Thursday, April 24, 2014


I learned this approach from Cumulus/Nashville OM Charlie Cook:

Every personality should take a legal pad into the studio.

As you go, following each content break, write a shorthand diary that is informative enough so that you can go back over it and understand what each element of the show was.

After you are off air, review the “content map” you created in advance and compare it with what you actually did.

The idea is to learn and talk about what you will do differently as you put together tomorrow’s show.

Classify each individual element under one of three categories
  • Worked.  Use again.
  • Did not work.  Modify and try again.
  • Did not work.  Do not use again.
As time goes by, you’re going to have a huge log of evidence - as judged by YOU - what is acceptable and unacceptable for future morning shows.

The better you become, the better you’ll do!

Stop Doing These Things

Listeners do love trivia and so they always say they love it when asked in focus groups.  Should you do trivia?

What about…
  • Today in history?
  • Joke Of The Day?
  • The daily wakeup call
  • Birthdays?
  • Anniversaries?
  • Lost pet announcements?
  • 50’s-60’s-70’s TV theme beat beds
  • The morning classic /oldie
Unless you can do it in a unique way that brands a unique, memorable benchmark, don’t do anything that sounds like everyone else would do it.

As Powerful Radio advocate Valerie Geller admonishes us all:  “never be boring.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Elements Of Style

In 1920, E. B. White and William Strunk, Jr. wrote a prescriptive American English writing style guide that remains in print to this day.  I constantly recommend it as a way to hear yourself objectively and recognize that the habitual things we write and say are often meaningless hackneyed crutches and cliches.

Two bits of their advice may be all that you need:
  • Use the active voice.
  • Omit needless words
It’s so brief and meaty that you could go to a library and read it all before leaving the building.  Or, right now by clicking on this pdf.

How much do you need it?  Give yourself a score from one to ten on this morning’s show:
  • How connected to your community, using social networks and the telephones was it?
  • Were characters “real” with believable values or just cartoon voices?
  • How many times did you make listeners laugh?
  • How well did the show build anticipation, entertainingly sewing in “reason to keep listening teases” in the thread?
  • Relatablity?  Was there a lot in the chatter that was so topical and local, so unique to your market, that listeners saw a reflection of themselves in your content?
Perfect score:  50.  Most of us, if we're honest, get less than 25.

You are about average, the same as most people you compete with.

Face it:  you already know that you need some coaching on methods to add unique “style” to what you do.

Unless you want to remain "average."

Monday, April 21, 2014


“Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder[1] in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity. This condition affects one percent of the population.” - DSM-V

I think the percentage is higher among those of us who have been drawn to speak via broadcast transmitters.

  • Feel what they say is more important than the music and show it to listeners by talking over songs or telling the audience when they don’t like a particular tune.
  • Drop scheduled songs.
  • Bits go long. 
  • Go to the GM if they disagree with the PD’s suggestions for programming
  • Refuses to attend station events unless they get paid or are the center of attention
Changing these patterns requires a seldom-brief process of helping them become more empathetic in everyday relationships.

Interrupt their sense of entitlement and self-centeredness by guiding them to identify their unique talents.

Encourage them to help others for reasons other than their own personal gain.

If you can actually achieve this, you will have helped this individual in their life and relationships with everyone, not just their radio show.

That's the rare, amazing payoff you get for training yourself to be an effective leader.

It's worth the personal risk, time and effort.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Vary Your Pitches

As you coach and encourage talent in critique sessions it’s important to avoid a routine.

Different ways to do it:

1.  Set by set.  If the team is missing some of the basics, this can be like watching the game films.  It’s painful to watch that play where you missed your assignment and cost a win, but it has tremendous impact and can be sure that everyone who talks on the air is aware of what you expect to hear from them.  What percentage of the breaks passes the “who cares” test?

2.  Overview.  This doesn’t involve listening to an air check.  Show the team your own version of this monitor clock (with thanks to a 1980’s McVay Media programming manual form) of an hour of their show.

Goal:  to give more of an overall impression of the station's balance of elements in every quarter hour to a casual listener.  How likely is that person to become more loyal based on the “big picture?”

3.  Ask the talent to tell you how they feel about today’s show.  If it’s a team, ask each person to rate the show on a scale of 1-10 and then talk about the differences from each character’s perspective.  Often, talent is much more self-critical than you could ever be.  Guide and encourage them in self-help.

If every critique session follows the same pattern, you’ll find that everyone comes to them with two very human reactions:  defensiveness and denial.

Once you've mixed up these methods, you may want each daily talent meeting by giving them the choice of which of the three they feel will be most effective today.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

If You Want Your Talent To Prep

Prep For Every Meeting With Them.

Go to every critique with one or two strengths you appreciate in the talent, with ideas for ways they can stress therm even more,

If you feel they have weaknesses to work on, think carefully about how to achieve buy-in before you drop them directly.

Even if you start with two or three strengths and effusive praise, most likely the one thing they’re going to remember from the session is this negative.

Think of talking about any shortcomings as pieces of dynamite and be prepared to do first aid if someone gets injured when you bring them up.

Some people require a light touch.  Others will ONLY change when very directly told what they must work on if they want to keep their job.

Think this through before the meeting, realizing that the only want to get anyone to change is for the individual to choose it.

Be prepared to use disciplinary action as a last resort if necessary, but take to your boss about this in advance and make sure you have support from above so that the talent knows it isn’t personal just between you.

It's about making them better.

You will be more effective when they honestly believe that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

You Can’t Manage Time

.. but you can work to prevent it from managing YOU.
  • Do a weekly priority plan each Sunday evening.  Make appointments with yourself during the coming well to be sure you complete these tasks.  If it will take 45 minutes, slot in an hour for it.
  • Create two file folders, one with your name on it and the other your boss’ name.  Give the one with your name on it to your boss and show him the one with his name on it.
  • Save all discussion items for each other in the folders and plan two meetings a week where you go through both folders together as quickly as possible.  This way, your meetings are never dominated by one topic and each of you can prioritize the things they need the other’s help on just before each meeting.
  • Never touch a piece of paper twice.  Deal with it, delegate it, file it or toss it.
Yes, of course, you have long known these tricks.

The real trick is doing it.

"Whoever wants to be a judge of human nature should study people's excuses."
-- Christian Friedrich Hebbel, German poet

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Give Your Team A Bonus

I know.  No budget.

There are things any leader can do using barter and very little budget that improve morale and improve the attitude of everyone.

1.  Pre-book dinner with all personalities with limo transport to and from the restaurant
2.  A public meeting with the entire staff or even at an event where the audience is present to award trophies to air staff and other employees for their achievements.
3.  Snail mail a letter to their home thanking them for all they do when someone does something truly outstanding. That way, their whole family will know you appreciate their dedication.
4.  Send flowers to spouses and then let the air staff know you did so and made the flowers “from them.”
5.  In mid-summer, take everyone to an indoor location for a (machine-made) snowball fight or in the middle of winter to an indoor pool for a pool party.
6.  “Staff” jackets for the air staff with their name on them.
7.  Old fashioned telegrams to individual air staff saluting them for the “above and beyond” things they do.
8.  Conduct a “war college” at the local military base or reserve post.  Go to the local Army-Navy store and equip everyone with fatigues, show pieces from “Patton,” and psyche up your warriors.
9.  Do a meeting in the locker room of a competitive college or pro team and have the coach talk about motivation and winning.

And, finally, 10.  Stage an amazing annual Christmas Party.

And,  an admission:  I learned a lot of these tactics over many years of working with Mike McVay, who with his business-and-life partner Doris took the definition of “Holiday Party” to a new level each year with an amazing staff dinner at the nicest hotel downtown and concluded with a party game of “wheel of McVay,” which was a fun way of giving everyone who works together all year with an impressive gift and a feeling they all work for a generous, winning organization.

Maybe that's why, after all these years, A&O&B still retains an association with the McVays.  They know how to motivate and retain people.