Monday, March 31, 2008

Everything I Know About Radio I Learned From Baseball

By Mike O'Malley

OK, that’s completely untrue of course.

But baseball does provide endless analogies and, with Opening Day 2008 today, I was thinking about baseball axioms that can also apply to radio. Here are five.

If you have a good fastball, throw it

The fastball is the ‘mother pitch’ from which nearly all others pitches evolve. Pitchers who can command their fastball control the game. Fastballs help hold runners on base. Sinking fastballs induce double plays. Fastballs thrown to different parts of the strike zone keep hitters off balance.

Even when a batter knows the fastball is coming, they can be kept off balance with a two-seam and a four-seam version, and when the fastball is thrown to different parts of the strike zone.

Breaking pitches are great, but it’s the fastball that’s baseball’s number one pitch.

Think of your station’s fastball as is its true competitive advantage. It’s what you’re famous for, what sets you apart. It’s what you’re going to use to beat a competitor. It’s the pitch you know best, the one you’ve mastered, the one you should throw most often.

Throw your fastball when you’re in command of the game to hold down and demoralize the opposition. Throw your fastball when a game starts to get away from you and you need to go back to the basics and regain control.

While you may have a couple of other pitches you can throw, when you throw your fastball correctly, you’ll control the game.

A strong bench makes a big difference

Your superstars play nearly every day and usually get the majority of everyone’s attention. But over a season, you won’t be as successful without a strong bench.

The best managers make everyone feel important and useful. They keep them mentally as well as physically ready to contribute to the team’s success, and put them into situations where they can have personal success and help the team at the same time.

Every radio station has bench players: weekenders, promotional staff, and people in other departments whose contributions can make a huge difference. The time you spend with them – ideally one-on-one – will pay huge dividends. Keep them in the loop. Make them part of the programming community. Find reasons to deliberately insert them into situations where they can be successful and their contributions valued.

Nobody bats a thousand

Despite hours of practice, preparation and an incredibly strong set of skills, outs happen to great hitters. But each at bat that doesn’t result in a base can provide information for the next at bat which is why many players use digital video to study themselves and each other.

Studying the minutiae of mechanics or tendencies may be tedious, but it promotes understanding of what could be done the next time to improve the chances for success including, if necessary, making adjustments.

Our version of ‘game film’ is ratings data. Studying ratings data trends can help stations understand why their last performance was good or not, more likely to be real or a fluke. It can expose specific areas that either require attention to grow, or are significant contributors to success that must be defended.

Some stations have perceptual information which gives added perspective to ratings data.

Players who study themselves and opponents claim an advantage. Similarly, stations that have studied their game films know how they got to where they are have a much better chance of getting where they want to go.

Touch ‘em all

Don’t be so busy watching the ball go out of the park that you forget to touch all four bases.

Look at the big picture as well as the granular. Solely focusing on one to the exclusion of the other will lead to headaches of massive proportions.

Play country hardball

Baseball announcers seem to love this expression. They use it when a team is going all out, playing to the edges, scrapping, doing anything and everything to win.

Teams that play hardball believe that anything is better than losing. Teams that play hardball have players who give Herculean efforts, take bold chances, have a ‘take no prisoners’ attitudes, and – with their goal in sight – never, ever let up.

Every market has stations that play hardball. They never miss an opportunity. They’re relentless. They’re intimidating. They’re openly envied. They win. Hopefully they’re you.

Got some of your own you’d like to add?