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.”