I’ve actually never seen one but I hear about the magic bullet almost every week. We yearn to embrace solutions that are simple and don’t require too much thinking.
Run a new contest.
Change the deejays around.
Run more traffic reports. Run fewer traffic reports.
Play more Toby Mac.
Let’s change the voice over guy!
Breath in a bag, hon!
Now don’t get me wrong, in certain situations it might be good to consider one of these tactics. But it’s fascinating how perfectly reasonable people accept a magic bullet without hesitation. We want to believe the simple. Perhaps it’s because everything else is hard.
Lose twenty pounds in a week!
Pardon the interruption!
At my request some stations recently asked listeners what they were usually doing while listening to the radio.
The responses ranged from driving, to driving, to driving.
“All of my usual stuff – I have it on throughout the day at home, and in the car. I also like to listen to it before I go to sleep… it is good to fall asleep to so that I have beautiful thoughts to dream with”
“Cleaning the house. making food for my husband and me, driving anywhere”
“We listen in the morning while getting breakfast ready and my daughter gets ready for school. I listen in the car. I have it on
while doing most things around the house.”
“Cleaning, cooking, or getting ready to go out. My 11-year-old likes to listen before bedtime.”
There’s a financial talk show on a small AM radio station where I live that I occasionally listen to. It’s terrible radio, but the guys are smart, cough a lot, and give insightful advice. Besides, they’ve helped me make a gazillion imaginary dollars in the stock market.
The trouble is they don’t understand radio and way too much of the show is comprised with inside references (the office neck tie policy), dropped phone calls (“is the caller there? Hello? Please turn down your radio!”), actually reading articles out loud from the Wall Street Journal (BORING!), or making references to things they said thirty minutes ago (“Do I have to repeat this again?”).
Well, Friday – Good Friday – topped it all!
It’s funny what sticks in our minds. We can remember an unkind word from Marlene Breedlove in the fifth grade but have a harder time recalling something nice said last week.
The guys in the white lab coats say there is a reason for this. I’m told that a negative experience is immediately stored in our brain’s long term memory, while a positive experience needs to rattle around for more than twelve seconds before checking in to that part of the brain.
The reason for this dates back to the prehistoric days at the rock quarry so that Fred and Barney would know when a tarantula was about to sneak up on them!
“Fight or flight” is the plot of any well-written cartoon, don’tchaknow! We remember the negative stuff and we want to immediately kill the tarantula!
This is programming tip #200. Yee haw! I’ve written one of these every week for almost four years! Neato! Nifty!
That, my friends, is an example of inside thinking. Nobody really cares that this is programming tip #200 except me. And even I don’t think it’s as important as whether my Golden Retriever puppy has been taken for a walk recently.
Inside thinking is the default of every station, because we’re all inside!
A television station in my town has marketing campaign based on their 25 years on the air. It includes various notables of their network congratulating them and lauding that they are “the best station in town!” One network celebrity (whose initials are Jimmy Fallon) says, “it’s the best station in town, and the best station in any town.” I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, as Dave Barry would say.
Almost every discussion about programming follows a paint by numbers trajectory.
Music! Paint that section!
Personalities? Color in another!
Station imaging? Draw in that section over there.
Just this week I’ve heard these statements:
“That station is too Christian.”
“That station isn’t Christian enough.”
Diagnosis by quota, interpreted like a programming P&L, drives both statements.
Every radio station has two groups of listeners. The first group is the those that listen NOW.
The second group is those who will listen THEN.
When THEN arrives your station will have many, many more listeners than it does now. Unless you consider only those you have NOW.
The gravitational pull for every radio station, business, or ministry is to be FOR the people you have NOW. You start to filter through “Oh, we’ve got to keep the people happy.”
Coaching air talent is one of the most challenging aspects of being a program director.
Firstly, most PDs have received little coaching on their own air work during their career. There is a frightening amount of “throw ’em in, hope they can swim” as we give people a microphone that connects to a gazillion megawatt transmitter to communicate the Gospel message to the masses.
Secondly, even fewer PDs get any training in how to be a really swell PD. But that’s a Frost Advisory for another time. (See #89 – Other Than the Title What Makes You Think He is the Program Director?)
Someone once said, “if you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”
Okay then, here are some tools:*
I’ve heard that when trying out a new pen for the first time 97% of people will write their own name.
In life we search for things that are familiar. At the ballpark we see people wearing our team’s colors. At a new restaurant we first look for the “Favorites”. A political candidate stirs our emotions by tapping into things we already believe.
They say the origin of the word Familiar comes from the phrase ‘of family’.
“…we learn how to love, and who to love, from our family… In fact, our unconscious acts like a GPS unit to seek a ‘familiar’ love that we’ve had in our family.” Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D.
How ironic then for the “family” format to be so unfamiliar!
Several years ago I helped launch a Christian music station in Indianapolis for a mainstream broadcaster. Because most of the air staff was imported from the other stations in the building we ended up only one person with any Christian radio experience.
That didn’t seem to be a big deal to us at the time until we began to encounter the all-to-familiar Christian radio speed bumps named Halloween and Harry Potter.
“How do we talk about THIS?”, they would ask, freshly aware of the unsuspecting backlash to a Santa appearance at Dunkin’ Donuts.