Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Auto Pilot

The flight from Seattle was within miles of Houston when the flight attendant came on the intercom to say “welcome on board Continental Airlines. ”

Then, she paused in mid-sentence as the first few rows of frequent fliers came to the realization that what she had meant to say was the traditional “welcome to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport” announcement, which she no doubt delivers at least three or four times a week.

Instead, unthinkingly, she started to do the typical take-off announcement, which she routinely gives three or four times each day.

“If she’s not going to think about what she’s saying, I sure won’t,” I thought.

The same is true on radio. Computers now make it so easy to walk away from the control room and have the station run itself for quarter hours at a time.

Meanwhile, request lines ring unanswered, listeners text, email, social network, hoping to interact with you, the brand they hear on the radio.

Radio, of course, was the first interactive medium from the very first days of top 40 radio a half century ago, when Gordon McClendon famously put that juke box in front of KLIF, Dallas, and listeners drove by the station wanting to choose the music and become more engaged.

So, previous generations of air personalities have created some expectations out there in radioland.

If you’re on the air, it’s your choice. Take the easy way, do jingle, liner and sweeper auto pilot radio. Sound like you’re a machine.

Or, get busy.

Commit to answering every phone line as quickly as possible. Record every phone interaction, edit the best stories and integrate them into your content. Text listeners. Interact with the audience on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, your chat room, your blog and use the best of that on the air too.

Yes, it’s a lot to do. But, this I guarantee: you’ll never get bored doing it that way.

And, listeners can tell.

Southwest Airlines revolutionized air travel by encouraging their flight attendants to get creative with the take off and landing announcements, even the federally-mandated safety announcements.

Their reward? Profitability and some of the most loyal users in the industry.

Perhaps those zany announcements had a role in that.

One thing for sure, encouraging their flight attendants to have more fun and ad lib resulted in flight crews who don’t just mouth the same words repeatedly so that they sound like they’re doing them in their sleep.

Like a lot of radio stations do today. You?


Beverlee said...

Auto Pilot is the perfect analogy. With so many things happening each day that encourage the auto-pilot syndrome, it's a great reminder why it's important to resist it. Thanks Jaye!

paul said...

Jaye, I have always admired you from afar, these word of wisdom you have just spoken , ok written are so important in todays radio world that every jock should have them tattooed on their palm.
Keep up the good work.

Barry Michaels said...

Every phone line that lights up is an opportunity..a bit..or a way to connect with a listener..or..both..or more.
For those of us 'war dogs' who still do it everyday because we love it, we must remember our training. Jaye is right. Listeners KNOW if you care.