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 #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!

Frost Advisory #365 – To Teach Is To Learn Twice

“Life has a peculiar feel when you look back on it that it doesn’t have when you’re actually living it.  It’s as though the whole thing were designed to be understood in hindsight, as though you’ll never know the meaning of your experiences until you’ve had enough of them to provide reference.”
~Donald Miller

365 weeks ago I penned Frost Advisory #1, a fairly presumptuous title considering I had no idea if I could come up with #2, much less 365 of them.

For years, my pal and mentor Alan Mason had insisted that I start writing.  I’m not sure whether he thought I had something worth saying or he figured that would keep me quiet for a few hours.  Frankly, after reading Alan’s stuff for years I was just flat out intimidated.   It felt like Robert Frost telling me, “You should write poetry!”, or Donald Trump saying, “You should Tweet!”  Then it got worse.

As the inevitable #365 loomed closer my friends Joe Battaglia and David Sams began urging me to compile them into a cute little book like the kind that people have next to their toilets – perfect product placement some may mutter.

The process of writing every week for over seven years has challenged me to think through strategic concepts, consider new ideas, and to look for real life applications.  It has forced me to challenge my own biases and experiences, and to attempt to communicate, whether to the novice or the expert, how these ideas can transform a radio station.   In other words, it has forced me to think about what I really think.

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.”
~William Faulkner, winner of the Nobel Prize

Much to my surprise I have been the real learner through this process.  I’ve corresponded with people literally all over the world that I would have never known.  I’ve walked through radio stations and convention hallways where complete strangers have said, “Hey, you’re the guy that writes that stuff.”   Many have responded with their own ideas and experiences and helped me think through things from their perspective.

With that in mind I’ve asked some folks in a variety of roles to share their perspective on how the next 365 Frost Advisories might be helpful to you, whether you’re an executive, programmer, or air talent.

A new general manager

“As a new GM, learning to navigate the programming waters with my PD, these golden nuggets of information have been an invaluable tool.  They have been helpful on both the programming and sales side of the business.”
~Jeff Mitchell, KLTY, Dallas, Texas

A major market programmer

“So much of my performance as a leader seems to just come down to clearing away the distractions until I have a clearer perspective.  So many things pull at me, competing for a share of my mind and attention. Frost Advisories provide clarity.  I read them to remind me of what’s most important, what’s true (even though it may be counter-intuitive), what’s most beneficial, and to help me identify things that are just distractions or are less important.”
~Ty McFarland, KSBJ, Houston, Texas

A sales executive

“Frost’s advisories are like great recipes for an excellent meal.  John is an architect of infusing programming principles with real life stories.  It is motivating and inspiring to learn the technical side of programming and how it relates to daily life with a listening audience.”
~Segar Kannan, Salem Media, Portland, Oregon

A nationally syndicated air talent

“Everything John writes is genuinely – and literally – en-couraging.  It gives me courage.  Courage to keep going.  Courage to do better.  Courage to love my listener.  I’ve always needed that, and I will always need that.”
~Brant Hansen

President of a major media ministry

“I find the real value in John’s insights is not just in reading them, but in applying them to our station.   After I read the Frost Advisory, I say two things – ‘That is great perspective’ and then ‘Are we doing what he says?'”
~Tim McDermott, KSBJ Media, Houston, Texas

Next week I’ll share Frost Advisory #366, sort of a Leap Year-like version of how more really smart leaders use these ideas to benefit their organizations.  I welcome your perspective.   Who knows?  You might even make my book!

Frost Advisory #364 – But What Do We Talk About?

It’s interesting how many times this comes up.

Not-yet-good radio stations are full of things that aren’t relevant or interesting.  Transforming them from not-yet-good to something better involves two distinct steps.

The first is sculpting.

When Michelangelo was asked how created his famous statue of David he said,

“It was easy.  I just took away everything that didn’t look like David.”

The first step involves taking away anything that isn’t relevant.  For air talent dependent upon the tired and trite – National Donut Day, celebrity birthdays, and trivia Tuesday – that means there may not be a lot of content left.

That’s when they ask, “But what do we talk about?”

That’s the process I call painting.  And I have the world’s tastiest idea.

Go to the grocery store.

That’s where I found myself on a recent Monday afternoon.  “I picked a really good time to be here,” I told the checker.  “There’s no wait!”  She replied, “You should have been here Friday.  It was graduation day.  This place was packed.”

The big game

A holiday weekend

Girl scout cookies going on sale

4th of July cookouts and fireworks


Valentine’s Day and trick or treating

You’ll see show prep literally on display.  Especially on the greeting card aisle, where every card has a story, as does every face looking for a card.

The grocery business depends upon having the right stuff in the right place at the right time.  In our business we call that show prep.

Obviously not everything you see at the grocery store belongs on your station, but if you want to know what’s relevant in your community it’s a pretty good place to go shopping.

Frost Advisory #363 – How Will Your Station Be Remembered?

Memorial Day is often considered the official kick off to summer.  But more importantly it is a time set aside to remember those who gave their lives for our country.

Perhaps this time of remembrance is a good time for us to reflect on how we’d like our stations remembered.

We get a glimpse of this each year as we compile the Station of the Year entry.  It forces us to stop our day-to-day busyness and ponder the most important things our station has accomplished in the preceding twelve months.

When people talk about your radio station do they speak of the 25 minute music sweeps with fewer commercials, or do they talk about how you help people help people?

Do they talk about how Jack and Jill tell the joke of the day every morning at 6:45, or that your station loves on moms and dads for the most important commitment they’ll ever make – raising good kids?

Now don’t take this the wrong way, there is nothing wrong with fun and games on the radio.  In fact, playtime is how many friendships are formed, and all great stations must be entertaining.

But the things you do today are the foundation of how your station will be remembered tomorrow.

“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers… The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back.  Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful.  The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.”
~Donald Miller

Memorial Day flags

Frost Advisory #362 – The Power Of Simplicity

This may be the simplest Frost Advisory you’ve ever read.  But simplest doesn’t mean easiest.

I’ve learned that every bad radio station has three things in common:

  1. They take too long to do stuff
  2. The stuff they do isn’t very interesting or meaningful
  3. They take too long to do stuff

I reckon’ you see this played out in your radio station every day.

That meeting you just went to will inevitably result in doing more stuff.

That music meeting?  You’ll play more stuff.

That promotions meetings?  Well, you get the idea.

Our systems are set up to habitually add more stuff, but we seldom talk about taking stuff away. Like barnacles on a ship our radio station begins to slow to a one share. (That’s fewer people hearing our stuff that takes too long).

“Google, Amazon, and Apple are among the strongest brands of the last decade…  Their brand success can be directly tied to simplicity -to making life simpler for their users, that is.  They also adhere to simplicity rules to define their brand experiences.”
~Fast Company

Here’s a simple idea:

Make everything 10% shorter.

Make all talk breaks 10% shorter.  Make all promos, all liners, all promotions, all newscasts, all traffic reports 10% shorter.

Then mark on your calendar a date six months from now to do it again, because those dastardly barnacles will be back and everything will be 10% longer without anyone noticing.  Except your listeners.

Note: my last paragraph was deleted to make this Frost Advisory 10% shorter.

Frost Advisory #361 – All I Really Need To Know About Programming I Learned From Mom

This Mother’s Day, perhaps we can apply some lessons we’ve learned from Mom to how we program our radio stations.

Maybe Mom would have us…

Just play the music your listeners love.  Don’t play music they don’t love.

Talk to your listeners like a friend, not like a stranger.

Act like you enjoy being with your listeners.  Maybe then they’ll enjoy being with you.

Give your listeners presents and throw a party for them and have them invite all their friends.  They’ll feel special.

If you have to tell you listeners bad news, hold their hand, and tell them how sorry you are.

If you should take your listeners somewhere they’ve never been, surround them with familiar things to make them feel safe.  And don’t leave them alone.

Don’t waste your listeners’ time with things they don’t enjoy.  Get to the point, make the interruptions brief, and quickly return to the main reason they listen.

Flush.  Be vigilant about getting the bad stuff off your radio station and replacing it with good stuff.

I can’t think of anyone who loved my mother that I don’t also love.  Love what is important to your listeners.

(Inspired by the poem “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum)

Frost Advisory #360 – Focus On What You Love

It’s a curious thing.

We work in a format that is inherently significant.  And yet we seem to strive to make it superficial.

Instead of being about the most important things in one’s life, we make it about songs I don’t know by artists I’ve never heard of.  We seem to brush by what our listeners already care about to focus on something they don’t care about.

Perhaps we can learn something from the richest company in the world.

Apple’s brilliant new campaign “Focus on what you love” uses Beliefs and Values to communicate a simple feature of the iPhone 7.

Apple gets it.

Start here.  Focus on what your listeners love.

Frost Advisory #359 – We’ve Never Done It That Way Before

They’ve been called the Seven Words of Death for any organization.

The first cousin to “We’ve never done it that way before” is “that doesn’t sound like us.”

I heard one general manager actually admit that he didn’t want to do a certain programming initiative because it would sound better than anything on his station.  Needless to say he got his wish; his station didn’t get better.

John Maxwell identified several reasons people use to resist change.  These three are the ones I encounter most at radio stations:

  • Routine makes people comfortable.  Since many people are habit prone anything that threatens their habits, they resist.
  • People are simply satisfied with the old ways and don’t want to change.
  • People resist change when they are threatened with the loss of something that is valuable to them.

It’s one thing when you see fear of change from disc jockey who is lazy and simply wants to repeat the schtick from his previous gig (and format), it’s another thing altogether when you see fear of change from the leader.

We all know of radio stations that sound basically the same as they did ten years ago, seeing their success through the rear view mirror.  They believe they are successful because of the list of things they have done..  They forget that once those things were innovative and distinctive.  They are the sitting ducks when new competition arrives.

“If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post.  If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution.  Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.”
~G. K. Chesterton

Leaders, what is something your station has never done that is distinctive and would help build a bond between you and your listeners?

Go do that.

Frost Advisory #358 – How To Love On Your Listeners, From The Chicago Cubs

You know the story.

108 years without a World Series championship.  The lovable losers.  The “Friendly Confines” of a ballpark named after a chewing gum magnate. “Let’s Play Two” and “Holy Cow!”

When the Chicago Cubs recently received their World Series rings they did something remarkable.  Instead of inviting the typical three piece suit sponsors and local aldermen, the Cubs invited just regular ole fans to award their rings.

There was “the father whose kids all have Cub-themed names.  A cancer survivor.  A season ticket holder who saved the paper after Ernie Banks’ debut and later got him to sign it.

Calling it ‘the memory of a lifetime,’ president of baseball operations Crane Kenney said involving the fans in the ceremony was the team’s way of saying thank you for never giving up, despite the Cubs giving them ample opportunity to do so.”
~USA Today Sports

The winners were selected from more than 1,500 video nominations on Twitter using the #CubsRingBearer hashtag, which was shared more than 10,000 times overall.

How does your station make your fans feel like stars?  How do you give them an experience they’ll share with their friends?

All those times you’ve had an artist in the studio have you ever considered inviting your station’s biggest fans to sit right there next to you?  #onceinalifetime

Of those dozens of concerts your station sponsors every year, have you ever considered choosing one of your biggest fans to introduce the band?  Or to sit on stage?  Or on the front row?  Or the video board?  Or be on the post-concert show?

Have you considered inviting your most viral social media fans to join you in a pre-concert all-you-can-tweet seats so they can share about their special experience with thousands of their friends?

I reckon that 108 years of not winning gives you plenty of time to think about how to really appreciate your fans.