Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Everything up to this point in the last few days' blog posts is the foundation of your Marketing Strategic Plan. 

Now.  Build in it.  Formulate your action plan.

· F1. What are you trying to accomplish with your marketing?
· F2. What is the focused message content your marketing must convey?
· F3. How will your on-air product evolve to achieve your objectives?
· F4. Very Important: How will your "packaging" achieve your objectives? Be as specific as possible.
· F5. Where are your current or prospective diary-keepers located? (detailed Zip Code +4 mapping not just by In-Tab Distribution but by Listening Value too.)
· F6. How can you best reach them?
· F7. How can you best motivate them?
· F8. How will your on-air promotions reinforce your objectives?
· F9. How will your promotions and advertising be integrated to reinforce each other?
· F10. How much do you have in your marketing budget to accomplish your objective?
· F11. What is the best advertising medium to use to convey your message? Why?
· F12. How will your television advertising help achieve your objectives?
· F13. How will your telemarketing help achieve your objectives?
· F14. How will your direct mail help achieve your objectives?
· F15. How will your outdoor advertising help achieve your objectives?
· F16. How will your social media and other advertising help achieve your objectives?
· F17. How much time have you allotted for each marketing element?
· F18. What station personnel will handle the implementation of each marketing element? (In whole or in part)
· F19. What return do you realistically expect for each of the above?
· F20. How will you share this plan with your department, other departments, and maintain confidentiality?

With all these questions answered, you are now ready to start spending money and taking action.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"The Players'" Role In Your 2014 Plan

This section will help you identify your market's "key players." 

Consider the last three months:
· E1. List all Management changes
· E2. List all Programming changes
· E3. List all Sales changes
· E4. List all Talent changes

Rate High (5) to Low (1) the overall strength of your main competitors':
· E5. Ownership
· E6. Management team
· E7. Sales team
· E8. Programming team
· E9. Air-Talent team
· E10. Engineering team.

· E11. List the key people in each area (listed above) for your competitors.
· E12. What are each key players' significant strengths and weaknesses?
· E13. Who are the key players in Management, Programming, Sales, Air-Talent, Engineering you should recruit?
· E14. Are they under contract? When does it expire?
· E15. Are you aggressively pursuing these key players?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Positioning Statements

Before you decide what to do, you must know what the competition is doing:

· D27. What are the Positioning, Attitude, Attribute, Benefit Statements for each station/competitor?
· D28. What message are each of these image groups (Attitude, Attribute, Benefit, etc.) trying to communicate?
· D29. How do these messages affect your listeners? (appeal/not appeal, attract, cause to act, etc.)
· D30. What are you doing as offense/defense to promote or counter these messages?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Unique Selling Positions / Attributes

More questions for you as you plan for 2014:

· D19. What desirable attributes do you own over your direct competitor (if any)?
· D20. What desirable attributes does your competitor own over you (if any)?
· D21. What desirable attributes are you competing for with your competitor (if any)?
· D22. What is the point of differentiation (USP) between you and your competitor?
· D23. What is the point of differentiation between you and your competitor for each attribute?
· D24. What desirable attributes are not owned by any particular station (if any)?
· D25. What desirable attributes will you move to own over the next three months?  How?
· D26. What undesirable attributes will you move to shed over the next three months?  How?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Image Ownership

This section of 2014 "pre-plan questions" will help you identify your market's "image owners."

Perception is reality. 

Perception is the only reality your listeners can act on.

Rank your market and then your competitor stations for each of the following items (1=Top Dog, 2=Next Dog, etc.)

· D1. Music quantity image? Overall? In each format?
· D2. Music variety image? Overall? In each format?
· D3. Music awareness image?
· D4. Music comfort/familiarity image?
· D5. Benefit images:
· D6. Anti-stress?
· D7. Energizing?
· D8. Feel-good?
· D9. Fun?
· D10. Overall information service image?
· D11. News?
· D12. Traffic?
· D13. Weather?
· D14. Sports?
· D15. Morning information service image?
· D16. Morning entertainment image?
· D17. Overall personality and entertainment image?
· D18. Contesting (in general) image?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Your 2014 Marketing Plan Should Include An Engineering Overview

Winning the ratings war is a deadly game of not just who listens to your station but who can hear your station. This section will help you focus on your the signal strengths and weaknesses of your station and market.
  1. What it's like today. 
  2. What's changed in the last three months.
· C1. Have there been any recent facility upgrades (Power, Move In, Etc.)?
· C2. Are there any facility upgrades in the works (rumored, applied for)?
· C3. How will your station be affected by these facility upgrades?
· C4. Can you upgrade the coverage/signal quality/loudness of your facility?
· C5. What upside / downside is there for you in this process (list potential rewards
 and costs)?
· C6. Where are your no can hear me dead zones?
· C7. How do these signal dead zones impact your station?
· C8. What can you do to remedy the signal dead zones?
· C9. Are you aggressively pursuing your station's signal improvement?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


As you plan 2014 marketing, ask:

· B14. What format opportunities exist in your market?
· B15. How will someone filling these "competitive openings" affect your station?
· B16. What would you do to offensively/defensively against such format opportunities?
· B17. If they aren't occupied.
· B18. If they are occupied.
· B19. What stations are likely to change formats?  To what?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marketing Plan Q's: Clusters

  • B6. Who has the most effective cluster programming? 
  • B7. What competitive positions (lifegroups, demos, distribution, etc.) do these multi-opolies occupy? (E.g. classic hits teamed with Softer AC = M+W 45-54) 
  • B8. How do these cluster marriages affect your station? 
  • B9. What stations are likely to join forces? 
  • B10. What stations would be wise to join forces? 
  • B11. How will/would those "matches" affect your station? 
  • B12. Whom in your market would you best be matched with? 
  • B13. Are you aggressively pursuing this match?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Market Overview

This section of your 2014 marketing plan will help you focus on your market.
What it's like today. What's changed in the last three months.

· B1. List all New stations?
· B2. List all recent Call Letter changes?
· B3. List all recent Slogan ID changes?
· B4. List all recent Formatic direction changes or modifications?
· B5. List all Ownership changes?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Marketing Plan "General Objectives"

This section is designed to help you determine your general, overall goals.

What you want?  Where you are going?

· A1. What is your Long-term Mission/Vision statement? (For the next three years)
· A2. What is your Mid-term Mission/Vision statement? (For the next year)
· A3. What is your Short-term Mission/Vision statement? (For the next rating period)

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Marketing Plan Questions

Michael Albl has held many titles over the years during his long tenure at Jacor, then Critical Mass Media, then Clear Channel.  His titles over the years range from Program Director to Executive Vice President of Marketing to Vice President/General Manager – Format Lab to Vice President of Mental Warfare.

I have written before that when Michael writes or talks.  I read and listen. 

As budgets for next year begin to take shape, it seems like a great time to dig out a memo he wrote for clients of Critical Mass Media two decades ago to help people who were contemplating marketing refine their needs and goals.

Over the next few days, I'll reprint his blueprint for creating a cogent plan, step by step:

A. General Objectives
B. The Market
C. Engineering
D. Image Ownership
E. The Players
F.  Execution

Once you've gone through all of the pieces of the marketing puzzle, you will be prepared to ask for what you need to create a winning plan.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Well Do You Know You?

If you didn't already believe that being as in touch with your values and perspective as a good actor playing a role when you are on air, hopefully my blog last week on Christopher Booker's "Seven Basic Plots" made you an adherent.

Thanks to the complexities and endless relatability of being a human being it is possible to take those seven basic story lines and turn them into an infinity of engaging and compelling universal content bits.

Start by writing a "character description" for every member of your team just as you would if you were writing a play and giving the actors (you!) as much detailed and deep explanations of habits, traits, attitudes, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, etc.

Then, trade yours with your partners and have them add even more.  Once you have a large list of things which define you, focus on the ones which make you different from one another.

That's where the entertainment will come from.

You'll probably never be as good as it as "Friends" was, but the more you can reinforce those different ways of looking at and living life in everything you do, the better.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Country Money (Glass Half Full Edition)

The Inside Radio report this morning that country is radio's #4 billing format really got my mind churning, given that it has been four years since I tracked format conversion ratios in this space and at that time the format ranked #7 in a slightly different metric, converting ratings to revenue.

There was a time when news talk, with its 18 minutes per hour and country with an average of perhaps 12 commercial minutes per hour where the top two "power ratio" formats.  Back then, felt that was because country was able to sell its highly-engaged audience more effectively than other formats.
 Some of the loss of those old conversion ratios came as a result of clusters getting bigger and groups focusing more on "cluster shares" rather than just one station.  That, combined with country's growing mass audience over the last decade, has made our qualitative more like "the average" mainstream mass appeal radio station.

Nielsen's Radio Today 2013 tracks 1,857 country stations with a total cume audience of 66,025,700 and an AQH of 3,479,000!

Fewer sales reps are "country" (or any other format) specialists and the process of buying has become increasingly commoditized and less personal. 

This still works in the very smallest markets where we have many clients who still bill double their local audience share by doing personality endorsements, remote broadcasts and basically earning a premium by their proven ability to move product.  Well-trained sales people in these places like these can make surprising amounts of money and thus stay in those communities for a very long time, building more and more relationships of trust.

For example, the Country share in 2012 (from Radio Today 2013)
  PPM markets = 7.4
  Diary markets = 16.3
  Unrated markets (county by county) = 26.2

Those dollars outside the major markets that country bills spend just the same as the ones we fight for in the more compressed PPM metros.

Country is the one format at the top of the 2013 revenue ranker that hasn't fragmented into narrower pieces:  AC today has become at least three or four different formats, CHR has both pop and rhythmic, Rock has also splintered into a least four smaller pieces, Oldies has evolved to a completely different demo target, just to name a few.

The promise of consolidation was more format diversity and that does seem to have happened, but as BIA has tracked, that has not really grown revenues. 

Given the explosion of new media, I'd say that holding our own is quite an achievement since the media world of 2000 bears little resemblance to it in 2013.

Tell me what occurred to you after seeing the new numbers.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Only Seven

According to Christopher Booker, there are only Seven Basic Plots
  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth 
His convincing book is really much more than that hypothesis, making it very much worth a careful read.

He explains how and why we are all programmed to imagine stories in these ways and also why storytelling must be a part of your bits, ads, newscasts, branding, marketing and social media

As you read it, you'll ask yourself:  does our radio station and its personalities consistently make full use of every one of them for maximum impact?

Daily prep should begin by evaluating everything you "could" engage the listener with through the filter of how can we make sure today's "show" has all of them woven into it and which character on the team is best suited today to bring one or two of them alive authentically and naturally.

The more believable characters living through and coping with them, the more viral you'll be!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Catch A Ride On The "Inbound" Train

Inbound marketing is "the next big thing" and there's no medium as well positioned to take advantage of it like local radio.

A great example, thanks to Newcap/Moncton GM Dan Fagan and PD Adam McClaren's XL96 team.
McLaren:  "Check out the hashtag #XLSuperFan on Twitter.  It’s pretty impressive watching people share their memories and feelings related to the music we play."

Here's the incentive that made it happen, starting the conversation on both Twitter and other social networks as well as on the station.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Sales Per Spin?

Hats off to HitShop Records honcho Skip Bishop for getting us all to think outside the box and buying this ad today which makes, as I read it, a powerful statement backing the NAB against Music First Coalition and Congressman Mel Watt's “Free Market Royalty Act."

Judging from these figures, it doesn't take very many spins on the monitored panels to generate impressive sales, the state which makes label success!

In fact it actually takes more spins to get the average song to "hook" and "test" with heavy radio users - which of course is the measurement driving radio's success.

It's nice to see that labels start getting returns on their investment in radio airplay pretty quickly.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Marketing To Grow Loyalty

Loyalty marketing (social, data base, telemarketing and target campaigns) should also be a cornerstone of any country broadcaster's long-term plan. 

There is, however, another tool that is so inexpensive and easy to do that many stations overlook it as a good barometer of problems that might require more extensive quantitative research and/or marketing:  ask your listeners! 

Set up a panel of your active listeners, and meet with them on a regular basis.  We recommend airing an ongoing campaign of an nouncements on your air to inform listeners of the existence of your "Listener Advisory Board." 

Set up a link on your website for people to "sign up." 

Send a weekly station newsletter to the entire data base.  Do online research, set up a "get a clue" voice mail line for listener complaints/suggestions, and con stantly invite opinions on station programming on it.  Air listener-voiced comments and/or read their letters in regular promos to let people know you really do pay attention to their gripes and compliments.

Choose listeners at random from the panel to meet for a light dinner (restaurant or hotel trade) monthly with station staff and/or independent research people.  AOB will be happy to perform this function for you if a qualified moderator cannot be found at a local college or university marketing research department.  Keep us informed on problems and results if you choose to conduct the panels in-house.

Keep the groups small - less than 15 persons.  Use the panels to test potential marketing campaigns, TV commer cials, contests, morning show ideas, special programming, poten tially objectionable commercials, new music trends, etc. 

Recognize that you are NOT doing research, since the participants are aware of the station that is asking the questions.  However, since the bias in groups like this is to normally be quite com plimentary, when negatives come out they must be taken very seriously.

Actually, it has been our experience that country fans feel a sense of ownership of "their" radio station, and as a result when they are convinced that honesty will be taken seriously and result in changes on the air, they can be brutally frank and protective about the airwaves of their favorite station.

And, isn't that the way to make them feel involved and loyal to keep 'em listening longer? 

Besides, what competitor can take away your listeners when they feel like they all sit on your "Board of Directors"?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

(More On) Loyalty

Country was a format with much greater loyalty 20 years ago. The mainstream AC listeners who were using Country as a P-2 back then are moving away from that format and are changing the face of the country audience now, growing our cume and shares, but reducing loyalty levels that we once took for granted.  And, that's not even mentioning the fickle Millenials who have been turning on to country since they were teens.

Success has it's costs, as the country audience becomes more like the mass culture and less qualitatively unique.

Another price of this growth:  once, country's "conversion ratio" was 1.42, but as average shares have increased, the format hasn't been able to convert ratings to revenue at the same rate.

The country format's growth is clearly less dependent than ever before on retaining long listening spans from a small base of very loyal listeners as less-loyal Gen Y has come into our universe. 

Just a few years ago, country would have been on the top of the list of 'loyal formats.'  Today, shifting demo targets, increased duplication, competition and PPM have made country radio less exclusive.  Diary measurement still picks up exclusive cumes (folks who write down no other radio station in their book other than their favorite one.  The great thing about PPM is the fact that the average radio station's cume doubles.  The bad news is that the average listener is shown to actually listen to almost twice as many radio stations as are seen in diaries and exclusive cume listeners are practically non-existent.

Next time, let's think about ways to improve the loyalty of your audience.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Loyalty: Even More Important Today

As markets become more compressed due to PPM's small samples and owners of the big combines fragment, niche and offer listeners more diverse choices to try to grow their combo share, loyalty is at a premium.

Passionate listenership patterns are the key to understanding what may happen when one station acquires a competitor which is starting to happen more now with deal-making starting to heat up again as station multiples have come down as lender money dried up due to the economy of the last few years. 

Sub-genres that live within a format -- if they create or improve passionate listenership due to narrower targeting of niches within a format-- can actually increase the overall shares for a format.  

My views, shaped by experience and observation:

"Jazz/NAC," Urban, and Urban Adult Contemporary are formats that actually grow when competing amongst themselves. This is because listening to these formats is so passionate that it eliminates outside listening.  For instance, a heritage Soft Adult Contemporary radio station may suffer at-work losses if an Urban AC or Jazz comes on but only from its African-American listeners.

Driving up share is also true in Rock, in that Rock listeners are loyal to the format, and, therefore, move between Rock, Classic Rock, Adult Alternative, and Alternative. The outside formats are the ones that suffer a new Rock station's arrival.

Adult Contemporary listeners are not format loyal, and, therefore, are tougher to convert.  If you have a Adult Contemporary station and you put on a Hot Adult Contemporary station, you'll undoubtedly damage yourself as these listeners tend to share their TSL with many other formats. It's all a matter of shelf space.  This can also happen as a Hot AC or CHR pulls an AC in a more "hot" direction.  Meanwhile, loyalty also diminishes for a soft AC station that fails to recognize the current music trends and remains too "soft" and "warm" for evolving demos.

The Classic Hits Format is not loyal within its life group; nor is Adult Alternative. This can be seen by the various Top 5 sharing patterns of these formats.

Adult Standards, by and large, stays on the AM band and is not format-loyal, but band-loyal.

Adult Urban is a highly loyal listener format. The benefit is that African-American listeners tend to listen longer to the radio than the average non-ethnic listener.

This is also true with Hispanic-targeted formats, but it's becoming less so because "first language" preference also plays a role as well, especially as Hispanic formats have broken into smaller pieces at a tremendous rate in many markets due to the growth of the Hispanic audience.

Business is generally AM band loyal as are News/Talk and Sports, as - for example - Entercom revealed in its recent Buffalo format finder research.  It was this format change that inspired this article. 

Most of the things that move up and down the AM band are loyal to AM, driven by the reality that by and large the difference between FM and AM listeners is age.

Putting Oldies, Standards/Nostalgia or Classic Country on an AM you own and News/Talk on another may be positive in that it limits the crossover between the two, for example.

You may have a tactical strategy to dominate News/Talk and, therefore, you opt to have a major News/Talk station that carries all of the big Talk shows and a secondary, lower-power AM station that presents the competing syndicated programs.

The plus here is that this keeps them off a competitor, but you are attacking yourself. 

It seems to me like moving a big news/talk station to FM or simulcasting an AM and FM cannibalizes the audience and in my view most often wastes an FM, leaving you with a weaker AM.

These are all broad generalizations, of course, and every market situation is unique, creating its own individual parameters.

More on loyalty tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Classic Country? Check Yes Or No

With "sameness of sound and too much repetition" reoccurring listener complaints right now, is it time for a station playing country classics from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's, allowing the today's/hot/new country stations to be  just that, especially in this age of consolidation with one owner controlling two or three country FM's in a market, fortressing the format and looking to broaden country's reach and defend all flanks?

A&O&B works with a number of very highly-rated (12+) diary market classic country stations, so we are big believers in "classic country" viability and saleability in the right situations.

I ask the question right now given two recent developments.

Good news for the formatL & L Broadcasting sees potential in Oklahoma City to fill the hole left when KKNG went religious.

Meanwhile, in Calgary, new owner Bell Media dropped it in favor of comedy in this PPM market on what had been Canada's only classic country station.
In the history of format radio, country's CUME has NEVER been smaller "THIS year" than it was "LAST year."  The constant cume growth for country, plus the fact that we have ALWAYS needed at least 30% of the mix to be current to get any significant 25-54 numbers means classic country (oldies-based country) takes a special broadcaster who knows how to sell an upper-demo, leading edge boom audience to make it work in a stand-alone situation unless it's an owner who simply wants a non-competitive niche and really is committed to selling without ratings.

Rock oldies of the 60's, classic rock and adult standards are mass appeal rebirths of formats that were MASS APPEAL at the time the songs were popular. 

Country has always been a niche format and never truly been MASS APPEAL in that sense even during its high water marks of popularity.

It has really only been since 1989 that 25-34 discovered it in any quantity at all.  By 1993, THAT group of 25-34 year-olds had already started to turn 35.

Even after the boom of the last several years mainstream country skews older than it has for years.  There are many theories as to why this might be. 

Mine:  today's Gen Xer was a teen at a time when country was in the doldrums and even though their kids love country they never developed as deep a love for it during their formative years, musically. 

As a result, a lot of very solid mainstream country stations do best 45+ and then 18-30 with a "dip" in 35-44.  Boomers and Millenials, of course, are the biggest population groups, but a smaller share of the smallest generational cohort has meant that mean ages of many leading country stations are now in the low to mid-40s, leaving even less room for a classic station to create a large enough cume to be competitive.

Frankly, in many markets,  I don't think that we really WANT a 45+ version (classic-based).  It would only serve to segment and fragment already very competitive (due to the adult impact of CHR today) 18-44 shares.

Hank/Indianapolis, for example, has done much better over the last few years as Emmis' management team moved it from a "male country music" position to mainstream country.

Even as today's boomers age out of 25-54 to be replaced by Gen Y when mean ages will evolve back downward due to the size of that age cell, the question will be (as was true in the early 1990's, for example) will there be a large 45+ group feeling unserved because stations will no longer play the hits of the late 80's and early 90's?  If so, will they also want to hear 60's and 70's?

We who believe in classic country - in the right areas - are going to find out as we watch the playlists of Hank and his friends.