Those words haunted me recently at a radio station. While they were spoken by a program director about the general manager those words could have once been spoken about me.
We only know what we know. Until the moment we say that we’re ready to learn, we’re stuck… with only the things in the rear view mirror as a reference.
“Everything I know I learned from someone else.”
Simply stated, strategy is about the big idea; why do we exist? What do we stand for? What difference are we making?
Maybe you haven’t thought about this in a while, but in moving back from five and a half years in Hawaii to my home town of Shreveport, Louisiana, I’m resetting the stations on my car radio. As a result, I’ve been listening to a lot of different stations recently. And I’m hearing a lot of things on music stations that I thought had been killed off a long time ago…
The “first in, last out” (FILO) thing where every break mandatorily starts with the name of the station, then also ends with the name of the station. (This was always ridiculous. Why do you want to sound like you somehow forgot that you said your name a few seconds ago? And why would you EVER put the name of your station right next to a commercial break? Think about it: You = commercials is not a good impression to lock into the listener’s brain.)
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
I’ve heard it said that there are no straight lines in nature. Every shoreline curves and winds. Every path is jagged and bumpy. Every landscape has heights and depths.
Over the years I’ve learned that radio stations go through seasons. Often we have the illusion of stability until we’re jolted by change.
A lot of shows struggle with getting any really viable phone call feedback from listeners. They tap into a subject, maybe offer an opinion, do a solicitation for feedback, give the phone number, then… nothing.
Waves of silence. No phone lines lighting up. Or if there is a call, it’s pretty much the same type of call they got last time (often from the same tiny pool of callers) with pretty much the same type of comment they always get.
The safe, predictable, no-new-ground-broken feedback loop.
Her name was Jane. She was the first girl I ever asked out on a date. She said no.
I convinced myself that it was because of the big zit on my forehead. Or that I wasn’t on the football team. I found out later it was because she and her family went out of town.
We think we’re pretty important, don’t we?
We think our station fans’ (P1s) behavior is a direct result of our programming tactics. I’ve heard otherwise reasonable people exclaim that ratings went up because of the new jingles, ratings went down because we didn’t hit the spot breaks within the bow tie, or question our ratings because we didn’t have a specific number of songs on our playlist.
Whatever you do well, congratulations on that. I mean that sincerely. The good things that you do each day make a great impression.
Similarly, when you say things more than once (as radio continues to do, trying to beat a thought into the listener’s head), or you do “the moral of the story” obligatory recap at the end of something, or say radio clichés (like “on your Monday morning,” “Hump day”), or do something silly and outdated (like “The Mindbender Question of the Day” or “This Day in History”), those make an impression, too. As my friend and partner Alan Mason says, “Everything counts.”
So, weed the garden regularly. Listen to your own show at least once a week. Add new ideas all the time. Consistency = Good. Predictability = Bad.
Think of your show as a demo tape. Because to the listener, it actually IS.
“What product category are you in? It’s bigger than you think.”
We would all be flying Wells Fargo Airlines if they had thought they were in transportation instead of the stage coach business. Same could be said of many once great companies like Polaroid and Blockbuster.
All too often I find radio stations that see themselves as being in the Christian radio business. Even the good stations often default to being about Christian music for Christian music fans.
Way too often, radio stations settle for hiring B or even C-level air talent, because they think they can’t afford better, or that an A-level talent will be “difficult” or just too expensive.
The reality, of course, is that when you hire a STAR, it changes the whole culture of a station.
Whenever you hire a racehorse, the other horses think “Why am I hitched to this plow?” Hiring a major league talent serves as a beacon for the other members of the staff, and makes them start trying things that lead to more and more “memorable moments” – and that’s what stations need to reach a new level of performance and establish a “learning and performance” vibe that runs through the hallways, spreads to every other department (particularly Imaging and Production), and infuses the Sales staff and management with a brighter outlook every single day.
Hire stars, or people who can BECOME stars with coaching and direction. When you settle for less, you’re putting a cap on what you can become. Plus, when you already have stars on-board, other stars want to come work for you.
“Off air,” the TV schedule indicated. “No programming scheduled at this time” the box on the lower left read. It was 7:30pm. Prime time I think they call it.
I recently attended a major league baseball game where the concession stands on the third base side were all closed. If you wanted to give them your money there was no one there to take it, presumably the very reason they were there in the first place.