When was the last time you paid someone a genuine, specific compliment about something they did?
It’s a rare treat in radio to be certain. I know for me, I usually hear about the good things and positive impact I make during my final week on the job. It’s flattering for sure and a little depressing that it takes my resignation to trigger genuine compliments – and often times I’m so surprised I blush.
“Wow, I did that? Cool.”
The other day, I was talking to someone who wasn’t sure if a trusted and dear friend enjoyed her work, because she’d never said so. She didn’t NEED the validation, but she really WANTED it. She wants people to enjoy her work and hoped they ‘get it’ and appreciate it.
I imagine we believe we’re too busy to notice good things. We are so focused on improving the product by highlighting what’s wrong that we don’t have the time to showcase and reinforce what’s right. Accentuating the negative is an ongoing issue in our industry that I blame Arbitron for (why not?). Because of fluctuating ratings, we believe something is always broken, wrong, needs fixing or changed. We (radio programmers, general managers, consultants, etc.) focus a lot of time and effort on insanely attempting to master almighty Arbitron and less on cultivating the great work from each other through our compliments.
There are other reasons we skip the niceties too. Some of us are too insecure of our own talents, too afraid to shine a light away from ourselves, or too intimidated by others to speak up. What else? You know that feeling when you want to say something, but you’re not sure what to say and you don’t want to sound stupid? That feeling often keeps us from saying anything at all. There are also factions of folks in radio who don’t believe it’s their job to compliment others (but no doubt they’ll talk negative behind your back). And then there are those who assume people hear how good they are all the time from other people, so why bother.
I’m sure I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another.
Here’s a secret. No one hears how good they are or receives compliments on the exceptional things they do – often enough. Whether you are talent, management, sales, production, news, board op, promotions, engineering or the front desk assistant, you want compliments and people want to receive compliments from you.
And it’s scientifically proven to make people better at their job. A research study published in November by a team of Japanese scientists in the Public Library of Science’s scientific journal PLOS ONE found proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward (a compliment). The team previously discovered that the area of the brain known as the striatum is activated equally when a person is rewarded via a compliment or cash.
Compliments inspire, empower and make people feel awesome. People want and need to feel appreciated for what they do – even the guys with big egos and the women with rock-n-roll attitudes. People need to feel respected, feel valued and have good self-esteem. This is the fourth level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow even said when people do not have self-respect they feel incompetent and weak. Raise your hand if you want employees and co-workers who feel incompetent and weak!
Plus, there’s the side benefit of positive reinforcement. Your one minute of telling someone how much you “loved” this or how “great” that was has the power to motivate that person to repeat that behavior and continue to be great over and over again.
And just as powerful is our silence. Not providing appreciation and recognition for great work is de-motivating and demoralizing. It’s a hallway buzz kill that makes everyone feel “less than.” Nothing like a radio station full of passionless drones who feel unappreciated, undervalued and overworked. But that would never happen in radio, right?
So how do you do it? David Stewart, an eHow.com contributor, has an easy step-by-step process on complimenting someone at work.
1. Find something specific and genuine that you like about your colleague.
2. Choose the right words that help express your appreciation.
3. Begin a compliment with “you.”
4. Provide a specific example of what you noticed, observed.
5. Notice and recognize small things that matter. Don’t wait for major events to show appreciation.
For example; “You have a real knack for self-improvement and positivity. I noticed you reading the Larry Gifford Media blog today and it just reminded me how much I admire the amount of time and effort you take to better yourself. Thanks for setting a good example for everyone else.”
(Paying a compliment is one of 13 ways you can be a better co-worker according to Reader’s Digest.)
Now, go forth and compliment. Let others know you appreciate them. No strings attached. No expectations. Just be kind, be genuine and be generous with your praise. It’s good for team morale, personal self-esteem and productivity. Oh, and did I mention it’s free (and not just to the 12th caller).
Focus. That’s how you get things done — including ratings. In this world of “I want what I want when I want it wherever I am” – it’s important you think about what you do and why you do it.
Do you know what your show is about? Not only specifically today’s show, but the show in general. What’s it about? What’s the listener benefit? How do listener’s use your show? Are you meeting their expectation every time you crack the mic?
Do you know who you are? What’s your personality? Go ahead, describe you in a sentence. Do you want to hang out with you? Are you unique, authentic, original? Do you fill a hole on the station, in the market? What should people expect when they tune into you? Do you fulfill that expectation?
Do you know what you’re talking about? Do you know why you’re talking about it? Do you know why you like this story? What attracted you to it? What are you going to do with it? What’s your point? What’s the payoff? What’s the listener benefit?
It’s not only about who’s talking and what you talk about, but how you talk about it and how it exceeds the listener expectation. Radio is fun, but it’s not only fun – it’s a business. One way to better ratings is to focus your show, focus your topics, and focus your personality.
Arbitron released a study recently on the key indicators of highly rated PPM stations. They surveyed stations in 48 markets and most every format. The gist is that the dominate #1 stations in PPM have a high DAILY CUME and a high number of LISTENING OCCASIONS (getting people to listen more often is more important than listening longer). So, yes you need more listeners to listen more often in order to be #1. I’ve read some blogs who’ve dismissed this as far from enlightening. Bully for them.
As a programmer it gives me more of a focus to dig deeper. (I’ve changed days of week and actual numbers for competitive purposes). My GM and I decided to look at these key indicators closely. We took a 6-month look at each day of the week to see where we are performing the best and worst (based on DAILY CUME for listeners who spend 1:00+ daily with the station). It opened our eyes to new opportunities. We knew our weekends were vulnerable, but we didn’t have a clear sense of how negatively it impacted the DAILY CUME on Monday. It takes a while to get those listeners to come back after we push them out the door on Friday.
We also looked at LISTENING OCCASIONS. We have a relatively high daily occasion count (about 7), but a lower weekly occasions number (about 21). That means when our P1s decide to listen to the station, they are listening and coming back throughout the day. The opportunity is we only get our core listeners about 3 of 7 days per week on average.
So now we have a better sense of what needs done. We need to convert more of P2, P3, and P4 listeners into P1 listeners by giving them a reason to come back more and more often each day of the week. And encourage our current P1s to spend more days per week with us. It involves appointment listening opportunities throughout each day (coming up today at 4:37…) and appointment listening day-to-day (coming up tomorrow at this time…). It also involves creating a relationship with these fans through facebook, twitter, and email blasts. I want all my core listeners thinking about the radio station, when they’re not even listening to the radio station. (That’s a blog entry for another day.)
This research and exercise is a great reminder for me that each minute, each hour, each day, each week is an opportunity to grow ratings. Everything we do – every topic we choose, every promo we air, every news cast, every e-blast, tweet and facebook post matters and can make a difference.
Nearly everyday I get a request from somebody for “feedback.” Sometimes it’s an employee, sometimes a peer or mentor, and sometimes a complete stranger out-of-the-blue wanting “an honest assessment of their work.”
This is tricky.
In nearly every situation, I find most people — and yes, you maybe the exception – are looking to find out what’s “right” about what they are doing. They are looking for positive feedback, affirmation, and reassurance. They crave a verbal hug.
But, “feedback” and “honest assessments” are typically just the opposite.
Programmers are taught to listen for what’s wrong, not what’s right. And it’s still my instinct too.
I listen to a tape/cd/mp3 and think, ”that was weak, that’s not right, that missed the mark, what is she thinking?, why would he say that? where are they going with this bit?”
Is that what you’re looking for? Or do you want to know what’s right?
My experience tells me the latter. Nearly every time I’ve provided an “honest assessment” of a talent’s work it leads to defensiveness, excuses, and rebellion (ie. I don’t care what you think, I’m going with my gut.)
The key, as with most things, is balance. I’m working hard to focus on strengths and weaknesses, knowing it’s easier to enhance a strength than overcome a weakness. This doesn’t mean weaknesses aren’t worth overcoming, but it certainly takes more effort and time.
The easiest solution to this is to ask for what you want. Instead of asking for general feedback, ask for specifics;
- What am I doing right?
- How can I do better?
- What’s missing from my performance?
- How can I increase TSL?
- What can I do differently to be more valuable to the radio station?
- How can improve the listener experience?
- Where should I focus more of my effort?
Specific questions lead to specific answers. Be prepared – you may just get what you ask for.
PPM is about four years old and we continue to learn more about how to use the insane amount of information it provides and what strategies to use to maximize ratings. Inside Radio and Research Director Inc. just released a new study on PPM based on the top 30 markets. Research Director Partner Charlie Sislen talked to LarryGifford.com about the study (click here for the full study) and he provides strategic tips for programmers who are struggling in this new world.
One of the findings in the study which may be disturbing to programmers of spoken word formats is that CUME is more important than was first thought. “Everybody knows in the PPM world CUME is important, but when you look at top skewing radio stations they are all really CUME and not TSL driven. We really believe it’s the P1 CUME that’s doing it,” says Sislen.
Sislen notes that play-by-play can help the spoken word format draw in CUME, but it is not a magic bullet; the success of play-by-play depends on the team and the market, and in many cases it can be a detriment. “What a programmer has to recognize is that this event is an important launching point for your radio station to recycle this audience back in. Take them from being P4s and get them into regular listeners. Give them a reason to come in to the other day parts and give them a reason to come back the next day, the next week, some time outside of that play-by-play.”
So how can you win with PPM? Sislen offers the three “C’s” for talk hosts;
“If you’re not crisp, concise and compelling and you’re spoken word, the listener is going to go away, and the moment the listener goes away the PPM knows it.”
For programmers, Sislen stresses the importance of building occasions. “For sports, to put it in perspective, the typical P1 spends 6:44 with the radio station (per week). You get four more occasions (of at least five minutes within a quarter-hour) from those people that 6:44 has gone to 7:44. That’s massive. We’re just talking about your P1s and we’re getting them to come in just four more times in an entire week.”
The other hot issue is clocks. How many spots are you running and where are you running them? Some suggest two breaks per hour straddling the top and bottom quarter-hours and Sislen doesn’t disagree. “In a vacuum, absolutely that’s true. However, we don’t live in a vacuum and the spoken word is different than a music format and you’ve got to know what your competitions clocks are. Study your clocks and make sure you understand the rules that you need to garnish to get credit for a quarter-hour.” Once you figure out your competitors clocks, Sislen says you should be going into content when they go into commercial break. It’s that simple.
Listen to our entire conversation, including the importance of marketing your show and station, how buyers and sellers still need more education and what’s next for PPM.
A year ago, I was driving in my car and longing for some holiday spirit. I knew there was a station in town playing Christmas music full-time, but wasn’t sure which one. So, I scanned until I found it. I gave it one of my car radio pre-sets and listened to it on and off through the holidays. A year later, that station is still a pre-set. In PPM world, I’m a P5 or P6, but where before in the diary world, I would never acknowledge having listened to it, now every couple of weeks for a year this station picked up an extra quarter-hour or so. And now, Christmas music is back full-time, a week earlier than last season, and I’m already listening.
You say, “Great Larry, thanks. I can’t play Christmas music.”
Do you have the Super Bowl? March Madness? A Play by Play franchise? or are you the “election station?” Maybe you own the big story or controversy in town. If not, consider what it is your station offers that is of the highest quality in your market making it worth while to non-traditional listeners of your radio station. If it’s traffic then you need to be THE station for traffic. It doesn’t necessarily need to be something people THINK they need. Afterall, nobody was clamoring for a month of non-stop Christmas music.
Maybe you can be the station for High School football scores or the station that talks sex on Friday nights. Whatever it is, find it, own it, leverage it. Niche programming, even one time events, can impact your ratings all year-long.