C’mon, admit it! Not every single element on your radio station is all that great. Some are, but some are only adequate. And some elements are down right turn-offs! Or as one program director confessed to me, “The best I can hope for is competent,” in referring to his station’s traffic reports.
I had the privilege of being shown around a place called The Hatch by my friend David Salyers who recently retired from a 37-year career in marketing at Chick-fil-A.
The Hatch is an entire building devoted to hatching innovation, with the walls covered with photos of some of Chick-fil-A’s best customers. What a contrast in priorities to our station walls adorned with gold records and photos of artists!
The description “Producer” seems to be thrown around pretty loosely these days. So let me try to help you with what a Producer really should be:
A true show producer is a right-hand man (or woman), an extra set of hands and feet, and a resource in finding material, in addition to the right “framing” for something (music, sound bites, etc.).
A great Producer should have superior Production skills, too.
And you want a Producer to be a source of feedback, so a Talent has someone he or she can count on to weigh in on whether something is a good “fit” for the show, or in some instances, will even work at all.
Do you have the same feeling?
When you hear the talking heads on TV news rattling on after the speech do you ever wonder if they were watching the same thing that you did?
If you tuned to MSNBC or CNN you likely heard one line of analysis. If you tuned to FOX News, you probably heard another. Social media was even worse. People tweeted opinions about the speech before even hearing it. Opinions that were based upon their world view.
It’s so easy for an air talent to think “I have to do something BIG to stand out against the competition,” and yes, radio is all about creating memorable moments that make people want to come back and listen to you again tomorrow.
However, as New England showed against the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, you don’t want to go outside your comfort zone or change your identity to accomplish that.
Once again this year, the Patriots demonstrated that you win by doing the right thing at the right time. That’s what puts you on top. So here’s what you can take away from the Super Bowl, in radio terms…
It’s often referred to as the “leaky bucket.”
That’s PPM-talk for stations losing listeners by the process of tuning away or turning off. It would be logical to think that it is easier to keep people listening than to try to get them to tune back in.
But that’s only half the story. Or, should I say, two thirds.
A recent study of 37 million listening occasions conducted by Coleman Insights and Media Monitors found that…
“nearly two-thirds of radio listening occasions are the result of turning on the radio, listening to a station and turning the radio off.”
That means we as managers, programmers, and talent need to focus not only on minimizing tune-outs, but in creating TUNE-INs.
This past weekend, the fine actor Alan Alda accepted the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award, saying:
“When we get a chance to act, it’s our job, at least in part, to get inside a character’s head, and to search for a way to see life from that person’s point of view. It may never be more urgent to see the world through another person’s eyes. And when the culture is divided so sharply, actors can help, at least a little, by doing what we do.”
I agree. So did C. S. Lewis, who wrote: “My own eyes are not enough for me. I will see through the eyes of others.”
Part of our job should be to see through the listener’s eyes – and not just the P-1 devoted listener, but also the person who just hit the “scan” button and it landed on you.
Great radio is performance art. And anyone who’s worked with me knows that’s the way I approach it.
As Alan Alda said at the end of his acceptance speech:
“The nice part is it’s fun to do it. So my wish for all of us is: Let’s stay playful, let’s have fun, and let’s keep searching. You can’t solve everything, but it wouldn’t hurt.”
We forget, don’t we?
We forget what real people go through every day.
We forget the messages they are bombarded with, the struggles they face, the negative influences on their kids.
Real people perceive your radio station within the context of their own lives.
Often they tune in to get away from the negativity, to be affirmed for the good in people, and to be reminded of the hope we can have through our faith.
The recent government shutdown reminds us with every event heroes emerge. Yes, the front page and social media are filled with politicians playing the blame game, but our stations have other stories to tell.
Leading up to last Halloween, a show I work with did a wonderful break that leapt out of the radio about Trick-or-Treating in a Halloween mask. After talking about how restrictive one could be, one member of the team did a “trick or treat” delivery like his face was being smashed in by the mask. It was really funny and SO visual.
Then his partner followed up with how it could have been raining, and did a rain sound effect.
It’s a simple but profound idea…
Programming is about design, and design is about change.
In a format where the most popular songs tends to sound alike, it is critical that we design change in, because it doesn’t happen naturally. I first realized this when I was programming Smooth Jazz, a mostly instrumental format with a musical spectrum of almost nothing but saxophone and guitar. I learned pretty quickly that sameness inhibits interesting.
You can design change from fast to slow, laughter to tears, serious to funny. The more change you design in the more interesting the experience, like the last great concert you went to.
“An epic key change can make a pretty good song instantly legendary.”Musicnotes.com
It’s easy to see how change applies to your station’s music design, but what about to the content from your wacky deejays?
“Make the big little and the little big.” Chris Evans, Virgin Radio in England
I hear so many people using a text or email as the ending of something. And a lot of stations have gone way overboard in soliciting them.
But this is one of those things that seems like a good idea, but it’s too broad a concept to play to radio’s strengths.
Here’s what I coach:
Texts (or emails) are only to be used as springboards for something YOU do that’s creative. They’re not a be-all or end-all in themselves. So rather than using a text or email as the “destination” for something, you should use those as the START of something.
I didn’t tune in to hear what the faceless “Jennifer” from Highland Park has to say, I tuned in to hear YOU – the trained, articulate, entertaining Personality – have to say. Because, let’s face it, “real” people are usually not very witty or clever or funny at all. Sure, they can be once in a while, but even then, I don’t want to hear you just read a response. How lazy can you get? Why don’t you just read the newspaper on the air if that’s all the work ethic you have?
Plus, I believe it’s a mistake to encourage people to text or email INSTEAD of calling, because radio is about airing AUDIO. Do you want to hear me interview an artist, or would you rather hear me read an interview with the artist out of a magazine? Print is a poor substitute for Sound. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.