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.
“Updates? Sports? Talk host? Farm Report? I’m your gal!”
More than one applicant has told me, “I can do anything and everything. Just tell me what you want.”
That’s a warning sign to me. I believe talent is art, not manufacturing.
I want unique. I want different. I want authentic. I want clever, creative, and distinctive. I want someone who fits in to my station and stands out. I am always looking for talent who are true to themselves.
When I listen to demos I’m listening for talent who have found their voice, who are certain who they are and know what they do best. If talent tries to cater their demo to what they think I’m looking for, I can hear it. It comes across as trying too hard to impress, uncomfortable, uncertain, or as playing the role of a host or anchor, instead of being it.
How do you do that? Practice, practice, practice. And it probably takes 10,000 hours of doing radio to truly find your voice and personality. (see: Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule from “Outliers”). Your voice is an instrument. It takes time and reps to figure out all that it can do and how to do it. For me, the journey included re-learning how to breathe to better support my voice, how to use pacing, pausing, pitch, tone, enunciation, intonation and body movement, and how to write specifically for my voice and listener’s ears and not for my eyes.
The other thing to remember is one program director‘s opinion is just that — one program director’s opinion. What I perceive of your talent is personal to me and my experiences. The next program director that listens to your demo will evaluate your talent differently. That’s why it is so important to be yourself. Otherwise, you’ll have to reinvent your style and personality everywhere you go. That’s a lot of work and will make it very difficult to build your brand. Imagine if Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Rick Dees, Carson Daly, and Ryan Seacrest changed who they were and what they did at every stop along their career path.
The balancing act as a talent comes when you get hired. It’s a delicate dance of being yourself and integrating your brand into the radio station brand. Ideally, the sum is greater than the parts (1 + 1 = 3). You AND the station are exponentially better. That means working with the program director and station colleagues to maximize results without compromising your art.
Sometimes you have to ask for what you want.
Sometimes you have to ask what your employees CAN do.
Sometimes you have to ask what your boss expects from you.
Sometimes you have to ask how to be better.
Sometimes you have to ask permission.
Sometimes you have to ask for forgiveness.
Sometimes you have to ask how you can improve.
Sometimes you have to ask how to do it differently.
Sometimes you have to ask for help.
Sometimes you have to ask, “How can I help?”
Sometimes you have to ask, “What’s missing?”
Sometimes you have to ask a stranger for a favor.
Sometimes you have to ask someone their name.
Sometimes you have to ask, “What do you do?”
Sometimes you have to ask for feedback.
Sometimes you have to ask, “What’s next?”
Sometimes you have to ask, “Is this the best way?”
Sometimes you have to ask for someone’s attention.
Sometimes you have to ask, “What if…”
Sometimes you to ask. And that’s okay.
I wrote on Facebook and twitter today that I was still cringing from Steve Croft‘s interview with President Obama on “60 Minutes.” There are many things I would have done different. The whole point of having the President go on a show like “60 Minutes” is to have him tell the story from his perspective. In order to tell a story properly you need to start at the beginning BEFORE the moment of change or conflict of the story. This puts your interviewee chronologically in line with the events as they happened so he/she can take you through the emotional journey instead of reflect on events from a mental space. Thus, question #1 from Steve Croft to Barack Obama immediately put the President in a head space aside from being hyperbolic, and closed.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, it was certainly one of the most satisfying weeks not only for my Presidency, but I think for the United States since I’ve been President. Obviously bin Laden had been not only a symbol of terrorism, but a mass murderer who’s had eluded justice for so long, and so many families who have been affected I think had given up hope.
And for us to be able to definitively say, “We got the man who caused thousands of deaths here in the United States and who had been the rallying point for a violent extremist jihad around the world” was something that I think all of us were profoundly grateful to be a part of.
Notice how the President responds to the hyperbole “most satisfying week of his Presidency.” He down plays this point and takes the wind out of his own sails by putting a qualifier of “one of the most” on it AND pivoted from his Presidency to the United States of America. Talk about down playing the importance of an event in your career. Sheesh. Ideally you would start at the beginning of the story – maybe even 9/11 – and work your way through the events. IF you ask this question keep it open and let him define for himself.
What was this past week like for you?
How was this past week different than other weeks of your Presidency?
How satisfying was this week of your Presidency?
Similar mistakes are made in question #2.
KROFT: Was the decision to launch this attack the most difficult decision that you’ve made as Commander-In-Chief?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Certainly one. You know, every time I send young men and women into a war theatre, that’s a tough decision. And, you know, whenever you go to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] or Bethesda [Naval Hospital] and you see the price that our young people pay to keep this country safe, that’s a tough decision. Whenever you write a letter to a family who’s lost a loved one. It’s sobering.
This was a very difficult decision, in part because the evidence that we had was not absolutely conclusive. This was circumstantial evidence that he was gonna be there. Obviously it entailed enormous risk to the guys that I sent in there. But ultimately I had so much confidence in the capacity of our guys to carry out the mission that I felt that the risks were outweighed by the potential benefit of us finally getting our man.
Again, the President qualifies his answer and down plays the difficulty.
The next question is actually three questions in one. I’m not sure Steve Croft could have given him more exit ramps to give an answer without giving an answer. The more questions you compile into one – the less information you get. The interviewee then has a choice to answer the question that’s easiest to answer. Ask ONE question at a time and keep it open-ended.
KROFT: When the CIA first brought this information to you . . .
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right.
KROFT: What was your reaction? Was there a sense of excitement? Did this look promising from the very beginning?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: It did look promising from the beginning. Keep in mind that obviously when I was still campaigning for President, I had said that if I ever get a shot at bin Laden we’re gonna take it. And that was subject to some criticism at the time, because I had said if it’s in Pakistan and, you know, we don’t have the ability to capture ‘em in any other way, then we’re gonna go ahead and take the shot. So I felt very strongly that there was a strategic imperative for us to go after him.
Shortly after I got into office, I brought [CIA director] Leon Panetta privately into the Oval Office and I said to him, “We need to redouble our efforts in hunting bin Laden down. And I want us to start putting more resources, more focus, and more urgency into that mission.”
Leon took that to the CIA. They had been working steadily on this since 2001, obviously. And there were a range of threads that were out there that hadn’t quite been pulled all together. They did an incredible job during the course of a year and a half to pull on a number of these threads until we were able to identify a courier who was known to be a bin Laden associate, to be able to track them to this compound.
So by the time they came to me they had worked up an image of the compound, where it was and the factors that led them to conclude that this was the best evidence that we had regarding bin Laden’s whereabouts since Tora Bora.
But we didn’t have a photograph of bin Laden in that building. There was no direct evidence of his presence. And so the CIA continued to build the case meticulously over the course of several months. What I told them when they first came to me with this evidence was: “Even as you guys are building a stronger intelligence case, let’s also start building an action plan to figure out if in fact we make a decision that this is him or we’ve got a good chance that we’ve got him, how are we gonna deal with him? How can we get at that?”
And so at that point you probably had unprecedented cooperation between the CIA and our military in starting to shape an action plan that ultimately resulted in success this week.
Look at it again. The first of the three questions – WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION? – is a great question. But, the President picked the easier of the three and latched on to it, “It did look promising…” – and then he went straight to talking points. When you offer a closed question like this the interviewee can only affirm your personal hypothesis of what happened. In this case the answer is either yes or no. This is interviewing on a hope. You HOPE the interviewee expounds on what they’ve answered. Unfortunately for “60 Minutes,” the President didn’t. He went from 2010 and leaped back in time to before his Presidency in 2007 and talked about how this was a campaign promise and how hard he worked to get this done from day one.
That’s just the first three questions. I could go on and on. Croft asked if it was hard to keep the secret, did he want to tell Michelle, did he tell Michelle? The President ducked the answer with a general statement. Never answering if he talked about it with the First Lady. Again, too many options or exit ramps for the President to escape direct questioning.
When preparing for interviews have a goal, start at the beginning, ask one question at a time, refrain from hyperbole, ask open-ended questions, and don’t test personal hypothesis. You’re conducting an interview to get information, perspective, insight or reaction that you don’t already have – so don’t try to guess the answers. Get out-of-the-way and let the story be told. Great questions to use in an interview include…
- and then what happened?
- how did that make you feel?
- when did you know?
- why did you do that?
- how was that?
Ask lean, neutral, open-ended questions.
…and don’t interview on a hope.
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’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.
I know what you’re thinking – Larry’s lost it. I know Oprah has become the manly man’s kryptonite, but love her or hate her; it’s undeniable that Oprah understands broadcasting and how to connect with an audience. In her Master Class series on OWN, Oprah passed along insights that apply to all of us in the industry.
- Whether she’s speaking to one hundred, ten thousand or a million people, Oprah seizes each as an opportunity to educate, inspire or uplift. She wants people to walk away saying, “I never thought of it that way.”
- Oprah is a collector of experiences. She uses these experiences to understand what she doesn’t know, so she can be a bridge for her fans. In turn, she shares and creates these experiences for as many people as she can. As a side note: one my fraternity brothers – a former wrestler and football player – was on Oprah’s Australian trip this year for “ultimate fans” and is now spreading the word of the power and mystique of the Oprah experience.
- Oprah goes out of her way to be a story teller. She puts a human face on stories and, though often extreme, finds the commonality between the person she’s interviewing and the people who are watching and explores it so everyone can learn and grow.
WHATS THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ME?
I believe these ideas hold true for sports and talk radio too.
- Every time you crack the microphone you have an opportunity and obligation to inform, educate, inspire, or entertain. You can help people think differently and motivate an army of fans with the sound of your voice. There is a big responsibility that goes with that.
- Experience life, share it with your fans, and look for opportunities to create experiences for others.
- Tell stories about people. Whatever it is you decide to talk about, put a face on it. Tell their story. And then search for the humanness in that story, the universal truths to which fans generally respond like courage, selfishness, camaraderie, sacrifice, pride, hubris, fear, success and failure.
As a news-talk or sports host, you have an opportunity to impact and influence people. Be cautious and conscious with this privilege.