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RTDNA Takeaways

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These are reminders, thoughts, takeaways, interesting observations and things I want to remember from the national RTDNA Canada conference.

Tell Stories…

Great stories are built around moments, take the audience somewhere and decode jargon or spin. Those three areas are what have helped to make CBC journalist Susan Ormiston such an impactful international correspondent. She shared her secrets on storytelling with the crowd at the RTDNA Canada national convention.

Stories evolve around moments. Ormiston explains, “Creating environments for moments to happen or simply focusing on a moment” is what she attempts in her storytelling. There is a warning, “moments cannot be manufactured, but they can be managed.” For instance, building trust with an interview subject helps create an environment where vulnerable moments are more likely to take place.  “Trust,” she says, “It’s a relationship. Never persuade yourself that someone won’t want to talk about something.”

REMINDER: Don’t Be A TV Anchor…

The TV news anchor is dying.

The head of CTV Wendy Freeman fired the first shot across the bow, “in 5 to 10 years will there even be TV anchors?” Corus/Global VP Troy Reeb added, “The asking price for a good anchor has been in decline and will continue to be, the asking price for a good reporter is expected to climb.” He also noted brands aren’t being built on the shoulders of anchors, but around the credibility of reporting. And then Ali Velshi hit it home, “I don’t think the highly paid TV anchor is a sustainable creature.”

Buzzwords – words and concepts that dominated discussions.

“Multi-platform” – I blogged about that here.

“Mobile” – 94% of millennials have smart phones, mobile first thinking, reporters using phones for everything…

“Monetization” – how do we make money with… native content, snapchat, etc…

“Change” – the industry is changing, technology is changing, audience expectations are changing and if you/we aren’t changing fast enough we will lose.

Apps and Devices Speakers Love…

Twitter – it’s changed the game for distributing and curating content and for live moment-by-moment coverage where microphones aren’t allowed like courtrooms.

iMovie – great for radio reporters also tasked with filming and editing video pieces on the run.

Voddio  – Voddio, is a professional-grade video and audio editor App for mobile journalists and story tellers, that supports rich editing of two tracks of video and up to four tracks of audio.

Amazon Echo – Ali Velshi loves Echo. Watch the video. It is rather awesome.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkOCeAtKHIc

Favorite Quotes of the Conference

“$150 million dollars is what’s going to go to the bureaucratic morass that is the CBC.” – Troy Reeb, Corus/Global

“I bemoan the day when we decide we don’t need context anymore.”  – Susan Ormiston, CBC

“It’s Facebook and the 7 Dwarves.” – on Social Media platforms

“We need to start thinking about big stupid ideas. We’re not an industry that typically thinks up stupid ideas. We need more stupid ideas. Stupid ideas are stupid until they are breakthroughs.” – Ali Velshi, Multi-platform Content Creator

“I’ve never given up the thought of returning home to Canada , but it won’t because of a man named Donald Trump. He can’t bully me.” – Ashleigh Banfield, CNN. She dedicated her entire keynote address to the “human wrecking ball” Trump and trying to explain how he’s in the position he’s in.

Oscars Provide a Radio Lesson

Every day in radio we have a choice to make.

What is our show or station going to be about today?

What do you want to be “famous” for today? What do you want people talking about, reacting to, or sharing? What makes you different on this day from everyone else?

Depending on your format it could be something about Donald Trump or Lady Gaga. It could be the Oscars, Kobe’s farewell tour or a new release from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

Consciously or not, decisions on what our show or station is or is not are made every day.

Chris-Rock-PromoAt the Oscars they had a choice to make – are we going to be about “celebrating cinema” or “racist Hollywood?” Host Chris Rock and presumably all involved in creating the awards show actually chose the latter.

I applaud them for tackling the elephant in the room head on from the start of the show. Rock’s 10-minute monologue/sermon/stand-up didn’t let up for an instant. It went on and on and on. And everything in the show seemed tied to that core concept.

Great. They chose to be about something big, bold, and important. But…

But…

But, it’s not what the attendees or the TV audience signed up for. So millions fled.

What happened? Chris Rock was in a no-win situation. If you don’t address it you get criticized. If your skirt over it with a few jokes you get criticized. If you go full throttle you get criticized. And even now, everyone is talking about Rock’s words while skimming over the awards – many of which were upsets.

That doesn’t mean you stop taking chances.

I encourage all hosts and stations to take risks, be bold, try things and always be about something. But there is a trick to doing it effectively. The more that the “something” you are about on any given day matches the expectations of the fans, the better chance you have to keep them tuned in. It is less about being predictable and more about living up to your brand promise. It has to feel right and authentic in the moment for the audience. A rock station breaking down a GOP primary or a news station playing deep cuts off a Zeppelin album violate brand promises. Oscar watchers just wanted an awards show.

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.

Here’s The Thing About Breaking News

LGM - Breaking News2If you are going to go into “breaking news” coverage – own it. That’s the thing about breaking news. At least that is my thing about breaking news.

If a talent asks me, “Did we do too much on the breaking news story?” My answer will almost certainly be, “impossible.”

When a story warrants being called “breaking news” you have two effective options: mention it and let the newsroom update it in regular newscasts or dive head first in to it. The middle ground is the least desirable option. “Kinda” covering breaking news is as satisfying as eating something that “kinda” reminds you of gravy.

The Oregon High School shooting is a perfect example. If it’s not in your backyard, your state or even in your country can you do too much with it? I contend no, not when the story is still developing. If you make it important and urgent, keep resetting the facts, add new details and information as you can and then express emotions and explore questions and curiosities – no one is tuning out. Humans have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. We all want to be the first to know and we want to know more than our friends, family members and peers.

On a strategic point, breaking news is an audience builder for news-talk and sports radio stations. It’s better than an outdoor billboard campaign. It instantly brings new ears to your station. That in-the-heat-of-the-moment sampling can be extremely rewarding if you are covering the story as described above and equally punishing if you are not.

When news breaks it is a nice, juicy sizzling steak dinner for spoken word radio, don’t let it become the lumpy gravy.

I was Kidnapped by Burger King for 45 Minutes

1024px-Burger_King_Drive_ThruOn Friday, after a day of travel I pulled into a Burger King drive-thru. I was 30 minutes into my 2 1/2 hour drive from the airport to home. I didn’t eat on the plane and needed a quick fueling. The man with the headset took my order and told me to pull up to the first window. I could see him in through the drive-thru window ahead. As always the speaker quality was questionable, but I know this routine.

I thought.

It took 30 minutes to creep 20 feet from the speaker to the first window. The guy was racing around and explaining his cook ran out midway through his shift. He was by himself running drive-thru, front counter and grill.

The problem for me was that I was trapped. Everyone in the drive-thru was trapped. There was no warning of the issues inside the King’s castle: no sign, no notice, and no way out. Once I cued up there were high curbs and shrubbery on either side. Trust me, I contemplated an escape.

When I pulled up for my food, it had been 45 minutes since I ordered. I kindly suggested they might have warned us it would be that long before placing the order.

(wait for it…)

He suggested that wouldn’t be good for business.

Feel free to share your lessons from this story in the comments below.

If Radio Was Like Blueberries…

PattsBlueberriesI spent a good half-hour talking to a blueberry farmer the other day. He was passionate, knowledgeable, and eager to discuss the business. He talk about how blueberries are becoming more popular internationally in China and some countries in Africa in addition to North & South America and Australia. He knew all about his competitors both regionally and internationally. He was gracious towards them. He saw them as a teammate in the global distribution, promotion and consumption of blueberries — instead of an evil enemy.

Ever notice we don’t seek out varietals of blueberries? We go to the store and buy blueberries. In fact, there are several dozen popular kinds of blueberries. (I dare you to name two.) But the blueberry industry, the farmers and marketers, focus on getting blueberries in shopping carts and mouths. They aren’t pushing you to eat Bluegold, Chandler, Elliott or Legacy blueberries. Just Blueberries.

What if radio did that?

What if everyone who grew and sold radio was passionate, knowledgeable, and eager to discuss the business?

What if we talked about the growing appetite of radio around the world and the role is plays in people’s lives?

What if we really were knowledgeable about our radio competition home and abroad? And didn’t talk bad about them?

What if we just all came together and encouraged everyone to listen to radio?

What if…?

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

CFL1

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?”

CFL5

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

Wrong. It’s the Fed-Ex of Canada.

CFL3

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.

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.

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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