Programming Strategies that Make A Difference in 2017

Programming Strategies that make a ratings difference in 2017

One of the most exciting parts of my job is travelling the country conducting and being part of research studies. Today I’ll share tips that come up most often in market after market that if implemented, will lead to stronger ratings for you.

Identifying music is a major benefit to female listeners. When you bring up back selling of music most agree that it is very important and their favorite station does not always do it. We (radio people) think they know all the songs. They (listeners) disagree. They wonder why their favorite station does not do a better job of telling them the songs played. Putting this info on your website is a step in the right direction, but not what they really want, which is to hear it on the air. This especially applies to newer and re-current songs.

“Good Chemistry” the top attribute in AM Drive. When asked why they liked their favorite morning show the word “chemistry” came up time after time. The relationship of the players and how they get along on the air is key critical. Important issues in the morning are “fun” shows (not to be confused with funny) as well as shows they are “used to and comfortable with”.

Benchmarks are out. Commenting on the day’s “news and events” is in. Most listeners agree that they want their morning show to discuss what is happening at that moment. It’s sure a lot more important than “Dumb criminal news”.

Music is still important in the morning. As usual, listeners want it all. They want a show with fun people having a good time, but they also want a lot of music. Please do not overlook the power and importance of music in the morning.

Don’t overlook the power of information. Weather, traffic and news updates are very important in most markets. In many cases more important than useless banter.

Keep it live, but watch the talk. They like DJ’s but not talky ones. Keep the talk breaks crisp, short & to the point.

Morning and night personalities are the best known. In most groups, listeners were very unsure of the midday and afternoon personalities. For stations that have their own love songs host, there is usually good familiarity.

Delilah continues to get a love-hate vote from most listeners. They either love her, or dislike her. One thing is for sure; they know her and have strong opinions on her. Still, in many markets she gets strong numbers.

AC music stations are described as “Easy listening/Softrock/Pop music”. Familiarity with the music continues to be key. Most disliked type of music; Rap & Hip-Hop. They see this as a “threat to their kids”. As we have always said, AC female listeners “Know what they like, and like what they know.” Never underestimate the power of familiarity with you music, your personalities and overall station sound/feel. Now more than ever, play the hits!

AC radio is a “safe haven” for women 35-54. They know it by the music we play and the way we present ourselves. They say there is no need to talk about “family friendly”. How do you communicate it? They say “Just “Do It”.

P1 Women like to play contests. The prize is not always as important as the chance to win. Prizes such as theatre tickets, weekend getaways, dinners at restaurants and tickets to shows (concerts) are all good. “Entertaining contests” seem more important to many of these listeners versus the actual prize itself.

Stopping fewer times, each hour is preferred. Most listeners like the 2-stop clocks, but are aware that they will “pay for it” (their words) in the end. They do however feel it is better to stop less often even if it means more spots. The one common comment heard in market after market is they feel all stations play too many commercials.
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Are You Ready To Coach Your Team?

If you’re not getting better, you’re falling behind. Every world-class athlete, performer, or executive knows this and it’s true of your station sales, programming, technical, and other staff as well.

Winners in any profession understand that without the right “coach,” they won’t achieve their objectives. A steady focus on effective coaching will increase performance, even in the face of client and project distractions, and secure your spot as a winner.

Unfortunately, coaching may be the item bypassed by busy general managers, market managers, programmers, DOEs, and sales managers.

In my travels as a consultant, I am reminded every time I turn on the radio that most air talent lack the “relatability” and entertainment skills necessary to keep me tuned in.

Since coaching is something done with people, rather than to people, how well prepared (both in skills and attitude) are managers to coach? Managers typically possess an innate interpersonal technique.

Coaching is talking with a person in a way that helps him or her solve a problem. Some managers confuse coaching with giving advice. The reality is often that, as Gordon Dickson noted, “Some people like my advice so much that they frame it upon the wall instead of using it.”

Managers are asked to improve productivity without additional resources. One option is to enhance behavior and performance through coaching. Managers also need to use their coaching skills within the company with those who don’t necessarily report to them, as well as outside their organization.

An effective coaching skills strategy emphasizes collaboration and respect rather than control and faultfinding. People can see effort that’s expended in helping them do a good job and experiencing a sense of achievement.

Effective coaching skills, therefore, contribute to not only a “push” to achieving business outcomes, but also a “pull” towards effective leadership.

Think of the following as an air-check for your management team on coaching employees.

Knows the discipline he or she is coaching: It seems obvious, but a coach must know ins and outs of the discipline—the rules, the history, the tactics, etc.

Motivates the team: Remember that a coach will need to lead a team of individuals, every one with different personal goals. The coach’s job is giving the team enough motivation to turn their attention from their private matters to the goals of the station.

Talks only when it gets results: A good coach will never speak without a good cause. If he or she talks too much, employees will stop listening.

Ability to listen: If the manager is to become a good coach, he or she needs to think like a surrogate father or mother for the team; listening is the single most important trait that can make it possible.

Knows their team: Another important matter is a coach knowing one’s team. It’s not only about matching numbers with names. A good coach knows about the professional and the private lives of their teammates.

Treats everyone individually: It is necessary for a manager to treat each employee individually. Treat them as you would like to be treated.

Leads by example: A good coach does everything he or she will ask others to do.

Interpersonal issues

Beyond technical aspects of setting goals during coaching, it is critical to pay attention to certain interpersonal issues. As a coach, you must set clear expectations, performance standards, and specific objectives regarding what should be done, when, and how. Measure performance. Focus on behavior, not value judgments. Correct deviations from performance standards.

Make it clear that you are on the same side as the employee and that the objective of the meeting is for the employee to be successful. Provide guidance while preserving the employee’s self-esteem. Give an employee with longer service an extended time to improve. Set the time for improvement in accordance with the specific behavior involved.

Effective systematic coaching is an opportunity to build meaningful partnerships between members of an organization. Without effective coaching skills, progress is just that much harder.

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Radio Branding 101

Branding is not only about ubiquity, visibility, and functions; it’s about bonding emotionally with listeners. Only when your station kindles an emotional dialogue with listeners, can your radio station qualify as a brand. Listeners want to deal with radio stations that are responsive and sensitive to their unique needs. When effectively executed, “branding” increases a radio station’s market share and profitability by leveraging awareness while clearly positioning the station. In layman’s terms: to attract listeners, Program Directors must think like listeners.

For branding to be truly effective, radio stations have to feel & sound dead-on with their listener’s expectations. The correct mixture of language, sounds and expressions will accomplish this. You need to stand for something to stand out from the crowd. Radio stations must become strong brands. It’s termed a culture: a set of beliefs and expectations celebrated and enjoyed every day. A distinctive experience listeners want to become part of.

As radio’s background has changed so dramatically in the new millennium with the advent of listening options such as internet radio, satellite, HD, or tablets and smartphones, the audience must care about what is said. It has to matter to them. It has to touch their lives in some significant way. As we are in the middle part of the second decade of the new millennium, broadcast radio (the original portable medium), persists dominance in spite of newer, aggressive audio technologies.

The fact that you can listen to radio while doing something else is a reason it maintains its popularity. Radio can never stop innovating. That will become its death knell. For your radio station to be very successful, you must constantly anticipate new developments and freshen your productivity.
Make sure your station has a unique USP in your market that draws listeners and keeps them entertained. Establish your brand and maintain a high quality. Remember, perception is reality. If and how long people tune into your station mainly depends on their impression of your station—your image—which is based on previous listening experiences. Develop positive brand images with the listener!

Keep transforming your radio station. Try and anticipate where the market will be, say, five years from now. Don’t make many moves that will distort your audience and damage your brand. Invest in talent development and coaching while searching for tomorrow’s radio personalities. Give fresh talents a chance but make sure they relate to your stations target audience. Make sure your radio personalities are natural storytellers. Great storytellers make a nice story great by the way they present it.
Build distinctive and familiar brands.

Create a brand for your radio station where people feel at home, through imaging, marketing and events. You’re more than just a radio station; you’re a brand! Create a brand that your audience can relate to and knows what to expect. This goes way beyond music. It’s about a shared feeling. Radio is a great medium to embrace new developments. Apply innovation to the complete output of your station, from programming to marketing.

Now that the music industry’s impact has deteriorated—record companies are not the only jumpstart for talent: with radio and social media combined, you can create an enormously important and fun place to work by branding your station as the place that plays the latest music. Music discovery is still dominated by radio, although teens now turn to YouTube and I Tunes to discover new music.
Most radio programmers agree that constant innovation, familiar brands & shared emotion are key to secure radio’s future in today’s social media world.

The technology and content behind radio offers all the possibilities in the world. Radio is immediate, live and fast. The final conclusion? Radio brands will continue to thrive on an emotional and personal relationship with the listener.

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10 Stages to a More Effective Radio Air Check and Critique Session

For Program Directors to be successful air talent coaches, it’s important to stop thinking in terms of the process as a critique, but rather as advice. It is critical to do the following:

1. Ascertain Vital Subjects— Take the time to get out of the station and listen to the cd of your talent’s shows. Listening in real time does not allow you to go back and hear breaks a second or third time. Once you’ve stopped listening to the cd, make a request list of the vital issues you’d like to address with that air personality.

2. Arrange Issues by Impression— Ask yourself this question: which one issue will ensure improvement in the air personality’s ratings beginning today? Start your coaching session with the items on the top of your list.

3. Choose one or two vital subject issues— Pick no more than two issues to work on in each advice session. Don’t bring a long laundry list of issues to the air check session involving minutia with what is really important. People have a hard enough time dealing with change overall. The more changes you ask for at one time, the less likely you’ll get any.

4. Identify Objectives— Radio Air Personalities perform on the air with good intentions. Sadly, as they say, the way to hell is paved with good intentions. We all can have good intentions and obtain bad results. One of the ways to understand why the air personality is performing in a way you wish to change is to prevent defensive behavior from your coaching session. Once you express understanding for your air talent’s good intentions it demonstrates you see them as well meaning people.

5. Search for “Big Picture” Perspective— How you present each coaching point will do the greatest to determine the success or failure to offer advice. Make sure you think this part of the process through very carefully before each coaching session. Try to find a way to direct your coaching points that establishes the big picture of building ratings, revenue, community good will, etc. One of the most common challenges Program Directors experience with air talent is too much material or words crammed into single sets. Outlining this issue from the perspective of the listeners and how challenging it is for them to comprehend unfocused sets makes it much easier to understand why improved editing matters.

6. Formulate Details— Transcribe at least one hour of the talent’s show, on paper, for each coaching session. Once you transcribe you’ve accomplished two things. First, you have indisputable evidence of what occurred on the air. Highly creative people, such as radio air talent, are always focused on the future. They have no clear sense of what happened in the past. The second thing you accomplish with transcription has to do with basic human emotion. When we comprehend words on paper, we need to use the part of our brains that’s rooted in logic. This helps avoid occurrences of emotional hijacking from happening as often as air check sessions.

7. Construct Your Example— Examine your transcriptions and choose several examples which support your coaching point. If you only bring one example you run the risk of being rebuffed with a response like, “Well, you just picked a bad break.” Collect any other data that supports your point. One of the big components of advice is the perception of your level of expertise.

8. Think Progression, Not Product— During your coaching sessions; think in terms of changing the talent’s progression, not their product. Concentrate on possibilities rather than solutions. When you change the procedure, the product follows. Learning over a lifetime occurs when we change how someone thinks. No one wishes to be told exactly how to do their job.

9. Presume Success— Approach every coaching session with the presumption that what you’ve asked the talent will happen on the air. Say to them things like, “I have total faith in your talent and abilities and know you’ll make this happen on your show.” This requires a leap of faith for programmers. But, people tend to rise or fall in an organization contingent upon how management treats them. If you treat people as though they cannot fail, they rarely do. If they’re treated as if they can never succeed, they never will.

10. Screen for Progress— After every coaching session make a sincere effort to find your talent doing something right. Too much criticism de-motivates people and will cause what I call “Creative Paralysis.” Suitable encouragement for progress and praise is your most powerful and cheapest motivational tool. Too many managers don’t take the time to use it. Taking the time to notice alone will help make you a more efficient radio air talent coach.

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11 Clever Ways to Promote your Podcast

If you’re used to sharing text and video, the world of podcasting can seem like a planet of its own, especially when it comes time to promoting a new show.
Don’t just wait for your target audience to find it through the search engines. You can’t rely on podcast directories either.

Taking extra time to promote your show can be well worth it because the audience for podcasts has been growing steadily during the last decade.
Edison Research, which studies consumer adoption of digital media, reports that three-quarters of Americans 12 to 24 and half of those 25 to 54 say they have listened to online radio or streamed audio content available only on the Internet in the last month.

Podcasting isn’t exactly cutting edge. So why the rise in popularity?
Because the old model of creating news for the masses isn’t working anymore. New media channels such as Internet radio are competing against traditional media companies for advertising revenue and audiences. Also many Internet shows give listeners information on topics that they might not find anywhere else, like how to create a self-sufficient homestead.

Videos require your attention in front of a screen. But you can listen to Internet radio while walking the dog, working out or driving.
If you’re podcasting, you’re probably already communicating with your target audience on a variety of other sites. That’s the best place to start. Here are 11 ideas on how to promote your new show.

1. Submit it to iTunes.
iTunes has eclipsed 1 billion podcast subscriptions. People can search the iTunes podcast directory and then opt to listen to your show.
If you’re just starting a podcast, create several episodes, an RSS feed for your show, tags and album artwork. Then go to FeedValidator.org and make sure it says “Your feed is valid” before submitting to iTunes.

2. Include the podcast in a Google profile.
This often overlooked resource, the Google profile, is available on all Google properties. While you’re busy creating content in various formats, it’s easy to forget that your Google profile is the perfect container for links to all that content.

3. Include show notes on Pinterest.
Show notes provide a quick summary of what a specific podcast episode includes. They should have a captivating title and copy that compels visitors to listen to the show. A simple image like this from the DollarsAndSenseShow.com can be pinned with the description harboring show notes and relevant keywords.

4. Put a link on other social media profiles.
LinkedIn lets you insert media links in your profile: The summary and project sections are ideal for featuring a podcast. On Facebook, link to your podcast and include show notes in a status update or a note. Don’t forget to share the podcast with your Facebook groups.

5. Interview a celebrity about a new book.
Authors look under every rock for ways to promote their new books. Ask for a celebrity or influencer for an interview and the person might opt to use your podcast interview to promote the book. Many of these big names have huge followings and share every video, podcast, article and blog post that features them, especially during book launches.

6. Post a YouTube video showing a recording of your podcast.
Create a two-minute video as you record a segment of your show in front of the microphone. Shoot several segments from the same podcast and assign those videos to a YouTube playlist. Why bother? Because each video can have its own description and keywords that will pull in more traffic.
Your current fans will love this “behind the scenes” look at how your show is produced. Be sure to lead your podcast subscribers to the videos.
Use Spreaker, a podcasting service that can be connected to your YouTube account. Spreaker will turn an audio podcast into a static image video for your YouTube channel.

7. Tap Amazon’s Author Central account for promotion.
Include a link to your podcast on your Amazon profile. Author Central lets you import tweets and recent blog posts. Those, too, can be promote your show. Readers who love your books might be excited to find your content available in formats other than text.

8. Trade promotion favors with other podcasters.
Find a podcaster who targets an audience similar to yours. Agree to promote each other’s shows. You can even interview each other.

9. Create a collage of photos.
Craft a collage of photos that explain quickly who you are, your guest and what the show is about.
Jim Palmer’s Stick Like Glue radio show created a collage for an interview with social media expert Amy Porterfield. This communicates quickly and far better than just one photo could exactly what listeners will learn. This image is perfect for social sharing.

10. Market a top 10 list of the best podcasts.
Let’s say your show features interviews with startup founders. Compile a list of the top 10 podcasts featuring startups and include your show. Pitch it to bloggers who write about startups and to the other podcasters on your list.

11. Pitch a story on earning money from podcasting.
Many hobbyists, regardless of how passionate they are about their topics, can’t turn their shows into revenue. If you can, that’s a business story you can invite a financial publication to cover.

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6 Reasons Radio Listeners IGNORE your Morning Show

You know the routine.

Your radio station introduces a new morning show and you sit back and wait for the magic to happen. And you wait…and you wait. Still, the audience doesn’t know them, doesn’t care about them, or knows them and still doesn’t care about them.

Why is this happening?
Six reasons:

Because they’re just not that good

It’s true. Radio managers are not famous for spotting and nurturing talent.
And a corollary: Being good is hard.
There’s a reason why Howard Stern was fired all the way to the top. There’s a reason why it’s a safer bet to plug in Ryan Seacrest than to take a chance on somebody nobody knows (for better or worse). There’s a reason why the freshest young voice with the most unique point of view prefers to launch a YouTube channel rather than work their way up the long, hard slog of the radio ladder.
Radio fans know what they like and what they don’t like, and everything else is likely to fall in the vast, bland, vanilla middle. And while that vast, bland, vanilla middle can be tweaked with a bit of coaching or a new producer, there’s an old saying: “You can’t polish a turd.”

Because they’re not meaningfully different in a crowded field

Guy’s name and Gal’s name in show title? Check.
Impeccable technical execution? Check.
Show producer/board op? Check.
What about plugging in all the radio morning show best practices? Check.

The problem with formulas for what makes a great morning show is that every station has access to the same formulas. And when every radio station is playing the same morning show game for the same audience at the same time using versions of the same bits, the audience will default to the show they’ve listened to longest, even if it’s not necessarily the best, because it takes a lot of time and effort to find the “best” and no time or effort at all to succumb to habit.

So why should I change my listening behavior that has served me well for years to sample your show?
Because listeners are barely exposed to them
It’s not only about how long a show has been on the air but also about how much exposure that show has had while it has been on.

I have a saying: Listeners don’t listen to your morning show today; they listen to every episode of your morning show they have ever heard – today.
In other words, listeners bring their relationships with the talent to each listening occasion. This is what makes strong morning shows so powerful: They have a longstanding relationship with their fans. It’s also why you can fly into a market and listen to the dominant morning show and have no clue as to why it’s so successful.

So when you envelop your show in music, or the host opens the mic to announce a song or do a live read or announce another contest winner or check the weather or emote some breezy phrase that dissipates into the radio ether within seven seconds, then the audience has less to know and fewer opportunities to know it.

Why bother?

Because they’re DJs and not humans
While there’s something comforting about a human voice on the radio, not every human voice appears to be actually human. I’m not talking about voice-tracking here, I’m talking about content.
Humans are beings with three dimensions – strengths and weaknesses, flaws, and blemishes. All on display.
When those dimensions are not on display in a movie, we call the character “shallow.” And nobody (willingly) makes friends with shallow beings (although we’re happy to laugh at their expense in reality TV).

Because management doesn’t want a great morning show, they want a cheap morning show to be great
Too often, we’re not aiming for greatness; we’re aiming for great cheapness.
Well, that’s not how Jimmy Fallon got the Tonight Show gig and that’s not how great radio talent is born. We fool ourselves into thinking that the cheap voice can be the better voice if only the audience catches on. And then we are disappointed when they never do.

This is not to say you always get what you pay for, but you certainly never get what you don’t pay for.
I recently ran into an old radio friend – a former morning host – now long out of the business. He was approached by a station in his market to do a weekend gig – live. And for this he would be paid what he described as “the kind of money I made just out of school.”

Either he will say “no,” or the station will get from him what it’s paying for, which is exactly what it wants and much less than it pretends it wants.

Because “liking them” and “listening to them” are two different things
Your new morning host may be a great guy and a model citizen, but if I’ve got 20 minutes of drive-time, I intend to spend it with the most compelling, entertaining, or informative morning show I can find, not with an audio Boy Scout.

Do you Always Leave Your Listeners Wanting More?

Listeners recycle your radio station an average of every 20 minutes. You always have a fresh audience joining your show. So you need something original to sample, demonstrating your ability to entertain. Always leave them wanting more.

Define your station before you promote yourself to others. It’s called “positioning.” How can we explain to others (promotion) what we do if we aren’t clear about it ourselves. Having a focus makes it much easier for the listeners to spread the word about you.

I understand we hate labeling things—it pigeonholes us. But in your audience’s ears it helps to define what we do. Besides, it’s better to pick a label than let your listeners hang one on you. Is your radio station Blues formatted? Is it Country? Rock? News/Talk? Jazz? AC? Oldies? Maybe a combination of those or something completely different. What else do you do well? Concentrate on your strengths and market those.

Part of promoting your station is knowing what your target audience does on a daily basis. What do they read? Where do they hang out? What websites are they browsing? Do you have a Twitter and Facebook page? Does your station have a website? Does it stream? Knowing an audience means figuring out who they are, what they want, where they are, and how much they are willing to spend.

Promotions are very basic things. You can embellish them as much as you like, after the basics are in place. Radio people sometimes find themselves developing full-blown, bells-and-whistles, flash-and-dazzle promotions, losing sight of the importance of simple things like first impressions, preparation, knowledge, and good humor.

You must be visible everywhere. You should strive to present a positive image, to establish and nurture relationships, and make each event enjoyable for everybody, whether they’re faithful listeners (P1s), strangers to the station, or format, or the clients themselves. We all know it takes being out there to make those numbers happen. What we ought to know is that we need to be out on the streets all the time! If a client event isn’t going on, find out what’s happening in the community and tap into that. It’s as simple as checking out the newspapers and calling the Chamber of Commerce.

The key to any successful promotion, whether you’re promoting your radio station or client event, is total preparation. Hook your call letters into existing events. Start simple. Get permission to have your station van parked at the entrance of a local ball park. Find out if there’s a need for an emcee for an event and offer the professional services of a popular air-personality.

Develop an entire line of logo items: caps, t-shirts, sweats, polo shirts, jackets, handbags, wallets, sun visors, etc., all sold at events to benefit local food banks. Approach event coordinators explaining that items sold don’t benefit the station financially; proceeds go to local food banks in the county where the event is being held. The chance for on-air support plus that all-important “warm & fuzzy” created by doing something for the community, opens doors.

Remember, take pictures at the event and include them on your website and include crowds. Thank the sponsor for the opportunity to be involved in their or your event, and express the desire to return. Always promote in keeping with the station’s sound. If it’s not right, walk-away!