Listen to the inaugural “Radio Stuff” podcast with Deb Slater (@deb_slater and www.debslater.com) and me. This first podcast we listen to how different radio sources treated the Cleveland story about the three women found after years in captivity; WTAM, Fox News Radio, NPR, Rush Limbuagh, BBC, and Radio Australia. We also talk about Paula White who got drunk before her final Friday night shift at BBC Radio Stoke. We listen to News Talk 980 CJME (Regina, Canada) and host John Himpe’s thoughts on a would-be seriel killer allowed to watch Dexter. We listen to radio station imaging from 100.3 The Sound in LA and 99.3 The Vine in Wine Country. We talked to XL 1010 Jacksonville’s Chad Scott about a new sports radio chat on twitter #srchat, and we debate the decency of a Fresh N Easy commercial. There’s a lot here! Enjoy. Let us know what you like, what you want more of, and what you could do without. And please send contributions, tips, audio, insights to both of us at email@example.com
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).
Everyone: Hi Larry!
I am a recovering high school drama geek. I was in the plays and musicals, auditioned for and was accepted into a collegiate theater program, I wore a dance belt and tights (a few times), I took piano lessons, learned how to breath “properly,” explored the history of theater and more. (Lucky for me, the radio station was housed in the basement of the theater – thus, avoiding a career as a New York City waiter.) Of all my theater experiences, the one that comes in handy in every job I have is improv.
On the air or off – improv skills have served me well. Let me just say upfront, if you are a producer, a host, an anchor, a reporter, or a programmer – invest in some improv classes for yourself – it will make you better at your job. It teaches you how to be in present in the moment and hones your ability to listen, react, adapt, create, innovate, play, contribute, and actively engage with the people you work with. Who doesn’t want that?
I was reminded of this while watching Tina Fey discuss the rules of improv while on Inside The Actors Studio this week. (A show that I unabashedly enjoy and one that I’ve paid homage to in my Inside The Bonneville Studios interviews – here with Luke Burbank, Linda Thomas, Brock & Salk and Dori Monson). Tina Fey honed her skills at Second City in Chicago before going to Saturday Night Live. In her book, “Bossypants,” she wrote down the rules of improv that she’s adapted as a world view and she claims they’ve changed her life.
“The Rules of Improvisation that will change your life and Reduce Belly Fat” (p84-85)
- AGREE – always agree & SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun” and you say, “That’s not a gun, it’s your finger” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if you instead say “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is a Christmas gun. In real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. but the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open minded place. Start with YES and see where that takes you.
- Not only say yes, but say YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here” and you say “Yeah…” we are at a stand-still, but if you say “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures” now we’re getting somewhere. YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.
- MAKE STATEMENTS – Don’t ask questions all the time. If I ask continuous questions I am putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers. Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. Make statements with your actions and your voice. For instance, instead of saying “Where are we?”, make a statement like “Here we are in Spain”.
- THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities. If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bike, but you think I’m a hamster in a wheel, then now I’m a hamster in a wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discovered have been by accident. For instance, Reese’s PB Cup & Botox.
So, how many times do you or your on-air partners disagree with, disregard or discredit something the other said so you can one-up them, make a better point, or deliver a pithier punch line? Or you’re not sure what to say about a topic or how to move it forward, so you continually just ask questions of your co-host or the audience? Or a sound-byte doesn’t fire and you feel a need to explain to listeners it was supposed to be there – maybe even through your board op or producer under the bus – when in reality the audience had no clue it was coming? All of these are violations of improv.
Other improvisionalists have other rules. For instance, at TEDxVictoria, David Morris offered seven rules. (10 minute Ted Talk here)
- Play. The idea of engaging in something just because you like it.
- Let Yourself Fail. LET is the key. Failing is easy. The hard part is being okay with it. As soon as you start fearing failure you get trapped in your head. Failing does not make you a failure. Just fail, improvise and start again.
- Listen. Listen with all your being. Most people listen just enough to be able to respond. True listening is the willingness to change. If you are not willing to change based on what someone is saying, you are not listening. You are just letting them talk, before you respond.
- Say YES. A series of YES’s will take us somewhere. A single NO shuts down the entire journey.
- Say AND. YES-men are great. AND-men are people we want to work with. They say, “Yes, I like your idea!” AND they add to the creation.
- Play the Game. Anything that has rules is a game whether that’s playing Monopoly or filling out a job application. Rules free us up to improvise. Restrictions funnel our creative process to a create a product.
- Relax and have fun. It will lead to a more enjoyable life.
Improv isn’t about comedy. As David Morris’ pointed out in his Ted talk, MacGyver is one of the great improvisers of our time and he dealt in explosives. Whether you’re trying to save the World, save your ratings or save a segment; learn to improvise.
Luke Burbank‘s podcast titled “TBTL” was named, because he thought his night-time radio show on 97.3 KIRO FM was “Too Beautiful To Live.” He was right. The show was cancelled after 395 shows, but the podcast persists and is thriving after over 1,000 episodes.
Last year, in 2011, TBTL was downloaded 24,085,650 times. He currently averages about 2,000,000 downloads per month. I sat down with Luke for about an hour and talked to him about the show. Even he can’t believe the success of the show.
Full disclosure: Luke is one-half of the Ross & Burbank Show on 97.3 KIRO FM, which as Program Director, I oversee.
Luke is a radio veteran with an impressive resume including producing, reporting and hosting NPR shows like “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition,” and has reported for This American Life in addition to his employment at 97.3 KIRO FM. Transitioning from traditional radio to podcasting, Luke quickly shed the formatics and realized even the worst segments could be fodder for days, where in terrestrial radio he doesn’t feel that freedom.
What is it about TBTL that makes it work? work. Luke treats it like a “real thing.” His producer gets a real salary, they invested in broadcast quality equipment, they do show prep and produce the show consistently at that the same time.
Luke’s success isn’t without some direction. He got some early advice from Adam Corrolla. You’ll find Luke appearing on other people’s podcasts, he is a panelist on NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, and he recently did a commentary on CBS Sunday Morning.
One lesson Luke learned along the way is that the more obstacles you put between your content and your listener, the less they will listen.
So, after all of this you still want to start or continue your podcast? Cool. Here are the parting words of wisdom from Luke.
If you are going to launch a new podcast, be a narrow-caster. For instance, Luke says, “If someone did a podcast about just Marshawn Lynch‘s teeth, I would listen to that.” The more specific your podcast the better. Serve your niche and serve it better than anyone else.
You can watch the full interview here…
I do not condone Rush Limbaugh’s word choice and characterizations of Sandra Fluke. No woman deserves to be called a “slut” or ” prostitute” or any other derogatory phrase. I do not condone ex-WDAE morning guy Dan Sileo’s characterization of three African American NFL players as “monkeys.” Howard Cosell was fired nearly 30 years ago for pretty much the same thing. I also heard the “n” word un-bleeped on a syndicated show last week, which I do not condone.
So here are my questions…And answers.
Why is this happening? How is this happening? Who is to blame? Who is responsible? How does this impact radio? How should radio deal with it?
Talk radio is a tight rope walk. We ask talent to spend three hours a day entertaining, informing, dishing big opinions and driving conversations. We want hosts to “cut through the clutter,” “be passionate,” and “take risks,” while simultaneously protecting our company brands. This is hard to do and mistakes will happen. This is why companies provide a net in the form of board operators and producers. Talent need to rely on and respect these roles more — and the people in these positions need to speak up and take action when a talent crosses the line. Here is an idea; use the dump button…or tell the host they’ve gone too far. If you sit there and laugh with them like it’s a 1960s fraternity house, the content will likely degenerate. This isn’t the producer and board operators fault, but it is their responsibility along with the host.
What frustrates me is that radio is getting beat up as a dying industry everywhere I look and these outdated, racist, sexist, and irresponsible comments reinforce those claims and further suggest the medium is irrelevant and obsolete. The reality is radio has been and can continue to be a remarkable platform for lively debate and conversation about important issues and help to provide understanding. At its best talk radio is informative, entertaining, compelling, thought provoking, in-the-moment, interesting, fun and relevant. As an industry we provide the sound track to people’s life, we start conversations, we tell stories of triumph and tragedy to better understand the human condition, we care for and take care of our communities, and we create an invisible, powerful, connective tissue through the lives of our listeners which creates an amazing bond that has helped stations across the country in the past year alone raise millions and millions of dollars for good causes.
That being said, we are in a business that requires an understanding that things will get said that shouldn’t be said. Mistakes happen. This is talk radio. We will provoke at times and upset groups of people. As a PD it is my job to be calm in the middle of the storm. Programming decisions should never be made in the middle of a fire storm. It is our job (my job) to listen to the people complaining, listen to the actual audio of what was said, and then formulate my response. If lines were crossed –apologies should be made (as insincere as you may think he was, at least Rush did this). And then after everyone takes a deep breath, ask yourself a couple of questions; is this show representative of the kind of show you want on your station? Does it attract the audience you are targeting? Is the host chronically crossing the line ( your line, the FCC’s line, the community standards)? and if so, is the reward ( ratings and revenue) worth the risk? We are in the radio business and we need to make business decisions.
Finally, radio needs a shot in the arm and not another punch to the gut. Somehow, someway everyone who believes as strongly in this medium as I do needs to be actively promoting its awesomeness. 90+% of everyone (a totally made up stat) listens to radio. They are already believers in the medium, let’s remind them of it. Tell your friends why you love radio (#iloveradio) and I will do the same. Together we can rekindle people’s passion for absolutely free, wireless, instant information and entertainment available nationwide at the touch of a button…that is still legal to access while driving.
I had the pleasure of attending the a leadership conference last week. It’s especially cool to know that people are still encouraging radio to take risks, think big, and change the world. I know sometimes bosses go off-site to these conferences and you never hear what they did or learned. So, I would like to share a few ideas, quotes and inspirations that I took away from the day.
The following are notes I jotted down during a series of presentations. Regardless of your position, you can incorporate some or all of the concepts below to make a positive impact.
Ask more interesting questions. Ask what hasn’t been asked before in order to get different answers.
This is a simple concept that applies to everyone. Whether you are trying to develop a story, find an angle to explore, solve a work efficiency issue, or having trouble working with a colleague – asking a more interesting question about whatever is in front of you will lead to a more interesting answer. This reminds me of a line from motivational speaker Tim Sanders, “Stop asking how people are doing and start asking what they are excited about.” Same concept; ask a different question, get a different answer.
We need more crazy, off-the-wall, ridiculous ideas. Inspired from the Albert Einstein quote, “If at first an idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it.”
Wild ideas lead to interesting conversations about “what’s possible” and “What if…” This doesn’t mean you starting acting crazy, off-the-wall and ridiculous. Use your IDEAS as a launching pad to obtain more creative results on and off the air.
This reminds of what it must have been like for the first man to suggest and then eat a raw oyster. I can only imagine there wasn’t an overwhelming reaction of support and congratulations. But, depending on your tastes, it turned into a pretty good idea.
Get out of your comfort zone. We need more interesting people in our lives. Expose yourself to new people and new experiences to challenge yourself and expand your reference points. Stop thinking so narrowly about the things you think about.
We all have our routines, favorite spots, people we interact with on a regular basis. Make a point to go new places, talk to new people and change your regular way of doing things. Collaborate with someone new.
Take Risks. Be prepared to fail. Learn from mistakes. Focus on what needs to be better. Commit to perfection.
Risk-taking is not easy, but the key is to learn from failures, adjust, improve, and try again. Thomas Edison experimented thousands of times before perfecting the light bulb and is known for saying, “we know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.”
No one wins by working twice as hard. You win by fractions, inches, and moments. If you work 15 minutes extra per day on developing a skill… that’s 91 hours over the course of a year.
It’s the little things and small changes that can make all the difference. For you, this can apply to clock management, spending an extra five minutes reading the whole article to make sure you extract all the dazzling details, or spending a couple extra minutes with a listener or client when you’d rather be somewhere else.
We need more innovation. Stop watching the other guy. Stop playing catch up. New doesn’t have to mean revolutionary.
Innovation can come from you. Start innovating by asking, “I wonder if ____ is possible?” There are enough smart people in our business that if we all start trying to answer new, different and big questions innovation will be inevitable.