Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Old Yeller

Yesterday I took a challenge.

Inspired by Roy H. Williams’ Monday Morning Memo about the decreased value of an online Yellow Pages listing vs. radio advertising for acquiring new customers, I Googled three generic business categories in twelve client markets to see what came up. Specifically I was looking to see if I achieved the same results as Roy suggested I would - a relatively low search engine ranking for online Yellow Pages ads. My assumption was that, if true, this might be helpful in a station AE’s next presentation.

I chose as business categories restaurants, plumbers and jewelers and preceded each Google search by the city’s name. The results varied by category and market but only once in the 36 searches did the Yellow Pages link rank in the top 5 (5th for jewelers in one market).

Across the 12 markets, the overall Yellow Pages search engine ranking averaged 9th for plumbers, 16th for jewelers and 27th for restaurants.

The restaurant search had the widest Yellow Page variance, ranging from a rank of 10 in one market to 92 in another. Only four markets saw Yellow Pages rankings for each of the three businesses within 10 positions of each other. No market had a top 10 Yellow Page ranking for all three business categories.

If you have prospects citing their digital Yellow Pages listing a a reason not to buy radio, you may want to check their YP search engine rankings. Your findings might support Roy’s assertion that many people aren’t seeing online Yellow Pages ads and that “…money spent in the Yellow Pages (and their associated websites) is basically wasted.”

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Some "In The Box" Thinking

The best place for some of our Christmas decorations is back in that box in the basement that they’ve been stored in.

At our house, Christmas decorations generally fall into three categories: 1) those, new or old, that evoke memories, look good on display and compliment/enhance our home’s holiday feel, 2) those that evoke memories but have seen better days; too precious to throw away, they’re usually taken out, reminisced about, then returned to the box until next year, and 3) those that since last Christmas are now too dated, faded, or otherwise impaired and are, at last, ready for that final sleigh ride to the landfill.

Christmas music on the radio falls into similar categories: 1) songs, new or old, that listeners look forward to, that fit within the overall context of your station, and enhance the listening experience, 2) songs (or artists, styles, lyrics, production, etc.) that may at one time been an important part of the holiday programming but now simply ‘take up space,’ and 3) songs that no longer have relevance or make sense given the larger station picture.

Last year we conducted an online test of almost 300Christmas titles. Scores for songs in the top third averaged 23% higher than scores for songs in the middle third and 63% higher than song scores in the bottom third.

Any holiday songs or imaging or programming on your air that would honestly be better off in a box?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Of Politicians and Programmers

Smart programmers are like smart politicians.

This month’s gubernatorial election in New Jersey (insert joke here) saw incumbent Jon Corzine unseated by Republican Chris Christie. Some post-mortem election quotes and observations from the Newark Star Ledger included:

“Despite spending millions, Corzine’s inability to connect with the core was his downfall.”

“…Corzine was badly crippled by a failure to marshal forces including a failure to get out the vote in places…typically key” to victory.

“You just don’t get the vote out at election time and be successful. It has to be a year-round communication, a year-round interaction.”

“He was totally isolated... and surrounded himself by people who were totally isolated…”

Areas of Corzine support in the last election “…were turning away or worse – not turning out at all.”

Exit polls showed that the former Governor “…lost the confidence of too many voting groups his campaign had no expectation of losing.”

Ouch! Could any of this be said about our relationships with our listeners? Or are we more like…

Obama Campaign Manager David Poluffe, whose strategy memo cited as advantages having “the largest and most committed grassroots organization in the race,” an “enthusiasm gap” between Obama and other candidates, and a candidate who is “most clearly synched up with the electorate”

Karl Rove, whose strategy included a “careful identification of Bush voters and continuing contact” to increase the number of people who identified themselves as Republicans thus building a support base incrementally, and then firing that base up to take action.

Hillary Clinton who, when her husband was still considering his Presidential candidacy, felt it was extremely important that Bill be perceived as involved, not isolated from voters. "Bill and I have lived in an extraordinarily personal political environment," she said. "We love the opportunity to go out there and talk to people and listen to them. If a campaign does not teach the candidate, then how can people feel like they have any part of it?" As Matthew Saal wrote in 1993, “What Clinton had that was special was an ability to make a personal connection with voters.”

Business and executive consultant Peter Cicero sums his marketing/sales strategy this way: market to people by understanding who they are, sell them by knowing what they want.

Sounds like what succesful politicians and programmers do.

If you don't have something similar in place already, adopt a “political strategy” for 2010 that includes furthering your understanding of your prospects’ values, lifestyles, and tastes; connecting and communicating with them in evermore regular and meaningful ways; and empowering and mobilizing your base.

Yes we’re busy and no we don’t have a big (or any) research budget, but with 60-70% of most stations’ AQH coming from P1s, making connections with our constituents and leveraging in-house resources a priority will absolutely pay off.

If you need help developing your plan, just give a call.

It’s almost always much more fun to make a victory speech than a concession.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

One Video, Four Benefits

Doing good for others. Having fun. Getting noticed. Enhancing your brand.

One well-done video. Four big benefits.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

PM in the AM and PM

There isn’t much in life to which a baseball analogy can’t be applied. I was reminded of that as I read Paul Jacobs’ recent post on Life Lessons from the Detroit Tigers.

The Minnesota-Detroit playoff game proved to be the first of what so far has been a terrific post-season of lead changes and momentum swings - which brings me to the topic of Psychological Momentum – the perception that one or more factors, positive or negative, help create a particular outcome.

Jim Taylor’s and Andrew Demick’s “A Multidimensional Model of Momentum in Sports” defines “PM” as a “positive or negative change in cognition, affect, psychology, and behavior caused by an event or series of events” that together bring about a positive outcome. They point to a six-part “momentum chain:” a precipitating event; changes in cognition, physiology, and affect; a change in behavior; a change in performance; a contiguous and opposing change for the opponent; and a change in the outcome.

(If you want a quick read on this and more on PM in general, check out this terrific piece from Dan Peterson.)

If you root for a team, you’ve probably felt more than once a true-or-not intuition that one team now has things going “their way” and seems to be playing with more confidence while the other team is back on their heels appearing more desperate than self-assured.

To be sure, PM also has critics who can cite studies that refute the theory.

But I’m on the same side of the fence as sports psychologist Jeff Greenwald who, in “Riding the Wave of Momentum,” says momentum gives players a “heightened sense of confidence… the most important aspect of peak performance” and that this improved self-efficacy can help take “the ‘performer self’ to a higher level.” Greenwald suggests that champions not only capitalize on momentum, they ratchet up their game. He also notes that great players more quickly perceive when momentum begins to shift and make adjustments before their opponents.

Perhaps you’ve seen PM at your station. A precipitating event like a new hire, a great promotion, or some highly effective occurs that elevates the perceptions of employees that causes a change in behavior and performance. Suddenly the staff is working with more intensity or creativity, displaying a greater level of confidence, and delivering a noticeably improved performance.

These are the times, as Greenwald suggests, to “pour it on.”

In 1996, while playing with the Yankees, Mariano Duncan coined the phrase, “We play today, we win today. ‘Das it.” The phrase became a mantra for the Yankees with many players wearing it on t-shirts under their uniform. That was the year the Yanks came back from losing the first two games of the ’96 World Series – at home – to the Atlanta Braves before turning it around and winning the next four and their 23rd world championship.

Whether or not you buy into PM in sports, I’ll be you’ve heard and seen something special in stations whose people believe they have PM going for them.

Can you create some Psychological Momentum today?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How To Wynn In Vegas

Garth is coming out of retirement.


Beginning December 11 and running through the end of February, he’ll do 15 one-man weekend shows at the Wynn Las Vegas at $125 a pop.

A few fast facts on Garth…

...Garth has sold over 128 million CDs.

...In 2007, he passed Elvis to become the top selling solo artist in US history.

...His 2008 release, “The Ultimate Hits” finished 10th on Billboard’s list of best selling CDs for the year.

...In our last A&O Gold sort, Garth had eight songs among the top 100 testers.

I’m always excited when country grabs headlines and when one of our acts gets on a marquis (check out the Wynn’s home page).

On your gold list or not, and without any current music, I’m glad to hear that Garth’s performing again.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Curious Times

In a 5-year study of more than 7,000 growth companies, author and former CEO Keith McFarland found that a common characteristic of the best performing companies was that they employed people who were curious.

Curious people are generally interesting people. They’re problem solvers, idea generators, innovators and experimenters. They draw others to them because they help us to see our world through fresh eyes.

Jim Canterucci, author of “Personal Brilliance” says curiosity is “actively exploring your environment, asking questions, investigating possibilities, and possessing a sense of both wonder and doubt.”

Curiosity includes a love of learning, growing and self-improvement, a willingness to break routines and try new things, a fascination with alternative points of view, the ability to recognize things that are worthy of further consideration and thinking about things from an unconventional perspective.

Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

I’ve always considered curiosity to be an important trait of a great talent (and an equally important trait for leaders in radio or any industry).

Curiosity is not inborn. While it may take an initial conscious effort, you can cultivate your curiosity in the same way you can develop a new habit.

Here are a few ways to increase your level of curiosity:

• Don’t take things for granted or at face value. Ask “What if…” The better the quality of your questions, the more interesting the answers will be.
• Try connecting things that aren’t normally connected.
• Think about something from three different points of view.
• Break a routine and note your experiences.
• Deliberately study your (and your listeners’) world each day; as you go through your day, look for life’s oddities and trivialities that would make for an interesting conversation. Practice turning these into stories.
• List things you feel you ought to know about and make a commitment to improve your knowledge.
• Spend time with other curious people.

Positive Psychologist Chris Peterson has found that along with gratitude, zest, hope, and the capacity to love, curiosity is one of the strengths most closely related to greatest life satisfaction. It has also been found in at least one study to be associated with a long life.

Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Sounds like an exciting way to live on AND off the air, don’t you think?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Next Torchbearer

I was at the Stadium Wednesday night when Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig’s record for most hits as a Yankee. And I watched Friday night as the Captain became the Yankees’ all time hit leader.

I never saw Gehrig play of course, although his story is well documented and his place in Yankee (and baseball) history secure.

Still, I was rooting for Derek to break the record because Jeter is in the generation of players I’ve seen, heard and rooted for.

Gehrig was my Dad’s (and his Dad’s) superstar.

Each generation wants its own heroes, people who will speak for them.

This is certainly true in music, too.

Who are the artists your current generation of listeners are seeing, hearing and rooting for?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Promotional Opportunism

Chance favors the prepared mind,” was how Louis Pasteur saw his abilities to invent and innovate. Dr. Richard Hamming, a scientist at Bell Labs told his colleagues, “The prepared mind sooner or later finds something to do and does it.”

How many times have you seen or heard you something that was right before your eyes but you never previously noticed until someone opportunistically embraced and exploited it?

Similarly, some of the best promotions are born of opportunistic circumstances. Just in time for today’s economic realities and courtesy of Trend Central are three ideas for fun-on-the-cheap - one from a corporation, one from a group of friends and one from an individual.

• Dumpster Diving. This has taken on a new meaning in Brooklyn, NY as Macro Sea has converted old dumpsters into urban swimming pools – complete with decks – and set them up in empty lots and backyards for no charge fun. The dumpsters have been cleaned and lined to keep their past history from seeping into the present.

• DIY Art Show. Some Brooklyn-based artists set up a display of their sculptures on a rooftop where their friends could make like the upper crust at an art show only without the expensive formal wear and toasts with 40s instead of Champaign.

• Make your own home Tiki bar. Or maybe ‘tacky’ bar would be more like it. One man’s night out at the bar is another’s stay-at-home good time. His basement bar was constructed from used/discarded wood and bar stools, Christmas lights, an old TV that plays an amateur loop of fish swimming, and various thrift store decorations.

Observation, timing, the ability to shelve existing plans, and recognizing that "random forces often conspire to make things ridiculously easy just as often as they conspire to create hurricanes and earthquakes…” are traits of an opportunist.

What do you see around you that could be the spring board for a talk-generating, opportunistic promotion?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rules of the Road

I’ve owned a few Chryslers and Dodges in my time so the slideshow “Chrysler: What It Was, What It Is, and What It Could Have Been” caught my eye.

The slides feature Chryslers new and old, and the accompanying text recounts some company highs and lows.

Scrolling through, several recurring themes jumped out at me.

• Rushing things to market by cutting corners usually results in failure.

• Maintaining the status quo not only forfeits a chance at leadership but
allows competitors to leave you behind.

• Getting things “half right” doesn’t make you “half successful.”

• Create what people want to buy. Developing high-demand products for previously un- or under-served segments of the marketplace pays big dividends. Of course this requires intimacy with the market.

• While “new for the sake of being new” may satisfy some internal company goal, it’s “timely innovation” (the right idea at the right time for a receptive consumer) that brings flush times.

• There’s a success/failure cycle: innovate, maintain the status quo, be outmoded (repeat cycle).

• Innovation is frequently rooted in simplicity.

I’m especially excited about the last bullet.

Are you, like me, encouraged to review all aspects of your product looking for simple innovations?

Where will you start?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Faces of the Fourth

We were first attracted to Milltown, NJ as much by what wasn’t here as what was. And what’s still missing remains one of the appeals.

There wasn’t/isn’t much crime or chains or traffic or industry or high-rises. To date our borough of about 7000 still doesn’t have a Wal-Mart, a movie theater, a McDonald's, or a high school. You can find all these within a few miles of course, but they're not here in Milltown.

What we do have is a barber shop, a hardware store, a taxidermist, and a place to buy an ice cream cone on a summer night. There are streets with sidewalks, several good sized parks and paved path which winds along the lake/river that cuts through the middle of town.

But Milltown is at its Norman Rockwell best on the 4th of July. There’s a fishing derby, a fun run, and a parade featuring Veterans’ groups from Milltown and neighboring towns, local boy and girl scouts troops, antique cars, and what must be every fire truck and emergency vehicle within a 20 mile radius that has a working siren.

Post-parade, the colors are presented at Borough Park and an afternoon of entertainment, kids’ rides and free hot dogs and birch beer continues until the fireworks start at 9:30.

This year, I captured a lot of the day in pictures. Not surprisingly, the most interesting photos were of people.

I took one shot of what might have been a middle-aged woman and her 20-something daughter, laughing hysterically while riding on a spinning carnival ride clearly intended for kids. I imagined one dared the other with some back and forth dialogue like, “Remember how much fun this was when we were kids?" and "I don’t care if someone laughs, they won’t be laughing harder than you and me!”

There’s one of a guy juggling while riding a five foot unicycle and trading barbs with onlookers. What possessed him to want to do this? How do you practice to be good at this? His legs must be tired; there are hills on the parade route! And he’s cracking jokes, too!

I took some shots of the Mummers that marched, wondering how much their elaborate costumes must weigh (and cost) and how hard they must be to care for.

And then there are my two favorite pictures – one of a pair of long-retied firemen, in full dress uniform, sitting in the shade outside the Main Street Firehouse, talking quietly amidst the activities swirling around them. Perhaps they were recalling past moments of bravery or fellow firefighters now long gone.

But my favorite picture was of a Milltown Vet/Legionnaire, returned from marching at the head of the parade, now sitting and taking in the rest of the procession with his kids and what I assume were his grandkids that was my favorite. There was enough in his face and eyes to fill a book – or a several incredible breaks on a show the Monday after the 4th.

I tried to be extra observant yesterday because knew I wanted to blog today about my 4th of July (that's also what I would have done if I was going to be on the air tomorrow). I wanted to have some interesting stories to tell when people ask, as they will, “How was your 4th?”

I wanted to be ready to participate in what is going to be the number one talk about for many. I wanted to be prepared to share some stories to share about my town, its people, and the way we celebrate Independence Day. I wanted to think about how to frame them so that you'll readily recognize YOUR town and YOUR experiences in my stories - you versions of memorable people and their stories because I'm certain that there are a lot of interesting citizens and stories in your town that I too would find interesting and relatable.

Reports are about facts; stories are about feelings. What interesting stories will you have prepared to share with your friends and listeners about your 4th?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Book Packagers. Who Knew?

I’d never heard of a ‘book packager’ until I read Seth Godin’s blog Monday.

What struck me about the packager’s job description and skill requirements was how applicable many are to being a great air talent.

“…find isolated assets and connect them in a way that creates value, at the same time…put in the effort to actually ship the product out of the door.”

“The skills you bring to the table are vision, taste and a knack for seeing what's missing. You also have to be a project manager, a salesperson and the voice of reason, the person who brings the entire thing together and to market without it falling apart.”

If you have an air staff that has or will embrace these skills, I’m thinking you have or have the makings of a strong group of talent.

If you’re intrigued, read the whole blog especially numbers 3, 5 and 8 of Seth’s 9 rules of thumb.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Speaking Like the Prez

Communications coach Steve Adubato analyzed President Obama’s inaugural speech and offered his thoughts/take-aways. I distilled Steve's column to six bullets – many of which are common areas of growth for talent:

• Be focused; have a clear theme
• Be brief; don’t confuse quantity with quality
• Disagreeing is OK but being disagreeable isn’t
• Own your content; speak from your heart rather than someone else’s script
• Challenge the audience to look inward/become emotionally involved in what you’re saying instead of just talking at them
• Speak with confidence; share what you care about in a way that makes me care too

Listen to your airchecks in light of these bullets to see if any of the President’s techniques would improve your communication skills.