Monday, December 02, 2013

Clutter Or Companionship

Another Jay Trachman treasure:
They're an Adult Hit FM station, traditionally a market leader, but recently newcomers have knocked them out of the top slot, down to #3 in their target demographic. Their main competition has a reasonably appealing morning man, followed by continuous music during the day.  Our station, which is intelligently programmed and research-oriented, also sees weakness in the 25 to 34 cell of their target. They have a good morning team, and personality through the day.

How can they get the #1 spot back, and increase their younger numbers?

The conventional wisdom is, make the morning team (somehow) better, and then cut back on the talk throughout the day. Will that do it for them?

Some will say "yes."

Not me.

How come?

Several reasons...
  • First, if this station has a good reputation as a personality outlet -- and it does -- then that's what should be built on, if the position is at all salvageable. In focus groups conducted for the client, "too talky DJs" was one of the most-mentioned negatives for the station. Interestingly enough however, of the other stations they asked people about, the "too talky" negative was roughly equal for their competitors.  I would not ask a station to give up something they have the potential of doing well, to make themselves more like others who do it poorly.
  • Second, if the competition's strength is continuous music, then that's the last thing you want to imitate. One of the most basic principles of marketing warfare is: You don't make a frontal assault on your enemy's main strength. You either attack from your own position of greatest strength in a flanking move around the enemy, or if that's not possible, you wage "guerrilla warfare" by defining a small, uncontested niche, and pouring all your strength into it. It helps if you're attacking in an area where the opponent can't fight back effectively, without weakening his own position.
  • Third, while continuous music might increase their numbers in the younger portion of their target (and it might not), it could also damage them in the one demographic where they're reasonably secure: the 35 to 49 cell. These listeners are presumably content with the programming as it stands.
So, my answer is to examine their current strength -- a lot of music, with real humans in between -- and look for ways to enhance that on air. They also need strong, effective marketing and promotion to remind former listeners that they're still there, and better than ever.

My part of the job is to help the air staff communicate more effectively.

"Too much talk" can mean exactly that -- but it more likely means that what's being said often isn't worth hearing. That's why the listener views it as "clutter."

Can their personalities be taught to make their words count?


Follow the basics of raps, prep your bits before you air them, and it's rare that you can't commit entertainment in twenty or thirty seconds.


1. billboard.
2. elaboration.
3. response, or kicker.

Always, always, always, know what your kicker - your final sentence, your emotional pay-off - is going to be, before you open that mike. Pretty simple stuff.

Everything you say on the air should be directed at someone -- your "real" listener (not the station's "target" listener).

Nearly all you talk about should focus on your life and your listener's life, at home and in the community, and what's going on this day.

If you can do that without blabbing on endlessly, and make sure your raps are each designed to "reach" the listener -- ultimately to make him feel like you're a "friend" of his, then your talk won't be perceived as clutter, but as companionship.

Easier said than done, certainly. It takes plenty of prep, a fine sense of your personal listener's presence, and a never-ending awareness that Time Matters.

Finally, I'm advising them to pay more attention to their commercial content.

I believe this is a major weakness in adult-formatted stations today. Anything you're spending 20 to 30% of your time in is perceived as a significant part of the "programming."  Thus: the commercials have to be worth hearing, not just for the message, but for the delight of listening.

Funny - they don't think that's at all unusual with TV spots; how come we settle for so much less on radio?

If all the competition is selling is tons of music, then your attack must be based on everything else.

It can be done; it's more complicated than just playing "more music" in a row... But the rewards will justify the effort.

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