All posts by John Frost

John has been a successful major market DJ and PD for such companies as CBS, Gannett, Cap Cities, Westinghouse, Multimedia, and Sandusky and publishes the Frost Advisory.

Frost Advisory #375 – Don’t Stare Directly At This: A Programming Lesson From The Solar Eclipse (Part One)

Have you heard?  It’s been in all the papers.  There is a total solar eclipse on Monday.  It’s the first one since I was in college.

It begins in Oregon at 9:06 AM Pacific and ends in South Carolina at 4:06 PM Eastern.

Well, that’s one point of view.

You see, a total solar eclipse is ALWAYS occurring SOMEWHERE in space.   All I’ve done is state three perspectives from North America.

“Since I was in college” is a perspective relevant to only me.  No one else cares.

“It begins in Oregon” is relevant only to Oregonians or those one million driving their Magic Buses through the Columbia River gorge to camp out and smoke, smoke, smoke their cigarettes. *Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

The people that care most about the eclipse are those directly along the path; Corvalis to Kansas City, Nashville to Greenville.

Time magazine has a nifty little gizmo that shows how the solar eclipse will look from anywhere in the United States.  You simply enter your zip code and see what the eclipse will look like from where you are.

What if we had an app for that?

What if there was a nifty little gizmo where a listener could enter a code and our stations would immediately resonate with their life?  What if our stations resonated just as much with a seeker as someone deep in their faith?

I’m not suggesting changing the station’s purpose, mind you, but rather consider the ability to zoom that purpose directly into to people’s lives, like the way the eclipse resonates more with those along its path.

I like Roy Williams’ perspective.

“Have you ever used a zoom lens?  Think of your brain as having one.  As you zoom in, you exclude the context to focus on the tiniest details.  But when you zoom out, you see those details fold in on themselves to reveal the ever-expanding context of the big picture.”

When you discover that big picture you’ll discover the common ground to reach the largest possible audience.

Ian:  What did the sun say when it reappeared after an eclipse?
Angus:  What?
Ian:  “Pleased to heat you again.”
(Joke by Ian T., Acton, Mass.  Boyslife.org)

Frost Advisory #374 – It’s Back To School Time!

Back to school time is everywhere.  In the stores with sales.  On the highways with school buses.  There are even tax free days for Back to School.

It’s not an official holiday like Christmas, Ground Hog Day, or Millard Fillmore’s birthday, but it is just as evident.  Back to school affects everyone’s schedule, even those that don’t go to school.  (Can’t say that about ole Millard’s birthday.)

“The difference between school and life?  In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test.  In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
~Tom Bodett

My friend Tim McDermott of KSBJ recently introduced me to the book, “The One Thing” by Gary Keller, where he shares “the ability to dismiss distractions and concentrate on your ONE Thing stands between you and your goals.”

So, let’s go back to school and discuss the one thing that can transform programming.

I’ll begin this back to school lesson by asking for a permission slip to skip the obvious first answers – music and positioning.  Let’s save those for the second semester.

On this first day of school I’d like to introduce the idea that “The One Thing” for our radio stations is… meaningful content.  You know, the stuff between the records.   While that may not be a new idea on this first day of school, there are important ramifications that, if we ignore, could send us to detention.  Or extinction.

  1. Meaningful content creates familiarity.  We care about things that relate to us.  And what we prefer is directly related to things we know.  Said another way, we can’t prefer things we don’t know.
  2. Meaningful content creates humanity.  People relate to people.  A bunch of technical stuff can’t create a bond like an interesting, caring person.  (Even Facebook, which is a breakthrough in technology, is all about people).
  3. Meaningful content creates distinction.  If your station is just like the other stations (i.e., playing the same music) there is no reason to prefer you.  Preference is directly connected to donor support and ratings performance.

So class, on this first day of school let’s return to Gary Keller’s “The One Thing.”  He asks, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Beyond the fundamentals of music and positioning, The One Thing that your station has to do is to do things that matter.  That can only happen if you have meaningful content between the songs.

Frost Advisory #373 – “You Never Have A Second Chance…

…to make a first impression,” so goes the famous quote from Will Rogers.

When we radio folk talk about increasing the station’s listenership, or  ‘building cume’ in PPM lingo, we’re really talking about making good first impressions.

“So how important are first impressions?  Well it determines if you get the second interview for your dream job or acceptance in the college or university of your choice.  A good first impression can mean a second date and who know what happens after that.  Making a good first impression gets you a meeting with the senior partners in the private equity firm evaluating your business proposal.  No doubt first impressions matter.”
~John Maxwell

There is an Outback Steakhouse near our place already adorned with custom signage with brand logo.  And it’s still under construction.  Their first impression is “coming soon,” signaling the arrival to your neighbor that their distinctive Bloomin’ Onion and Aussie Cheese Fries are only weeks away.  Folks will be waiting in line at their grand opening.  You can bank on it.

All too common in our format first impressions are unfamiliar music, unwelcoming voices, and conversations that make people feel like outsiders.

So it bears the question… which gives a better first impression; your radio station or this restaurant?  And Outback isn’t even open yet.

Frost Advisory #372 – Fans For Life

So here we are.  Nine months after the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, Chicagoland has a baby boom.

The Chicago Cubs did exactly what our stations should do… they descended on families of newborns to ensure Fans for Life.  The Cubs showed up in Chicagoland hospitals with the World Series trophy, the team mascot, and beloved players surprising unexpected new parents.

“The team honored this boon of championship babies… by awarding them special Fan Club memberships (containing a “Rookie of the Year” onesie, a beanie, a special birth certificate and a personalized Wrigley Field photo marquee)… the team’s mascot, Clark, was on hand as well for a great group photo.” MLB.com

The result?  Cubs fans for life.

As we arm wrestle with PPM for one additional listening occasion per week perhaps our time would be better spent by creating a radio station worthy of having fans for life.

You know, it doesn’t matter what we do if what we do doesn’t matter.

Frost Advisory #371 – It’s Not Going To Get Better Later

We’ve all done it.

Waiting through the first part of a boring movie.   You hope it will get better.

Sitting down at a restaurant.   The waiter is slow to come over.  Minutes tick by without giving your drink order.  You hope it will get better.

In a world of instant gratification, a better choice is only a push of a button or a click of a mouse away

Don’t make your listeners wait for your station to be good.

Be good now.

It’s not just an idea.  It’s the way all great program directors think.

*After reading this Frost Advisory, tune to your station and evaluate the very next thing you hear.   Are your listeners having to wait for your station to be good?

Frost Advisory #370 – What Problem Are We Solving?

Problem… solution.

It’s the very first lesson in the very first class in very first college marketing course.  It should also be at the heart of every station’s design.

What problem are we solving?  

Oh, the irony!  In the one format that addresses life’s biggest questions the day-to-day programming decisions we make often result in our stations becoming less familiar and less intertwined in our listeners’ lives.   When we play that song they’ve never heard, when we talk about that thing that isn’t relevant, when we put our own agenda ahead of theirs…

“Behavior beats to the drum of habit.  And the ritual of habit orbits around the principles of familiarity and simplicity…

Familiarity doesn’t just breed preference, familiarity IS preference.
~Mark Ramsey

Everyone’s favorite radio station is the station that plays their favorite music.  In a format where the biggest barrier for growth is that most didn’t grow up listening to it,  I wonder how our stations could be transformed if, with every decision, we simply asked, “How will this make our station more familiar to the very people we’re trying to connect with?”

When we play an unfamiliar song, how can we put it in a context that relates to their lives?

When we talk about something they don’t know, how do we frame it from a “Me, too” perspective?

When we do ‘our agenda,’ how do we share in a way that connects to their hopes and dreams?

“If you define the problem correctly you almost have the solution.”
~Steve Jobs

Frost Advisory #369 – A Programming Lesson From Meadowlark Lemon

So, who’s your favorite player on the Washington Generals?

That, my friends, is a question that has never been asked.

The Washington Generals were created so that the Harlem Globetrotters would have someone to play.  And beat.  In fact, as of this morning’s sports page the Generals have lost more than 16,000 games to the Globetrotters.  So much for the half-time pep talk.

What does this have to do with your radio station?

The Generals were designed to lose.  To have no recognizable stars.  To be generic.  The Generals are known for nothing other than what is inherent in simply taking to the court; that they play basketball.  The Globetrotters, on the other hand, have performed with amazing tricks and antics from stars and zany personalities like Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon, “the clown prince of basketball.”  And they have even had their own Saturday morning cartoon show!

I’ve been inside a few radio stations recently that are known for nothing other than what is inherent in the format – that they play Christian music.  No distinctions.  No unique personalities.  No meaningful connection to their community.  No shared sense of ‘today.’

Things bounced along okay for a while.   And then a competitor came to town.

So, why would your listeners prefer to spend time with your station over another?

“The value of choice depends upon our ability to perceive differences in the options.”
~Mark Ramsey

I can promise you a couple of things.  If your station is known only for the music you play, you’ll soon have fewer listeners than your competition.  And you’ll never have your own Saturday morning cartoon show.

Frost Advisory #368 – A Programming Lesson From The Good Ole USA!

The celebration of our nation’s 241st birthday is a powerful lesson of focus, common ground, and emotion.

Over the last three decades in my other life, I’ve served as a semi-professional public address announcer for major league spring training and minor league baseball.  That’s lots and lots and lots of dizzy bat races, National Anthems, and seventh inning stretches.

Do you know what I enjoy most?  It’s when my voice is the cue for veterans to rise and be acknowledged for their service and sacrifice for our country.  And there is no applause that is louder.

What does that mean for your radio station?

My friend Bryan O’Neal discovered that on your birthday you can take the ferry for free from Long Beach to Catalina Island.  When you get there they give you a special birthday ribbon to wear.  The moment you put on the ribbon you become special.  Total strangers are immediately greet to you with a “Happy Birthday!” everywhere you turn.

But that’s not all.  You see, Bryan isn’t the only one who knows about Catalina Island’s birthday promotion.  So every day of the year dozens and dozens of birthday boys and girls share Catalina Island with total strangers that just so happen to share the very same birthday.  Of course they don’t come alone.  Each has brought along family and friends to celebrate their big day.  So, not only did Bryan become special, his family and friends became special, and the other people with the same birthday became special, along with all of their family and friends.  Instant community! … formed out of what could have been simply a bunch of strangers walking around an island.

My friend Pyromarketing friend Greg Stielstra puts it this way,

“If you help your customers feel special, they won’t be able to resist telling their friends.”

We have hundreds of thousands of people that listen to our stations that have important things in common.  Focus on those things.  Celebrate those things.  Invite them to stand and be applauded for those things.

It’s the reason that the cheer for the veterans is loudest.

Happy birthday, USA!

Frost Advisory #367 – Your Listeners’ Unspoken Question

There is a neighborhood in my town where the billboard messages have a similar theme, seemingly choreographed as I drive past them on the six lane highway.

“Dan (the lawyer) got me $800,000!”

“My ticket clinic got my case dismissed”

“Divorce for Men”

“Pawn shop!  Get money instantly!”

“Car accident? You could be eligible to get $10,000!”

Each billboard seems to be tapping into the unspoken question, “How can I get what’s coming to me?”

“…anticipate and answer your customer’s unspoken questions.  Don’t blather on about the things you wish they cared about – even if those are the things the customer really ought to care about – until you’ve first answered the question that’s on their mind.”
~Roy Williams

Too many radio stations seem to be answering questions no one is asking.

Frost Advisory #366 – With A Little Help From My Friends

If you saw last week’s show you know that I attempted to connect Frost Advisory #365 to the 365-days-in-the-year’s worth of nuggets to help your station be more successful.   #366, then, is sort of the equivalent of leap year day, that little extra to keep the earth from falling out of its proper orbit.

Last week I also shared that my friends David Sams and Joe Battaglia have convinced me that these musings are worthy of being compiled into a little book like the kind you see handed out at airports and flea markets.  “365 ways to make your station really swell” is one of the working titles.

So, with a New York Times best seller in my future I’ve asked several of my colleagues to share how the first 365 have been helpful to their stations.  Plus, I told them if they said something nifty they might be included in my book!

A president of a major Christian network and industry legend 

“What does it mean to be in leadership?  One idea is that our job is that of Architect, not construction… Architects envision, plan an design.  Construction people are more concerned how to make the Architect’s design happen.

Are you an architect, giving your idea of what needs to happen and leaving the execution to the construction crew, are are you concentrating on both?

If both, well, let’s go watch Peter Pan together, where we’ll always be children…

(Frost Advisories) can help us understand that by accepting a leadership position, you’ve chosen to leave the life of a construction crew, and embrace the role of being an architect.”
~Alan Mason

Where radio meets academics

“As a longtime radio guy, and now a professor teaching young people the ins and outs of the communication world, I understand the value of learning and hearing different point of view… (Frost Advisories) help me focus on the important, not just the urgent and frequently unimportant, to see things with new eyes.”
~Michael Agee

A major market programmer of one of the few CCM stations to ever reach #1 6+ with one million listeners

“The Frost advisories give me the 35,000 foot view of my radio station I can’t get on my own.  They constantly challenge me to look at my radio station with a fresh set of eyes to make it better every day!”
~Mike Blakemore, The Fish Atlanta

A radio exec with a church planting background

“As a guy who came into radio from another industry, plus working in a medium sized market, plus handling all the stuff that gets thrown your was as a GM, the Frost Advisory is a 30 second reset each week that pushes me to think big picture, what really matters, and to think about RADIO, not just the ‘business.'”
~Brian Yeager, KTSY Boise, Idaho

Architect of the largest Christian radio network and Christian radio icon

“Many people think it is all about music rotations, marketing and branding. (Frost Advisories) have been teaching us for years, it’s all about the tribe.”
~Dick Jenkins

A radio Hall of Fame member, talent coach, and really good golfer

(Frost Advisories) “see past the mundane and view the brilliance in the everyday and the power to pass that learning on to those who listen.  When you’re no longer learning, you’re dead.  So while you’re still alive, read John’s book.”
~Tommy Kramer

Next week we’ll return to our regular programming.  In the meantime I welcome your ideas!