Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bad Promos

No promotional announcement should ever be longer than thirty seconds.

Paint a picture.  Use theater of mind, metaphors and similes.

Start and end with your station brand name, but incorporate it authentically so that it doesn’t seem tacked on or “old school” radio in style.

Deliver a “promise” in the first sentence, pairing your brand name with it.  Make sure the target listener gets hooked by the “promise” before the brand is linked to it.

Use sound effects to enhance the mental picture.  Marketing is placing your product in the mind of the consumer so that they picture themselves using it.

Effective promos MUST sound superior to any commercial that will air before or after them.

There must be three to five versions of every promo to keep the working fresh and unpredictable.  Produce updates for each one that are time-dated (Sunday, tomorrow, today).

Use “reach” and “frequency” stats to calculate how many times to air one to be sure the majority of your target hears the message.  One they have, they’re going to mentally “tune out” if you overplay the message beyond that point.

The most effective promos are perishable.  Build fresh ones constantly and don’t recycle old ones unless you wait a VERY long time before doing so.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Stages Of Every Radio Promotion

One of my early heroes was San Francisco’s Jim Gabbert.  I learned a lot listening to his radio and watching his TV station.  He is a master of self-promotion, having learned from Gordon McClendon and Don Keyes who taught many great radio lessons on how to stage and execute a big idea back when they owned KABL.
  1. Start to sell in advance.  Tease.  Entice.  Don’t just tell me something is “coming soon.”  Take a lesson from movie and TV show trailers and get me interested by revealing what’s in it for me.
  2. Launch.  Make a major event of the the day of unveiling.
  3. Fertilize it.  Remind listeners often with new, intriguing updates.  Make sure that new listeners that were attracted by the buzz of the event also know all the things they need to fully participate.  Do this for the life of the promotion.
  4. Add excitement.  Embellish continually during the life of the promotion by adding new prizes, bonus days, repeating earlier clues, new ways to win.
  5. Keep tension high by keeping the promo announcements intense.
  6. Memory.  After it’s over, summarize the event.  Thank listeners who participated and sponsors, make use of “winner audio,” but if you do that make sure that you have multiple versions including what it sounded like in replay of when they won, what it sounded like when they claimed their prize, later talking about how they used it, etc.
Skipping any of these steps hurts the potential of any promotion you do.

Monday, July 28, 2014

School Closings

It’s time.  NOT do start doing them (yet), but to set up your radio station’s plan and organizational structure for how you’ll handle school closing announcements when they start to happen in late fall.

Contact every school district in your metro area and find out how they notify parents and media when changes happen in their normal schedules.  Come up with forms and web addresses now that will allow you to be first and “right” with ALL the info that your listeners need.

The days of reading lengthy lists of every single school in a radio station service area are long gone, replaced long ago by the crawl across the bottom of the TV screen that made it so that even stations giving the info every five minutes were boring to listen to and yet still most often were beaten by the video screen.  Now, the Internet has displaced morning TV in its leadership role, reopening radio’s opportunity to be “the official school closings radio station” by giving just enough major info to drive listeners to your website, email database/mobile text sign up and social pages to alert them immediately of precisely and only the facts they want and need.

It’s a lot more to accomplish and plan for than the old days, but the opportunity is bigger since every piece of it can also be sold.  For that reason, you’re actually probably getting a LATE start, but you’re not “tardy” yet.  Even if you can’t find a sponsor for all of this in 2014, creating the “(Brand) School Closing Center” this year and working hard to own that image locally will make it easier to sell for what it’s really worth next year.

If you announce school closings on air, place them in alphabetical order, so the list is easy to follow.  If someone who goes to Andrew Jackson school hears you announcing a closing at Martin Luther King School at the start of the list, they will know that their school is open today.

Does your station have a meteorologist or a weather person?  If so, their voice would be perfect for any promos you do for the “(Brand) Official School Closing Center.”  Promise that during bad weather days, you’ll “double” the number of weather updates.

Finally, if you give any school closing updates after 8 am, give the “new” ones FIRST before going into the alpha list you’ve been doing all morning.  Parents who are listening at work will have to make special arrangements for their kids and they’ll appreciate the special treatment.

The key point:  now that this info is available in so many places, from school phone trees and national internet sites, the local medium making it easiest, the most "usable" and high touch WINS.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A “Job” That Gets Done Whether There’s A Person Doing It Or Not

It used to be that owners with just one or two radio stations billing less than a million dollars annually simply couldn’t afford a full time Production/Creative Director.

A good thing about the clustering of stations that began in the mid-90’s is that now even those stations have at least one person in the position.  Of course, that one individual is now charged with overseeing all of the production and writing - both imaging and commercials - for as many radio stations as humanly possible.

Wouldn't you know?

The job is not quite programming and not quite sales.  Responsibilities fall into both departments and that normally means that sales work that immediately drives money gets top priority and the majority of time, while branding the radio stations gets done as time permits.

Many of the production directors I have worked with tend to do the commercial work from 9 to 5 and save the station imaging for their evening and weekend hours in a home studio.

I’m not recommending a change in this, since the spots need to be great.  If clients don’t get results, they won’t be back.  Meanwhile, the typical Brand Manager/Programmer knows that great imaging can be extremely time-consuming and even though there isn’t a direct line from it to the top line of the station budget the creativity, localism and freshness of production pieces can make or break the ratings trends.

Cumulus VP Mike McVay puts it this way:  “The Sales Manager probably wants you, The Production Director, to be the in-house advertising agency, with the creative copywriting skills of an Addy-winning agency copywriter, the marketing sense of a behavioral psychologist, the engineering skills of a Hollywood record producer and the voicing ability to play many characters (sometimes in the same spot) with a voice that commands attention.” 

Sales wants you to crank out more compelling sales ideas at this level than anyone can possibly use, most of them good ones, turning them out under constant and impossible deadlines.

Programming asks for the same thing in spades, hoping for at least one or two new pieces of imaging every day as well.

You serve multiple masters and being a great Production/Creative Director means that you savor this pressure, know how to constantly juggle priorities set by others and yourself and take great pride in producing technically and creatively excellent work.

McVay taught me (and his many client stations over the years) that the Golden Rule of Production Director success is “figuring out what the other people want and instinctively knowing how best to give it them with a smile.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Directing Traffic

If you build and maintain daily logs scheduling everything on your radio station other than music, I’d say that you and your station's music director are the "de facto" programmer and sales manager.

Most sales directors “get” this and the most skilled among them work hard to make the traffic person feel like they work for sales.

A great seller can close a deal, a terrific SM can manage the rate the client agrees to pay, BUT no money comes in until the spot runs, the account gets billed and the money collected.  The traffic department is the place where that all starts.  For this reason, it’s a rare radio station where sales doesn’t meet with traffic multiple times daily.

Meanwhile, I am constantly amazed by how distant many otherwise excellent Programmers/Brand Managers keep their traffic director.

Maintaining/helping programmers police and project commercial unit limits, balance and flow of commercial matter - that makes up at least 25% of every hour of programming - and accurately hitting financial goals impact everyone's pay checks.

It’s my experience that the majority of traffic people understand this and love being recruited as an ally of programming management.  They need backing and support in their attempts to keep a great radio station in balance.

Of course, they’ll get it from the Market Manager and Sales Management.

Can they expect it from the Programmer too?

I hope so.

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.