Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Hardest Jobs

Two jobs at any radio station require the folks assigned to them to be more efficient and diplomatic than almost any others.

They both fall into a gray area, not quite sales, not quite programming, not quite management with responsibilities which fall into all departments, even public affairs, community involvement and creative.

Traffic and production.

It takes a very special person to handle the all of the responsibilities they are expected to deal with every day from people skills, working to deadlines, honesty, judgment, organization, prioritization, just to name a few.

A bad fit in either role can quickly jeopardize a station’s ability to hit goals.

If you are a General Manager, Program Director or Sales Manager, here’s a reminder to "hug" your creative director and traffic person on a regular basis.

They can make you better at your job or undermine you.

Monday, July 21, 2014


It’s not a pleasant subject, but if you haven’t already done so, it’s past time to be sure your radio station is ready.  It's time to think through and write a plan of action in the event the scary events of the last week continue to escalate to the point our nation needs to commit troops.
1.  Instruct all talent to check your news service at least hours.

2.  Get them in the habit of checking for bulletins.  Then, make sure they know who should be phoned, what should be announced on your air.  How will you handle it?

3.  If you have a network affiliation, do you want to join the national feed or do something locally?

4.  Who should make that decision? 

Key question to ask as you make this call:  if you don’t go 100% live coverage now, do you run the risk of losing listeners to another radio station?

If they go to TV or the Internet, at least they’ll still be on your radio station when their normal pattern resumes.

5.  If it turns into another “Desert Storm” or “9/11,” you may want to create patriotic tribute songs or play the national anthem at benchmark times, like 6 am and noon.

Who makes this call?  Make sure that’s clear to talent as well.  If someone does this and the national mood isn’t as unified as when Canadian troops when into Afghanistan when the U.S. focused on Iraq, this can come off as corny.

Playing the same song every day at the same time is poor programming and can be a tune out if the time isn’t absolutely RIGHT.

6.  Request and dedication hours can be set aside for mentioning troops overseas and saluting their families here at home.  It’s always also a good time to get listeners involved in events helping the troops.

7.  Write a closing line for all regularly scheduled newscasts promoting the commitment you’ve made to interrupt regular programming to constantly keep your listener informed.

8.  If you have no network connection, contact local TV stations, exploring having one of their news talents voice your updates over a phone line from their newsroom for as long as the situation is dire.

9.  Check your active music library for songs as well as  all comedy bits and song parodies which might be in bad taste in light of current events

10.  Imaging must be very carefully re-evaluated and rewritten.  Don't be political, but when military is being deployed, it's not a good time to be bragging about who plays the most music.

Commit all of these decisions - including imaging scripts, produced intro's etc - to writing and place your policy in a place where anyone who's on the air can review it on a moment's notice.

Hopefully, you'll never need it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The New Newsperson

“A drone owned by Castanet.net in Kelowna and being operated by a news editor was grounded after a fire information officer said it flew too close to a Peachland, B.C. wildfire. The officer cited the dangers of a drone coming into contact with aviation related to the fire fight as well as distracting crews on the ground. The use of drones is controlled by Transport Canada, which issues Special Flight Operating Certificates for approved operations.”
    — Broadcast Dialogue 

Wakeup call to news people who "read stories" from "the radio newsroom:"  a website - not a TV station or a newspaper - was flying drones over Kelowna, BC's wildfire area in their aggressive coverage of local news.

Today, listeners won’t accept news people not being involved with the stories they are reporting.

Doing so is easier for radio than almost any other medium making full use of all the theater of the mind tools available to audio media, especially now that smart phones have powerful video and editing tools built-in.

News value is measured by intelligent judgment rather than dollars and cents or weight in pounds and ounces.   A lead/top story simply must be fresh, something the audience hasn’t heard before that also captures the imagination of the highest percentage of the audience as possible.

Interesting.  Important.  A sudden change of pace.  That's "news to me."

Plus, something the newscaster has a personal connection/involvement/reporting direct from with if at all possible.

If you can't get out of your studio to deeply, even though briefly, cover what's important to local listeners, you need to find other ways by phone and social media to bring it to life immediately and authentically.

If that's not possible, reconsider whether you can do "news" today in a competitive way.  Maybe it's better not to do it at all than to do it poorly.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Are Station Promotions "News?"

No, not normally, but if anything out of the ordinary ever happens as you execute contests, special events, remotes, social media interactions and phone contact with listeners I hereby vote that they are.

Remind everyone on your team that “news” is defined as relevant new info carrying a story your target cares about.

Your best source for news stories meeting that criterion?

Local sources of things listeners won’t see on national or cable news, Twitter, the wire, the internet, Facebook, government agencies, You Tube, your music format, movies, TV, sports, weather of course, but never neglect to “report” interesting things that happen when the routine things your radio station does turn out to be extraordinary within your own newscasts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Have Blog Envy

Chase Murphy is a native of South Texas who lives and works in San Antonio, best-known for his work as an on-air personality for KXXM and as Program Director for Mix 96.1, Q 101.9 (KQXT) and La Preciosa 105.7 (KQXT-HD3).  

His blog is a treasure and I finally got my hands on his book which was released in February.   

"I thought about being good, but that’s not enough.  Anyone could be good.  Terrific is a solid choice too, but I think great trumps terrific.  At least in my definition of the words.  I want to be a great father.  A great husband.  A great son and brother.  A great friend that anyone would love to have.  I want to be great at life.  I want to be greater than the person I was yesterday. 

"When writing out your goals and visualizing what you want to be in life you should add your one word to the list.  Put it on a sticky note and place it in front of you at your desk.  Leave reminders to yourself wherever it makes sense and filter your actions in life through your one word.  Like goals, writing it down helps to make it real.  Some people do this with religion and that’s perfectly fine, but beyond your beliefs, I think you still need that one defining word.  If you hold yourself to the standard of the meaning of that word, others will contagiously share that word when describing you. 

"What can be bad about that?  Unless your word is asshole…then I would suggest a different word. "

Grab a copy (click to read a bit of it here) and, just like I am doing here,  pass it on to a friend.  They'll thank you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Birthdays, Anniversaries And Such

Two decades ago Jon Coleman released morning show research his research company had done at a national broadcast convention.

The specific percentages have changed over the intervening years, as this more recent Coleman graphic shows, but the ranker of interest in entertainment elements still rings true along with the finding that listeners normally recall no more than two to four elements, so making the most of the ones you choose to do becomes imperative.

Highest interest (more than 2/3’s agree):  Off beat stories, Humor, Trivia, Fun joking back and forth between appealing characters

Less than half of listeners said they like:  Spoof songs, Making fun of local personalities, Off color jokes, Impersonations of famous people

Fewer than one in five are positive about:  Talking about personal experiences and Birthdays

Why is it that even talent who “gets” that if they talk about themselves the content needs to be especially relatable - like even Garrison Keillor - still feels that it’s acceptable wasting valuable time with an element - birthdays - that anyone who has been paying attention for the last 20 years ultimately knows that more than 80% of listeners don’t care about them?

People call and write and ask.

It’s hard to say “no” when someone does this, especially if the precedent has been set that you’ve done it for other people.

One of the most popular features of social apps is wishing friends a happy birthday, but of course Facebook is many to one whereas radio is one to many.

It takes courage and advance planning to make sure that your content is superior to anything else available on radio right now. 

One way to wean an audience from a bad habit like calling to ask for requests and birthdays:  never use anything with less than majority appeal that can’t also carry with it an off beat story, humor and solid rapport.  Even something as statistically popular as a crutch like trivia gets better when it contains those ingredients.

If you prefer to be imaged as a talent who stands up for radio's grand past traditions that the majority of us have long ago left behind, be like Garrison and do it with plenty of hot buttons included too.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Hot Buttons

Local community

Strong content always hits at least one of them!