Saturday, December 23, 2006

Now Arriving On Platform Three

Businesses that communicate well across multiple platforms are more likely to generate sales than businesses that don’t communicate as well.

That’s true of course for radio, too.

For businesses, platforms can include web sites, brick and mortar presence, ease of purchasing, physical and virtual catalogues, delivery, customer service and more. A sub-standard performance in any of these platforms can result in a lost sale.

Think about your own shopping experiences. How many times did a business lose your business because they disappointed you in just one of these areas?

Now think about all the platforms where listeners and prospects can encounter your stations. How is your performance in each?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Turkeys and Timetables

It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg question. Do the media drive consumers’ timetables when it comes to the holidays, or are consumers’ personal timetables simply reflected by the early holiday ads, sales and mass media content we see each year?

More importantly, what does this mean for the show you’re going to do tomorrow?

The holiday-themed marketing blitz has been going on for weeks. At our house it started with the grocery store’s “free Thanksgiving turkey” promise about a month ago, and was quickly followed by pre-Thanksgiving sales pitches, announcements about on-line specials that wouldn’t be available in stores, recommendations to shop before Thanksgiving and avoid the crowds, and the offering of services related to entertaining (or coping with) a houseful of relatives.

Of course it’s not just holiday marketing, it’s holiday content too.

Scanning the covers of the magazines at Barnes and Noble can make you feel like you’re judging some weird, roast turkey beauty contest.

Network nightly news programs feature stories about this year’s “must have” items, retail projections, feel-good holiday segments, and the obligatory piece about the increased cost of flying replete with last year’s footage of frustrated crowds at airports recounting their drumstick destination dilemmas.

Turn on your computer and more often than not you’ll find some sort of Thanksgiving content, from recipes to table settings to the history of the holiday.

Meanwhile on cable, the Food Network is behaving like the Weather Channel during a hurricane.

The point is, holiday content is everywhere and if it’s not already on your show, you’re behind your audience.

Big events, like holidays, are on listeners’ minds early. You’ll be the smartest talent in the market when your “content timetable” matches your listeners’ personal timetable.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sometimes It's The Little Things

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the big difference. Ask the Detroit Tigers – a great team undone in large part by their failure to execute the basics when it mattered most.

While stand-out performances from big stars can be important, winning also requires executing the routine plays, the fundamentals, the mundane tasks that you don’t think about a lot because they’re taken for granted, they're not top of mind, or maybe just because they're not very sexy.

Radio’s highlight reel likely includes the spectacular contest, the coveted interview, the wild stunt, the knock-it-out-of-the-park bit. But winning takes more than a nightly web gem.

Here are some of radio’s “pitcher-to-third-base plays,” the basics, the stuff of champions.

...Having specific ratings goals, a well-thought out and highly detailed plan for achieving them, and a faithful adherence to that plan.

...Frequent and creative ways of identifying your station, and imaginative and distinctive imaging that helps listeners understand the difference between you and your competitors.

...A thorough awareness of your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses, and a plan for rebuffing the former and exploiting the latter.

...Music scheduling software monitoring and discipline in coding and adding music, and making sure what you want on the air is actually getting on the air.

...Promotions that sparkle in design, imaging and execution, that create talk, and make competitors’ efforts sound boring and insignificant.

...A strategy for the streets including where you are going, why you are going, and how you’ll surprise and delight the listeners you encounter.

...A website that’s always up to the minute, that anyone in the building can update on the fly, that has elements that drive traffic, and a frequent listener program that really IS worthwhile for a listener to be a part of as well as a valuable tool for marketing the station.

...A staff where everyone is on the same page and understands the target and the goals and all the station’s movable parts; where the talent is “game-ready” everyday and never mails it in, and where everyone on the team is made to feel valuable.

...An overall product that exceeds listeners’ expectations, that they feel ownership in, that makes them feel glad they spent time with you, and that leaves them looking forward to coming back repeatedly.

The Tigers will have to wait until next year to perfect the basics. You get to do that today.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Coaching Talent: Lessons From A Kindergarten Teacher

Karen Ginty knows a lot about coaching talent. She doesn’t know that, but it’s true.

Karen is a Kindergarten teacher in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey and she’s just been named the state’s 2006 Teacher of the Year.

Here are six of her guiding principles:

1 - Be a nurturer
2 - Provide a safe environment
3 - Address all the needs of all the students on a daily basis
4 - Roll with the punches
5 - Make it fun
6 - Teach respect and caring

“You’re not here for the money,” she says. “When you love something, that’s the perk…”

If Karen ever decided to work with talent, I bet she’d be awesome.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Surprising "Real" Reason to Rehearse

We’ve all heard it. In fact we’ve all heard it too many times: a great idea that just doesn’t come off on the air as powerfully as it should have.

Sometimes a bit drags on far too long, lacking focus or a strong close, getting off track and struggling to right itself.

Sometimes it doesn’t go on nearly long enough. Ideas don’t get fleshed out, developed or exploited. The obvious is substituted for the extraordinary.

Sometimes on multi-person shows, some of the players don’t seem to understand their roles and either struggle to contribute or miss opportunities when it’s their moment to shine.

The result is too often the push of a button and the search for something more interesting and entertaining.

The bad news this happens a lot. The good new is this doesn’t have to happen to you.

You only need to do two things: learn how to rehearse properly and then rehearse faithfully.

Unfortunately merely mentioning the “R” word to many jocks causes eyeballs to roll and excuses flow. “I like to go with the moment.” “There’s no time to rehearse.” And my all time favorite, “I like to go for the reaction in the room and rehearsing would ruin this.”
(Oh, yeah. The reaction of one or two other people in the room is more important than the reaction of the 10,000 people listening right now on their radios.)

Actually I’m convinced that the resistance to rehearsal stems from a misunderstanding of the real reason to rehearse: to thoroughly stimulate your creativity, to enhance and enlarge an idea, and to grow your skills and the skills of those around you.

Rehearsing your content has nothing to do with memorizing lines and everything to do with discovering them. A great rehearsal is the opposite of “restriction;” a great rehearsal is about expansion and experimentation. A great rehearsal is about empowering talent to fully exploit his or her skills so that a raw idea can be transformed into an extraordinary piece of entertainment.

Now that you know the real reason to rehearse, wouldn’t you like to try it? Here’s a rehearsal routine you can start using today:

1. Summarize the bit in no more than two sentences including opening, body, conflict, and resolution.
2. Have a “discovery” time with your partner(s). As you share your concept with them, they share back with you how they can best be a participant, incorporating their characters into the concept and expanding on the original idea. Apply the same technique if you’re a solo performer, thinking about how the various aspects of your personality can be leveraged to fully develop the original idea.
3. Edit and block. Expand the strongest points and eliminate what doesn’t add to the entertainment.
4. Do a final talk-through of how this is going to play.

And, while it’s not exactly a rehearsal, listening back to and deconstructing a bit after it has aired will help you see what worked best/added to the bit (so you can do this more) and what didn’t work/detracted from the bit (so you can eliminate or improve).

Rehearsing will improve the execution and performance end of your show of course and that is important.

But the real reason to rehearse is about something much bigger. The real reason to rehearse is to experiment with new ideas, to transform the “average” into the “inspired,” to create stand-out content, and to expand your skills and the skills of the people you work with beyond where they are now – perhaps even beyond where in your wildest dreams you thought they could go.

Are you thinking about rehearsing in a new light? Are you inspired to give it a try?

Let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Radio, The Box Office and Algebra

Which best describes your last visit to a movie theater: “Good bang for my buck” or “Disappointing?” “Worth every penny” or “overpriced and under-delivered?”

These reactions, according to the just released study “The Modern Movie Experience” conducted jointly by Nielsen Analytics and the Movie Advisory Board, could be paraphrases of the evaluative criteria would-be movie-goers use when deciding whether to part with their money and time to go or not go to a movie theater.

Even more than alternative platforms, the report determined the top reasons for declining movie theater attendances related to a disconnect between the would-be movie-goer’s perceived quality of the entertainment and how much they pay for a ticket both in terms of their money and time (more at

To me, frustrated movie-goers’ disappointment in quality coupled with high costs sounded an awful lot like some of the reasons we’ve heard from people who are spending less time with radio.

Several years ago for fun I invented five math formulae to illustrate the relationship between programming and listening. One formula was: EV>CL – “The Entertainment Value must always exceed the Cost of Listening.”

The greater the positive distance EV is from CL, the greater the potential for listenership, satisfaction, and ratings. Conversely, a minimal or even a negative distance has the potential to significantly reduce listening and open doors to declining ratings.

Some components of high EV radio include strong talent with compelling content, great imaging, the best music (if you play music), services, Values Based Programming, passion, and other elements that “surprise and delight” listeners.

Radio’s CL is increased by clutter, over-commercialization, poor production, imaging that is repetitive or that promotes non-important “attributes,” violating listener expectations, irrelevance, hype, and rarely straying from “the same old thing.”

And just like at the box office, your station’s real and perceived EV or CL has the potential to grow or shrink your audience. A daily EV that greatly exceeds the CL can make your station a “must listen” and your “ticket price” a great value.

You can download a PDF of the Five Formulae at And for more articles, click

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sales Idea from the New York Yankees

Squeezing more cash out of a sold-out inventory is the anticipated outcome of the YES Network’s decision to sell a single, 90-second spot in each of its televised Yankee baseball games. This 90 is priced at a premium for being the only unit in the break and for having some “booth chatter” – presumably something resembling a billboard.

It won't be for everyone, but could a 90 second spot have potential for your station?

A single 90 could be offered daily in one or two non-peak hours (select hours between 10pm-4am and early on Sunday mornings for example) as an incentive to purchase an otherwise undersold daypart. Or a 90 may be useful for a station in the cluster that is having difficulty creating a unique selling proposition for itself. Or a 90 could be used for sponsorship of a long feature – like an hour of a countdown or a half-hour public affairs program.

Be sure to set production guidelines, such as forbidding 60/30 or 30/30/30 piggy-backs. And limit the number you sell to keep their value high; the Yankees are offering only one per day.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Staples' Formatics

Subtraction has led to a big addition at Staples. Last year, profits jumped 18% (Business 2.0, June 2006) at the office supply store, even though there’s a lot less to buy there these days.

Customer research led Staples to simplify their in-store shopping experience. Gone are some 800 non-core items like Britney Spears backpacks. In their place are larger signs pointing to highly desired items, more sales associates trained to direct shoppers to the correct aisles, and an in-stock guarantee on the company’s number one sought-after item – printer cartridges.

“That Was Easy” is now Staples’ campaign to describe their (pardon the phrase) “less is more” shopping experience.

Consider how the Staples strategy could make a positive difference in your programming. Remove items that make listening more difficult than it should be. Be sure you have ample “point-to” promos that highlight your key features and elements and direct listeners to them. And be sure everyone on the team – on air and off – understands the audience’s core expectations and is well-trained in how to deliver listener satisfaction.

A little subtraction could result in some additional ratings.

Monday, May 08, 2006

"Caring" As A Strategy for Managers and Talent

My visit to see my parents this past weekend included a couple of trips to Starbucks and some local radio consumption. Saturday morning I was listening to WIOD’s Aron Bender interview author A. J. Scribante (“Shelf Life: How an Unlikely Entrepreneur Turned $500 into $65 Million in the Grocery Industry) – not because I have designs on doing the same, but because it was what was on my dad’s car radio and I didn’t want to change his pre-sets.

The interview was interesting enough despite a few clich├ęs at the end – one of which was, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

A few minutes later over coffee I opened my monthly email from “The Point” ( which contained a similar-themed article from Susanne Biro, a former barber-turned-executive coach who attributes her success as a stylist not to her scissor skills, but because she fostered a caring relationship with each client. She writes,

…My clients were no longer just clients but rather, we became two people who had genuine respect for one another. And above all, here's what I learned about leadership: more than anything else what we all want is someone to genuinely care about us - to tell us the honest truth, to challenge us, to stop seeing us as our predetermined roles (whether it be CEO or barber) and start seeing us as people with the potential we desperately want to see in ourselves. The key word here is care. When we believe another person genuinely cares about us and our success, we will grant that person concessions we will not grant others…

People are the business of leaders. Our main task is to treat others in such a way that they want to bring all their unique gifts, talents and discretionary effort forward to achieve a collective goal, the goal of the business. And so it is that each of us must master the art of effectively interacting with people in order to get things done. This, perhaps above all else, is the leader's real challenge.

Certainly this is a good reminder for those of us who coach our staffers, helping them to recognize and fully utilize their skills.

However there’s insight here for talent as well. The best talent are often seen by their listeners as having the same characteristics: understanding, respecting and caring about them. In other words, someone with whom they have a one-to-one relationship.

The next time you’re listening to a show, listen for what sounds like a personal conversation between the talent and the listener – a one-to-one dialogue built on mutual interests, insights, understanding, friendship and respect.

And if you want to read about a talent who was a MASTER at one-to-one, visit the articles and archives section at and scroll down to a piece I wrote a few years back called, “42 Years On Top: Six Principles Behind The Success Of One Of America's Greatest Air Talents…Dan Daniel.”

Let me hear about your efforts!


Susanne Biro is Director of Coaching for Bluepoint Leadership Development. She may be reached via email at

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Avoiding TV's Rerun Blues

It’s easy to simply blame new media competition for TV’s on-going ratings slump. But, postulates Media Life’s Kevin Downey (January 5, 2006), TV itself may be its own worst enemy by increasingly relying on reruns.

Downey notes that reruns used to account for about 15% of programming in the early 1980s. Now, amidst and ever increasing amount of media choices, TV’s reruns average 36-43% of non-sweep programming and 21% of programming even during sweeps.

In radio, it’s easy to fall unwittingly into the rerun trap. Elements get created and often hang around for months or even years without significant change.

Make a commitment once a month to listen to your station from a “no reruns” perspective and take appropriate action. Regularly re-evaluate benchmarks and replacing those with diminished impact. Continually freshen up imaging. Put new spins on franchise promotions. Capitalize on short-shelf life phenomenon and events. Regularly write new plotlines into shows.

Take a similar approach to music and regularly adjust category and liner placement in cocks. Sign up for quality artist specials. Be creative with artist drops.

Create web-only content – including variations or extensions of what you’re already airing.

Call or email and we can discuss these and other ideas.

Being proactive will help you avoid TV’s present predicament of “been there, seen that, I’m choosing another entertainment option.”

Friday, April 28, 2006

What If Ron Howard Produced Your Show?

I’m mostly a generator but I like playing the role of reactor, too. So after reading an article titled “Investing Lessons From Hollywood” (kathy kristof, LA Times,, I substituted “Show Development” for “Investing” and came up with the following. Thanks, Kathy for the idea (her words and those of associate producer Alan Haft are in quotes).

“Keep It Simple. When pitching a screen play, you have two minutes… That means all the classic stories can be boiled down to a simple sentence. ‘E.T.’ was about a group of children who help a stranded alien return home, for instance.”

Our bits, contests and features should be able to be communicated in a sentence, too. “The greatest birthday gift you ever received.” “Two McGraws in a row wins the 9th caller two seats for the show.” “Weather and traffic together every ten minutes in the morning.” Think compression and your show will have a faster pace and greater momentum.

“Work Carefully…great directors (use) dozens of takes to get a scene right. It might seem like a lot of time and effort for a few seconds of footage, Haft said, but the right shadow can mean the difference between suspense and boredom.”

The extra time it takes to pre-produce a bit, add compelling audio, archive phone calls, and edit those calls so only the best parts are used, separates a show from a shift. A shift is for assembly line workers – same thing different day. Shows are made fresh and different on a daily basis. Shifts don’t take any time or effort. Shows require lots of both. Shifts aren’t memorable and neither are the people that do them. Big, fat, interesting, engaging shows are memorable, and so are the people that star in them.

“Plan. After a movie gets the green light, its screenplay is broken into dozens of elements, and producers draw up a plan for each. This planning can take years…but it makes a better movie.”

The further out you can plan components of your show, the more likely they are to be compelling. Finding the right phone call, arranging an interview, preparing a stunt, locating special music or sound-effects, and transforming “wouldn’t it be cool” ideas into actual on air components takes time, but the results can be magic. Planning is especially important if you’re ready for the next recommendations, diversification and structure.

“Diversify…studios don’t bet the bank on one genre.”

It takes a lot of different, moving parts to create 20-25 hours a week of must-hear radio. These can include exploiting the day’s hot topic, presenting listeners with a different perspective on something that’s a daily part of their lives, creating opportunities to display a sense of humor or even laugh out loud moments, giving listeners a ‘peek behind your curtain’ perhaps letting them see that you have a heart, presenting information, telling stories, and letting listeners be the stars of your show.

“Don’t reinvent the wheel… many great tales have a common structural foundation.”

Two thoughts: 1) know what you’re best at, and do it as often as you can, and 2) work with a structure but keep pouring fresh material into that structure.

Think about ‘The Late Show’ or ‘The Tonight Show.’ Both shows are highly structured with a monologue, recurring features, and special guests. The dialogue, features and guests change nightly, but the structure remains. Fresh material is poured nightly into the same mold.

Both Letterman and Leno know what they’re best at and capitalize on their best skill sets. The interest comes because they apply their consistent skills to a changing set of circumstances. You can observe the same structural philosophy in any good ensemble cast from ‘Seinfeld’ to ‘Bones.’ The circumstances and plot lines change, but the interest comes from how the characters’ basic behavioral traits deal with these changes.

Understand your strengths and exploit them. Use planning meetings and assignment lists to insure you’re gathering enough content to give your skills ample opportunities to shine. And employ a slotting sheet or other device to keep your structural framework in place and make it easy to pour in great content.

See if adopting some of Hollywood’s thinking could give your show additional ‘blockbuster’ status. Or just ask yourself, “What would Ron Howard do with my show?”

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Being There

A while back I wrote at length about Value Based Programming. One of the tenets I addressed was the importance of providing a unique and personal experience for listeners. Listeners want one-to-one not "from the stage." They desire stations to understand who they are and what they want and create programming accordingly, not simply deliver a "one size fits all" product (think Swatch and Tryvertising).

It's not just listeners of course who are looking for a sense of community (think Starbucks to "MySpace") and something special and personal when they encounter your station in person.

Here's an article from Trendwatching that offers multiple examples of businesses that are doing both.