Happy Birthday, Friend!?

Every year on 9/1 I get a few automated emails from companies I’ve done business with over the years. It’s jarring at first until I realize the date. You see my birthday is actually 1/9.

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My next thought is how they must’ve tasked data entry with a part-timer, an intern or someone who was too busy to be careful. Shame. A small gesture to build a relationship with the customer has actually done quite the opposite. One slip-up of a 1 and a 9 is an eternal reminder that you’re just pretending to care about me, my birthday, our “relationship.” And each year as I shake my head a little stronger I am reminder how very fragile consumer or listener relations really are.

The lesson here is be mindful of your listener’s information. Treat it like diamonds. It is extremely valuable and you likely only get one shot to mine for it. And unlike real gems, if you’re not careful with this it can turn to coal in an instant.

Logo Confusion

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I attended my first Canadian Football League game last week and not that it didn’t fully engage my attention, but my focus at times ended up on the end zone and sideline advertising. I was there with a season ticket holder and Canadian native and we ended up playing a game, “Hey Larry, based on that logo what do you think that company does?”

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Purolator. I guessed gas or petrol station. Maybe coffee.

Wrong. It’s the Fed-Ex of Canada.

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Smithrite. I guessed a lock smith. A special kind of pen?

Wrong. Waste and Recycling company.

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Fisherman’s Friend.  This one is easy, right? It must be a bait and tackle shop. A liquor store? Outdoor clothing!

Wrong. It’s a throat lozenge.

The exercise got me thinking about radio logos. Often times we use our logo for marketing and promotion campaigns with a focus on growing CUME. While WE totally get our logos and it’s “obvious” what it is, who you are and what you do – what if you’d never had listened to the radio station would you still “get it?”

As an industry we’ve shied away from using “radio,” “FM” and “AM” and maybe to our detriment. If you weren’t in the radio industry would you “get” these radio station logos?

Radio logo1 radio logo 3 radio logo 4 radio logo 5

Food for thought.

Captivating Your Attention and Imagination

Storytelling-Once-Upon-A-TimeWe humans love a good story. Always have. One reason is that when you listen to a great story it triggers the imagination and empowers each of us to personally become involved in the story by privately conjuring up images, emotions, smells, noises and more in our head. Stories ensnare us by making us work to create the final product. Suddenly, we’re “personally” involved.

On the radio, there are several ways to harness the power of storytelling. For the sake of this blog let’s keep it planning, performance and use of audio.

Those three elements are also how I would I describe why I enjoy certain podcasts (Serial, Mystery Show, and Radio Lab to name a few) and certain radio shows and hosts (All Things Considered, Brandmeier, Ron & Don, Kevin & Bean, Scott Simon, and more.)

Planning. Planning includes actual planning. Having listened to the radio for three hours in  morning drive the other day heading to the airport, I am sad to report that “planning” and “prep” are endangered species. Planning doesn’t mean you have to write out every word and reaction, but that each segment has an intention and a payoff. More often than not what I hear is a couple hosts and a producer throwing out punchlines or inadvertently going in opposite directions. There’s no narrative to a segment of the show. Don’t “save it all for the air,” plan it out and make sure everyone knows where it’s going. I mentioned it doesn’t mean writing out every word, but it may mean just that in certain situations. Remarkable writing is powerful. (Listen to Scott Simon’s tribute to Will Rogers)

Performance. We are in show business. That doesn’t mean we have to act goofy, juvenile or over the top. We still want and need authenticity, but when you are on the radio remember that no one can see you point, roll your eyes, put your hands on your hips, put a finger to your lips or see your crazy shoes. Your words and how you perform them will greatly impact the listener’s ability to “get” you. Whatever your personality is, because the listener only has the ability to hear you, amplify it by 5% or 10%, 20% if you need it. I call it vocal animation. It means consciously and effectively using the full range of vocal attributes — intonation, pace, tone, volume, etc.  A little vocal showmanship is imperative to actually being heard and received the way you intend. (See: Rush, Beck, Howard, Radio Lab, and the list goes on.)

Audio. Podcasts are kicking radio’s backside as it pertains to effectively using image inducing, transportive audio. I’m not sure why… other than it takes more time. Not all stories and topics lend themselves to great natural, ambient audio or story-advancing sound clips, but we need to do a better job of seeking them out instead of assuming it doesn’t work or presuming you don’t need it. Audio is your paint. Great audio blended well creates remarkable images in the mind. Bad audio poorly placed results in a muddled mess. (Great example of good audio incorporation: The podcast Mystery Show)

Planning, performance and audio. Three ways radio shows and hosts can grab the attention of the listener and trigger their imagination.

Forgotten Advice

Facebook has a new feature that it will tell you about “memories” you have on this very date dating back to when you joined. Through this fun time warp I discovered I wrote a blog before this one. I forgot that for two months in 2008 nearly every day I wrote a “note” on Facebook and called it my blog. I love reading them and thought I’d share a few. Strangely, the advice remains strong seven years later.

Under Promise, Over Deliver

This is one of the 100 or so great pieces of advice I have received during my career. It is simple advice, which works when adhered to. The Chinese restaurant down the street is great at this. I’ll call in an order and the woman will tell me it will take 45 minutes. 35 minutes later the delivery driver is at my door. I’m excited that my food is here early, I tip the driver more than usual, I enjoy eating the food and everyone is happy. If they would have guaranteed 30 minute delivery or less and it arrived 35 minutes later, I would have been upset, disappointed, maybe not have tipped the driver at all and probably would have been annoyed while eating my food. It’s the same food and the same quality of service, but a different promise resulting in completely different experiences by the consumer.

I Will Change Someone’s Life Today

Today, I have the dubious distinction of telling one of my employees that because of the great technological advances in our industry, we are replacing his position with a computer. Ouch. This employee isn’t my most valuable player, but he is hard worker and responds to coaching. And it is his life. He’s been here almost 7 years.

When did we as a society determine that things are “better” when a beating heart is no longer needed to make decisions that affect how our fans consume our product? Sure, it’s cheaper. And that is no small issue in these fiscally challenging times. However, it occurs to me as we take these giant steps into the automated future, we are taking huge leaps backwards in customer service.

When a computer is in control there is no one to answer the phone, there is no one to make a judgment call, there is no one around to do what’s best, there is no one to call for help, and there is no one putting their human energy into your business. The end result is perfection – cold, sterile, lifeless, perfection. How can we ask people to be passionate fans for our business, product, or service — if no passion goes into creating it?

I will change someone’s life today. If you are a fan of my product, it could be you.

Tuesday – I Have a Thought

Notice how often to you walk with your eyes firmly planted toward the floor or your feet. Today, lift your head, make eye contact, smile and say hello to people in the hall. Even if you don’t know the name of your coworker look them straight in the eyes, smile and say hello. Check that. Do this ESPECIALLY if you don’t know the name of your coworker. Watch what happens.

Coffee Confession

I have a confession. I have been cheating on my privately-owned coffee shop with Starbuck’s. I’m not proud. In fact, I’m embarrassed.

Here’s how it happened.

Right around the corner from my home is a small, privately owned coffee shop. They know me by name. They know what I drink. They will still serve me my coffee if I show up with no money. A couple months ago, I stopped going. Instead, I started making tea at home and taking it to work with me. I was trying to be healthy. I was trying to conserve money, resources, etc. Over time I missed my coffee, my morning chat and the daily routine.

However, instead of returning to “my” coffee shop, I would drive right by it and go to Starbuck’s. It’s not that I enjoy the taste of Starbuck’s coffee more than my coffee shop – I don’t.  I didn’t return to the private coffee shop, because they know me. I had pangs of guilt for leaving them. It had been a while since I had shown my face, there would surely be questions. So, instead I opted to go for the cold, sterile, factory of coffee where there would be no questions and no guilt. Except there was. Guilt that is. I felt guilty giving my money to the 800-pound Gorilla. I felt guilty based on the blog entry I wrote on August 18th “Starbucksfication.”  So this morning, after two months, I returned to my coffee shop. I pulled up to the speaker and heard, “Good Morning, we’ve got you started.” No questions. No guilt. Same service. I was treated as if I never left. I’ll return to tomorrow.

In order to take actions in life and business you need to actually take the action. We get caught up in the drama and our own fears of what MIGHT happen that we are left paralyzed. Today, go forth with gusto. Stop listening to the chatter in your head and start taking action.

ESPN Had No Reason To Back Cowherd

Radio is a business. I know it’s our passion, our love, our siren song and our muse, but it’s also a business, which is why ESPN did the right thing in jettisoning Colin Cowherd. It’s not what they would have always done. However, when media companies know a talent is a “short timer,” they are much less risk adverse. What’s in it for ESPN to protect Cowherd now when they know he’s out-the-door and off to the competition in 30 days? Nothing, but a damaged relationship with MLB, MLBPA and every Dominican everywhere. 

I was Colin’s manager for a spell. Blogs and fan sites weren’t well respected back then and Cowherd directed his listeners to flood several sites with the intention of shutting it down. It was petty retribution for a stories that criticized The Herd for stealing angles without attribution. The backlash was severe from internal and external fans of these sites and sites like them. Cowherd offered a Mia culpa, learned a tough lesson and it was behind us. He had full support of the network, because he was new and seen as future star. Without the promise of what may come, there’s no real reason for ESPN to shield him now. 

As a former manager and colleague it disheartens me to see Cowherd and ESPN part ways so abruptly and on bad terms. He did great work. He made most fans forget Kornheiser ever had a show on ESPN Radio, which seemed an impossible feat when he started. And he is a great talent. Love him or hate him he stirs something inside you which is the goal of any talk personality

Categories: Uncategorized

One Thing Radio Has That Everybody Else Wants

liveEvery day radio DJs and talk hosts do something that strikes fear into others…

They crack a mic and talk to thousands of people at one time “live.”

That’s right, “live!” and without a net (other than a 7-second delay for dumping curse words.)

I can hear your sarcastic mumbling from here, “Woo hoo! Wowzers. Big deal, buddy. Why’s that something to write about?”

Well, it turns out people like “live” and radio has it in droves. However, for some reason we are taking this huge attribute and for the most part scuttling it.

Meantime, others are scrambling to capitlize on “live.”

knock-knock-liveRyan Seacrest is building an empire on “live.” He has “live” voting on American Idol and “live” performances, a “live” radio show (sometimes replayed and repackaged), a “live” countdown to New Year’s Eve and tonight he launches a new TV show called, “Knock! Knock! Live.” It’s billed by Fox TV as “the show where anything can and will happen.” They can say that because it is “live.”

“Live” is more thrilling. It makes it more dangerous, more daring, and more exciting. Though somehow radio doesn’t feel that way. We no longer view “live” as special, so our listeners don’t either and I believe that’s a mistake.

But even more than how it feels, “live” creates an instant community of people experiencing something at the same time. It makes it more special because we aren’t just watching or listening to something, we are bearing witness to it. There is something powerful to having a shared experience. Media companies of all shapes and sizes get that and are trying their best to capture it.

It is in fact one of the cornerstones of Apple Music’s Beats1 channel. It’s a shared, global, listening experience. It’s “live” from London, New York, and L.A. and you are listening “live” wherever you are anywhere and everywhere in the world.

After a successful and funny “live” show in the spring, NBC renewed the fairly average sit-com “Undateable” for 13 episodes this fall with the caveat that all the episodes are broadcast “live.” Let us not forget the enduring success of Saturday Night Live.

TV and radio networks also spend hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to “live” sporting events, because historically those are the most watched and listened to events – ever.

Tom Leykis has a bit called “Be Funny Live” on his New Normal Network internet radio show and it is so successful he created a sold-out event at a comedy club around the premise.

You can listen to your favorite band or artist on your device as often as you want, but seeing them “live” is light years better.

What’s the attraction to Periscope? It’s “live” video that you can interact with in real-time.

“Live” tweeting events and pre-recorded shows is almost more entertaining and enjoyable than the actual event or show.

I could go on…

At this very moment in time when “authenticity” is one of radio’s buzzy buzz words, the industry has a real opportunity to own the “where anything can happen” moniker. Unfortunately, we seem so restricted by our companies, brands, managers, and stock holders that rarely anything does. And the audience doesn’t anticipate that it will.

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10 Things To Do In A Radio Job Hunt

RS 109This week I’ve been talking to radio folks about searching for and applying for jobs. It coincidentally or not comes as CBS Radio layoffs several hundred employees. So I’ve assembled a list of 10 things to do while searching for your next radio gig.

1. Network. Most people end up getting jobs because of who they know. And you never know who is going to be the perfect “in” to get each job. So, connect with friends, colleagues, and old bosses on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Comb through your address book and reach out to folks from three markets ago. The key is don’t ask or beg for a job, don’t bemoan your situation, simply ask for advice. When you ask for knowledge people are more emotionally vested in your success. Take people to lunch or coffee and pick their brains and ask them if there is anyone they can think of that you should know and see if they’ll introduce you.

2. Apply for jobs. You are not above the hiring process. If you don’t apply managers assume you’re not interested. Don’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. When you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind no matter how successful you were at one time. Find jobs that interest you and apply for them.

3. Update your resume. If it has been awhile since you’ve applied for a job make sure your resume reflects your most recent work experience. If you’re light on experience you might consider creating a functional resume over a chronological one. That allows you to focus on your skills and abilities and takes the focus on your tenure at each position. (Bonus Pro Tip: Spell check. Many hiring managers will eliminate candidates for spelling errors. The attention to detail you put into the materials you assemble to get a job is assumed to be as great or even superior to the attention to detail you’ll actually put into performing the job.)

4. Customize materials. Having one cover letter or introduction email, one resume and one demo for all positions is a sure fire way to get placed into the circular file (garbage bin.) Do some research and address your materials to the hiring manager. Avoid generic phrases like, “I’m seeking fulltime employment at a media company” and be specific about each job you’re applying for, “I want to be the night host on Crazy 96.6 WGIF.” Rearrange your resume so the experiences and skills that apply most to the position you are seeking are reflected towards the top.

5. Learn something new. Take this down time from employment as an opportunity to learn a new skill. Maybe you want to explore digital editing, know more about how PPM works or become an ace at snapchat or Pinterest. Expand your skillsets while you have the time to dedicate to it. It will also ultimately make you a more attractive candidate.

6. Don’t leave social media. One guy I recently spoke to told me he was waiting to see where he got hired to be active in social media again, because he knew he’d have to change his handle. It’s your personal brand and your responsibility to cultivate it. In this new world of media, it is important that you remain active and engage on social media regardless if you’re employed.  It helps you to remain relevant to fans and evolve your personal brand. It’s also a key factor in hiring. Hiring managers look at how many followers you have, how engaged you are with them, how often you post and what the content of your posts.

7. Vanity search. Do a google search of your name to see what comes up. You want to type in some keywords too. Try it a couple different ways “Larry Gifford,” “Larry Gifford, radio,” “Larry Gifford ESPN” and so forth. See what shows up and be prepared to address anything that does. This is one of the first thing hiring managers will do if your application peaks their interest.

8. Dress up. If you get an interview, dress up a notch or two from what you’d actually wear to the job. Trust me, how you present yourself matters. It just does.

9. Ask questions. Always be curious. At the end of a phone conversation or in-person interview when the person interviewing you asks, “Do you have any questions?” Be ready to ask some questions. Curiosity is one of the most important attributes of a talent. This is a test. Don’t fail it.

10. Sell yourself. This is not the time to be humble. The key is to leverage all the great attributes, skills and traits you bring to the table by positioning them to the hiring manager through the lens of “this is how the company benefits with me in this position.” It’s actually less about you and more about how you help the company achieve its goals.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so if you have more tips and suggestions please feel free to share below. Good luck on your job hunt.

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