Thursday, August 28, 2014

Buzz-building (Step #2)

Mark Ramsey“Answer these questions:”

1.  Do listeners think we have a terrific radio station, worth telling their friends about?
2.  Can listeners describe what makes our station unique and special, simply and easily?
3.  Does the station always offer something new and exciting?  Is there always something fresh and different?
4.  Are we operating in the spirit of truth, honesty and directness?  Can all of our claims be proven?
5.  Do we know who the “network hubs” are, the opinion leaders on social nets and in person with their friends?
6.  Do we have an ongoing (genuine) dialogue with them, a way for them to be a part of the station?
7.  Do we have a “fan club,” a listener community?
8.  How can we help listeners connect with other listeners?  How do we help listener communities connect with one another?
9.  Does the “Fan Club” advise us on our product?
10.  Do we have “fan” websites, run by listeners?  How can we encourage them?
11.  Are we communicating across social networks?
12.  Have we designed our website to maximize the transmission of buzz?
13.  Do we have surprises?
14.  Can we be outrageous?
15.  Do we take listeners behind the scenes?
16.  Do we stage events to get people talking?
17.  Can “bite size chunks” of our station be given as a ‘gift’ or a “free sample?’
18.  Do we solicit referrals?  Or we reward referrals?
19.  Can we use testimonials and make them credible?
20.  Is our advertising clever enough to build Buzz?
21.  Do we have a well-defined cause that listeners identify with us and rally around?
22.  Are we selling a dream?  Or, a product?

Tomorrow, a worksheet to upgrade your buzz-worthiness.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Building Buzz

Mark Ramsey did a terrific presentation a few years ago at CRS on “How To Build A Buzz Plan.”  Here’s a brief replay.

Step #1 - using buzz to your advantage

Are we buzz-worthy?

1.  Are we that good?
2.  What’s NEW?
3.  Is the station easy to talk about?
4.  Authenticity rules.  Make only claims you can support.
5.  Find network “hubs” (influencers in your social circle)
6.  Get those "huggers" involved in your radio station.
7.  Give away “free samples,” bite-size audio and video chunks of your radio station.
8.  Be outrageous and surprising.
9.  Fight for a well-defined cause (see ice buckets for ALS - but once it gets that big, you may not be able to "own" it.  Best to create your own local events.)
10.  Build a listener community.  Grease the wheels of buzz starting with them at live and online events.

A plan to get you to "10 out of 10," starts tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2014

How's Your PR?

Do you have regular contact with all of the media people who tend to write about radio?

If not, put together a group meeting with as many of your talent and management team as possible and "meet the press" as a group.  They are reporters.  All it will take is for you to pay for the nibbles and beverages.

Don't do it until you have "news" for them.  Write a press release with the who, what, where, when, why and how.  Include your contact name and number.  Plan on starting with a "statement" about what you're doing that you hope they cover.  Take questions.

If some people you had hoped would cover your event didn't show, recognize that news is fluid and what one day may be a huge story for them may get eclipsed on another.  Reach out to them personally and make sure they have your press release and know that you're available to questions at any time.

If you need "judges" for the event you're doing, invite well-known media people to serve in that capacity or guest on your show to talk about their events.  Build a positive relationship.

Look for a fresh angle on older items.  It's not "news" if it's not fresh and current.

TV needs a visual.  If there's no visual aspect to your story, don't be surprised that TV skips it.  Plan for "video-friendly" events.  Give your television station friends first crack at it, but if they don't go with it, post it to your own website and You Tube.  Send them a link to that so they know what they missed and understand that you wanted them to have it before your posted it.

Follow-up on your promotions.  Do a "wrap-up" meeting that includes as many of your staff as possible.  Ask them to think about anything that seemed to go especially well or fell through the cracks, including how your press coverage went.  Take exhaustive notes for review before you do anything next time.

Treat the press as if you know they are very important.  Never lie to them.  If something goes wrong, you'll increase your cred for future events if you quickly get the facts out to them.  They have the power to embarrass you, to say the very least.

If you're not sure how to handle something, hire a respected local press agent to guide you.  Study how they do things and learn.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Studying The Target

“Focus,” as author Al Ries (and his daughter in the years since) has been preaching (he wrote a great book on it) is the key to owning a category in a prospect’s mind. 

Also, the focus needs to be on the needs of the user not the product you’re hoping to sell. 

That starts by getting to know who it is you want to listen to your radio station.

Otherwise, you're guilty of "fire, ready. aim."

Odds are you are either younger or older than they are.  So, what can you do to create a reality-based picture that will prove to be effective?
  • Join a local service club that attracts members of your target.
  • Volunteer at a local charity as a worker.
  • Join a church, synagogue or other religious organization. 
  • Take a course at an adult school (not college).
  • Talk to listeners on Facebook, Twitter and other social nets and get involved in the activities the folks who are your target age care about.
  • Take a day “off” the air and live like your listener does.
  • Visit places where they work.
  • Go to lunch where your listeners go.  Not just one time, just routinely.
Look for folks who listen to your radio station and get to know them.

Live the demo.

Maintain the sympathetic reaction for consistent listenership.

Have a staff meeting and assign everyone to do these things.

Then, reconvene to talk as a group about what everyone observed and learned.

What more can everyone do to become a “real” companion?

After completing these steps, you're ready to aim and then "fire."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Wrong Profession

I don't care so much about the ones who won't do the work; the people who sign up with The Jock Doc, pay their money and expect that just by talking with me for fifty minutes a week, they'll somehow improve.

No, the ones who really get to me are those who practice and think and do their assignments, and yet, after six weeks together, I'm pretty sure they'll never make it as radio personalities.

I'd be the last one to tell them that, and it's not because I'm afraid to hurt their feelings; it's because there's an old radio truism: everybody in this business, me included, has had one person along the way to say to them, "You're never going to make it in radio." I don't want to be that person in anyone's life. I don't want anyone spending the next ten years proving me wrong. Sometimes those students I fear may be "hopeless" just may find their stride, just may overcome their problems, just may end up highly successful radio personalities. I can be wrong.

In cases like these, I want to be wrong.

That said, I'd like to review some of the characteristics I find among jocks that makes me reasonably sure they're in the wrong career...

Foremost among these are people who can't speak well. Radio seems to attract them, almost as though they sense they have this small speech defect, and are determined to have a career where their success will prove there's nothing wrong with them.

It's uncanny how many entry-level jocks you hear who can't pronounce the suffix "ing." Pointing it out doesn't help much; try as they may, it always seems to come out "een."

I don't think it's a question of motivation or will. No, I have to believe that there are some people who are physically incapable of saying "ing." Is it because their motor control is somehow flawed, or could it be a perceptual problem that springs from the way they hear? I really just don't know.

I want to avoid spending much time teach people how to talk. My principal thrust is to help you focus on whom you're talking to and how to reach him/her. Nonetheless, there I find myself, working on pronouncing words, instead of on conveying thoughts. It seems, so often, like a hopeless task.

Can they succeed in radio?

Maybe -- if they're unique enough, appealing enough -- sure; I'm willing to believe anyone can make it if he or she has enough talent and individuality going for them. But that's not the way I'd bet...

There are others you hear once, and just know they're in the wrong profession -- or at least the wrong area of it. These are people who are emotionally flat, for instance. Often they're lovely folks. They just don't excite you. They operate at a lower level, emotionally. Successful performing, be it on the stage or behind a microphone, requires a high level of emotional expressiveness. Some of it gets lost in the transfer, so that unless I start out more emotional than "normal," by the time you perceive it, I sound flat.

You can tell these people they ought to be more emotional, but if they're truly operating at a less excited level than you or I -- as opposed to just needing permission to express what's really there -- all you get is more sing-song speech, which sounds a little less than credible. Like the way you sound, after the PD has told you to "pick up the pace."

Not everybody is cut out to be a radio personality. It's hard to know who just needs more time, and who ought to quit before he or she wastes any more. Often, these people, who are hard-working and dedicated to radio, eventually end up in sales, engineering and management; I think that's great. I'd hate for our business to lose anyone who cares so much about it.

Sometimes years go by before they realize, on their own, that they've been kidding themselves; we waste so much time growing up. My only point is to get you asking yourself these questions: "Given enough time and hard work, do I have the talent and the physical abilities to earn a good living as a radio personality? Or is there some fundamental problem which will hold me back, no matter how hard I work at it?"

The answer requires a great deal of self-honesty. But then, so does success as a performer.

    --by Jay Trachman, circa 1995 

Get More Remotes/Appearances

Talent fees can be a nice “extra” bonus, and it seems like certain air personalities have a few secrets that make them the one that clients request more than everyone else.
  1. Ask for a tour of the business in advance.  You’ll be better able to talk about ‘behind the scenes’ stories you pick up.
  2. Find out direct from the boss/manager what main points they want to make during your broadcast.
  3. Never ask “how’s it going?”  Seldom will a client tell talent that things are going terrifically and they are making tons of money.  They’re afraid you’ll ask for a higher rate next time.  Asking for “strokes” during the live appearance is just setting yourself up for a negative.
  4. Become expert at “small talk.”  Be positive.
  5. Schmooze the employees of the business.  If they like you and feel you did a good job, the boss will probably hear about it.
  6. If you’re having fun with their customers, the employees at the business will notice.  Your gig is to create an atmosphere where folks are enjoying themselves.  When they are, they’re more apt to spend some money.
  7. Don’t hoard the key chains, coloring  books, refrigerator magnets, six packs of soda, etc.  Offer them to the people who came out because you asked them to.  You want them to perceive you as generous and giving.  The freebees should be handed out by the air personality and no one else.  Make them the last thing you put away after the broadcast ends.
Commercial appearances are not the time to do stunts.  It’s simply an opportunity to do informative and entertaining live spots from a remote location.  Use the built-in ambience to enhance your cut-in’s.  Create some excitement.  Show your personality in the confines of something that’s usually a tune-out.

Achieve that, and you'll make them more effective.  That's how to get invited back many, many times.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Who’s Going To Do The Next Remote/Appearance?

This is one of the toughest jobs a programmer has.

Choose a “sales favorite” too often and the rest of the talent will accuse you of favoritism, fail to give each personality an equal share of the work and you risk someone worrying that you don’t “like” them or their work.

Criteria I recommend:
  • Quality of remote work in the past (if you don’t pick someone, be prepared to explain WHY).
  • Number of appearances that personality has done compared to everyone else (the rest of the staff may start to resent a talent that gets too much love from you compared to the average)
  • Exceptional volunteer or unpaid work (give paid gigs as a reward)
  • Compatibility with the client (again, you’ll need to be sure the remainder of the team understands this factor)
  • Knowing WHERE the appearance will be.  If the business has multiple locations, do they know exactly where this one is?
A pop quiz you can use as you name someone to perform outside the radio station:  “Is your job to a) do nine cut-in’s in three hours?  or b) create three hours of fun and excitement at the location?”

The savvy talent will pick “b.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dressing The Part

The attraction of a radio job for many of us was the fact that how we look doesn’t matter.  It’s all about how you sound.

Unless you’re doing a live appearance or event. 

It constantly surprises me how many personalities as they go outside the radio station to meet listeners need to be reminded that suddenly it’s even more important how you look.

Remember:  you’re a STAR.

Dress like one. 

It goes without saying, I hope, that you should always look neat when you get in front of the audience whether you’re broadcasting “live” from a farm show, a car dealer showroom or a high end fashion retailer.

DO match your attire to what would appear “natural yet high-end” for the place you are appearing AND always find a way to get your station logo and a name badge on your body somewhere.

You’ll probably be the only person who is being “paid” to be there.

Look like you're worth it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Add MY Vote For This Great Idea

Billboard reports:
Record Industry Considering a Standard, Global Album Release Day
The music industry is on the verge of adopting a global street date that could see all countries issuing new releases on a Friday, probably beginning a year from now, in July 2015, according to industry sources.

A&O&B works with many international clients and all we can say is "what took so long?"  It's an increasingly global society and economy.

Fortunately, thanks to digital secure delivery the majority of Nashville music firms have been delighted to provide promotional copies of new music at the same time it gets released in the U.S. to our clients just for the asking, but of course that has always meant that country radio outside America very often is playing songs their listeners have no way to buy yet.

Just one more example of how our business may be among the slowest to adapt to change, often shooting itself in the foot. 

Hopefully, positive change is in the air.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Say It Isn't So, Zack

It started the as Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, but these days it can also bite you if you're a broadcaster in the USA as well.
The news that Zac Brown is jumping to SESAC feels like a next door neighbor just told me he's moving to a new neighborhood = a reminder to every broadcaster that it's unwise to try do without any of the licensing representatives (as if you didn't know that already).

Since K.T. Oslin and long before her, C. W. McCall, have produced must play songs to country radio which have been licensed by SESAC.

It gets expensive if you get caught playing music you don't have rights to.

As D-C-based media attorney David Oxenford writes:

There are obviously important and complicated issues that will be considered.  Will anything happen at the end of the day?  It will no doubt be a long and contentious process – one that may also be affected by the proposed Congressional omnibus music licensing bill.  There is much to review, and much to consider – and all music services need to watch and stay involved as this process develops.

ASCAP and BMI also want the right to do more than simply license the public performance rights for musical compositions – looking to be able to license rights to sych right (e.g. when a song is used in a commercial or movie production) or rights to reproduction (the mechanical rights necessary for a download or an on-demand music service).  Having the ability to bundle these rights might make ASCAP and BMI more attractive to many publishers, and to many services looking for that one-stop shop for music rights.  But, giving these companies more control over music could be seen as an increase in their market power, necessitating the continuation and strengthening of the consent decrees.

If you'd like a complete primer on the issues and the organizations involved, click here.  In fact, David Ross is writing a book on it.

Meanwhile, with a major superstar now on SESAC, it's a reminder that when it comes to music rights, nothing is consistent but change.

Stay abreast of the issues from radio's point-of-view.

More than ever NAB needs radio's support.

Monday, August 11, 2014

John Marks Has A Great Press Agent

The entire A&O&B team are big fans of the SiriusXM Nashville-based country programmer and we all personally spend a lot of time with all of the country music channels he programs, not because of his good looks and charm, but because we love his innovative approach to music programming,

The longtime country expert got started at Ohio University's broadcast department and then went from Athens on to WPFB in Middletown, Ohio, and many major markets from Seattle to Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and San Diego to name a few that culminated in his current gig.

His latest coup:  convincing USA Today writer Brian Mansfield that playing three females an hour is newsworthy

"We're pulling in a wide swath of female talent to gather up what the listeners will respond to." -- John Marks

The risky part, of course is the promise that they will be little-known records by women with and without record deals and of course that is news for many people.

Not for me.

IMHO:  John has golden ears and I'd bet he opens the door to records and radio one more time for some talented newcomers with great tunes.

How Not To Do A Live Broadcast

  1. Set up your equipment on a card table.
  2. Wrap a banner around the table.
  3. Make sure you have a card table chair for the personality to sit on.
  4. Require that the talent stay behind the table and as far away from listeners as possible.
  5. Have the single person you or the client pays to do the broadcast both set up the equipment and handle the clients, saving sales department and engineering department lots of time and energy.  You can also save everyone money by requiring the talent to do them for free.  She'll enjoy the exposure.
  6. Don't write any copy for the event.  Ad libs are fine.
  7. Never brainstorm anything additional that might cost any money or bring people to the location.
  8. No need to arrive early.  Just show up at the time the broadcast is scheduled to begin.
  9. Even better, if your first break isn't scheduled until :20 after the hour.  There's no need to be there on the hour in spite of what the pre-event promotion promises.
  10. What pre-event promotion?  No need for that!
Doing it this way will ensure that your station can charge the least for live broadcasts and events compared to anyone else in town.

That way, you'll get lots more of them to do.

Listeners will love that.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Three-Tiered Bullseye

Anyone who’s completed a sales training with Chris Lytle or his team can tell you where a business gains from being “top of mind:”
  • The folks in the center of the target are in the market for what you have to sell right now.  
  • The second ring of the target “might” be in the market for it, but need a reason to get serious about it now or you have to wait for their need to become more urgent.  Maybe they need it but don’t know they do and all they require is an explanation of why it’s important.
  • The ones in the outer ring might as well have the audio turned down on their radio.  They don’t care and won’t have any use for it for the foreseeable future.

1.  What sales phrase in the lead sentence of your pitch or commercial would you use to activate the people in your bullseye?

2.  The ones in the second ring?

3.  Listen to as many commercials on your radio station as possible and sort out the ones that seem to be talking to the people in the outer ring.

4.  Rewrite to make them more effective.

Sit Down, Kid, And Let Me Tell You How Much Better It Used To Be

Once upon a time, radio “programmed” commercial breaks. 
  • Best spot first, second best last, worst ones in the middle of the cluster.
  • Never put the same voice back to back in a cluster.
  • Longest first, shortest last.
  • Tags last and only one per cluster.
  • Live reads first and only one per cluster.
I considered these things very important and felt that I could quickly recognize "a great radio station" because they executed it all so cleanly and consistently.

Then, almost three decades ago, digital traffic systems came in and made changing anything about the way commercials laid out either very difficult or completely impossible.

By and large, radio stopped "programming" clusters.

Ratings never changed at all.

That was one of the many times I have re-learned to embrace change, and focus on recognizing the things which matter from the ones that really don’t.

It’s Actually Harder In Small Market Radio

Electric power costs about the same in huge cities as it does in the smallest towns.

Licensing fees are also similar.

Cost of sales - typically a percentage of gross revenues - of course is higher in the big leagues, but the piece of pie that it represents is quite comparable.

Sure, payrolls are higher in the majors driven by higher salaries, but people working at a radio station billing $20 million - except for very rare situations - don’t make twenty times the amount that the staff on average at a radio station billing one million dollars.

Even the commercial content is normally worse - hurting listening levels - in small town radio compared to the majors, where a large part of commercial time is national and regional agency-produced creative, fully researched, making use of top writing, announcing and production talent.

Cable TV, satellite radio and streaming media deliver “major” quality radio to every rural community these days and yet local radio is still replete with unimaginative, cliché-ridden spots in spite of the fact that today’s audience has become accustomed to quality production work.

I could offer more examples, but I suspect that these are more than sufficient to prove to you that a Manager or Owner in the small town has to actually be much more hands on than management in the metropolises not far away.

The margin for error is less, which makes it such a pleasure to see so many extremely successful local owners and managers at work, teaching their people to maintain high standards and stay close to their audience.

The formula - for a special kind of manager/owner - still works.  It’s fun.  And, rewarding. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

A Good Rule? Not For Country

"Now don’t get me wrong – at most, crossovers should be used like spice and when aggressively employed, they should be accompanied by credible DJ commentary setting the stage so the listener knows there’s a reason for its being played.  Often the crossover moves on to become a hit in its own right in the new genre and needs no further explanation or justification.  In a number of cases, this process actually expands the scope and vitality of the station format genre – the result being forward motion and growth for both radio and music."   -- Duane Doobie in RadioInfo

Consultants try hard to learn from every situation, which is why it's so smart to make use of one.  We're exposed to more owners, formats, tactics, strategies and competitive situations in a month than the average radio person has in many years.

So, I've figured out over my five decades in this biz that there's almost nothing that will work everywhere and it's also a mistake to say "that won't work."

Jaye's axiom:  a great manager/programmer can take a weak strategy that they fully believe in and make it do things with great people and lots of creativity that competitors predicted would fail.  Likewise, a poor manager/programmer can torpedo an awesome plan.

For that reason, I don't very often pronounce any idea when it's pushed by someone I respect a bad one.  Unless they want to add crossovers to a "new country" station playlist.

Some amazing and very experienced people who have won in multiple formats have come to country - it seems to happen at least once or twice a decade - and attempted to add "crossover spice" and have even done music testing to select the songs.

Invariably, the cume goes up a bit but the core time spent listening drops even more so that the losses outpace any hoped-for gains.

Many of today's hottest country superstars add an aggressive southern rock set to their live show and the crowds embrace it, so why not play some of that music on their radio? 

It's about expectations.  Country radio heavy users chronically complain about too much repetition and ask for more variety, but for some reason when they hear even their favorite oldie, adult contemporary or classic rock hit along with the tunes they want on a country station, they seem to  conclude that the station doesn't love country music as much as they do. 

At the same time, several hundred of today's country music hits from the last few years strongly appeal to a very wide demographic - from teens to their grandparents - and I defy you to find more than a handful of crossover hits that draw that wide a swath of both males and females in all of those same five+ narrow demographic cells.

The goal might have been to broaden the appeal, but when it comes to country music radio it actually achieves the very opposite!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Bad Ads

Common flaws in both promo and commercial copy:

1.  Trying to sell too many things, using…
2.  Too many words, and
3.  Little or no listener emotional involvement.

Fixing the quality of your radio station’s writing, and getting better results for your clients, is as simple as “1-2-3."