or frequency?  Are we using digital frequency in our primary identifier?  Is this being picked up by the survey?

Does an hour-by-hour (and in PPM, quarter hour by quarter hour or minute by minute) analysis show significant tune-in or tune-out for a target cell?  Might it be attributed to a regular feature or contest?  Should it be repeated later in the day/week or deleted?

Are there any daypart specific programs, especially on weekends that are “performers?”  Are they placed for optimal exposure to available targeted cume?  Might the station benefit from a repeat performance in the same broadcast week?

Does the station have a data cruncher expert on staff, at your consultant or other vendors?  Have they generated and distributed pertinent reports and tools from the last market measurement?

Does the station have a Qualitative expert on staff?  Have they conducted a meeting for air personalities to hone content targeting?  (Note:  CMA organizational members can receive free reports from the Country Music Association.)

Do we have a graduate of "Ratings University" in our employment roster?  Have they shared their insight to “the game”?  If not, when is that Numeris/Nielsen road-show coming to the area?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Pre-Book Competitive Overview

It's never too soon to audit yourself these days, since there's always "the nest book" just around the corner:          
  • Evaluate key competitors’ positioning statements, claims, benchmarks and stationality.  Is there anything we need to defuse?
  • How can we further maximize the strengths of our cluster to block and/or reposition our key competitors and those of our sister stations?
  • What tactical/strategic outside media (TV, billboards, mail, stealth telemarketing) campaigns are we likely to be up against?  Will our programming/marketing arsenal be competitive and crippling?
  • Are there new players?  Who are their consultants, programmers and companies?  Can we predict and “borrow” possible strategies, tactics, features and devices before they are aimed at us?
  • When was the last time the most recent perceptual/strategic action plan was reviewed for compliance?  Is the on and off-air brain trust following the game plan?
  • Has the programmer and marketing executives spent a day away from the station to critically listen and evaluate product performance?
  • Prizes:  “dollar for dollar,” how are we likely to be remembered in the mind of the listener?  Is this a “hill” we even care about?
  • What mechanisms are in place to insure we  seize “the moment/ big events” as they pop-up.  Are key community, industry, media (etc.) contacts in place?  Have we done a good job delegating the bases on the playing field so we won’t miss important opportunities?
  • Is the station and the cluster’s Marketing Model (Target+Product+Position+Promotion) current, active and actionable?                                                                

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lou Dickey On Evaluating Your Morning Show And Its Competition

In cleaning out some old files, I came across some information and a worksheet for monitoring morning radio from two decades ago that was created by Lou Dickey back when he was a radio researcher.  It holds up pretty well:


Stratford Research worked for quite a few of our consulting clients back then, and I have to say that the quality of their work was exemplary and they invented effective new ways to understand what drove images and usage.

One bit of their wisdom that has stuck with me over all the time since:  two of the five major drivers of morning radio success:  habit and familiarity.

The remaining things that can give a morning show leverage:
  • Format preference
  • Entertainment/style preference
  • Information needs
The weaker you are in those first two, the stronger you must be in as many of the others as possible.

It's still true today:  you can't beat a deeply-entrenched and successful morning incumbent by doing the same things they are well-known and regularly used for.

Being "better" isn't enough.  You also need to be different.