I was going to title this blog entry “How Not to Annoy Your Boss and Co-workers,” because the inspiration for this comes from last night’s sports radio chat on twitter (#srchat). The question — what are your biggest pet-peeves of sports talk radio? — was posed to everyone on the chat including special guest Clear Channel’s VP of Sports Bruce Gilbert. I’ve taken their answers and turned-them-inside-out like a secret decoder ring to unveil the keys to sports radio success.
Be humble. You are not the smartest guy in the room. It’s okay to say –I don’t know.
“The point of your radio show is not to prove how smart you are, it’s to entertain, inform, and make people think.” – Bruce Gilbert, Clear Channel VP of Sports
Be adult. Accept the fact that sometimes callers swear and we have to dump them. The 14-year-old boy inside you thinks it’s hilarious. No need to make a deal out of it on the air though.
Respect the listener. Everyday have a plan and pour your heart and soul into it. No room for laziness. Keep conversations about tech issues, chatter with board op and producers, office gossip and inside-jokes off the air.
Callers ≠ Success. Callers can be great, just remember they are not a reflection of your success. Don’t let the blinking lights guide you.
Prepare For Interviews. When interviewing keep questions focused on the topic, keep them short, make sure each question is a question and not just a statement and forego the opening interview niceties (i.e. “How are you?)
Play the hits. Immerse yourself into the big stories and relish it. When sports hosts complain about having to discuss the top stories, ESPN Radio exec Pete Gianesini points to the weather channel and wonders aloud if they would ever stop covering a hurricane in the middle of the storm because they were tired of talking about it. He’s got a point.
Be a leader. On and off the air talk to people not down to them – includes coworkers, listeners, clients, guests, interns, etc. Work with people smarter and more talented than you and treat them better than they treat you.
In a nutshell, here’s what he says…
- Listen to the show
- Be a broadcaster
- Handle callers well
- Think like a reporter
So far so good. But, as I read through Bob’s open letter, I began to realize how much the producer position has changed evolved since my first gig 20+ years ago when I screened calls, pulled commercial carts each hour and drove down to the Sunoco gas station to buy the hosts a six-pack with my fake ID.
The producer is more than a phone screener, a guest booker, and a lesser-than-member of the team to be seen, but not heard — unless spoken to. Real, honest-to-God, hard-core, successful producers have careers and are often times as important to a show as the host.
And yes, they should be better compensated by stations and better treated by hosts.
In his letter, Bob explains, “A radio show is a dynamic, vital thing, and the mood and circumstance are constantly changing. You’ve got to be following it if you hope to contribute to it.” He’s right.
Listen to the show you’re doing. A host should never have to call your name out on the air to get your attention. Listen for all the things he mentions and also listen for; ways to evolve the topic, possible guests you could book, promo material, listen for news and interviews that can be used to forward stories in sports updates or recycled later in the show, listen for tweetable quotes or passionate entertaining chunks that could go viral, listen for good sales material, listen for inaccuracies, listen to production elements before they air, listen to the show after it airs to find ways to improve it. Listen before, during and after the show.
DON’T JUST TALK, SAY SOMETHING
“Be a broadcaster.” Bob says, “…when I speak to you, when I call for you to speak on the air, you have to deliver.” He’s right – sort of. Producers aren’t hired to be on the air. If the PD wanted a co-host, he would hire one. When it comes to a producer talking on-air – less is more. I’ve told any producer who’ll listen, the less you talk the more impact you make when you speak on air and the more home runs you can hit. If you’re constantly swinging and missing – you’ll be annoying. So, if your host calls on you to chime in each segment (and I’m not accusing Bob of doing that) – it’s a host problem, not a producer issue.
Simple guidelines for producers who chime in
- add to the conversation
- advance the conversation forward
- set up the host
- don’t try to one-up the host
- let funny happen naturally – don’t force it
- remember “yes, and…” rule of improvisation
HERE’S WHERE WE START TO DISAGREE
Bob wants his producer to “handle callers well.” He explains, “Resist the simplistic but common belief that you are supposed to screen out people who are old or off topic or who you don’t personally understand. That practice castrates and lobotomizes talk radio. It throws away countless callers who I could use to advance the show. You are not the gatekeeper, I am.”
There are callers who won’t make good radio or who are off topic who should be screened out. The great Mike Thompson, operations manager of 710 ESPN LA, is one of the best resources on call screening I know. From a packet he put together for producers and shared with me a while ago, Mike makes these points about screening calls.
Screening telephone calls for talk radio shows is perhaps the most ignored and misunderstood art in the talk radio business. Most stations do not screen properly.
- First and foremost – our raison d’être is not processing calls like picking grapes and putting them in a bushel. Callers are nice folks and can add to a show – BUT they are not the end all be all.
- Each caller needs to have something to say with passion and conviction.
- Shows must FOCUS ON THE LISTENER – NOT THE CALLER. There is a difference. Less than 1% of stations listeners actually call.
- We are human. We react to stimuli. However, the lack of calls or abundance of them cannot be viewed as a gauge of a good or bad show.
- Calls are a production element — calls, music, drops, sound bites and newsmakers all add to the production – which must be centered upon the hosts opinion, information, credibility, personality, humor and style.
- No one has the right to speak on our air. Don’t surrender your show by letting a bad caller on who has nothing to say. When in doubt – screen ‘em out. Be friendly, but firm.
- Have pride in the calls that you put on the air. Bad callers create even more bad callers jamming the lines. Conversely, when you put great calls on the air you will notice over time that intelligent and witty callers will join the party.
I believe Bob’s resistance to call screening originates from the general lack of trust and communication between him and his producer. He says in his letter that he won’t be meeting with the producer unless the boss calls one, he doesn’t want to talk to the producer during the show, and coordination before the show shouldn’t take more than a minute.
Bob, that’s not a producer – it’s an errand boy.
Great producers and great hosts have a chemistry and connection. The producer gets to know the host in a way the listener doesn’t so he/she can better support the host and think like they would think. A great producer makes a host better, adds to the show and focuses the host before and during the show on the things that matter most.
How do you expect the producer to support you, your show and the things you want if the only communication you have is through an open letter on the internet?
To Bob’s credit, he says in a perfect World, “we each trust each other to our jobs.” That’s great, but pre-planning, preparation, curating stories, topic development, and constant communication – are all part of a producer’s job. And I believe those meetings and discussions are key to building the trust Bob desires.
Bob finally encourages producers to “think like a reporter.” He focuses his comments on building and maintaining a list of contacts and sources. I’d say that’s more a reporter thinking like a producer. Thinking like a reporter means being curious, asking questions, and finding the stories and angles not being talked about. It means helping listeners to connect the dots or help make sense of a story or series of stories, knowing why you’re interested in a particular story, finding audio to support your POV and telling the story the most compelling way possible.
These are some of my thoughts on producing, based on my own experience as a producer, host, PD and consultant.
SERVE STEAK – Make sure the host is playing the hit stories various ways throughout your show.
ADD SIZZLE – Look for ways before and during the show to enhance the on-air presentation.
WORRY ABOUT DETAILS – There’s no detail too small to consider.
THINK LIKE A P.D. – From topic selection and guest booking to what’s being played and how it’s being presented during commercial breaks, oversee all content during your show. Be concerned with how your entire show sounds, not just the talk segments.
BE AN EDITOR – Know how to listen to audio, identify a sound-byte and edit it for air quickly.
CREATE AN EXPERIENCE not a SHOW - Help make the show a 24/7 experience through social media, podcasting, blogging, vlogging, and show appearances. Have conversations with your fans, don’t just tweet links at them.
BE IN THE MOMENT – Anticipate the needs of the talent.
CONTEXTUALIZE STORIES –Tell listeners why the big story matters to them now and consider archived audio to help tell a story or put it in context.
TEASE - Help your host prepare or write teases for each segment.
FINISH BIG – Plan for a big final segment – don’t throw it away.
OWN BIG MOMENTS - Be prepared to ditch all your plans for breaking news. Have a plan.
COMMUNICATE - Verbal and written communication is key with your team – board op, anchor, host, PD, reporters, and others. Assume nothing.
BE AN AMBASSADOR – Represent the best of interest of your host and show internally and externally. Help mend fences, build bridges and create fans inside and outside your radio station: co-workers, contributors, listeners, and clients.
DON’T BE A JERK – Your host may have personality issues and is prickly to others in the building (for shame), but that doesn’t give you license to adopt that same attitude. Be a positive force, a leader and problem solver.
EARN TRUST & RESPECT - Work hard, communicate, be proactive and find ways to showcase your host and the show in the best possible light.
BE ORGANIZED - You’re juggling information and obligations from the PD, promotions team, sales team and your host. Create systems that work for you.
BE CREATIVE - Find unique angles to big stories and think outside the box on slower than normal days. Have a future file. Notice what you notice.
BE NEW MEDIA/SOCIAL MEDIA/TECH SAVVY – The more you know, the more you can do, the more you can help the show and station and yourself.
REMEMBER WHO YOU’RE SERVING – With all due respect to talk hosts who believe producers are only there to serve them, the reality is ratings and revenue drive the bus. That means listeners and clients always come first. The live commercial read for the auto dealer IS more important than your hosts story about bumping into a B-list celebrity at a golf outing.
KNOW THE CLOCK - PDs create clocks with precision to maximize possible listening opportunities in a PPM world. There are reasons why spots and promos and traffic reports are placed where they are. There are reasons why segments are designed for a certain length of time. These should be followed as closely as possible and not considered optional.
“Go find a group of guys in your target demo, eavesdrop on them, and listen to what they’re talking about.”
That’s one way Sports Radio consultant Rick Scott of Rick Scott & Associates suggests you know if you have a hit story on your hands. I called Rick up after the arrest of ex-Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder. To me, it seems like manna from heaven for sports talkers who typically have a hard time finding talk-worthy topics in June and July.
“It’s life. Sports is a microcosm of life.”
Rick agrees, this is a whopper of a story, “When it happens in sports there is a magnifying glass on it because all of these athletes are special performers who make a lot of money, they’re in the spotlight, and like any other celebrity people have an interest of what’s going on.”
What surprised me is the lack of interest outside Boston and some other select cities. On the Wednesday night’s #SRCHAT on Twitter, hosts weren’t engaging with the story. Owen Murphy recapped the conversation on his ”Steal This Idea” blog here, but among the highlights were these gems.
- One host said: Scale of 1-10 it’s a 2 in my market. People are amazed it happened, but it won’t be a day to day listening driver.
- Another said: it was a news story, but I found it a difficult topic to drive a show with today
- And another said: it’s not that big in (my market). It’s fun to riff on but not attracting new audience
Rick doesn’t buy it,
“Anybody who says that I think is being naïve.”
During our interview on Episode 8 of the Radio Stuff podcast, Rick points to the speed of these stories circling the globe as being a major reason why markets who aren’t seemingly connected are still interested. Fans have access to all the news now and they’re interested in hearing what local hosts think about these big stories. (He joined us at 39:00 into the podcast to discuss a radio ideas festival and then Hernandez. You should listen to the whole exchange.)
Once you know you have a hit, what do you do with it? Rick has taught many hosts and PDs the “Topic Tree” method of topic development. Imagine the trunk of the tree as the core story and the branches are all the different ways you could talk about it.
“You sit down and say what are the various angles? You may want to take it from the angle of him being an athlete, you may want to take it from an angle that he’s had a troubled past and this isn’t the first time he’s been into trouble, you may take it from the standpoint that athletes don’t get exceptions — nobody gets a free pass, and you just branch it out from there. There are so many different avenues you could go and that’s what is great about it – we each have different views and opinions and take it down a different path. And that’s really what the audience is looking for – that insight, that perspective — what does this mean?”
There you go.
- Play the hits.
- Find a way into the story.
- Make a topic tree.
- If you don’t think your listeners care, eavesdrop on them.
- Don’t be naïve.
I set out to write a blog post about the things that annoy me about hosts / talent / personalities who apply for jobs. I’ve been going through mounds of mp3, CDs, even a stray tape or two. Listening through just a few minutes of each demo can be a struggle. But, then I realized – someone is telling these guys/gals they have talent. One of three things is certainly happening.
- These “talent” are being lied to about their talent by people who mean well.
- They’re getting bad advice from PDs or fellow talent.
- They’ve stopped listening to the people in their life that know better.
Leaders: I implore you to stop lying to people about the size of their talent and stop dishing out decade old, stale advice.
Hosts: If you only hear what you want to hear consider yourself at the top of your success. You’re never as good as “they” say you are and never as bad as your harshest critic. But, you must always strive to be better.
In an effort to be helpful, here are four things you can start doing today to be better a host.
Know What Big Story Your Show Is About Each Day.This is my “pick a lane” advice. Be about something each day. If even it’s a slow news day, it is better to be about something than trying to be about everything. What’s the thread holding your show together? It is not picking one story to talk about for three hours; it is picking one story that you want your listeners to remember you for that day and giving it more and better treatment than everything else.
Immerse Yourself in Details of the Stories You Want to Talk About. When you “play the hits” of the day, whatever they may be. Do your homework. Read up on it. Read everything you can. The more you read the better chance you have of finding a unique angle and creating a more memorable, substantive conversation.
Edit Your Own Audio. How can you tell the story, the way you want to tell it, if someone else is deciding what the key characters are going to say? Editing audio is not beneath you. Why leave the heart and soul of your show up to a $10 an hour board op. In my experience not only does editing your own audio give you certainty on a topic, it makes your treatment memorable and remarkable.
Do Not Let Segments Dictate The Length of a Story. Drives me crazy when hosts look at the clock and see they have seven minutes and look to see what topic they can stretch to fill the time. You should take the necessary time you need to tell a story and make your point and then move on to the next story or angle. It takes discipline and preparation. Don’t do your listeners any favors by “filling” the last two minutes with idle chit-chat on the topic. Give me a quick hit of something else, that’s great. Respect my time.
These four concepts are a good starting point. If it resonates with you, try it. Let me know how it goes.
When political advisor and forever Boston sports fan Mike Salk and former NFL QB Brock Huard were teamed together in 2009 it was all about winning, but they didn’t know how. They didn’t know each other and didn’t agree on much. It was an awkward 30-minute demo or so they say – no one seems to have listened to it since. Now Brock & Salk on 710 ESPN Seattle is one of the most successful and popular sports radio shows in the country. I sat down with Brock & Salk for a 60 minute interview as part of an on-going series of interviews called Inside the Bonneville Studios to find out how they did it.
Huard remembers the beginning, “I wanted to win arguments. He wanted to win arguments. And our station was just trying to find its footing. It wasn’t until we went to Phoenix (a year into the show) that we realized we weren’t winning, we weren’t really growing.”
“Look, we are different,” Salk tells me. “Politically, religiously, background, coasts, everything was different.”
In Phoenix, for the first time, they sat down several nights in a row and had dinner and got to know each other and discovered a relationship built on common ground.
They agree, “The thing we have most in common is our competitive obsession.”
Huard isn’t convinced it could have happened much sooner, “I think it just takes time, like with anything you’re trying to build. We had to prove to ourselves that we enjoy doing this, I enjoy coming to work with you. It’s not a battle. Even though we are vastly different we can find some common ground.”
And so they did. Now they aren’t battling to win each argument between them or with the audience.
“You’re not going to win every battle. Your not going to make people agree with you,” Huard says. “Whether it was right to put Ken Griffey Jr. on the bench, and you believe that and you can back that up and your thesis is right, there’s going to be a part of the audience that won’t believe it. They don’t want to hear it from you. Even if the facts are right in front of them, they’re not going to want to hear that. And I think a couple of years ago it drove Mike crazy, now it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to convince them. If I keep pounding and beating my head in what good am I doing?’”
Brock & Salk arrive at the studios a couple of hours before show time and ask each other what stories they like that day. They have a conversation. It’s a collaborative effort. But, they don’t prep nearly as much as they used to.
“(Sports radio consultant) Rick Scott told us at that same trip to Phoenix, ‘You guys will know it’s going well when you don’t get to 75% of what you prep for.’ We didn’t believe him.” Salk says they were preparing the show so thoroughly it was actually hard to have a conversation about topics. It was over-prepped. About the time a topic or story was getting interesting it was time to move to the next story, because that’s what was on the show rundown. They moved to topic after topic regardless of how good or bad it was going.
Since that time, they’ve stopped prepping so much and narrowed the focus of the show to the one or two topics they want to hit hard.
Mike admits, “Once we started leaving things on the cutting room floor, it was better.”
Bruce Springsteen was the keynote speaker this year at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. For fifty ”drive-way moment” minutes (three quarter-hours), The Boss was a talk show host, guiding us through the history of his music experience with very little music or singing, but instead with his story, his memories, his personal experience, his reactions, observations and his passion.
He was addressing young musicians, but the lessons transcend to radio.
ADVICE FOR RADIO HOSTS (the quotes are direct from Bruce Springsteen)
Be a catalyst of conversation. Your show is a, “Joyous argument starter and a subject of long, booze-filled nights of debate”
Stop complaining and start creating content. Who cares about how people get your show – radio – live stream – internet – mp3 – facebook – twitter? “The Genesis and power of creativity is consistent over the years. The elements don’t matter. Purity of human experience and expression is not confined to guitars, tubes, turn tables or microchips. There is no right way or pure way. Just do it.”
Be Authentic. “We live in a post-authentic world. Today authenticity is a house of mirrors. It’s all about just what you’re bringing when the lights go down. It’s your teachers, influences, personal history and at the end of day it’s the power and purpose of your (show) that still matters.”
Fake it until you make it. Go to small markets, or host a podcast, an internet radio show, or offer to do weekends and overnights. “I had nights and nights and nights (1,000 nights) of bar playing. Learn how to bring it live and bring it night after night after night. Your audience will remember you. Your ticket is your handshake. These skills gave me a huge ace up my sleep. When we finally went on the road, we scorched the earth.”
It’s amazing how Springsteen can appreciate where he came from, where he’s been, those who blazed a trail, is still self-deprecating about how he steals/borrows from everyone/every genre and remains self-aware enough to recognize he’s getting old, the game is changing, culture is evolving and in order to be relevant he needs to find a new way. This seems like a good model for radio.
His influences should be and can be your influence as well.
Animals “Gotta Get Outta This Place” – “Youngsters, listen up this is how successful theft is accomplished.This is every song I’ve ever written. I found their cruelty so freeing.They were brave, they challenged you, and made you brave.”
Gifford interpretation: Be brave. Don’t be afraid to borrow from those before you.
Bob Dillon – “The first thing he asked was ‘how does it feel?’…’to be on your own’ – parents couldn’t understand incredible changes happening in our world.’Without a home’… he gave us the words to understand our hearts. He stood back and in took in the stakes we were playing for and laid them out in front of us.”
Gifford interpretation: As a talk host, tell us how you feel, explore how others feel, give us the words to understand our hearts.
Country Music. This music is “stoic recognition of everyday reality and the small and big things that allow you to put a foot in front of the other get through it. It was reflective, it was funny, it was soulful. It was rarely politically angry, it was rarely politically critical.”
Gifford interpretation: Country music is what successful talk radio hosts are doing today.
Hank Williams “Why does my bucket have a hole in it?” – Hank help launch the “search for identity and became an essential part of my nature. I was not downtown, bohemian or hipster. Just an average guy, with a slightly above average gift and if I worked my ass off on it – and country was about the truth emanating out of your sweat.”
Gifford interpretation: Use your curiosities in life to fuel your show.
Woodie Guthrie: “Somewhere over the horizon there was something…he tried to answer the question why the bucket has a hole in it.”
Gifford interpretation: Search for answers to big questions. Give listeners hope.
Bruce Springsteen’s parting shot should be used by all creative people as a mantra and guiding light:
“Rumble, young musicians rumble. Open your ears and open your hearts. Don’t take yourself too seriously. And take yourself as serious as death itself. Don’t worry. Worry your ass off. Have iron clad confidence. But, doubt – it keeps you awake and alert. Believe you are the baddest ass in town…and “you suck!” It keeps you honest. Be able to keep two completely contradictory ideas alive and well inside of your heart and head at the same time. If it doesn’t drive you crazy, it will make you strong. And stay hard, stay hungry and stay alive. And when you walk on stage tonight to bring the noise, treat it like it’s all we have and then remember, it’s only rock n roll.”
Watch Springsteen’s keynote address here. It’s worth it.
For years, “News-Talk” was a fair description of what you would hear on hundreds of radio stations across the country that focused on spoken word radio. The stations would report the news (or what passed as news – common crime, fires, city council meetings, accidents, etc.). And then they would fill the time between newscasts with someone talking.
That doesn’t cut it anymore. Not for news-talk. Not for the FM. Not for radio. Not in such a competitive market for eyeballs and ears.
So if not that, then what? Stations across the country are trying to figure it out. Merlin Media is exploring with what’s possible with FM news in Chicago and New York. We’re trying new things in Seattle too. And others are testing, trying and tweaking. There’s no magic formula. And likely won’t ever be – though I’m certain there are those who will try to find one.
Here is some of what is happening at News and News-Talkers across the country…
Redefining News. Just because something happened, doesn’t mean it’s news. Every story needs to be carefully chosen and written to be entertaining, informational and relevant. We need to ask questions about stories and answer them for the listener. We need to stop filling air time with city council meetings, press releases, and chasing cop cars and fire trucks, and start telling stories about people that helps put news in context and make it matter to the listener.
Empowering the Hosts. For years, the program director’s job was to keep the talent in check. Criticize, critique, and reign in. Today, the role of the PD is to put the hosts in a position to be artists. Give them space to create remarkable content. Give them permission to try new things, provoke, entertain, surprise, and amuse the listeners. Somethings will fail. That’s okay – if you’re not failing – you’re not trying. The key is to work together to identify what’s working and replicate it and identify what’s not working and abandon it.
Play Your Hits. This is different than play THE hits. What lights you up? What sparks your passion? What are the most important stories to YOU today – likely they’ll resonate with your fans. There are some stories that are “must” cover – but don’t get caught up in having to cover it any specific way. What questions do you have about the story? Why is this story interesting, entertaining or relevant?
Redefine Local. For years, we’ve limited our mindset on what’s local based on location. We need to get past this. Stories don’t have to occur in a specific land mass to be local. Stories that resonate and impact the lives of your listeners are inherently local – the facebook redesign, 9/11, Killing Osama bin Laden, Hurricane Katrina, gas prices, the housing market, Anthony Weiner, the Reno Air crash – all of these stories are locally relevant regardless where you live. They impact each person in a profoundly emotional, personal way. These stories allow us each to evaluate our personal morals and values, question the value of life, the abuse of power, etc.
These are just a few ways spoken word radio is changing. There are more. But we need to move faster. We need leaders who get it, support it, and demand it. We need stop clinging to the past. We need to raise our standards and stop accepting average reporting, average story telling and average radio.
One of my favorite sayings which I learned in my first week at ESPN - “Evolve, or face extinction.” Radio doesn’t have to go the way of the dinosaur, but will if we insist on acting like it’s 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000.
The NFL deal is almost done (It’s 7:58a PT). Sundays this fall won’t be wasted on chores and church socials – and the fantasy football smack talk will continue per usual. Are you ready? Is your station ready? Are the promos locked and loaded? Is the website ready to go? Did you proactively plan for this moment — or are you scrambling in reactive mode today? If you aren’t ready for this — which we all knew was coming – what else aren’t you ready for?
“Payoff” is quickly usurping “Play the Hits” as king of buzz words among news-talk and sports programmers and consultants. Both are important concepts for driving ratings, but the terms are used so frequently the meaning is becoming muddled.
I asked a handful of people – programmers, producers, and consultants — to help me define “payoff.”
So let’s be clear. We are not talking payola. No money exchanges hands in the type of payoff we are talking about unless a listener wins a contest or your payoffs are so good your ratings go up and revenue flies through the door.
Martin continues,“My definition of a payoff from a programming stand point, is the call to action tease that your talent uses to keep your audience through commercial breaks.”
When I coach talent about payoffs, I describe it as something that prompts a response from a listener. The goal is to take the listener somewhere they’ve never been so when they get to the destination they react unconsciously – audibly or internally. That very well could be the lack of action too or not changing the radio station for a commercial break, because you want to hear the story that was just teased. That’s the infamous “driveway moment.”
Pete Gianesini, a programmer at the ESPN Radio Network, defines payoff this way.
“A strong, genuine reaction from the listener… could be a belly laugh, could be anger, could be bewilderment, could be a piece of information that I now can’t wait to share with someone else (a real-life re-tweet).”
I love the idea of a real-life re-tweet. I also call it social currency. It’s what the listener earns in return for investing time into your show or station.
Rick Scott at Rick Scott & Associates adds, “A payoff is simply content that has value for the listener. It can be entertaining, informative, or insightful.”
The trick to this is that the value Rick talks about is perceived by the listener not the host or station. So it’s important to reinforce the value of your content to your listener through branding and positioning. Don’t be afraid to tell listeners that what they are hearing is special.
“Payoffs happen when the team has managed to achieve one of two goals. Either building up the image and the brand of the station, or bringing a positive effect on the ratings. The biggest and best payoffs accomplish both, but you don’t need to have both for it to be considered a success.”
Nate is right. The goal of payoffs is to increase listening to the station. Listening increases when people feel there is a value to spending more time with the station. So, as ratings increase it’s fair to assume revenue will increase and the brand of the station grows accordingly.
“I would define a payoff when a promotion, tease, or on-air bit has the right amount of build-up creating interest and then is effectively paid off.”
This is an important point. Listeners don’t always discern the difference between payoffs. They don’t even know they are waiting for a payoff. We use that word; they don’t. So, a promotion can definitely provide a payoff. A station event or remote can also provide a payoff, as well as traffic reports, weather reports, and news or sports updates, but again only if the listener perceives it as a value.
One example of a payoff that stands out to Gianesini is how Colin Cowherd handled Aaron Rodgers following the Super Bowl.
“After not buying into Aaron Rodgers as an NFL superstar, Colin had him on the day after he won the Super Bowl. Aaron was very much aware of Colin’s position and put Colin on the spot during their piece. It was just the right mix of lighthearted, yet uncomfortable, to be very compelling. And completely unscripted. That’s the hard part. While I believe you have to plan your show and promote specific elements more than ever and further in advance than ever, you can’t be SO committed to the minute-by-minute that you don’t let spontaneity happen. That’s where the magic is.”
Arbitron will tell you, in general, there are listeners coming and going from your radio station every minute. Listeners are dipping in and out of stations searching for a comfortable place to rest. This is either terrific or terrifying news if you are host, producer or programmer. It means you have opportunities to snag new listeners every minute. It also means if you are off topic, too sloppy or boring – you’re going lose some too.
Here’s the truth about these non-P1 listeners:
- These listeners do not know who you are.
- These listeners do not know your show.
- These listeners do not know what your station is all about.
- These listeners do not know your inside jokes.
- These listeners want to be included.
- These listeners want to like you.
- These listeners want you to be relatable.
- These listeners want you to be local.
In order to take full advantage of this opportunity, it’s important that you pay attention to all the details. Every moment counts. Are the hosts resetting who they are, what they’re doing and what station they are on often enough? Are bench mark segments being explained and sold to the listener as a benefit? Are you saying the web address, phone number, text, and twitter accounts slowly and clearly so new listeners can play along? Is your board operator paying attention, running a tight board and hitting all the correct audio? Are sound bites edited properly? Are producers carefully screening callers? Are hosts prepared for interviews? Are you playing the hits uniquely or are you covering the story the same way everyone else is? Are you providing social currency or are you wasting time? Are you letting new listeners play along or are your jokes and references too inside?
In a PPM world every moment, every word, every piece of audio, every phone call, every interview, everything you do – counts. Make sure everything you do on your station is best serving the fans in your city in that moment or the listeners will keep searching until they find the station that does.
Want more on PPM? Listen to this Larry Gifford Media podcast with Charlie Sislen from Research Director Inc. Charlie Sislen Interview Podcast
Weclome to the blog. Larry Gifford is a radio management consultant and talent coach. He is available for ongoing or project based consulting for U.S. and International radio groups, stations, and talent
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