I watched a TED Video this week on the origins of pleasure. Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that our beliefs about the history of an object changes how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is. Which explains, in part, why some “heritage” radio stations and hosts across the country continue to get great ratings, despite the poor programming. People love (take great pleasure in) the idea of listening to the station that their Mom or Dad or grandparents listened to. It’s a connection to a simpler time, your childhood, and a shared experience with your parents/grandparents.
It also makes me believe that it’s important that each personality and radio station needs to have a story. Seth Godin coincidentally touched on this same idea this week with his blog post “Just a myth.” Godin concludes his blog by encouraging brands (which could be a personality, a show or a station) to create their own mythology (or story.)
So, if I were trying to invent a mythic brand, I’d want to be sure that there was a story, not just a product or a pile of facts. That story would promise (and deliver) an heroic outcome. And there needs to be growth and mystery as well, so the user can fill in her own blanks. Endorsement by a respected ruler or priest helps as well.
The key word, I think, is spiritual. Mythological brands make a spiritual connection with the user, delivering something that we can’t find on our own… or, at the very least, giving us a slate we can use to write our own spirituality on.
The most successful in broadcasting have these mythologies or stories that help define their brand; Oprah, Rush, and Howard Stern all have overcome great adversity to find success (triumph over tragedy.)
So, it begs the question. What’s your story? Start at the beginning and remember how your personality, show or station went from being a germ of idea to transforming into what it is today. What did you overcome? How are you spiritually serving your fans? If you’re a super hero – what’s are your special powers?
Taking the time to write your story / myth is an investment into being a something people listen to and being something people live for, experience and claim as their own.
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.
Talk show hosts, news anchors, editors, producers, production staff, and programmers need to always know and remember who is consuming the content they are creating. What is your target demo? What news, events, and entertainment were influential and formative in their lives?
If you focus your programming towards a 40-year-old woman or man remember that they were 18 in 1989. That was the same year George Bush Sr. became President, Ted Bundy was executed in Florida, and the Exxon-Valdez spilled 240,000 barrels of oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. That was the year Microsoft released its first version of “Office” and Fox debuted a little cartoon show called “The Simpsons.” At the movies, When Harry Met Sally was released along with Back to the Future II, Driving Miss Daisy, Parenthood, and The Little Mermaid. On the radio, these high school seniors were listening to Bobby Brown‘s “My Prerogative,” Paul Abdul’s “Straight Up,” Mike and the Mechanics “The Living Years,” and Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”
Yet, listen to some news-talk and music radio stations trying to cater to these listeners and the references are still off. I still hear mentions of the Mary Tyler Moore, The Odd Couple and Abbott & Costello. Mary Tyler Moore’s Show was off the air in 1977. It was formative for women who are now in their late 50′s and early 60′s. The Odd Couple came out in 1968. Which means you’re targeting a 61-year-old. Bud Abbott was born in 1897. 114 years ago. Hello radio, it’s time for everyone to update our reference points.
Try this exercise. Let me know how it goes.
I’m staying at the Olive 8 Hyatt in Seattle. It’s a cool, hip, new and proud to be a certifiable green hotel. The people are friendly and accommodating. They have this cool, energy-saving, lighting system which uses your room key to operate. Big, fancy, sliding, mirrored doors conceal the bathroom and closet. I lost track of how many pillows were on the bed, but there are more than anyone person could want or need. The hotel and rooms are open, spacious and make you feel important.
On a practical level, however, it’s not as user friendly. The alarm clock is an hour off and I can’t figure out how to reset it. It also doesn’t light the time up at night, so I can’t see the time when I roll over in the middle of the night. The desk chair I’m sitting at is broken. The seat won’t lift higher than about a foot and a half off the ground. It’s like I’m typing above my head. And I didn’t realize going green meant you could only use 1-ply toilet paper. (Who knew gas stations and rest areas were trend setters in the green movement?)
The lesson here for your radio station or show is to not be so distracted by the bells and whistles that you forget to invest in the the very things that the people you are serving need, want and expect. If you don’t fulfill them, they will go somewhere else to find them.
Hotels and radio stations take heed — It’s not all about the packaging; it’s the content or contents of the package that will keep them coming back.
I was at Jiffy Lube with my son over the weekend getting an oil change. It just happened to be the day 104.3 MY FM was doing a station appearance. The “appearance” was a 10×10 tent, a back drop, a bannered table and two chairs from the lobby. There was no other signage in or around the Jiffy Lube. The tent was set up away from the flow of customer traffic, so to see what was going on you had to wander outside and around the side of the building.
I took this picture after the station representative (assuming promotions assistant) came racing into the lobby, captured the eye of a Jiffy Lube worker and said, “one of your customers just spilled hot sauce all over the place including me.” And then he disappeared into the bathroom for ten minutes.
The whole time I was there the guy from MY FM never appeared again, he never offered a bumper sticker, invited anyone outside for any reason (do you have games, giveaways or something?), and never explained to the customers what MY FM is by offering a handout, coupon or anything. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Here are some things to think about before your station’s next outing….
Look at your station remote / appearance set up. Is that how you want fans and potential listeners to see you? What would you / could you change to better reflect your brand?
What’s the payoff? There should be four: one each for the station, the listener, the potential listener and the client?
Be a star. Radio is show business. No matter what happens on a remote or appearance, remain calm and smile. No matter your role in the radio station, if you are the guy behind the card board table, you are the star of the show and the show must go on.
Client customers = potential listeners. Treat them as if your ratings depend on them. This is an opportunity to make your case to listen to your station to live bodies. What’s your elevator pitch?
Keep the remote / appearance area clean. Hide the equipment and supplies as best you can. Your area is a stage and no one wants to see the prop box.
Have fun, be engaged, and be engaging. When I pulled up the MY FM guy was lounging in his chair reading the paper, while customers were sitting inside the lounge directly behind the wall his back was against.