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Verbal and Vocal

I’ve been telling all the talent I work with that 2016 will be about context, context, context and concerning ourselves with the verbal and the vocal. The verbal and the vocal? Yes. A little something I picked up while chatting with David Lloyd, author of “How to Make Great Radio.

e_rnh2Vu“Verbal is the words. Vocal is how they are delivered,” explains Lloyd in Episode 121 of the Radio Stuff podcast. “Listen to great presenters and the way they speak, the way they use their voice, the way they pause, the way the words come out of their mouth.”

He’s right, you know? The great presenters or on-air talent have a way with words and know just how to deliver a line or tell a story to engage the listener and make them care.

Lloyd continues, “Words are so critically important. When you’re doing a coaching session with a presenter you can see their eyes roll as they say, ‘Ah, for goodness sakes it’s only a word.’ But words are all we have. Words are what set one radio station apart from another. You know you can play the same records as your competitor in the same order, but what sets you apart is your imaging and the words you use. I think to focus on those is critically important.”

It’s not just a radio thing. How any business talks with its customers is critically important.

12465937_1152250131459362_9196141028587536586_o“I was in a shopping centre last week and I came out of the toilet and there is a big sign and it says ‘Let’s Go Shopping!’ and an arrow,” shared Lloyd. “And I thought, ‘Wow, someone has thought about that.’ Because they could’ve had a sign saying ‘Shops.’ But they said ‘Let’s Go Shopping!’ The emotional response to a sign that signs ‘Let’s Go Shopping!’ compared to a sign that says ‘Shops’ — you can’t compare the two.”

RS 121 coverYes, thinking about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it takes time. But, it’s a thousand little decisions about the words you use and the intonation you choose that sets you apart.

“You hear a lot of radio and think you’ve just thrown up the fader, you have not given any thought whatsoever to how you’re going to frame it.” Lloyd suggests, “If you are going to talk about “X” how are you going to describe it? What are the words you’re going to throw in there? You don’t need to write a script, but just to have thought about the colors, the textures, and the conversation you’re about to have with your listener.”

Along these same lines there is a great TED Talk by Julien Treasure about how to get people to hear what you have to say and it also reflects this theme of the verbal and vocal. It’s worth 10 minutes of your time.

The Naked Truth

marilyn-monroe-1953The news is devastating to the 13-year old boy inside us all: Playboy magazine will no longer print nude pictures. The magazine that coined the word “centerfold,” will no longer have a use for the word it originated.

Playboy without nudes? That’s like getting money from a bank without having to talk to a teller, filling your own gas tank at the service station or listening to radio that isn’t being transmitted through a frequency to your bedside alarm clock.

It is progress, evolution, and necessary for survival.

I recently finished the audio book “Team of Teams” by General Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal rose through the ranks of an Army most of us recognize: order, discipline, structure, pictures of pin-up girls, top-down commands, and a clearly defined org chart. This is the Army depicted in movies, which won wars, and saved thousands of lives. This is the Army where if a commanding officer orders you to “jump” you ask “how high?”

BN-IJ077_bkrvsc_JV_20150511155300As General of the Joint Special Operations Command in the mid-2000s, McChrystal quickly realized war was no longer like chess where one man was commanding all the troop movements of his enemy. Times had changed. Taliban and Isis were playing by different rules. The terrorists were recruited, trained, given the game plan and then empowered to make decisions in the moment. There was no way to keep up. As soon as JSOC thought they had a target in their sights, they had to wait to get the “go ahead” from McChrystal. Sometimes that meant waking him up and debriefing him, before he could make a decision. Each time, the targets vanished.

So they changed. McChrystal held a JSOC strategic meeting each day for everyone on the team. A video conference beamed to wherever his forces were stationed. Gone were the days where the General had a master plan and the forces were on a “need to know” basis. Now everyone knew everything. That created a shared consciousness. In addition, each unit was now empowered to execute in the moment based on collective intelligence, situational circumstances and timeliness. They became a team of teams.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAI_AAAAJDIyM2NiYTIwLTNjYTgtNGJkYy1iZTA2LTU5ODQ5M2E0ZWIxMAIt worked. The JSOC became more effective and agile. It morphed from a traditional org chart to an organizational web. McChrystal was hands off and eyes on. He was leading, not commanding. “Thank you” replaced the cold, directive language he was taught in the Army.

Thinking different.

Embracing change.

Adapting to technology.

Creating a collective intelligence and a shared consciousness.

Respecting and empowering your staff.

This isn’t Google or Apple or a quirky start-up in Silicon Valley, this is the Joint Special Operations Command.

And now it is apparently Playboy Magazine.

For radio it is time. Our enemy is no longer the station down the dial. It’s all around us and three steps ahead. We are battling for people’s time and attention on the device of their choosing, for on and off air talent, for digital solutions and distribution platforms, and for monetization. Frankly, a fifth front could be a public perception problem.

This is no longer a problem solved by a billboard campaign or a clever TV spot. To win we need to do what we do differently. “Team of Teams” may be a good place to start.

What Do You Do With an Idea?

What do you do with an ideaIn recent weeks, clients have been sharing with me the anxieties associated with following their gut or executing on an idea.

The internal conversation goes something like this, “What do I really know about doing radio? I’ve only been at it for “X” years… If I’m thinking of doing it this way, others likely have too and it probably didn’t work which is why no one is doing it… It’s safer to go with what I know and what people are comfortable with it. Besides we always do it this way. There must be a good reason… I don’t want to be wrong. How embarrassing to go out on a limb and fall on my face. What if people don’t like my idea? What if they laugh at it? No thanks. Go away idea.”

And the talent ends up doing it the regular, ordinary way. And regretting it.

TRUTH: One of the hardest people to trust in radio is yourself.

Your ideas, your passion, your individuality will create your success. Your station hired you for YOU and YOUR IDEAS. If they wanted the status quo they would have kept what they had.

If you have a great idea own it. Pay attention to it. Nurture it. Who cares what other people think about it? It’s YOUR idea not theirs. (Just some of the great lessons learned while reading the children’s book “What Do You Do With an Idea?” to my son the other night – <video here>)

At our core many of us fear failing because it could be embarrassing, humiliating, infuriating, or job-ending. But, really it’s usually a moment of “Well, that sucked. Let’s try something different next time.” Your failures are the building blocks that your success is built upon. Successful companies produce failed products all the time because they’re trying new things; New Coke, ESPN the Phone, Apple Newton, Bic Underwear, Sony Betamax and on and on and on.

Building out a radio segment a little differently next time doesn’t seem like such risk now does it?

Radio should take a page from app development and build radio stations and shows with the 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 mentality; improve features consumers like, keep trying new things, keep tweaking, keep evolving, eliminate what doesn’t work.

So, what are you going to do with your next idea?

I Didn’t Die in 2013 and Other Great Things

taking stockIt’s the time of year where I like to take stock. How’d we do? At Larry Gifford Media this burgeoning empire based on a blog, we – and by “we” I mean I – had a great year and I appreciate all the support. Just last week the blog hit a milestone of 25,000 page views. 10,000 of those coming in 2013.

THE WORLD IS WATCHING

2013-09-08 13.33.18

When you dig into the numbers, visitors to the blog originate from 88 different countries. The most hits come from the USA, followed by UK, Canada, South Africa and Greece. (Side note: I’ve been to US, Canada and UK this year – looking for invites from friends in South Africa and Greece – hint, hint.)

SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING…

How are people finding the blog? Knowing this can be disturbing and fun.

Somebody searched “larry gifford obit june 2013” – Apparently, someone thought I died – or wished I had. That person was either heartened or bummed upon discovering I was alive and well. Another searched, “you’re mean go away cat.”  And for some reason the blog popped up for this search “if you spill something on yourself chance you’ll miss ‘mary tyler moore.’” I have to believe the people searching those terms were very frustrated in what they found. Hopefully that wasn’t the case for everyone.

I find people’s names attract the most people to the blog. Here are the top 13  search terms used to find LarryGifford.com

  • Complaint
  • ways in which radio  has embraced social media
  • tom leykis
  • steak shapiro
  • larry gifford
  • the nba
  • keep looking up because that’s where it’s at (Kidd Kraddick)
  • jim cutler voice over
  • lex and terry fired
  • life is good radio
  • paula deen parodies
  • jimi hendrix vocal range
  • bruce gilbert fox sports radio

endofyearTHE TOP POSTS OF 2013

In the coming days I’ll be unveiling the top 25 blog posts of the year.

Here are #25 through #16

25. Covering Colin Cowherd

24. Eight Things I Takeaway From HIVIO

23. TV Writers Taking Cheap Shots at Radio

22. Beware of “The Line”

21. How Do You Get Better? Improv(e).

20. Unsolicited Advice: Don’t Do This

19. How to Handle Host’s Controversial Comments

18. Lessons from NextRadio, London

17. Four Things Hosts Can Do To Improve Ratings

16. Seven Take Aways from Mike McVay

DON’T JUST READ, LISTEN TO ME

Radio Stuff Podcast LogoThis year I also launched THE RADIO STUFF PODCAST with co-host Deb Slater this year. It’s been tons of fun and really interesting. A couple of the blog posts listed above were inspired by podcast segments. It’s been great flexing my “hosting” muscles again and extremely rewarding talking to so many interesting and remarkable people around the world who make radio so special.

Thanks to you and everyone who has read, listened, talked about, shared, liked, commented, or agreed to be interviewed. Wishing you and yours a great holiday and a safe, happy, ratings-filled 2014!!

Covering Colin Cowherd

9780804137904_p0_v3_s260x420 The Story Behind Colin Cowherd’s Half-Naked Book Cover

“Radio is fun, TV is make-up, and writing is bleeding to death. Writing a book is hard. I’m really, really proud of it. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but it’s a lot of work.” – Colin Cowherd, ESPN Radio host and author of “You Herd Me! I’ll Say It If Nobody Else Will.”

The cover of Colin’s book is rather revealing and the Radio Stuff podcast got to the bottom of it.

Here’s how it came about according to Colin:

Colin Cowherd Cassius Clay Cover ComparisonThe publisher said, “Listen, I don’t want to do the typical sports radio guy book that nobody buys.” He goes, “Why don’t you unveil yourself, show yourself taking shots. We’re going to mimic a Cassius Clay Esquire cover in the ’60s. You’ll do the exact same pose, with the exact same arrows – and we’ll make yours play arrows, not like Ali’s — and you’re kind of unveiling yourself. You’re taking your clothes off, you’re taking shots from the critics.” And I said yeah, why not? Initially, I wasn’t sure it was a publisher’s idea it’s gotten a lot of attention and fortunately I always try to eat right and do a few a sit-ups. So I didn’t completely humiliate myself.

The book is for sale at Amazon.com, Costco, and all major book sellers. 

Categories: Book Review, Marketing, Talent

Radio Brothers Bond over Sports and Chemo

41pOd+u2ScL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BOOK REVIEW 
The Handoff: A Memoir of Two Guys, Sports and Friendship 
By John “JT the Brick” Tournour and Alan Eisenstock
Available on Amazon.com 
 

I admit I was reluctant to read The Handoff, because I know how the story ends – with the untimely death of sports radio’s bigger-than-life ambassador, mentor, friend and programmer Andrew Ashwood. However, I am better for having pushed through.

This is a book about brotherhood, determination, vulnerability, passion, certainty, self-confidence, self-awareness, and one guy’s successful rise from high-octane, motivated, passionate stock broker to high-octane, motivated, passionate sports radio host.

Through his journey of excesses, friendships, and passions, we accompany JT (currently a host on Fox Sports Radio from 1a-6a ET, 10p-3a PT)  as he comes-of-age over and over again. The reader witnesses his evolution into a man, a husband, a father, a friend and talk show host. We are there as  John transforms into JT and we are cheering with his buddies when he earns the name “Brick.” It’s funny, intense, authentic, emotional and ultimately hopeful.

Click HERE to LISTEN to JT the BrickJT rips his heart open for examination allowing the world to peer into his dreams, doubts, passions, and feelings. From being elected president of his fraternity to moving across country away from his boyhood home and then again when he quits his lucrative stock broker job only to pay his way on the radio – you will be rooting for JT.

Somewhat surprising for a sports host known for his scratchy, bullhorn of a voice and for banging the phones, JT is refreshingly self-deprecating, self-aware, and reflective. Even though I knew how it ended, it was a captivating roller coaster of a  journey. The book gives an honest behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to succeed in life and radio. You’ll be motivated by JT’s hustle and moxy, and feel the urge to reconnect with friends from the past.

One of the lessons Andrew passed along was to “make someone’s day.”

Reading this has made mine. Thanks JT.