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).
No doubt about it; the thing I get asked about the most is Content; what to talk about each day. Choosing the right Content is crucial to doing a great show, no matter what your radio station’s format is.
Some of your Content is provided for you with station promotions and events, contests, special listener “clubs” that give feedback on the music, stuff like that. And in a music format, there’s always stuff about the artists, concert dates (if they apply to your market), and whatever special musical features you provide.
But that’s only about half of what you need.
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.
When my girls were small they used to love having their daddy read them “Big Dog, Little Dog”, the story of two dogs that are opposite in every way but also the best of friends.
Big dog, little dog can apply to radio stations, as well. Big stations are that way for a reason. But so are little stations.
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. And many times they don’t even realize it.
There are examples in almost every format.
Last week in a Frost Advisory cleverly titled “We are Fam-i-ly, Part One” I shared how the need to belong is built into us. With every “I’m a proud parent…” bumper sticker, posting of a political statement on Facebook, wearing the colors of our alma mater, or championing our favorite radio station, people desire to show others they belong to something important.
My Pyromarketing friend Greg Stielstra shares this story. Continue reading
In 1979 Sister Sledge’s “We are Family” became the anthem for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that symbolized the hope of a northeast industrial city facing economic hardship.
We are family
I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up ev’rybody and sing
Ev’ryone can see we’re together
As we walk on by
(FLY!) and we fly just like birds of a feather
I won’t tell no lie
(ALL!) all of the people around us they say
Can they be that close
Just let me state for the record
We’re giving love in a family dose
This season Pirates’ fans gather to watch their first winning team in over 20 years. But this scene is different. Yes, the stands are filled with fans wearing team colors, chanting in unison, and supporting their heroes on the field, but the difference in this setting is there was no team on the field.