I’m an unabashed fan of Seth Godin’s books. Some have been very formative in how I go about my life and business and some just made me tilt my head a little as the light flickered on in my head with a new awareness and understanding. His latest book, “Poke the Box,” is an example of how great things come in small packages. It’s a quick read with no chapters per se, just example after example of why you should stop making excuses, whining, contemplating failure and just start doing. He makes a strong case that businesses should have a person dedicated to “starting things” and reward those who fail. The theory is if you’re failing, you’re doing something.
In one example, Godin points at Starbucks. It started at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle as a coffee bean and tea leaf shop. You couldn’t buy a cup of coffee. That wasn’t in the business plan. When Howard Schultz took a trip to Italy and watched the barista make his espresso like an artist on a stage, he knew he was on to something. He brought the idea of baristas and cappuccino to Starbuck’s and they weren’t interested. Schultz’ idea ultimately prevailed, but without starting something and “failing” (selling beans and leafs), Starbucks may have never had happened.
Fail. The more you fail the closer you are to succeeding. Try something. Ship it to market. Get feedback. Tweak it or trash it, make something new and ship again. Repeat. And this is even more important for companies and individuals who have already found some success.
Poke the box. See what works. Be an instigator. Be unconventional. Challenge the status quo. Stir the pot. Stop collecting good ideas and start implementing them.
In 2007, a “Jerry Maguire-esque” memo from Starbuck’s chairman Howard Schultz to his senior management team was leaked. At that time, I was inspired by the words he wrote and penned a memo to my team and peers using Starbuck’s story as a cautionary tale. This week, Newsweek is following up with Schultz and updating the Starbucks story, “How Starbucks Got Its Mojo Back,” so I felt it only appropriate to update my messaging as well.
Starbucks is a brand just like your radio station. Your brand is your most valuable resource. The experience fans should have with your brand is unique, powerful, personal and ever evolving. Do not forget your roots, the inspiration for the station, how it has impacted the community, and what it stands for. After reading the memo (below) take precautions to keep your radio station from becoming stale or worse – flavor-sealed. Let your fans take a deep breath and inhale the experience of your radio station.
10 Steps to prevent your radio station from falling down the Starbuck’s slide…
1. Talk WITH fans instead of AT or ABOVE them.
2. Be better story tellers.
3. Walk the fine line between pride and chest-pounding. You can only be remarkable if others are remarking about you.
4. Challenge your own incumbency and conventional wisdom.
5. Find ways to better serve your fans and meet their needs. Connect with them on their terms.
6. Stop being so self-righteous. Have fun. Be self-deprecating.
7. Surprise your fans.
8. Find ways to connect with the fan by engaging them outside the radio station in activities and causes they are already passionate about.
9. Know what your brand stands for, because every time you compromise your brand fundamentals there is a cost. (listeners, ratings, revenue, clients, employee satisfaction and more.)
10. Listen. Notice what’s not right. Propose solutions. Take action.
Please share your thoughts by posting comments.
February 23, 2007
Starbucks chairman warns of “the commoditization of the Starbucks experience”
Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz wrote this to CEO Jim Donald earlier this month. The memo’s authenticity has been confirmed by Starbucks.
From: Howard Schultz
Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2007 10:39 AM Pacific Standard Time
To: Jim Donald
Cc: Anne Saunders; Dave Pace; Dorothy Kim; Gerry Lopez; Jim Alling; Ken Lombard; Martin Coles; Michael Casey; Michelle Gass; Paula Boggs; Sandra Taylor
Subject: The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience
As you prepare for the FY 08 strategic planning process, I want to share some of my thoughts with you.
Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand.
Many of these decisions were probably right at the time, and on their own merit would not have created the dilution of the experience; but in this case, the sum is much greater and, unfortunately, much more damaging than the individual pieces. For example, when we went to automatic espresso machines, we solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency. At the same time, we overlooked the fact that we would remove much of the romance and theatre that was in play with the use of the La Marzocca machines. This specific decision became even more damaging when the height of the machines, which are now in thousands of stores, blocked the visual sight line the customer previously had to watch the drink being made, and for the intimate experience with the barista. This, coupled with the need for fresh roasted coffee in every North America city and every international market, moved us toward the decision and the need for flavor locked packaging. Again, the right decision at the right time, and once again I believe we overlooked the cause and the affect of flavor lock in our stores. We achieved fresh roasted bagged coffee, but at what cost? The loss of aroma — perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we had in our stores; the loss of our people scooping fresh coffee from the bins and grinding it fresh in front of the customer, and once again stripping the store of tradition and our heritage? Then we moved to store design. Clearly we have had to streamline store design to gain efficiencies of scale and to make sure we had the ROI on sales to investment ratios that would satisfy the financial side of our business. However, one of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store. Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee. In fact, I am not sure people today even know we are roasting coffee. You certainly can’t get the message from being in our stores. The merchandise, more art than science, is far removed from being the merchant that I believe we can be and certainly at a minimum should support the foundation of our coffee heritage. Some stores don’t have coffee grinders, French presses from Bodum, or even coffee filters.
Now that I have provided you with a list of some of the underlying issues that I believe we need to solve, let me say at the outset that we have all been part of these decisions. I take full responsibility myself, but we desperately need to look into the mirror and realize it’s time to get back to the core and make the changes necessary to evoke the heritage, the tradition, and the passion that we all have for the true Starbucks experience. While the current state of affairs for the most part is self induced, that has lead to competitors of all kinds, small and large coffee companies, fast food operators, and mom and pops, to position themselves in a way that creates awareness, trial and loyalty of people who previously have been Starbucks customers. This must be eradicated.
I have said for 20 years that our success is not an entitlement and now it’s proving to be a reality. Let’s be smarter about how we are spending our time, money and resources. Let’s get back to the core. Push for innovation and do the things necessary to once again differentiate Starbucks from all others. We source and buy the highest quality coffee. We have built the most trusted brand in coffee in the world, and we have an enormous responsibility to both the people who have come before us and the 150,000 partners and their families who are relying on our stewardship.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge all that you do for Starbucks. Without your passion and commitment, we would not be where we are today.
I know the job of a radio management team is hard, but I contend many stations and broadcast groups have lost their way. For the most part, discussions are focused on increasing ratings, meeting and exceeding revenue goals, increasing operating income, cutting expenses, and keeping tabs on increasingly shrinking budgets. Far too infrequently the questions managers ask of each other revolve around the quality and excellence of the product, how our fans and clients will be better served, or how decisions impact the employees of the radio station. I contend radio is thinking too much with a calculator and too little with a soul or about the souls who work so hard. What if there was a way to strike a better balance?
In the new book “Soul of Leadership,” Deepak Chopra challenges leaders to relinquish control, power, and authority and focus on unfolding the potential for greatness in all you serve. He suggests the four most important qualities that people want in their leaders are trust, hope, compassion, and stability. Based on my experience, it’s hard to contend with his analysis.
L = Look and Listen
E = Emotional Bonding
A = Awareness
D = Doing
E = Empowerment
R = Responsibility
S = Synchronicity
Chopra also cautions, “As a great leader you must also avoid 3 toxic A’s: authoritarianism, anger, and aloofness.”
Maybe Deepak isn’t your cup of tea. That’s okay.
Here’s the point:
Ratings and revenue discussions can’t be ignored by radio management, but having been in many of these meetings, I believe often times high-level execs are too concerned with managing away problems and covering their hide than actually leading the station. Managers are quick cut people, projects and budgets to bring the station into profitability instead of inspiring, engaging, and empowering the staff they’ve assembled.
The #1 complaint I hear from programmers is that they have so many meetings, reports, new media responsibilities, and general busy work that they don’t have enough time to listen to content and provide feedback to talent.
The #1 complaint I hear from talent (those employed and seeking employment) is that they don’t get feedback from program directors.
As I see it the future of radio is in creating original content and distributing it on any and all platforms. If no one is paying attention to the development of talent, who do you suppose is going to create all this great content?
Someone needs to figure this out.
TOM: Preparation – you need to make sure you’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s. Your on-air crew will have prepped all week on the opponent’s stats, injuries, etc., but your support staff needs to be doing the same thing. Is the imaging ready and current? Is your pre-production edited and ready to go? Are the broadcast lines (ISDN and POTS) ordered and tested? Have you communicated to your on-site engineer that they need to be set up and connected no later than 1 hour before the broadcast start time?
Execution – Is your board op prepared with all the info they need (pre-recorded interview info, highlights, etc). Communication with the crew on game site is crucial both before AND during the broadcast.
GIFF: As someone who has produced play-by-play events for many years, what are some of the detailed items that elevate a broadcast from good to great?
TOM: It’s the small things:
Great production – You’re PxP talent is doing their best so why not surround them with the best. The production is the first thing your listeners hear. I tend to image our sports broadcasts like rock radio. It builds excitement before the talent even says a word.
Use of highlights – Too many broadcasts forget to take advantage of this. You can tell your fans how that play happened OR you can let them hear it for themselves again. We like to build broadcast opens that use highlights from previous games to help set the stage for that day’s game.
Good equipment – You can have the best talent in the world but if you have them using mediocre gear it will show. It’s the old saying “You get what you pay for.” You don’t have to break the bank but invest in a good headset, mic and mixer. Flash recorders have really become affordable as well. Do yourself a favor and get a good one and make your pre-produced interviews sound as good as your live stuff.
Great prep – Build a format structure for your pre-game ahead of time. This doesn’t mean script your show, just have the structure of where you want to go and how long each segment should take. Then be ready to be flexible if need be. I encourage talent to put together bullet point thoughts and not full scripts.
GIFF: You talk about using highlights. We’ve all heard highlights on-air that were too loose, upcut, too long, or used for sound’s sake. What are your guidelines for editing highlights?
TOM: As a standard we capture and archive:
- Our team’s scoring plays
- Defensive takeaways (int/fumble recovery)
- Any offensive play in the air or on the ground of 30 yards or more
- Any game-changing play at the end of the game
A good highlight should be 12-15 seconds in length, 20 seconds max. I only like an analyst to be in the highlight if he gives a “verbal explanation point” (“what a play”……”that’s the way it’s done,” etc.). I like using highlights in postgame coming back from breaks to help set up a postgame segment. My biggest pet peeve is the PxP voice setting up his own highlights. If you have a strong analyst, they should be doing that segment in the postgame.
GIFF: What are the differences between working on play-by-play events at Learfield vs. for a radio station or directly with a team?
TOM: My role with Learfield is different than when I produced the Dodgers Radio Network. Learfield Sports produces the radio networks for 43 schools. Since we aren’t a 24-hour radio station operation, we can focus on the production of our play-by-play product and weekly coaches shows. I think this allows us to laser focus our attention on the little things that make a broadcast great. Of course the flip side is handling the workload for 43 schools, which can become even more excessive when football overlaps with men’s and women’s hoops and hockey.
In the end I think we have an advantage in producing play by play broadcasts because it’s our specialty.
GIFF: There are a lot of aspiring play by play announcers looking for advice. What insights or guidance are you willing to pass along to them?
TOM: First and foremost is CALL GAMES! Take your recorder up to the top of the bleachers at a local high school or college event and call the game. Nothing beats repetition. Make sure you’re “painting the picture” for the listener. It sounds cheesy but the best PxP announcers do exactly that………they paint the picture. When I listen to demos I close my eyes and try to visualize what the talent is trying to tell me.
Fans really only care about a few things:
- What’s the score?
- Where is the ball?
- How much time is left?
Outside of this is a bonus. They like insight about the player or a good stat but essentially they want the basics. Good talent gives them what they want and sprinkles in a little of the rest. If you’re working with an analyst you’ll need to perfect the back and forth or “the dance.” In football, for example, the PxP voice should call the play, the analyst should jump right in with the “why” and as soon as the team breaks the huddle the analyst needs to be done and the PxP voice needs to jump in with the next play. Those are the basics.
Contact Tom Boman: firstname.lastname@example.org, 573-556-1294 office