Sunday, September 06, 2009

New Rules?

With apologies to Bill Maher and HBO, the concept of some rules seeming to be constant and others requiring updating came to mind as I was cleaning out old files from two decades ago and came across a monitor of a very successful country station, noting ten things they were doing, some of which still work in today's radio and some of which require revision in light of PPM measurement and changing demographics and culture:

1. Two simultaneous contests - one to promote TSL (Count the Country Favorites) and one to promote cume (Country Cruiser/Super Stickers, free coffee at remote location all morning until 9). New rule: contests are not as important as crisp, concise, compelling content. Off air cume-building and direct marketing may be a more effective way to spend your money than attempting to bribe listeners to listen longer.

2. Clear, simple positioning: Country Favorites, today's country, new country, classic country, the legends. This one still works. Own one word.

3. Everybody has a nickname: "Uncle" this, "Rhymin' that, "Dancin'" this, etc. No nicknames for newspeople! Crazy names still help convey character and personality, but authenticity is even more important than just adopting a zany name. Newspeople? What are they?

4. News on hour and half hour, headlines at :15 and :45. Lots of service elements - staff meteorologist, traffic reporter. Fresh story selection, avoiding the sense that "the same stories are repeated all morning". A good news teaser that SAYS this clearly: "coming up, stories we've haven't covered yet (headline)..." Freshness remains a good rule, repetition is still the enemy, but who has time to wait for a newscast today?

5. They use a format-specific comedy service, but LOCALIZE everything (i.e., Randy Travesty/Pint of Light song parody). Localization remains crucial, but pre-produced content and interviews have to be trimmed to the bone.

6. Name the show: Breakfast Flakes. Name the elements: Highway Patrol Traffic, Radar weather. Branding is still a good idea, but what you do and how well you do it now defines your brand far more effectively than any clever name.

7. Production. Morning show jingles, beat beds behind everything. Lots of music and sound effects, to keep momentum moving. They don't limit length of anything, but keep it high energy and limit to one fully developed punch line per set. Produced intros (short and a BIG variety of them) on everything. Production inside news: intro, punctuators before spot, weather and traffic sounders. That was then, this is now: contemporary, organic, spontaneous, tight.

8. Involvement. Many listeners on the phone. At least one such phone bit per quarter hour. In 2009, that still applies, but now you add texting, emailing, IMing and social networking to the ways listeners share their stories. If they aren't part of creating the content, it's not engaging enough.

9. At the start of each hour (5:59 and 6:59), they immediately promote to 6:20 and 7:20 am with a specific reason to listen an extra quarter hour. That "old" rule still rules with me.

10. Double time sells. Analog and digital. Talk about outmoded! Who needs the radio today to tell what time it is? Scratch rule #10. Completely irrelevant today.

10a. No mixed messages, cynical attitude, dirty stuff. Funny, bright, warm, friendly attitude. Now, that's a Rule #10 which has stood the test of time.

1 comment:

joeknapp said...

I also agree, and boiled it all down to just two words, Brand It and Be Local. I guess if I had to add a third rule, it would be Be Professional. Seems to me that it would be easier to just shut off the automation system, let live, local jocks loose on the air again and let them have fun interacting with the audience, talking about what's going on in town, and breaking local news as it happens. I'll bet that would even get my kids listening to the radio again! Advertisers would fight to get on the station, so you could drastically cut the spot load, create demand, and drive the prices way up. Pipe dream?