C’mon, admit it! Not every single element on your radio station is all that great. Some are, but some are only adequate. And some elements are down right turn-offs! Or as one program director confessed to me, “The best I can hope for is competent,” in referring to his station’s traffic reports.
I had the privilege of being shown around a place called The Hatch by my friend David Salyers who recently retired from a 37-year career in marketing at Chick-fil-A.
The Hatch is an entire building devoted to hatching innovation, with the walls covered with photos of some of Chick-fil-A’s best customers. What a contrast in priorities to our station walls adorned with gold records and photos of artists!
Do you have the same feeling?
When you hear the talking heads on TV news rattling on after the speech do you ever wonder if they were watching the same thing that you did?
If you tuned to MSNBC or CNN you likely heard one line of analysis. If you tuned to FOX News, you probably heard another. Social media was even worse. People tweeted opinions about the speech before even hearing it. Opinions that were based upon their world view.
It’s often referred to as the “leaky bucket.”
That’s PPM-talk for stations losing listeners by the process of tuning away or turning off. It would be logical to think that it is easier to keep people listening than to try to get them to tune back in.
But that’s only half the story. Or, should I say, two thirds.
A recent study of 37 million listening occasions conducted by Coleman Insights and Media Monitors found that…
“nearly two-thirds of radio listening occasions are the result of turning on the radio, listening to a station and turning the radio off.”
That means we as managers, programmers, and talent need to focus not only on minimizing tune-outs, but in creating TUNE-INs.
We forget, don’t we?
We forget what real people go through every day.
We forget the messages they are bombarded with, the struggles they face, the negative influences on their kids.
Real people perceive your radio station within the context of their own lives.
Often they tune in to get away from the negativity, to be affirmed for the good in people, and to be reminded of the hope we can have through our faith.
The recent government shutdown reminds us with every event heroes emerge. Yes, the front page and social media are filled with politicians playing the blame game, but our stations have other stories to tell.
It’s a simple but profound idea…
Programming is about design, and design is about change.
In a format where the most popular songs tends to sound alike, it is critical that we design change in, because it doesn’t happen naturally. I first realized this when I was programming Smooth Jazz, a mostly instrumental format with a musical spectrum of almost nothing but saxophone and guitar. I learned pretty quickly that sameness inhibits interesting.
You can design change from fast to slow, laughter to tears, serious to funny. The more change you design in the more interesting the experience, like the last great concert you went to.
“An epic key change can make a pretty good song instantly legendary.”Musicnotes.com
It’s easy to see how change applies to your station’s music design, but what about to the content from your wacky deejays?
“Make the big little and the little big.” Chris Evans, Virgin Radio in England
The concert ends and the applause begins. The applause gets louder and louder, and then it happens. One person stands.
I’ve never started a standing ovation in my life but I’ve been a part of dozens.
“People like me do things like this… Normalization creates culture, and culture drives our choices, which leads to more normalization.”Seth Godin
If you want your listeners to engage in something, create a tangible way for them to see how people like them do things like this.
Whether with online music research (Google shows how many have seen your review), a station promotion (the Ice Bucket challenge became a social media phenomenon) or a fundraiser (Facebook helps you to share your cause with others), success involves normalization.
People are searching. Many feel bombarded with negativity and bickering, particularly in the media. I know people who have turned off TV news and avoid rants on social media. As a result people are literally searching for something good.
Every year Google compiles a list of the most searched for words of the year. In 2018 more than ever the world searched for good.
The Christmas season brings out the best in our format. More people tune in than at any other time of the year, some stations topping a million listeners per week, once unthinkable in our format.
I know stations that do their best work in connecting on big tent values (those that resonate with new listeners as much as with regular fans) with stories of hope, forgiveness, and fresh starts. Over the last several weeks we’ve heard some amazing stories and songs.
I heard how Pamela and her daughter were helped to move out of the homeless shelter and start a new life!
I heard Craig’s story of being able to hear for the first time because of a caring surgeon.
I heard the story of the man who decorated his house with Christmas lights knowing that his son wouldn’t live to see Christmas. When his neighbors found out they joined in and decorated their houses months early.
Stories and songs. Continue reading
Is there a connection between Christmas and your station’s strategy? No, I didn’t say Christmas MUSIC. I said Christmas.
They say there are more “religious” radio stations in the United States than any other format category. They also say that those religious stations have fewer listeners than any other. Ouch!
Many Christian radio stations could best be described as “A bunch of stuff all on one station,” consisting of a little of this and a little of that with little connection to the WHY.
On last week’s show I shared the experience of driving with my friend Mike when he declared, “My GPS is broken! It only tells me where I’ve been, not where I’m going.”
Making programming decisions based solely upon ratings is like driving with a GPS that shows only where you’ve been.