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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Life Lessons (A Never Ending Series)

Back in the mid-70's when I did mornings at Owens Enterprises' KUZZ/Bakersfield, I heard "you're good, but you're no Johnny Kaye" at almost every appearance I made.

I made a lot of appearances, so I heard it a lot and I have to admit that the competitive side of me got a bit jealous each time.

Being OM/PD as well and extremely curious to hear Johnny, I organized a "KUZZ Reunion Weekend" and contacted as many of the former air personalities to come back and do a few hours on air over a weekend to kick off a major station promotion.  (It is impressive how many long-timers from way back then remain with KUZZ today!)

When I reached Kaye by phone, I found him to be extremely gracious, friendly, supportive and cooperative.

He did his shift for us and - I had to admit - he was simply great.  Listeners were right.  Johnny Kaye, a complete professional, knocked my socks off!

Hard-earned lesson:  learn from history.

Don't let your ego deny the previous people and events their share of the credit for what built the radio station where you work, helping to construct the platform you make use of now.

Attain higher heights by standing on the shoulders who folks who preceded you.

You can't get very high by stepping on other people.

Becoming More Memorable

  1. Use all available media to the utmost of your ability, but before deciding which to make use of, choose your message.
  2. Promote who you are and what you stand for.
  3. Start by using your own airwaves and digital tools.
  4. Give away lifestyle prizes as your rewards for listening. 
  5. Cash is the easiest lifestyle universal.
  6. Create a memorable brand name and catch phrase which encompasses all of the above.
  7. Don’t expect it all to work quickly. 
  8. Great marketing and branding, let alone product development, take time to be effective.
  9. Cume building contests and campaigns still work and must employ outside advertising.
  10. Ah, there’s the rub.  Trying to build cume without buying advertising may improve your time spent listening and can generate word of mouth if done very creatively, but that strategy adds to the time it will take.
  11. TV morning shows dominate outdoor in most markets today with creative that looks exactly like morning radio used to do.  Small wonder that our pre-8 am audience is gravitating to TV at home.
  12. Time spent listening is driven by recycling audience. 
  13. Tease with specifics, theater of mind and exact times.
  14. Ah, here’s another rub:  everyone else knows that too, so depending on it to drive your growth requires doing all of these things better than all of the other choices listeners now have.
  15. Target hot zips, the neighborhoods where your most loyal listeners live and work.
  16. Do appearances in “blitzes.”  Create the image that where ever your fans and prospects go, you’re there too. 
It’s impossible to keep this up constantly.  Plan tactically and conserve your researches.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

The goal:  make potential listeners feel like you’re constantly visible in their community.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tomorrow: 16 Ways To Be More Memorable

.. but first, I want you to look in the mirror and ask yourself "is my content consistently WORTH remembering?"

If you can't honestly answer that question with a resounding "yes," you can skip my post tomorrow because it won't work no matter how much you invest in marketing tactics.

You will never be able to sell people long term on something they're not personally committed and connected to.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Radio 2015: Perspective From A Very Savvy Friend

I want to turn on the echo chamber today:
Reed Bunzel is a veteran media executive with over 30 years of service in the radio, music, and digital media industries. He is president of Bunzel Media Strategies, a full service consulting and analytics firm that assists companies with industry research, analysis, business strategies, platform development, and communications/marketing.
     Remember the movie Sybil? That's the 1976 miniseries and film starring Sally Field, whose main character was alleged to have up to 13 different personalities, all struggling to coexist inside one body at the same time.
     I mention this because this week at the NAB/RAB Radio Show in Indianapolis I was having a conversation with a respected broadcaster (name withheld upon request) who compared the U.S. radio industry in 2014 to the Sybil character. Not in the sense that he thought the business was fraught with mental illness or that it needed psychotropic drugs in order to maintain a "normal" life, but because at any one time there are a number of distinct personalities inside this industry that give voice to its collective persona.
     While the analogy could be perceived as a bit of a stretch, a distinct parallel can be drawn between Sybil's internal voices and the discussions I've had with radio broadcasters these past few days at the Radio Show. All of these conversations (and some comments made at general sessions) have been fascinating, some of them are scary, and many of them contribute to a universe that seems founded more on perception than reality. Depending on whom you talk to, the American radio industry is a) healthy, b) doomed, c) challenged, d) blind, or e) all of the above.

Here's what I mean:
  • In her now-traditional role of the industry's statistician, Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst Marci Ryvicker insisted radio's revenues will remain flat until broadcasters prove her wrong, with local and national spot revenues most likely going nowhere this year. She has a strong record of accurate forecasts, so her macroeconomic view can be trusted. Her prediction of "flat" growth is not a truth many attendees in the audience wanted to hear, but as Ryvicker so eloquently put it, "radio has a lot of shit."
  • Several major group heads insisted that the radio remains strong and, while saddled with the uncertainties of change, its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. Example: Cumulus Chairman Lew Dickey, while acknowledging myriad challenges, observed that radio is "America's daytime medium" and emphasized that its greatest audience occurs during the time when most commerce is conducted.
  • RAB President/CEO Erica Farber stressed that digital is radio's most direct and imminent path to growth, a position self-avowed BS specialist Bob Hoffman (author of "The Golden Age Of B.S.") almost immediately refuted by declaring "online advertising is a fraud." While Hoffman quickly clarified that he really was referring only to display advertising, his "WTF" moment resonated long after he left the stage.
  • Univision Radio President Jose Valle stated that digital audio streaming is a $20 million revenue line that produces cash flow for his company, and noted that "we don't abandon our over-the-air audience but we have to be where our listeners want us to be. Listeners dictate."
  • Seconds later Emmis Chairman Jeff Smulyan insisted he's never made a dime from streaming, stressing instead how critical it is to get NextRadio functional in every smartphone sold in America, so consumers have access free FM radio rather than pay the near-usurious rates charged by major phone carriers. This move, Smulyan insists, will almost single-handedly propel the radio industry into the future.
  • Of course, a healthy contingent of tech-heads are adamant that it's too late for either NextRadio (which is at the mercy of AT&T and Verizon) or HD Radio to shift the digital tide that has begun to rise - a tide, they insist, that will not float all boats.
  • Then there's the die-hard cheerleaders who point to radio's 92% 12-plus reach and insist that all is good in the world of radio, despite measurable TSL erosion among younger demographics and the growth of such online digital services as Rdio, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Pandora.
  • These folks also tend to be harsh Pandora critics who don't grasp that the streaming service is a company, not an industry, and that if it didn't have to pay the performance royalty fees dictated by the Copyright Royalty Board (from which AM/FM radio is exempt), its margins actually could be far greater than those of many radio companies serving the same number of listeners.
  • And then there are the "rapturists," those individuals who are convinced that radio's apocalypse is imminent, and nothing can be done to save it from the four horsemen who are fast approaching from the other side of the digital horizon. 
     I want to stress here that I am not trying to simplify the passions or opinions of radio broadcasters, or to declare the radio industry "psychologically unstable" or "mentally unfit." Far from it. But today (Sept. 12), as the Radio Show closes here in Indianapolis and we all go back to our regular roles in the radio business, we need to recognize that it's impossible to color the radio industry with one broad stroke. I'm constantly asked "what's the big take-away" or "what's the buzz at the show"?
    I understand the questions, but I don't have suitable answers. No one does. And that's because the radio business is comprised of many interconnected parts, with multiple priorities and goals, and no two perceptions (or personalities) are alike. Each of us knows what we know about our own corner of this business, and we are influenced by the factors that affect us personally and professionally.
     For instance, some broadcasters are being chased by debtors who have no option but to let them to continue kicking the can down the road in an endless game of tag that causes many folks to doubt the overall health of the industry. Others are ruled by fear of change and cringe at the approaching reality that spot revenue might just not be enough to get them through to retirement, or to identify a reasonable exit strategy. Still others are managing to generate small revenue gains through hard work and diligence, and are accepting that digital and social media can push real dollars to their bottom lines.
     In the movie and TV miniseries, Sybil was affected by what today is known as multiple personality disorder*. It's important here to draw a distinction between that and what I've mentioned above, which is radio's multiple personalities. Period. (Whether there's a disorder involved is open to discussion.
     My only point here is to initiate a conversation about the U.S.. radio industry as we head into the fourth quarter, and to introduce my new initiative, Radio 2015. This new "media intelligence platform" is designed to engage everyone in this wonderful business in a discussion about our collective fates, futures, and fortunes, and to offer actionable analysis and information to ensure that we are guided by intelligence rather than fear.
     You'll be hearing a lot more about Radio 2015 next week - and in the weeks to come. Meantime, I invite you to email me with any questions or comments you might have regarding the radio business, as well as suggestions about what you think needs to be addressed as we set our sights on tomorrow...and the next day.

*In a book titled "Sybil Exposed," author Debbie Nathan maintains that most of the story Shirley Mason, the "real" Sybil, was fabricated.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

This Is Not A Test, It's An Actual Emergency

Blaine Thompson has been writing "Indiana RadioWatch" specifically for Hoosier Broadcasters since 1998.   

He sent this email last night from the NAB Radio Show in Indianapolis:

In one session, I kept hearing that "Content is Key." If your radio station has great content, people will find it and listen to it.

As I write this, the President is speaking. I realize that several radio stations across Indiana have this speech on their airwaves. Some radio stations do this broadcast by adding a command into the automation system. Some radio stations air the speech, and bring in local hosts to discuss what the President said. As it is 9:00PM, some radio stations let a weekender or part-timer come into the radio station to make sure the speech airs.

However, what about promotion? I asked a broadcaster about this today, and was greeting with a single word:

"What?"

So, I asked:

...Did you put an announcement on your radio station Facebook page, saying, "Listen to W____ at 9PM tonight"?

...Did you add an announcement to your Twitter page?

...Did you send a text blast to your "text club" subscribers?

How did the broadcaster respond?

With a mildly blank stare, a mumbled "Thank you," as they grabbed their cell phone (hopefully to call or text someone back at the radio station...)

(I'm not going to give a speech entitled, "What, you don't have a radio station Facebook page, Twitter feed and text club? It's 2014.")

A broadcaster told me this: "It's 2014; you can't rest on your laurels and know that anyone who wants to hear content will listen to YOUR radio station. You have to make the content compelling for your listeners."

30 To 39

Visualization by Martin De Wulf (@madewulf)
Today’s Gen Xer is the parent of Millenials, making at first glance what statistically is the smallest age cohort in our population a poor target for marketers.

Look again.

When it comes to how someone feels, 30-39 may be the largest target!

Call it attitude age

Middle age men think of themselves as younger than they are. 

20 to 29 year olds often think of their parents as among their best friends, seeing 30+ as they peers. 

Did youygo to college?  Have a comfortable income?  It’s likely statistically that you also feel younger than you chronologically are.  Singles feel older and divorcees, younger.

The folks thinking of themselves as feeling between 30 and 39 attitudinally is a huge group.

Find out how old your listeners feel they are and target that age!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Best Salespeople

The most successful salespeople tend to exhibit:

1.  Strong character, with an ability to dominate others
2.  High persistence
3.  Debating ability, playing judo with the prospect’s own objections to land an order
4.  Patience to question prospects at length before making a closing argument
5.  High energy level
6.  Self-confidence to withstand repeated rejection
7.  Good work habits and organizing ability.

-- A little reminder to their coworkers from Psychology Today

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

"What’s Happening?" Still Works

Reduce the clutter generated by sales value-added by making use of a weekly promo from sales inventory to group together a lot of smaller sales promotions on air.

These promos are :30 seconds in length, have a standard music bed behind them, run as a normal commercial unit, as read by your station’s “Fun Finder” personality under the umbrella of “here’s what’s happening at (brand name).

Place all sales events that appeal to the mass audience including remote broadcasts, personality appearances, concerts, et al.

These “sales promos” generally run once per daypart.  It’s tempting to bump them when you’re sold out, but don’t do it. 

If you promised it and got a “buy” as a result of that promise, you’ve got to deliver on ‘em and that’s another reason to count them as commercial inventory.  You can even affidavit them as long as you keep a good paper trail of everything you run.

If a client doesn’t want their mention included in a carry-all like this, of course, you’d be delighted to sell them their very own commercial to say whatever they like!