For people to see a thing in the same way it is helpful that they be standing in the same place looking in the same direction at the same thing.
Every radio format can be steered one of two directions – culture or subculture.
The direction is usually the result of leadership’s vision, financial or ratings goals, or competitive factors. But sometimes it happens by accident, with little awareness of the day-to-day, break-by-break decisions that move a station there.
My experience is that Christian music radio stations default to subculture (and therefore smaller audiences) unless they are purposeful about being culturally relevant. (Frost warning: that may mean taking risks and not doing what is easiest).
To a certain generation November 22, 1963 was a day the world changed, just as December 7, 1941 did for our parents’ generation, and September 11, 2001, did for our children’s.
I saw this road sign recently and couldn’t resist pulling my car over to take this picture.
Seems to me this sign communicates two distinct messages. First, the road I’m traveling on is currently free, which is undoubtedly obvious. Second, that someday it won’t be, which is undoubtedly negative.
Obvious and negative. Interesting concepts for marketing lines, don’tcha think?
Whether it is as seemingly insignificant as pointing out you’re airing the FINAL traffic report of the morning or afternoon (translation: if you want another traffic report you won’t find it here) or as significant as claiming your station has a wide variety of music all the while knowing that listeners come to you specifically for a narrow niche of music, obvious or negative marketing messages don’t add value to your station’s programming.
I’ve heard of a station that claims to be the “official” Christmas music station, without any explanation of what that means or how it is of value. (By the way, that’s not necessarily a bad concept but its value is directly proportional to its benefit to the listener).
The Contemporary Christian music format, perhaps more than any other, has real benefits and real value for listeners. We don’t need to just make stuff up that doesn’t matter.
It’s simple, really. *
In a short burst of clarity and creativity I’ve come up with The World’s Simplest Checklist for a really swell radio station. (Believe me they only come to me in short bursts).
Grab your pen and count up your points!
When real people tune to my station for the very first time they hear something that sounds familiar and makes them feel at home. (True-25 points: False-zero)
When real people tune to my station for the very first time they hear something relevant to their life. (True-25 points: False-zero).
When real people tune to my station for the very first time they hear something compelling. To them, not to us. (True-25 points: False-zero).
No doubt about it; the thing I get asked about the most is Content; what to talk about each day. Choosing the right Content is crucial to doing a great show, no matter what your radio station’s format is.
Some of your Content is provided for you with station promotions and events, contests, special listener “clubs” that give feedback on the music, stuff like that. And in a music format, there’s always stuff about the artists, concert dates (if they apply to your market), and whatever special musical features you provide.
But that’s only about half of what you need.
How many radio engineers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: It can’t be done.
Guess what accountants talk about at the accountants’ convention?
What do you reckon’ they talk about at the annual plumbers and pipefitters’ Local #562 hootenanny? (By the way if you Google ‘plumbers and pipefitters’ you get 269,000 results).
We’re no different. We radio folk are radio-centric. Everything revolves around us.
Why did the ratings go down? It must have been something WE did.
What did the ratings go up? Well, certainly it WAS something we did.
Our egos don’t let us consider that a family of four meter panelists may have simply returned from two weeks to see grandma.