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.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The New Newsperson

“A drone owned by in Kelowna and being operated by a news editor was grounded after a fire information officer said it flew too close to a Peachland, B.C. wildfire. The officer cited the dangers of a drone coming into contact with aviation related to the fire fight as well as distracting crews on the ground. The use of drones is controlled by Transport Canada, which issues Special Flight Operating Certificates for approved operations.”
    — Broadcast Dialogue 

Wakeup call to news people who "read stories" from "the radio newsroom:"  a website - not a TV station or a newspaper - was flying drones over Kelowna, BC's wildfire area in their aggressive coverage of local news.

Today, listeners won’t accept news people not being involved with the stories they are reporting.

Doing so is easier for radio than almost any other medium making full use of all the theater of the mind tools available to audio media, especially now that smart phones have powerful video and editing tools built-in.

News value is measured by intelligent judgment rather than dollars and cents or weight in pounds and ounces.   A lead/top story simply must be fresh, something the audience hasn’t heard before that also captures the imagination of the highest percentage of the audience as possible.

Interesting.  Important.  A sudden change of pace.  That's "news to me."

Plus, something the newscaster has a personal connection/involvement/reporting direct from with if at all possible.

If you can't get out of your studio to deeply, even though briefly, cover what's important to local listeners, you need to find other ways by phone and social media to bring it to life immediately and authentically.

If that's not possible, reconsider whether you can do "news" today in a competitive way.  Maybe it's better not to do it at all than to do it poorly.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Are Station Promotions "News?"

No, not normally, but if anything out of the ordinary ever happens as you execute contests, special events, remotes, social media interactions and phone contact with listeners I hereby vote that they are.

Remind everyone on your team that “news” is defined as relevant new info carrying a story your target cares about.

Your best source for news stories meeting that criterion?

Local sources of things listeners won’t see on national or cable news, Twitter, the wire, the internet, Facebook, government agencies, You Tube, your music format, movies, TV, sports, weather of course, but never neglect to “report” interesting things that happen when the routine things your radio station does turn out to be extraordinary within your own newscasts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Have Blog Envy

Chase Murphy is a native of South Texas who lives and works in San Antonio, best-known for his work as an on-air personality for KXXM and as Program Director for Mix 96.1, Q 101.9 (KQXT) and La Preciosa 105.7 (KQXT-HD3).  

His blog is a treasure and I finally got my hands on his book which was released in February.   

"I thought about being good, but that’s not enough.  Anyone could be good.  Terrific is a solid choice too, but I think great trumps terrific.  At least in my definition of the words.  I want to be a great father.  A great husband.  A great son and brother.  A great friend that anyone would love to have.  I want to be great at life.  I want to be greater than the person I was yesterday. 

"When writing out your goals and visualizing what you want to be in life you should add your one word to the list.  Put it on a sticky note and place it in front of you at your desk.  Leave reminders to yourself wherever it makes sense and filter your actions in life through your one word.  Like goals, writing it down helps to make it real.  Some people do this with religion and that’s perfectly fine, but beyond your beliefs, I think you still need that one defining word.  If you hold yourself to the standard of the meaning of that word, others will contagiously share that word when describing you. 

"What can be bad about that?  Unless your word is asshole…then I would suggest a different word. "

Grab a copy (click to read a bit of it here) and, just like I am doing here,  pass it on to a friend.  They'll thank you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Birthdays, Anniversaries And Such

Two decades ago Jon Coleman released morning show research his research company had done at a national broadcast convention.

The specific percentages have changed over the intervening years, as this more recent Coleman graphic shows, but the ranker of interest in entertainment elements still rings true along with the finding that listeners normally recall no more than two to four elements, so making the most of the ones you choose to do becomes imperative.

Highest interest (more than 2/3’s agree):  Off beat stories, Humor, Trivia, Fun joking back and forth between appealing characters

Less than half of listeners said they like:  Spoof songs, Making fun of local personalities, Off color jokes, Impersonations of famous people

Fewer than one in five are positive about:  Talking about personal experiences and Birthdays

Why is it that even talent who “gets” that if they talk about themselves the content needs to be especially relatable - like even Garrison Keillor - still feels that it’s acceptable wasting valuable time with an element - birthdays - that anyone who has been paying attention for the last 20 years ultimately knows that more than 80% of listeners don’t care about them?

People call and write and ask.

It’s hard to say “no” when someone does this, especially if the precedent has been set that you’ve done it for other people.

One of the most popular features of social apps is wishing friends a happy birthday, but of course Facebook is many to one whereas radio is one to many.

It takes courage and advance planning to make sure that your content is superior to anything else available on radio right now. 

One way to wean an audience from a bad habit like calling to ask for requests and birthdays:  never use anything with less than majority appeal that can’t also carry with it an off beat story, humor and solid rapport.  Even something as statistically popular as a crutch like trivia gets better when it contains those ingredients.

If you prefer to be imaged as a talent who stands up for radio's grand past traditions that the majority of us have long ago left behind, be like Garrison and do it with plenty of hot buttons included too.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Hot Buttons

Local community

Strong content always hits at least one of them!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nielsen’s House Of Cards

A very cool aspect of the business Mike O’Malley, Becky Brenner and I are in is fully understanding and - many times - being a part of moving ratings. 

We make it our business to know what causes, just for a few examples, WMZQ/Washington to grow from a 2.7 a few months ago to a 4.1 6+ in the current month;  how WYCD/Detroit got back up to a 6.2 after a 5.3-5.5 trend and the driver of KNIX/Phoenix’s largest PPM share in the station’s history this month, a 6.2, after a 5.0 last month.

As a result, we were all extremely relieved to see Nielsen’s announcement yesterday on the Los Angeles sample that in spite of one media related household that resulted in Univision firing a manager at LA 102.9 “our analysis revealed that any significant differences in the estimates over the past year were isolated primarily to a single station” and didn’t impact much else. 

It turns out that the wobbly numbers affecting many other stations were a result of a UPS driver who listened to radio all day in his delivery truck and the rest of his family traveling to Mexico but leaving their meters at home in hopes they’d still be paid their premiums to help underwrite their vacation.

Two homes is all it took!

Lets face it.  Due to the very small sample sizes, especially when it comes to ultra core radio users, it’s as much an art as it is a science to keep PPM panels consistent and believable.

If Nielsen had been forced to rebuild their entire Los Angeles panel, it would have been expensive and a lengthy process, affecting immense revenues in the nation’s second largest metro.

Radio Can't Afford In-Vehicle WiFi (And Neither Can Listeners)

Under that headline it may surprise you to learn that no one is more excited about a future that will include in-vehicle Wi-Fi than I am.

BUT:  buyer beware.

Having lived full time in my RV I have traveled across both Canada and the U.S., I think I know something about it, since my Leisure Van came equipped with a Sony touch screen in-dash entertainment and navigation center with DVD/ Bluetooth and multiple apps from Sirius XM, I Heart, Pandora and all points between.

I've been using it to as full as possible extent for 16 months now.

I connect with both Sprint and Verizon 4G devices and it certainly functions very well no matter where I am.

Hopefully, people purchasing the newest models with Wi-Fi built in will get a year or two of connectivity included in their car payment, so it - at first - may seem free to them, but once they start getting charged for the wireless access by their mobile carrier I have some idea of the sticker shock awaiting them.

One gigabyte of data today costs about $10.  I chose one of the carriers because they offered unlimited data at the time (after all, your new laptop needs at least a terabyte of storage!)  Their coverage was disappointing as I explored back roads and parks, so I also ultimatelty bought the other one.  Most months I pay about $120 between the two carriers to connect.

I keep it that "low" by never streaming anything I can avoid.  One month, for example, I watched a total of 60 minutes of steaming video and my charges DOUBLED.


I see where Clear Channel is increasing their commitment to digital now.  Ideally that will include  HD and NextRadio, the digital audio services that will still be free for users to access.

The more drivers and passengers start having to pay for programming via 4G, I predict, the more they are going to appreciate the medium which serves their entertainment and info needs at no cost.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Does "How" Matter More To Yogurt Than It Does To You?

I got caught up in Hamdi Ulukaya's rags-to-riches Horatio Alger story recently while watching an online replay of his panel at the New York Ideas Festival.

His interviewer/senior editor of The Atlantic Derek Thompson recommended going to the "How Matters" website for the popular yogurt, which managed to pull off a Daniel-Goliath triumph that restores your faith in the basic laws of capitalism, to learn how values and mission propelled an attack on several of the biggest food companies in America.

It made me ask myself "do people come together to celebrate everything they love about our business?"

Does it matter why you put your show together today?

Does listening to your radio station make listeners feel better about themselves for doing so?

If you are stuck for new ways to deepen the relationship with your target audience and your radio station, click around

I'll bet it makes you hungry for some great yogurt ... and also for rethinking, then restating, your responsibility to listeners.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Eight Day Grid

The legendary Ron Chapman at KVIL/Dallas pioneered this approach and personally achieved the kind of legendary long term success to prove it works.

Keeping content moving forward, pulling listeners deeper into the day to day by using an eight week planning grid on your content map.  Set up benchmarks and content in one quarter hour and then advance it tomorrow in the following quarter hour.

Never repeat a benchmark in the same quarter hour two days in a row.

Using the eight day grid means that it will be many weeks before ‘the same thing happens at the same time on the same day.”

Once listeners figure out that by listening just one quarter hour more each day, the payoffs happen and the narratives advance, the sense of spontaneity builds regularity, improves time spent listening and grows loyalty.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Applicant

"To thrive, you need to identify those with the highest potential, get them in your corner and on your team, and help them grow."  --

The songwriter who created Ronnie Dunn's hit "The Cost Of Living" originally had titled it "The Application," due to the stress of trying to land a gig you want.

This is about the opposite side of that situation, which can be equally difficult.

Great radio stations - looking from the outside in - seem to be a magnet for the very best people, but when you talk to the programmers of them you learn that the same “average” people apply at those places as do as every other one.

The difference between the best and the rest:  programming management takes time to thoroughly interview every possible candidate for each opening and is much more selective in hiring.

They start by having each person they interview sign a confidentiality agreement and even assure the applicant that they’ll do the same if they desire, making it clear that keeping secrets is important.

They want to know..
  • Exact detail of experiences from each radio station they have worked. 
  • How they got into radio.
  • What interests them most about listeners.
  • What they see as their strengths as well as their own weaknesses.
  • Name of individuals you can contact that are NOT on their resume.
  • What would five of their closest friends say about them?
  • Where do they hope/plan to be in five years?  Ten years?  Next year?
  • What are their philosophies - whether they have ever programmed a radio station before and even though they are not applying for a PD position - on music, info, personality and promotion.
  • Contest some of their assertions just to see how diplomatically they can defend their position and also how sell they handle criticism of their opinions.
Grade on a scale of 1-10:  their appearance, bedside manner, knowledge, on air work, willingness to do more than requested of them, team spirit, availability.

Don’t permit yourself to take shortcuts in this process if your goal is to hire and hold onto the very best people.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Why Do Any News?

  • Satisfy “the friendlies.”  TV’s network morning shows make this their specialty.  Being cheerful, upbeat with great rapport is a must if you hope to compete with them.
  • Welcome “the belongers.”  These listeners have very high family values and are sociable.  Make them feel welcome, a part of your family.
  • Reassure the folks who tend have trouble coping with life.  Bring listeners together to tell their personal stories of hardship and work to help solve problems.  Social media is a great place to do this and then repurpose the most compelling stories in your on air news packages.
  • Shake things up.  If the news becomes too warm and fuzzy, some men will find it boring.  Crime stories, special reports and interviews with law enforcement and victims on the edgy aspects of life can add important balance.
  • Time management.  Keep it brief and fast moving.  Satisfy the people who want no-frills news.
  • Tell the ongoing stories.  Don’t make every newscast identical.  Even if you get in early and pre-write every one, build in “fresh new facts” on an item from thirty minutes ago.  Make your information packages benchmarks for “the longer you listen, the more you know.”
  • Weather and traffic ARE news.  Present them with the all of the above in mind.
"It's an exciting time to be in news.  It's not going away anytime soon, and I approach it every time I get in front of a computer as 'This is exciting. This is not old. This is not boring. ... And the more people involved, the better."  -- Drudge Report's Matt Drudge (on WTOP) via Don Anthony's Jockline Daily

Information is a must for any well-rounded radio station.  What makes it work (or not!) is consistently achieving the right balance of all logical and psychological needs of the listener.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

What Are You Planning This Weekend?

The first thing many listeners ask each other when they get to work on a Monday morning reflects how important discretionary time is to each of us.

When your talent begins a new week on the air, make sure they are equipped with a brief list of powerful station promotions, special local events, celebrations, holidays, concerts, theater, television, sports and community events.

All items on this roster should appeal to your target listener.  Check their social media pages to see what goings-on they’re planning to be at.

If they’re talking about them, you should be talking about them.