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.
Those three little words are the centerpiece of a remarkable image campaign during the Olympics by Proctor and Gamble. They help emotionally connect relatively obscure sporting events to something everyone can identify with.
“A mom’s love of a young child who is an athlete is a universal emotion. These commercials create positive feelings. When consumers think about the brand, the feelings will transfer over.” – Karen Machleit, head of the Marketing Department, University of Cincinnati
A brand built on beliefs and values will transcend the individual elements of the brand.
The Contemporary Christian radio format can touch a deep place in the heart, and yet, too often its presentation is unimaginative and formal. There is nothing so brilliant that can’t be made utterly ineffective through an analytical presentation. I’ve known stations that were so unspectacular that not even the staff listened when they didn’t have to.
What can we learn from this campaign?
At its best our format is more than just music and quacking dee jays. It can be the largest church in town and a gathering point for the tribe (which author Seth Godin describes as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea”).
Transforming your station from a passive medium (we talk about anything we want and you HAVE to listen) to an active one (“all of us talk about the same thing at the same time”) involves two specific techniques your air talent need to understand.
Facebook is ten years old, perhaps you’ve heard. Log in and you’ve probably seen something like this:
Here’s my Facebook movie. Find yours at…
Our radio stations can learn a thing or two from this campaign.
Facebook’s birthday isn’t about Facebook. It’s about you.
Roy Williams says…
“We buy what we buy to remind ourselves – and tell the world around us – who we are… We’re attracted to reflections of ourselves.”
Something to consider – hundreds of millions of movies have been created without anyone even being asked to. Facebook simply made it easy for you to see what your friends were doing.
You’ll have to wait another year to read the Super Bowl programming tip I wrote for today. Seth Godin‘s blog is better.
“One way the tribe identifies is through the observance of a holiday, of a group custom, of the thing we all do together that proves we are in sync. People thrive on mass celebration, but as our culture has fragmented, these universal observances are harder to find. We used to watch the same TV shows at the same time, eat the same foods, drive the same car. Given a choice, though, many people take the choice – and so, as the culture fragments, we move away from the center and to the edges.
Just play the songs your listeners love. Don’t play the songs they don’t love. And play those songs over and over and over again.
Talk to your listeners the way their friends talk to friends, not like strangers.
Act like you enjoy being with your listeners. Maybe they’ll enjoy being with you.
Don’t make your listeners eat all their vegetables every time. Every now and then give them some candy.
Give your listeners presents and throw a party for them and invite all their friends. They’ll feel special. Make fun noises that you wouldn’t do any other time.
While in high school my daughter worked at the Build-A-Bear workshop in the mall. They often had her stand out in the mall walkway holding a bear and welcoming people to the store.
I wonder what would happen in our format if people actually felt welcomed rather than excluded.
Below is the sign at the entrance to a very large church near my home. Maybe this is part of the reason they are a very large church.
Welcoming people seems to be a pretty big priority for them.
For a radio station to grow it has to be designed to welcome new listeners.
There are a couple of ways to do this.