Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Plans and New Year's Resolutions

What do people like to do most over the holidays? For nearly 2/3rds of adults it’s spending time with family and friends – that’s according to a Harris poll of 2,455 adults cited by Media Life Magazine. Next: going to holiday dinners and parties (9%), finding and giving presents (6%), and watching TV specials and hearing holiday songs on the radio (4%).

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, losing weight continues to be number one, although reports the percent of people set on shedding pounds (27%) is down from 31% last year. Other goals include personal growth and interest (15%), personal finance (15%), career (12%) and education and training (9%).

Consider these stats as you create last minute Christmas and New Year’s imaging and promotions.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Remembering (or not) Your Best Christmas Gifts

Reporting that 41% of people can’t remember the best gift they received last Christmas, a company called has set out to change that by selling gifts that won’t easily be forgotten. The company’s ‘experiential gifts’ – gifts that require active participation by the recipient – include balloon and helicopter rides, rafting and skydiving, high performance driving adventures, dinner with an NFL player, gourmet cooking, tea tasting and more.

That got me thinking about some of my own most memorable gifts – those given to me by others and those I’ve given myself. The first ones that came to my mind were ones where I was an active participant rather than a passive recipient. I recalled both my experience and the way that experience made me feel.

It’s not too much of a stretch to think that listeners’ positive experiences with us could improve their recall, too.

That would be a memorable gift to for everyone.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Doing Good and Getting Noticed

“Save the World” is one of the Six Tenants of Values Based Programming I penned a few years back when taking a long range look at what factors will drive future station success. Of course saving “the world” can be literal as in big corporation's Green Plans, or more local as in your listeners’ immediate environment.

I recently learned about CHASHAMA – a New York City arts organization that supports artists of all types by converting vacant properties into galleries, studios, window performance sites, etc.

Right now I’ll bet there are malls or strip malls with an empty store or two, or maybe even an unused kiosk. Wouldn’t you and the mall be heroes if you arranged a holiday photo or kids’ art display celebrating the joys of the season in your town, or even something more ambitious like kids’ school plays or local community theatre efforts to be featured in a window performance?

Making even a small corner of the world a better place and getting noticed for doing so is a big win-win.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Karl Rove, Radio Consultant

Former senior advisor and deputy chief of staff for President Bush Karl Rove lists five actions he feels Republicans must take if they are to beat Hillary Clinton in November.

Read the bullet points and see if you don’t agree that Karl’s recommendations are also relevant for our stations and circumstances.

  1. Plan now to introduce yourself again right after winning the nomination. Rove cautions candidates not to assume everyone knows them or what they’ve done, and he encourages them to create a “narrative that explains your life and commitments.”
  2. Stay authentic in terms of what you believe
    Highlight core convictions that help people understand who you are as a candidate, and that set up a natural contrast with Clinton “both on style and substance.” Authenticity is imperative.
  3. Tackle issues families care about and Republicans too often shy away from.
    Understand voter concerns and be bold yet credible in how you will approach and address these issues.
  4. Go after people who aren’t traditional Republicans
    Ask for everyone’s vote. Be seen as trying hard.
  5. Be strong on Iraq
    Recast difficult questions about Iraq so that they encompass a broader picture of future leadership.

Authenticity, clearly conveying what you’re about and why you are different and special, understanding would-be constituents’ needs and wants and satisfying them, being accessible, visible and involved, and being perceived as a leader – these also sound like qualities of a successful radio station.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How Does Your Station Smell

Scientists (and retailers) know that smells, sounds -- even the color of the walls – make a difference when a customer is ready to buy.

Clothing stores for example that incorporate appropriately fun music, a pleasing physical environment and racks that are frequently replenished with the latest fashions sell more apparel at higher prices. Some might consider this nefarious but retailers say it’s just a way to provide consumers with an environment that makes them want to spend more time (and money) in their stores.

Consider the type of overall “in-store experience” your environment (music, staging, execution, talent and other basics) and merchandise racks (content of all types) are creating. If your station was a store, would your environment encourage or discourage shopping?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Retail Reports a "Dearth of Talent"

Today’s Wall Street Journal (August 1, 2007) featured an article claiming the “retail industry is suffering a dearth of talent.”

“Often, what retailing experts are talking about when they talk about lack of
talent is a growing – some would say excessive - reliance on management skills.
As in industries ranging from Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Wall Street,
tension has always existed…between creative types – merchants – and bean
counters: managers. In recent years, managers have gained the upper hand as
Wal-Mart-driven efficiencies…have pushed an ever-growing percentage of American retail space into warehouses touting little more than low price."

Similar “dearth of talent” laments certainly aren’t uncommon in our industry either.

As PDs spend more time in the “management” mode, it’s increasingly important that we help them set aside creative time so they can make full use the right side of their brains as well as their left.

Because the roles of programmers require both analytic and creative skills, let’s hire accordingly. And, having done so, let’s insure that our “whole brain” thinkers build into their schedules time to think creatively, time to translate those thought into actions so that magic can happen on the air, time to coach and cultivate personalities who enhance the magic, and time to create a station that listeners and advertisers put on their “must hear/must have” lists.

In the parlance of the WSJ, let’s help our programmers be both the creative “merchant” as well as the managerial “bean counter.”
“’s worth remembering…that Sam Walton was an exquisite merchant. He staged donkey rides at newly opened stores.”

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Gotta give it to Ben and Jerry’s. They’ve turned one talk-about into two, and in so doing, made themselves the center of attention.

Ben and Jerry’s will introduce a special donut flavored ice cream in honor of the Simpson’s movie that premieres this month. But don’t look for it in your store. The company says it’s only going to be out for one day and will only be available in one town (Springfield, VT).

As a talk-about, this is brilliant. And apparently the effort and expense in capturing the moment – and reaping the resulting publicity – are worth it to the company.

How much easier it is for us to capture the moment! We don’t have to mobilize a workforce to re-tool a factory in order to produce our consumable product. We just have to imagine it and talk about it.

When we talk about what others are talking about in a unique, creative, fun, interesting and interactive way, we create a sense of community where we’re talked about, too.

Of course the Simpson’s movie won’t be everyone’s biggest talk-about (although donuts and ice cream in the summer have a pretty universal appeal).

Besides, the real value of talk-abouts may be less about being “in the moment” and more about creating, on a daily basis, opportunities for listeners to feel connected to us and to each other.

Opportunistic talent find solid talk-abouts every day – from big ones like the release of the final Harry Potter book to little ones like a hometown hero, road construction, unusual weather, or the first day of school.

Want more people talking about you? Add a pint of Carpe Diem to your show (as well as to your imaging and contesting) on a daily basis. Pass out spoons to listeners and let them dig in.

Mmmm…good radio.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Value of Speed

The turning point in last night’s All Star Game wasn’t a Barry Bonds blast (although his early drive to the warning track was a delicious tease). It was when Ichiro Suzuki’s legs shifted into over-drive resulting in the first-ever, All Star Game’s inside-the-park home run.

Speed – if not the factor – was certainly a factor in extending the AL’s unbeaten streak to 11 games and making Ichiro the game’s MVP.

Speed – or the lack thereof - can be a major factor in programming, too. It’s not just about beating a competitor to the punch; it’s about acting and reacting quickly to opportunities – especially the fleeting ones.

What’s hot today that you can capitalize on?

Harry Potter, Radio Programmer

As the Harry Potter saga prepares to conclude after 10 years, let’s consider a few things Harry learned at Hogwarts that could apply to how we program our stations (yelling “Expelliarmus” at competitor’s tower doesn’t count).

  • Wonderful, magical things lurk just beneath the ordinary, but you must take an active role to bring them to light. Magic happens because you were prepared to make it happen. Have a deliberate plan to make magic happen regularly on your station.
  • It’s not only your abilities, but what you choose to do with them that are the true measures of your character. Have a bias toward action. Until something happens, it’s only good intentions.
  • People with whom you’ve built strong relationships will be there for you, often just when you them the most. Nurture relationships with listeners, co-workers, and friends.
  • Doing the right thing can often mean doing the hardest thing. Leadership isn’t for the feint of heart. Be prepared to make tough decisions for the overall good.
  • Practice ‘Legilimency.’ Past experiences can give perspective and insight to current circumstances. Take a moment to apply what you already know to better understand/interpret new challenges.
  • The seeking and sharing of knowledge go hand in hand. Learn from or be an Albus Dumbledore.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


What are the names of some of the people who’ve waited on you at McDonalds? Or the cashiers at the supermarket where you shop? Or the person who reads your water meter?

We see it all the time, but it’s still mildly shocking (and discouraging) to see the blank expressions on the faces of people in focus groups when we ask the radio version of the same question – “tell me the names of some of the DJs you listen to.”

In a recall universe, such memory paralysis is never a good thing.

Here are five ideas to help talent be more memorable:

  1. Make content “unique-to-you” by approaching topics in a way other than the “first right answer” which is what most talent in the market will come up with. All penguins look pretty much the same.
  2. Let listeners see more of the “real” you. It’s near impossible to remember what you don’t know or understand, nor will you make accurate recollections of things that are fuzzy in your mind. Same for things you don’t care about. Make me care about you as a person and I’ll be more likely to remember you as a talent I’ve listened to.
  3. Similarly, use personal appearances and one-on-one opportunities (even on the phone) to deliberately engage listeners you meet on as personal a level as they will allow. The power of one-on-one is a double-edged sword; you’re going to be perceived as aloof or engaging. You pick.
  4. Create benchmarks that are in line with listeners’ values, expectations, station image and you personally. If I’m listening to the station for something I like and the talent heightens that experience, I’m more likely to recall that talent – and in a positive way.
  5. Become a more interesting talker. Replace “geek talk” (minutiae, execution, rules, etc) with phrasing that paints mental pictures, creates associations, or tackles topics in a fresh, surprising way. Imagine how you’d tell a friend about a great meal or funny experience you had, or about a most interesting person you recently met. You’ll cut through the wasteland of “DJ talk,” clich├ęs and hype.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Periodically reviewing your assets and how they’re being managed is good financial AND programming advice.

Listeners are often “top-line information” evaluators, being aware of only a limited number of things about your station and basing their listening decisions on these and little else. Hopefully what they know about you minimally includes your biggest plus points, those valuable station components that you nurture and leverage.

Here are six common assets you’ll want to manage to insure sure listeners know (and love) these top-line things about your station:

Talent – they’re friends who have a bond with listeners, real people they’d like to have a beer or a cup of coffee with, to talk over some of their commonalities, and let others know they’re on a “personal” relationship level. The morning show is strong, but all shows are always interesting because they’re always well-prepared. Listeners are given compelling reasons to tune in tomorrow because the content is always pre-promoted and occasionally episodic.

Music – the quality leader in your format, well-married to the targets’ tastes, consistent yet with good variety as defined by the target, and competitive in quantity.

Stationality – from creative, “fun to listen to” execution, to an imaging style all your own, to on-air talent camaraderie across all dayparts, there’s an “X” factor that is obvious when you turn the station on.

Listener Involvement – from letting the audience co-create content with you to allowing them to voice their opinions. This is very on-trend.

Quality Benchmarks – regularly scheduled, highly desired features which create tune-in and recall. For some stations this will also include services.

Station Footprint – this is the essence of your station: larger than life, a fun, compelling, “must-hear everyday,” high-touch, highly visible, community-immersed companion, always prepared.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Resolving" to be a Better Programmer

Seven years ago I wrote "25 New Year’s Resolutions for PDs and OMs." It generated a lot of positive feedback and many said they referred to it throughout the year.

Each December since then, I’ve made it a tradition to add five new resolutions to the original list. This year's additions bring the total to 55.

Here are 5 of my favorites (you can get 5 more at Try some that you think will have the biggest, most positive impact on your station and on your personal and professional life.

Have a wonderful and safe New Years, and a personally and professionally rewarding 2007! And sometime during the upcoming year, I'd love to hear how the resolutions you selected worked out.

1. Resolve not to manage by crisis. Create and adhere to a personal, daily schedule that insures each day's most important tasks -- the ones that will truly move the station forward -- will be completed.

2. Resolve to be "immediate." Maintain a mindset of, "How can I get this on the air right now?"

3. Be a “Hijacker.” Find ways to put yourself in the middle of what everyone is talking about in order to steal the limelight.

4. Spend more time in the “design process.” Too often, in the excitement of “doing,” insufficient time is spent in the “blueprint” phase. This can lead to too many instances of “this would have been bigger if we” or “we should planned for,” etc.

5. Everyday, make a conscious decision to enjoy your job, to have fun at work and to create a positive environment for those around you. The attitude you choose each day will be reflected back to you from your co-workers. If you would really rather do something other than radio, you should do it. But if you're going to continue in our industry, don't live in the past, dwell on what you don’t have, or get dragged into the depressing lair and unproductive lamentations of malcontents. If you do, you'll be unable to see the opportunities that lie ahead. Even worse, you'll miss the magic, joys and triumphs that happen around you everyday.