What’s the best thing you’ve done on the air recently?
It’s a question I often ask air talent I work with, and one that always results in a long pause.
First, it makes people think about what they’ve done on the air recently (few do), and second, it makes them evaluate those things in the context of everything else they’ve done (most never do).
I’m privileged to work with some of the best morning teams in the format; Kevin and Taylor, Scott and Sam, Ellis and Tyler, and Steve and Amy. Each has worked together for at least ten years, some twenty, and at multiple radio stations together.
I’ve told them that their greatest strength is their greatest weakness. Their strength is that they are well-schooled in their individual roles, they know each other’s hot buttons, and they know what elements tend to do well. Their weakness? It’s real easy to do last week’s show, last month’s show, last year’s show.
“It is what you make it” – my dad’s advice at various milestones in my life.
There was a time in my career when I considered a radio station no more than the sum total of the things that it did. The deejays, the music, the jingles, the contests. Like a sport being nothing more than the players, the field, the goal posts or bases. If that were true, then places like Cooperstown, New York, or Canton, Ohio, wouldn’t have significance since they aren’t home to the big league players and teams they eulogize.
My kids recently took me to my first outdoor major league soccer game. I mean “match.” It was a lot of fun, but frankly there was a lot of stuff I simply didn’t understand.
Did you know that a referee can stick on extra time at the end for any reason he wants? I was confused. Now, I understand overtime in football, sudden death in golf, and extra innings in baseball, but I had no context for understanding why they kept playing AFTER the clock ran out until someone blew a whistle.
I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING!
Now I have to admit it…
…when I saw this headline I did a little double take.
Now, I don’t want to offend anyone but as a fella who grew up in Texas, I found this headline as wacky as Seattleites voting for Folgers, Minnesotans voting for Cheez Whiz, or John Frost taking the award for the best looking guy in high school. (That actually happened by the way, but not because I was voted that but because I literally “took” the award).
Taco Bell? The favorite? What’s up with that?
Media observer Mark Ramsey suggests that familiarity IS preference. You can’t prefer something you don’t know, and few would dispute that Taco Bell is most familiar.
Let’s have a little fun this week. Let’s play “You’re the assistant PD.”
Ask each person on the staff to write down the one thing they would change about your station. Then collect all the responses and oh so carefully place them in a special file.
I’m often thrust into a discussion about changing something that is fundamental to the station’s success, whether that be the music, an air personality or two, the station branding, or a promotional or marketing campaign. Just this week I was drawn into a discussion with someone that had a “new” music agenda. I suggested that we should have a “favorite” music agenda.
In a moment of revelation someone might be so bold as to ask, “what do the listeners think?”
What if I told you that you can increase your ratings 30% overnight? Admit it. You’d probably be curious, just like when Marie Osmond says she’s lost 50 pounds without exercise AND she eats chocolate cake every day!
People are drawn to black and white opinions because they are simple, not because they are true. Truth demands serious effort and thought.”
Actually, you might increase your ratings 30% overnight, but it’s not because of some magic pill or trick. It’s because Nielsen is changing they way they tabulate when you plug the gizmo in the thingamajig.
“We’ve been worrying about the wrong things,” said the top dog of a well known broadcast company. His reaction was to their focus on tactics rather than the things I was there to discuss; stuff like the station’s vision and purpose, and identity.
Jim is a Cubs’ fan.
Daniel plays the guitar. A Taylor.
Cindy works hard to support the arts in her community.
“Kindness seems like such a radical idea today.”
As negativity, finger pointing, and spit wad throwing reach new levels in politics, and in traditional and social media, we can sense a growing desire for a breath of fresh air.
Just this week Bloomberg news reported, “Freaked Out Americans Desperately Seek to Escape the News.”
I know people who have turned off certain TV cable news channels (me, included). I know radio stations that have turned off the TV news in their studio due to incessant negativity and turned on HGTV.
The movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is a smash hit, bringing in $4.1 million in just three weeks.
Director Morgan Neville said, “Mr. Rogers tried to teach us how to behave in a community and a society together, and the value of civility and the value of honoring this relationship with each other.
And we live in times that don’t honor that at all.”
If you think your radio station is only about songs and deejays and unfamiliar music, you’ll never understand how to connect with what people are feeling today.
Fred Rogers was a man who believed in inherent goodness and preached the idea that everyone was special, just the way they are.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is “a much-needed emotional tonic for troubled times.”
Sounds like a good idea for a radio station, too.
The call comes in. “Let me speak to the manager!” There is only one thing this conversation can be about.
Someone isn’t happy.
As I became interested in broadcasting as a teenager I became hooked on a local Dallas TV show called, “Let Me Speak to the Manager,” a behind the scenes look at how TV was programmed.
The show was unique in that it actually aired complaints from viewers, unheard of back in the day. They even discussed stuff that aired on the other TV stations and networks. Egad!
In fact, I can remember being told NOT to talk about ANYTHING on TV (you know like the presidential election, World Series, or Super Bowl) for fear that our listeners would turn off the radio that very moment and turn on their TV. I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, as Dave Barry would say.
In my travels I run across many different kinds of programmers, managers, and air talent.
Some have many years of experience; others have one year of experience many times.
He’s a bum!
Why didn’t he take out the pitcher?
This guy can’t hit!
Why didn’t he leave the pitcher in?
The wacky sports fan always knows what his team shoulda done! The Monday morning quarterback is always right. It helps when you know the outcome of the game on Sunday.
Read the blog comments after a 4-game losing streak. Ouch!
Read the blogs after a 10-game losing streak! Ouch! Ouch!
“Every time we lose a game I’ve either left the pitcher in too long or taken him out too early.”
A wacky sports fan always values the recent over the long term. They comment on THAT at bat, THAT bad pitch, THAT bumble by the fielder.
I reckon’ we can expect that kind of second guessing from the bleachers, but it is far more serious when it comes from the programmer or manager’s office.