The beginning of a new calendar is traditionally a time to reflect on the previous year and make some decisions on what you’ll change so that you’ll have different and, hopefully, better results.
Losing weight, stopping smoking, and equipping your skills for a better job are fairly common New Year’s Resolutions.
I think that the beginning of a new year is also an appropriate time for the annual check up of your station’s music architecture to determine if it’s actually doing what you want it to.
The story is told that Vince Lombardi began every training camp with the words, “Gentlemen, this is a football!” Likewise, here are some basics at a very tactical and execution level:
In last week’s Frost Advisory #184 – Funeral for a Friend, Part One, I shared my recent experience of attending the funeral of a friend and seeing his very own words projected onto large video screens. Despite the bumpy road in last days of his life journey those ten-foot tall words (“You’ve never locked eyes with someone who doesn’t matter to Jesus”) still conveyed truth.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who pondered how my own words would be remembered.
I also thought about the words people hear from our stations. What words define us? What words do people remember? What words have meaning?
I lost a friend this week. He was only 36.
I didn’t want to go to his funeral. But I’m glad I did. Really glad.
My friend was a gifted communicator and his very words were projected onto large screens to the thousands at his service. Some of the words I had never heard before, but some were so familiar to me that, frankly, I didn’t really realize that those were first his.
I then began to think about my own words. Are my words ones that lift others up and, as was said of my friend, show that I see “the butterfly in the caterpillar”?
Then I began to think about the words people hear from our stations. What words define us? What words do people remember? What words have meaning?
There are lots of bad radio stations out there. Fortunately, there are also more than a couple of good ones.
At the good stations listeners hear who they are. At the bad ones listeners are faceless and passive audiences that are seldom even considered. (I’ve found that these are the stations where you can’t even hear the station. But don’t get me started.)
Inevitably the less we consider the listeners the fewer of them there are to consider.
The Frost Advisory this week is a departure from the usual thoughts on how to make your radio station better. Instead I’d like to take this moment during Thanksgiving week to encourage you in the important work you do at your radio station.
I’m told that the word “encouragement” literally means to pour courage into. This word appears over 100 times in the New Testament.
Despite announcing some games for the St. Louis Cardinals over the years I never met Darryl Kile; but I wish I had. He was a pitcher for the Redbirds when he died suddenly at age 33 prior to a game at Wrigley Field. His teammates were so stunned by the loss that the game was postponed.
The tributes began almost immediately.
“When Darryl Kile showed up at the ballpark each day, he did so with an agenda – it was actually written out, too – that identified who he would seek out to encourage that day. His hope was that the attention would make someone better, that his love would make a difference.”
There is an old saying,
“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”
My how-I-got-into-radio story is unique because it came about as an indirect result of the death of a friend. After sharing my story someone gave me words of encouragement I’ll never forget.
“You went to the radio station to get bad things off the air and to put good things on,” she said, “and you still do.”
Thousands and thousands of people are encouraged by your station each day.
Sometimes we need to step back and encourage the encourager.
For people to see a thing in the same way it is helpful that they be standing in the same place looking in the same direction at the same thing.
Every radio format can be steered one of two directions – culture or subculture.
The direction is usually the result of leadership’s vision, financial or ratings goals, or competitive factors. But sometimes it happens by accident, with little awareness of the day-to-day, break-by-break decisions that move a station there.
My experience is that Christian music radio stations default to subculture (and therefore smaller audiences) unless they are purposeful about being culturally relevant. (Frost warning: that may mean taking risks and not doing what is easiest).
To a certain generation November 22, 1963 was a day the world changed, just as December 7, 1941 did for our parents’ generation, and September 11, 2001, did for our children’s.
I saw this road sign recently and couldn’t resist pulling my car over to take this picture.
Seems to me this sign communicates two distinct messages. First, the road I’m traveling on is currently free, which is undoubtedly obvious. Second, that someday it won’t be, which is undoubtedly negative.
Obvious and negative. Interesting concepts for marketing lines, don’tcha think?
Whether it is as seemingly insignificant as pointing out you’re airing the FINAL traffic report of the morning or afternoon (translation: if you want another traffic report you won’t find it here) or as significant as claiming your station has a wide variety of music all the while knowing that listeners come to you specifically for a narrow niche of music, obvious or negative marketing messages don’t add value to your station’s programming.
I’ve heard of a station that claims to be the “official” Christmas music station, without any explanation of what that means or how it is of value. (By the way, that’s not necessarily a bad concept but its value is directly proportional to its benefit to the listener).
The Contemporary Christian music format, perhaps more than any other, has real benefits and real value for listeners. We don’t need to just make stuff up that doesn’t matter.
It’s simple, really. *
In a short burst of clarity and creativity I’ve come up with The World’s Simplest Checklist for a really swell radio station. (Believe me they only come to me in short bursts).
Grab your pen and count up your points!
When real people tune to my station for the very first time they hear something that sounds familiar and makes them feel at home. (True-25 points: False-zero)
When real people tune to my station for the very first time they hear something relevant to their life. (True-25 points: False-zero).
When real people tune to my station for the very first time they hear something compelling. To them, not to us. (True-25 points: False-zero).
How many radio engineers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: It can’t be done.
Guess what accountants talk about at the accountants’ convention?
What do you reckon’ they talk about at the annual plumbers and pipefitters’ Local #562 hootenanny? (By the way if you Google ‘plumbers and pipefitters’ you get 269,000 results).
We’re no different. We radio folk are radio-centric. Everything revolves around us.
Why did the ratings go down? It must have been something WE did.
What did the ratings go up? Well, certainly it WAS something we did.
Our egos don’t let us consider that a family of four meter panelists may have simply returned from two weeks to see grandma.
On last week’s show (see Big Dog, Little Dog, Part One) I shared that I’m often asked why many Christian music radio stations don’t have larger audiences. The answer in almost every case is because they are designed for small audiences, many times unknowingly. Continuing from last week’s theme there are lots of little dogs but few big dogs.
In programming nothing GOOD happens by accident.
Reading this week’s Frost Advisory may be the first time that some stations have even considered how their station is designed, or for whom.