Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quick Checklist for A-B-ing Your Competitors

This week we got a preview of a new study of PPM data from Arbitron in conjunction with Mediabase and Inside Radio which showed country stations, whether ranked first or tenth, had similar patterns of spinning currents.

Regarding the percent of top-10-charted songs played IR notes, “The percentages hardly vary whether the station is No. 1 in 25-54 (18% of spins) ranked No. 2 - No. 5 (17%) or ranked No. 6 - No. 10 (16%).”

There was less difference in the percent of songs spun that were charted between 11 and 20 and no difference in percent of played songs that had chart positions between 21 and 50. 

No surprise. 

When comparing country stations in a market I typically have a longer list of differences not related to current music.

Here are some common differentiating factors/branding elements to listen for when A-B-ing or looking for competitive opportunities:

1.    Non-current music characteristics: Chronology, Tempo, Core Artists and their exposure

2.    Commercials:  Load, execution, quality. Are there differences listeners will readily pick up on?

3.    Talent: Uniquely enhancing the listening experience or detracting for it or simply invisible?

4.    “Feel Good” factor

5.    The “Buffet Line:” What’s on it and what percent of it would I come back for/did I really want to consume?

6.    Promotional activity

7.    Stationality/Imaging

8.    “It” factor: Intangibles that cause me to believe I’ve made the best/most relevant/best values-match choice.

9.    Degree to which my pre-tune-in expectations were met.

Have something to share that differentiates your station or a competitor?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Row-Five Test

Gordon M. Bethune’s name was painted on the Triple-Seven at the gate next to mine.


If you’re not familiar with the name, Gordon Bethune was Continental Airline’s CEO during their turn-around and for a number of years after. During this time their customer-focused initiatives turned customers into real fans of the airline and the man running it (I’ve been a Continental evangelist for many years).

Gordon’s book, “From Worst to First” chronicles Continental’s about-face. It’s a fun read (especially if you fly) while serving up a good bit of management common sense – one piece of which, “The Row-Five Test” is the subject of this blog.

The Row-Five Test is simply about finding out what the customer sitting in Row Five values and is willing to pay for, and then giving it to him. At the same time, the Row-Five Test ideally prevents force-feeding customers things they neither need nor want - and then charging them for it.

Tom Asacker’s blog  this week had a related take. Consumers determine ‘value’ based on what he or she “feels he is getting in exchange for his time, attention, and money" adding, "whoever develops and delivers the best evolving composite of value, for their particular audience, wins.”

What value are listeners placing on your station’s offerings?

Before the end of the year, take an inventory of what’s on the air. One at a time, evaluate each in terms of how listeners perceive its value. Will they feel it's worth 'paying extra for’ in time or attention, sitting through extra commercials or not hearing one of their favorite songs?

Lists will be different across stations and listeners themselves will have a different hierarchies of what they feel has worth.  Populating a list is easy; constantly keeping the audience's perspective as you work through it is the challenge because it's so easy to mingle what’s valuable to us with what’s valuable to listeners.

The danger in doing that of course is that we could be “charging” listeners for things that fail the Row-Five Test.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


The company’s mission is to hire the best person for the job. Your mission is to BE that person.  Don’t let application missteps become part of the equation.
Yesterday my partner Jaye Albright posted a ‘how to hire’ blog. This blog is about ‘how to improve your chances of being hired.’
With the help of Talent Coaches Tommy Kramer and Randy Lane , here are five ideas.

Lead with your strongest material.

The expression “there’s no soft opening in show business” couldn’t be truer when it comes to your audio presentation.
Tommy advises, “Put your best stuff FIRST. No "introducing" yourself or "building up" to your best stuff. Most people listen for about 30 seconds, and make the decision right then about whether they want to hear any more. (Just like listeners do.) I want to hear your WORK.”

Randy concurs, “The order of your content is critical. Be sure to put your strongest piece of content first to engage the PD immediately (just like in PPM).”
Songs on CDs are sequenced in a way to maximize the listening experience. Your submission should be too.

Showcase your unique talent and personality.
Come back to it several times.  Your mission is to stand out. Help PDs to understand why you’re more uniquely entertaining.  

Randy says, “If you’re going to demonstrate your skills interacting with callers make sure that comes through. Too often we hear demos that highlight great callers with little interaction from the air talent.”

Short is the new black

This is my favorite expression in so many instances, but it certainly applies to your submissions. Keep your air checks to around 3-4 minutes but have a full hour ready to send as a follow-up.

Tommy advises a short resume, too.  List the last job you had, and the two before that. Nothing else. I don't need to know what years you worked as a board op on a station next to a wheat field on Sunday mornings doing ‘The Manure Hour.’”

Demonstrate you can do the basics too. 
Randy says,” It will help you to include a break selling the radio station in some way so programmers won’t think it’s all about you.”

Make it easy to find your material again at a later date by including your name in the name of the files you send (mikeomalley_resume.doc). 
Fail to do this and the best case scenario is a PD has to search through a bunch of generic-named files to find yours (if he hasn’t gone through the trouble to rename your file for you in advance); the worst case is your Resume.doc file has been overwritten by someone else who also used a generic name. 

And for me, please, don't make me track down links. I'm not going to do iit

If you’re someone who hires and have some additional recommendations or a talent who has a helpful experience to share, your comment could be instrumental in helping a fellow professional showcase their best work and get back to work.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

And the Winner Is...You! 5 Reasons Why Your Station Should Enter a "Station of the Year" Competition

So maybe you watched Wednesday's CMA Awards Show and wondered if it's worth your time to submit a Station of the Year presentation.

The answer is “Absolutely!”

Here are five reasons why your station should enter:

1.       Assembling a Station of the Year presentation is a bonding opportunity. Whether you win or not, your station and staff reap the benefit of camaraderie.

2.       Sharing your presentation inside the building is a reminder to our non-programming co-workers of how hard we work every day to create the best product in the marketplace, and ideally inspires them with a fresh take on what we do.  

3.       Radio as an industry and country as a format benefit when our best is on display. Recognition by the industry as being among the 'bes of the best' puts your company, station and you in a very positive light.

4.       Assembling a presentation gives you a different perspective on your station and can spark new, creative ideas.

5.      Competing with the format's top stations feels great and, should you ultimately be a finalist or a winner, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you will have frustrated, annoyed, demoralized (or all of the above) your competitors. 

Inspired? There’s no need to wait a year. You can enter the Academy of Country Music awards competition right now.  Submissions are open November 14 through December 9, 2011. Winners will be announced the week of February 13th, 2012. Learn more here (as you'll see there are other award categories as well).
Sure, entering will take some work. Yes, the competition will be steep.
But check the list - you’ve already a winner the day you submit your entry. 

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Secret Sauce of Successful PDs and Stations

How would you describe a successful programmer? What advice would give aspiring PDs? What’s THE secret to a successful station? 

Radio Ink Editor-In-Chief Ed Ryan asked me these questions in last month’s magazine. Here’s how I answered plus a little post-interview elaboration. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences as well. 

#1 – How would you describe a successful Program Director?

PDs that can use both left and right brain thinking are apt to have very successful stations that are both strategic and fun.

Strategically a successful PD understands their station’s position in the market place and what drives listening to their station and their competitors.  They know their listeners’ hot buttons and know the power of surprise and delight.

They have a thorough understanding of the ratings process down to how many diaries or meters or phone calls they need to grow cume to a certain point and how many occasions of listening are necessary to grow TSL/TSE. They have a plan for these and other strategies and tactics that they know increases their audience.

Successful PDs understand the importance of ‘fun’ and ‘feel good’ and know how to create a positive on air environment for listeners that becomes addictive. They keep the listening experience at the forefront of their thinking.

They are evangelists for their stations and their listeners. They have a great passion for what they do and are self-motivated to create great radio that not only captures the moment but becomes part of a listener’s lifestyle.

Successful PDs have strong leadership skills and are simultaneously coaches and cheerleaders. They’re highly engaged with their stations and the people that work there, particularly with talent. They ‘hear’ good talent and know how to encourage, coach and manage them.

They’re equally open to hearing and seeking out new ideas as well as sharing them.

Because PDs today are wearing more hats than ever, they need a love of learning and the organizational ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously without losing focus on what’s most important. They foster an environment where co-workers grow their skills to the benefit of all.

#2 – What advice would you give to those who aspire to be Program Directors?

First know that it’s the greatest job in the radio station. It is. Absolutely. Bar none.

Listen to your own station and to other successful stations and identify out what's working (or not) and why. Do the same for other businesses; figure out how they have succeeded and what can be learned from that success.

Begin programming now - even if it’s only a mental exercise. Think about what you'd do the same or differently at the station you're at and others you listen to. Could you heighten the listening experience? Put your ideas (including “what if’s”) in writing; be very detailed. Save them so you can go back at a later time and tweak them or see if they have other applications beyond your original thinking. Seek out people who you perceive as smart and discuss your ideas and observations with them.

Develop the habit of looking at things from multiple perspectives. You’ll get new ideas.

Volunteer for any work that you have an interest in and that you think might help you grow your skill set – even if you don’t see its application immediately.

Learn how to really listen to listener feedback.

Bring your "A" game to your show every day and ask to be critiqued if you're not being critiqued on a regular basis. Use these to improve your on air performance and to learn how (or how not to) coach others. 

Become an expert in something that you believe is important now and will grow even more important in the future.

Find a mentor.

#3 – What is the Secret to Programming a Great Station?

If there can only be one ‘secret,’ it would be ‘balance.’ 

Balance all elements on the station. Specifically regarding music, create and maintain the appropriate balance across your core genres, styles, eras, tempos and type so that you build the greatest coalition and are ‘on’ your strategic plan.  

Balance your thinking between left and right brain, between being inside and outside the box, between the 10,000 foot and granular perspectives. 

Balance your time at work so that the most important things always get done and get done first. 

Balance your life so that you’re not consumed by certain areas to the detriment of others.

I'd love do know how you'd answer!