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TracyJohnsonBlog

How to Survive Radio Job Dislocation

What a start to the year. Nearly everyone in the radio industry has either lost a job or knows someone who has. The Great Radio Purge came suddenly and cut deep. And there may be more to come. Major broadcast companies sometimes tend to play follow the leader. But one thing is for sure: Hundreds of good people are wondering what happens next.

Some will get out of the business. Others will fight back. Some will use it as motivation to advance their career. But this is certain:

This event requires action from every single person in radio.

Here’s what to do now.

For Everyone

Planning the future is always a good idea. Think about where you want to be and plot a course to get there.

Identify Goals. Taking the next offer (or any offer) is tempting. But make sure it fits your career goals. Where do you want to end up? Focus on moves that move you closer to that goal. Being downsized is a setback, not a career killer. However, a series of hops from job to job might be. When on the beach, you may not be able to be as selective, but try not to make decisions out of desperation. For those working and worried, develop a plan. Now!

Expand The Possibilities. Identifying goals often uncovers opportunities never considered. Some personalities and programmers think of themselves as a format specialist, but talented people can adapt. This may be just what you need for a major breakthrough. Similarly, smaller companies and markets could be a perfect fit. Or apply skills in new ways. Don’t limit your search to just radio. What else could you do?

Update Your Presentation. Getting a Gig is constantly marketing. How long has it been since the resume, cover letter and audio demo has been updated? It’s time to make it great.

Get Listed In The TJMG Talent Pool. The free service for personalities, programmers, producers and promotions managers is already connecting talent with radio stations. Everyone should be listed. Click here to join. Don’t wait until it’s urgent. Get in there now!

Be grateful. Many are afraid, anxious and worried. That’s natural. Find something to be grateful for each day and make it a priority to keep a strong, positive attitude even if everyone else is freaking out.

Victims of The Great Radio Purge

The biggest problem with mass layoffs is a flood of talent competing for fewer available positions. Realize that finding the next gig may take awhile.

Here are some things to do immediately:

Move Past The Pain. This is hard. It’s human nature to be angry and bitter. I would be, too. But that won’t help Get That Gig. Turn the page and don’t look back. Fill your day with positive thoughts looking forward to a better tomorrow. Don’t let negativity or disappointment affect how the industry and prospective employers view you. If it takes time to “get there”, fake it til you make it!

Network. Make contact with every colleague and contact as soon as possible. Reach out to everyone you know even if it’s not a close relationship. Be proactive. Don’t be shy or embarrassed. For tips on networking to Get That Gig, go here.

Watch the Get That Gig Webinar. This is a step by step tutorial on how to go after a job in radio. It’s free. Watch it on demand here.

Start New Projects. With time on your hands, increase skills. Launch a new podcast. Build a personal website for marketing your personal brand. Learn new skills.

Free (and Major) Discount Offers For Victims

We feel for you, because we’ve all been there before.

Tracy Johnson Media Group is offering free services for anyone currently on the beach.

Effective immediately:

Insiders Radio Network. Free for 90 days. This is one of the industry’s best resources, loaded with tutorials, seminars on demand and much more. We’ve never done this before and will likely never do it again.

Audience Magnet Course. I’m offering 60 days of my video training course for radio personalities free. This is a $997 value. 60 days should be enough to complete the course, if you work on it each day. At the end of 60 days, the free membership will expire. You can keep it active for a one-time payment of $199. The membership will be for life with access to all updates and new lessons with no additional charge ever.

Air Check Coaching Services. We offer air check coaching and detailed feedback to develop an air check, audition tape and resume. Normal price is $499. Your price is $125.

To take advantage of any or all of these offers, send your name, situation and email address to tracy@tjohnsonmediagroup.com.

For Everyone Who Knows a Victim

I was terminated from a PD job in 1988. An hour later, my phone rang. It was Scott Shannon. He told me he had been following my career “since you were a Baby DJ in Lincoln, Nebraska.” Scott told me this would be a good thing  and offered his help. Decades later, that moment remains a career highlight.

Be that person for someone else.

Be compassionate. Reach out. Some folks are reluctant to reach out to you. It’s awkward, even though it’s not their fault. Put yourself in their place. An updated list of victims is available here and here. Know someone on the list? Offer support support to help them through a difficult time.

Conclusion

The frightening thing is that the circumstances that led to the Great Radio Purge are out of any victim’s control. It’s not because of poor performance or low ratings. The “dislocation” is downsizing, and radio isn’t the only industry affected.

It has happened to Blockbuster Video. Tower Records. Newspapers. Magazines. It’s happened to assembly lines, warehouses and hundreds of other job categories.

Radio is not immune from the reality of economics and efficiencies made possible through technology.

No, I do not think radio is the next Kodak. But anyone believing this is isolated and “now we’ve finally reached the bottom” is naive.

This is a major step toward nationalization/regionalization of radio programming. Most of it is economic. Some is applying their strongest creative skills more effectively. I understand it. Don’t count on those jobs coming back.

Here’s my best advice:

If you love what you do and are great at it, radio is a vibrant career. Just don’t depend on a company to protect or provide for the future.

To those hurting: I’m sorry. I feel for you. Please let me know how I can help.

Seminar on Demand: Get That Gig 

Get That Gig: Fix These 3 Common Air Check Demo Mistakes

Get That Gig: Network to Get Work

Constantly Marketing to Get That Gig

Get That Gig: Every Personality Needs a Website

Get That Gig eBook

Starting a Podcast Helps Get That Gig

Get That Gig: Start With A Great Resume’

How to Get That Gig: 16 Do’s and Don’ts To Get The Job You Want

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TracyJohnsonBlog

5 Stages Of Personality Growth

In 30-plus years of training, managing and coaching radio personalities, there are three key things that have never changed. And will never change. It’s my 3 Secrets of Becoming an On-Air Superstar. And yes, I’ll reveal the secrets below. But today, I want to focus on a single, most fundamental secret.

It’s Secret #1: The 5 Stages of your Personality Success Path.

You will turn up the volume on your personality brand when you earn the freedom to go deeper with your audience. There’s not a single personality reading this that doesn’t want that freedom. But you have to earn it, and it happens step by step through 5 Stages.

The 5 Stages of Personality Growth

There are 5 stages in the life cycle of every great personality. Everyone on the air goes through Stage 1, but not everyone makes it to Stage 5.

Introduction is when you’re brand new. They don’t even know your name, or really even care. In this stage, your goal should be to show that you love the same things they do.

Familiarity is when they may recognize your name but they don’t know anything about you yet. This is a critical phase…it’s still not the right time to talk about yourself that much…but you may want to introduce a feature here

Growth. This is when it gets exciting. They’re starting to know you and like the things you do on the air. They like the station better when you’re on. This is when you start promoting those features aggressively.

Like. The like phase is when you can introduce more personal stories into the show. They’re starting to recognize your character traits and know whey they like it when you’re on.

Love. And this is the ultimate goal. In this stage, it’s more about who you are than what you do. They choose the station because of you. This is where you want to be.

Performing In the 5 Stages

You have to know where you stand in the relationship with your audience, and perform accordingly. Personalities don’t become popular all at once. They grow popular over time. It’s a process that can be accelerated. But it cannot be rushed.

You can’t start out at Stage 5. And if you perform show like you’re in Stage 4 or 5 when you’re in stage 1 or 2, you lose!

One reason personalities fail is they don’t understand where they are in their success path. They think they’re in the love stage because they’ve been on a long time, but they’re really just in Stage 2 because they have never had an impact.

Your behavior must be based on how your audience sees you. Not how you would LIKE to be seen. If you come on too strong in Stage 1 or 2, you’ll run the audience off. They will hate you, and think you’re self absorbed.

Similarly, if you’re in Stage 4 or 5, but the PD is making you play too much music, you’re also preventing the audience from rewarding you.

Earning Your Freedom

And that’s the issue, isn’t it? You want to earn freedom on the air, but you probably think this is impossible because the PD puts up barriers.It seems like a chicken or the egg thing. You feel like you can’t reach the next stage because you don’t aren’t allowed time to perform,

You have to earn that freedom. And here’s the good news. You earn it from listeners. They demand more of you. And it starts by being great in every break now.

I know that at some stations, management just wants you there to play the commercials, execute the format and not get in the way. They don’t support personality. And they won’t get what I’m talking about here. Maybe you’ve tried to do some different things and been yelled at. They told you to just stick to the basics. I get it. It’s a balance.

But don’t let those barriers become an obstacle to growth. As you impact listeners, your power will grow. You’ll become a primary reason for tune-in.

This is what makes management afraid of you, by the way. They are afraid of losing you. Because when you become a meaningful personality that leads an audience fan base, you have power.

I know it can be frustrating to want to do more than you’re permitted. Every great personality wants to do more than they’re allowed. It’s universal. Personalities with 5-minute limits think they need 7. Those with a 3 minute window think they’d be better with 5. And those that only have 30 seconds know for a fact they’d be great if they had 3 minutes. Maybe you can’t control your break length. But you can control what goes into your breaks.

You Gotta Prepare

So prepare a great break-every break-based on the opportunity you’re provided. Now here’s the ironic part. The smaller the canvas on which you paint, the longer it takes to prepare. Seriously.

Ronald Reagan was asked to deliver a speech for charity. Before accepting, he asked how long the speech would be, because he wasn’t sure he had time. “What difference does it make how long?”, he was asked. “Well, he said…if you want me to talk for an hour, I’m ready to go now. But if it’s just 10 minutes, I need a couple of weeks to prepare.”

You may not be able to do everything you want to do, but you will learn to stretch the boundaries. And when you do, the canvas becomes larger, unlocking more creativity.

But here’s the thing: If you try and do it all at once, yeah, you’re going to get in trouble. And not only that, you won’t be able to do it well. Remember that this is a process.

You have to do it in synch with the 5 stages of growth.

How To Earn It

As you find your character voice and start growing through the five stages of growth, you’ll be amazed at the response from the audience…and your boss.

I once worked with a personality that was on in a time of day where ALL we wanted was the music to stand out. And the DJ’s job was to just make it sound good.

But he never gave up. He kept learning. He made the station better by projecting personality into every single segment while pointing listeners to the music and the station. He did it while doing what I wanted.

It wasn’t long before we realized that this guy was an great audience magnet. The better he got, the more freedom he earned. And the greater the bond with the audience. Soon, we moved him to afternoons. Then to mornings.That DJ?

He’s Dave Smiley. And he’s killing it with a 6-person morning show at WZPL in Indianapolis…#1 in the market for more than a decade.

You may not be able to do everything you want right now, but as you grow through the five stages, you will stretch the canvas. And when you do, you’ll unlock creativity you never knew you had.

Secrets 2 and 3

The other two secrets? #2 is that you have to know who you are and find your personal character voice. This is how your audience will get to know you so they can fall in love with you.

And the third secret is you absolutely must stop thinking of yourself as a radio announcer and become a storyteller that has a radio show. Mastering this skill will change everything.

I’ll write about those secrets later. But for now, focus on your Personality Success Path. That’s where your journey to becoming an on-air superstar begins.

Get More Details

I’m going into detail on all three secrets in my new, free webinar The Audience Magnet Blueprint. You can get access here.

And if you come to the webinar, I’ll give you a free copy of the Audience Magnet Blueprint eBook and a downloadable infographic of the 5 Stages of Personality Growth, with a lot more depth and information on how to behave in each stage.

This can be life-changing for radio personalities. It’s the difference between being stuck in a DJ or announcer job and getting on a career path to being a wildly successful personality. Don’t you owe it to yourself to get on that Personality Success Path and unlock you potential?

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TracyJohnsonBlog

5 Fast, Easy Ways to Improve Interview Skills

Some personalities are naturally good interviewers. Others are horrible, and no matter how much they work at it, they just don’t seem to get it right. After all, just like in a relationship, you just can’t change the person more than 5 or 10%. But everyone can improve interview skills.

With a little time and attention, these skills can be a most useful weapon in the personality’s arsenal. And it’s not just skills that apply to guests on your show. When you improve interview skills, you’ll become better with phone callers and interacting with co-hosts.

5 Ways To Improve Interview Skills

There are many ways to make a guest appearance work. Follow these guidelines to grow your skills from boring to interesting:

Do Your Homework

Most personalities know their subject matter well enough, but too often preparation is generic. They haven’t gotten past the typical questions and answers.

Seriously: How many times have you heard a celebrity asked, “Who was your biggest influence?” Boring!!!!

Dig deeper to be truly prepared for the interview. That will improve your chances of getting a response that will make your audience sit up and take notice.

It’s easy research your material on the internet. Find out all you can about your guest. That familiarity will lead to a confidence and comfort zone when the interview is underway.

Larry King is one of the all-time great interviewers. His method was to force himself to think like a listener. All of his interviews were conducted from the audience’s perspective!

Get away from the “where are you going next” type questions. Nobody really cares. Instead, ask about their best and worst experiences on the road.

Here’s an example from Geoff & Dana at 93.7 The Breeze in Vero Beach. When they talked to Leann Rimes, Geoff did some research and found out that she doesn’t like to be tickled. This minor character trait turned into a charming and memorable moment on the air.

In the first part of the interview, she says hello and you can tell that she’s not excited about being on. But listen to how Geoff organically asks about tickling. She lights up, is suddenly interested and they have a discussion that Leann has never had on the air before.

This opens the door to a terrific interview segment.

Make Your Guest Comfortable

The more comfortable they are with your studio, your people and your environment, the better the interview will go.

So ask your guest to arrive early, if it’s an in-studio interview. It warms them up and makes them sound more involved in your show. This is a small detail that makes a big difference when conducting live interviews.

If your interview is via phone, try to get a few minutes with them in advance to establish a  relationship. Just a couple of minutes can make the difference between being distant and detached or closer and more intimate.

When the interview begins, relax. In fact, don’t think of it as an interview at all. Make it a conversation.

Conversations are far more compelling. They’re interesting. And more relatable.

Here’s the difference.

An interview usually flows like this:

You: Question
Guest: Answer
You: New Question
Guest: New Answer
You: New Question
Guest: New Answer

It’s stiff, almost scripted.

The personality asking questions is so focused on asking the next question they don’t actually hear the response. And they fail to pick up on verbal cues that can be the most interesting part of the conversation.

Meanwhile, the guest is so accustomed to answering the same questions, they often don’t really hear the question. They go into auto-pilot.

Change the interview into a conversation like this:

You: Question
Guest: Answer
You: Respond to the answer
Guest: Responds to your response
You: Respond to their response
Guest Responds to Your response

Do you see how this conversation flows naturally? It starts with the same question, but the performers allow exploration of the topic.

Embrace The Silence Gap

How many times have you heard an air personality ask a question, then just as the response gets interesting, they ask another question? Talent has a tendency to fill pauses with talk. But silence can be one of the most powerful tools for an interviewer.

Magicians Penn & Teller are brilliant entertainers highly skilled in the art of communication. They know how to delight the audience by framing their content (magic tricks) with personality. They call it the Silence Gap.

In a CBS TV interview, Lee Cowan asked them,

Does it ever get awkward for you not to talk? It’s awkward for me to do an interview with someone I know isn’t going to answer any questions!

Teller shrugged, then explained,

Not speaking is just about the most intimate thing that you can do.

Pausing, Cowan filled the silence gap:

Intimate in terms of …

Teller interrupted:

See? You felt like you had to speak. If we just stop, and look at each other, that gets intimate fast, and that’s what I feel when I’m on stage.

Many personalities miss magical moments because they feel a need to avoid “dead air”. It’s human nature to fill a silence gap, and if you don’t do fill it, your guest will. That’s when the best responses usually happen.

This extends to phone calls, too. The listener will tell you how they feel if you let them, but it won’t be the first thing that pops into their mind.

Know the Answers

A good lawyer doesn’t start a line of questioning if they don’t already know the answers. If you’ve done your homework, you should know what to expect. And if you know what to expect, you can construct the interview in a way that builds drama and expectation.

TV talk hosts use screeners for pre-interviews to make sure the conversation goes the way they want it. Based on the pre-interview, they can eliminate questions that will be less interesting! You may not be able to conduct a pre-interview, but you can improve your chances for success by imagining how the interview will go.

However, there’s a danger in knowing too much. Sometimes, personalities tend to  answer their own questions with a long, fact-filled question. One of the most common mistakes is leaving the guest with nothing more than a “yes or no” answer.

Make sure questions are brief, clear and lead to a longer, detailed response.

DeDe in the Morning on K104/Dallas is a great interviewer. When Deion Sanders was on with them, DeDe took on a topic most personalities would stay away from: Suicide. This led to a powerful, emotional segment with Deion revealing some heartfelt emotion.

This segment was one break in a series with Deion, but without a doubt the most powerful.

Encourage Deeper Engagement

In that segment, did you notice how the show allowed Deion to go deeper when he talked about his personal thoughts of suicide while at the top of his career? They didn’t get in the way or get uncomfortable with the conversation.

They not only practiced Penn & Teller’s Silence Gap technique, they encouraged Sanders to open up by going into some awkward and uncomfortable territory.

The station is hip-hop and R&B, and rarely talks religion, but when Deion shared his story about turning to Christianity, DeDe was in the moment. She went with it. That took courage. This can’t happen if you’re focused on your next question. It requires the confidence to listen and respond.

This was the surprising, left-turn moment. The unexpected twist made this an unforgettable moment for the show.

Stephen Colbert is known as a comedian, but has a gift of engaging his guests to get deeper with them. His tactic: First, ask a question they don’t expect, and show sympathy. Watch how Colbert interviewed Joe Biden on his late night TV show:

This takes courage, confidence and it takes some time to dig into the guest’s life.

Do some research and find out what your guest is really passionate about. Talk about something that excites them.

Conclusion

Good interviews are hard, but you can improve your performance with a little time and attention to these skills. Mastering these 5 techniques won’t make a bad interview great, but it will improve your chances of getting more value from those guests.

Join me for A Guide to Better Interviews, a free webinar at 1pm EDT on July 10. It’s free to attend, but advance registration is required. Sign up now here.

 

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TracyJohnsonBlog

The Danger of Dead Ends and Detours

Dead ends and detours are the most frustrating things on a road trip. But they’re even more destructive on radio shows. On the air, both are equally dangerous on the air.

When traveling, two unforeseen things occur:

A detour is annoying because it routes you in an unplanned and unintended direction. And the longer the detour, the further out of the way it gets.

It’s annoying at first, but some detours turn out to be okay. Some even enjoyable. They take you places you would otherwise miss. In fact, some detours can become the highlight of your trip.

Another unexpected event is coming to a dead-end. A road block. Dead ends are never a good thing. The only solution is to turn around and go back because it’s impossible to move forward.

The same things happen on the air. Dead ends and detours destroy momentum, annoy listeners and turn otherwise terrific breaks into a horrible listening experience.

Avoiding Dead Ends and Detours

Show prep will protect against dead ends and detours. Most often, breaks bog down due to lack of detailed planning. On solo shows, this is almost always the cause of a break that doesn’t quite het where it’s intended. Just having an idea of which direction the content should flow and hoping for the best is rarely the recipe for success.

On multi-cast shows, it’s a little more complicated. Assigning and enforcing show roles is important for many reasons, but this is one of the most valuable. When a host takes charge of the break, and each cast member trusts the host, a show will have fewer problems.

And learning improv skills helps solo performers and multi-personality shows.

But it’s still going to happen from time to time. So it helps to know what causes these problems. This will help in the planning and preparation process.

Dead Ends

Dead ends are comments that make it difficult to continue forward in a direction.

A common problem is when a personality asks a rhetorical question, planning to continue with a thought. A co-host responds with a definitive answer rather than advancing the story line.

Here’s an example:

Host: Man, what would we do without our quarterback?

Co-host: Yep. I agree. We’d be in trouble. He’s really good.

Clearly the host is setting up a discussion. But the co-host is a barrier to the break moving forward. There’s nowhere to go with the comment. It’s a dead end, and a momentum killer. It adds nothing to the conversation.

Bad Questions Are Dead Ends

Another source of dead ends is poor question construction. Many programmers coach talent to ask questions to spark listener reaction. That’s a fine tactic, as long as the questions are good.

But personalities often craft questions that don’t lead to colorful responses or stories. Closed questions leave the audience with nowhere to go. The phone doesn’t ring because the question hasn’t provoked a response.

Here are examples of closed questions.

Do you agree with the President’s decision? (The only possible answer is yes or no).
How would you like to win $1,000? (Of course I would).
Do you think the Cowboys will win the game tonight? (Again, yes or no).

Each of these is a dead end. Even if the listener (or a co-host) responds, it doesn’t move the entertainment forward.

These, on the other hand, these are open-ended questions that lead to a more interesting response:

What would you do if you were the President?
You just found $1,000. How would you spend it?
What are the keys to the Cowboys winning tonight?

It’s pretty easy to see how these would all inspire more interesting responses isn’t it?

Difference Between Dead Ends and Detours

There are essential differences between radio personalities, but the ability to advance storylines is a skill that is clearly a big advantage.

Listen for it, and it’s easy to hear in radio shows. Some shows just sound highly engaging, expertly segueing from one topic to another in a single break. They leave me wishing they talked more.

Other shows sound like they work hard, maybe even prepare content in depth. But they can’t hold interest for 30 seconds. Their breaks are well structured, they are focused and they get to the point quickly, but dead ends destroy the listening experience.

Stu and Angie on Hot AC Majic 100 in Ottawa have a great rapport, and have mastered the art of conversation. Listen to how they flow seamlessly from one element to another.

This rather simple break transitions naturally from weather to a local community event about smoking to personal observation and opinion about teenage behavior.

On the surface, the break is ordinary. It’s routine. But it’s so  well structured and easy to listen to. It’s brilliant in simplicity, but the key is how they keep the communication flowing by avoiding dead ends and detours.

5 Things That Bring Breaks to a Halt

It’s fairly common for personalities to get off topic and allow breaks to get stuck in a circular pattern. It happens to every show from time to time.

Usually it happens in one of these 5 things:

Punchlines

When personalities just don’t know when enough is enough and keep going to hit one extra punchline, momentum is killed.

Sometimes, a second (or third, or even fourth) punchline is fine. In fact, mini-pay offs are like dropping audio bread crumbs. And that’s a critical part of leading the audience through content.

But when the break reaches a high point-the end-and the show just can’t stop, it’s like slamming into a brick wall at 100 mph.

If there is more than one punch line, great! Just be sure that each is better than the previous. And each mini-payoff should support and set up the big conclusion. That will help build momentum toward an end point.

Phone Calls

Air talent loves to go to the phones. In some cases, it sounds like some personalities expect the audience to provide the entertainment for the show.

Look, I love phone calls on the air. But only if the calls add to the storyline of the break.

When a call doesn’t move the storyline forward, it destroys momentum. It’s a dead end.

And that happens mostly in one of two situations:

  1. We take one too many phone calls. Everything is going along well, but that one extra call adds nothing new and suddenly the whole break feels heavy. It bogs down. It’s a dead end.
  2. Or, the call isn’ screened, the caller is unprepared and the host doesn’t know what they’re going to say. Then they introduce an angle that takes the break off-topic. It’s a detour.

Protect against this by designing topics to attract stories, not just responses.

For example, asking listeners, “What’s your favorite food for a party?” will lead to boring responses. I mean, who cares? And each call is going to sound like the last: “My favorite food is _______ because ________.” Each caller will be repetitious.

But if you rephrase the topic to “Party food disasters…what did you plan and what went wrong?”, you’ll generate stories that can add color to your topic.

Storytelling

Multiple personality shows face unique challenges to stay on track and avoid bringing breaks to a screeching halt.

It happens when cast members are unprepared, aren’t paying attention or are thinking more about what they’re going to say than supporting the storyteller.

But the biggest cause is shows who want to preserve the surprising, spontaneous response on the air. So co-hosts have no idea where the break is going.

I hear it when a personality is leading a break, telling a compelling story. They say something that reminds another character of a personal story. So they tell it. And just like that, the break goes off-topic.

It’s a detour. It may be well-intentioned, but it doesn’t matter. The audience is confused and it’s hard to get back on track.

It also happens when there are too many stories in a break. Even if a personality waits until the “right moment”, that next, related story probably isn’t going to be more compelling than the first. And both fail.

It’s not hard to protect against this, but it takes discipline and attention. Each cast member should become proficient in the improv skill of listen and respond. Be in the moment and react naturally.

Topics

The fourth mistake personalities make is stacking too many topics in a break, or more accurately, not drilling deep enough in a topic to find a story.

This usually happens from poor development in the preparation process.

Effective breaks happen when personalities find an emotional essence for a break. That means finding the story inside the topic.

Find the story and you will discover that most details in any topic are irrelevant. Eliminate the details. This will naturally narrow the focus of a topic and make it easier to keep the audience engaged.

You’ll also find that it allows more personality to cut through.

Detail-Glut

Finally, breaks reach a screeching halt when there are too many details that don’t advance the premise of the story. Facts aren’t interesting, but many personalities seem to think they need to be thorough and complete in presenting a break. But they don’t.

Descriptive, colorful details are essential in telling a story. But if the details point the wrong way, the story bogs down (dead end) and is hard to follow (detour).

Avoid the Screeching Halt

Each of these five things cause breaks to become too complicated, causing listeners to become confused. And when they’re confused, they get bored. That leads to a loss of attention.

And then: tune out.

When forward momentum is lost, breaks deteriorate. This kills personality even if the content is great.

Test the Topic. Before putting anything on the air, try a question or setup on a friend, family member or co-worker. Or put it up on Facebook or Twitter. Pay attention to their response. If you get a short, boring reply, your premise is too factual. Rephrase it, and find a way to introduce the topic so it produces a more colorful response. When you find a good response, practice advancing the conversation, probing for more of their story. Work on it, and soon you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier.

Get Into Improv: Improv skills help personalities on team shows and solo performers by understanding how to listen and respond, avoid blocking and responding “in the moment”.

Conclusion

Detours aren’t the end of the road but you get lost. They’re frustrating and annoying. On a road trip, you have to deal with it. On the air, listeners have a choice. They tune out.

Dead ends are the end of the road, and there’s nowhere to go. And listeners not only tune out, they try to avoid going on that road ever again! And that, of course, is very bad.

Dead ends and detours are hazardous to a radio show. Pay attention to how each break is constructed and work on skills to avoid these common pitfalls.

Photo credit: freepik.com

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Promos That ROCK

Sun Tzu called the supreme art of war to subdue the enemy without fighting.

The truth is, in radio, you don’t have to worry about anything your competition is doing.

After all, you can’t change what another radio station does to try and steal listeners. They are all doing their best to get your audience with contests and promotions. They change their music or clocks. You can’t control that.

But then, none of it really matters. Every radio station can subdue their enemy without engaging in a direct fight.

Here’s how:

  1. Create great reasons to listen to your station.
  2. Be great in presentation and execution.
  3. Promote it effectively on and off the air.

Today, I’m going to show you how to drive ratings with promos that rock.

The Power Of Promos

If you were to be successful in getting your current cume to spend a few more quarter hours, and convince listeners to return just one more day per week, what will happen to your ratings?

Trick question: Your ratings would explode – in a good way!

Don’t believe me? Check the current ratings.

What is the cume for the station overall? Now look at the cume for each individual time of day. What percentage is listening to individual dayparts? Chances are it looks something like this:

Most time slots attract less than 40% of the station’s total cume.

What if you could increase those percentages?

Here’s the exciting part: You don’t need a huge marketing budget. A contest or promotion. You just need great content, great execution and an exciting promotion strategy.

Promos Are Verbal Combat

Radio stations are at war for the attention of the audience. And we’re at a terrible disadvantage because listeners have a big wall of defense that protects them from messages. Their BS meter is high. They have been well trained to resist hype. They ignore commercials.

Yet promos are one of the most important ways to drive more listening. And yes, they’re commercials.

Treat Them Like Commercials: Think of it this way:  Promos for your show or station are individual elements in a spot schedule on your own station. Advertisers pay a lot of money for messages delivered to your audience. You get to access that audience for free. That’s a tremendous advantage.

Promos Must Make a Statement. No promo  has ever been produced that is capable of convincing listeners of anything. Ever. It’s impossible. That’s not how you win the war. But promos can persuade an audience to take a specific action, which leads to persuasion over time. Each promo should be crafted to support brand values and make a statement about the brand.

Don’t Make Assumptions. All decisions are emotional decisions. We don’t make choices based on logic, facts or information. We may use logic, but actual decision making is governed by emotion.Promos that reason, or try to explain why our station is better won’t appeal to that animal instinct. The emotional part of the human brain drives response.

 

Cause A Reaction. Promos should have a call-to-action. If the promo doesn’t give me something to actually do, how will listeners come around to experience the brand in new ways?

Know What You Want

The key is to know what your brand wants from the audience.  You get what you ask for – if you ask the right way. Then promote to drive trial, not just awareness. Awareness is great, but remember where these commercials are running. On your station/ The only people who hear them already listen to your station. They don’t need to be made aware of your brand. Just persuade them to use it more often.

Promos aren’t marketing. The goal is to add Time Spent Listening (TSL) from existing listeners. More specifically, promos should be designed to gain occasions of listening. Each message should be specific with reasons to tune in.

But, it’s also dangerous to assume listeners know all about the station. Most of the audience probably doesn’t know much about you. And it’s naive to think that 100% of the station’s cume already listens to a show on that station. If just 50% do, you’re performing well above the average.

So promote increased trial. To do that, you have to know what you sell.

What Do You Sell?

Look at this from the most basic level. What does a good babysitter sell, really? It’s not child care exactly, but a relaxed evening out. A furnace salesperson? Cozy rooms for families.

Yet most of the promos we run are telling listeners what we do by making claims:

The Station That Rocks The Valley.

The 15-in-a-row hit music station.

Wake up and laugh with Springfield’s funniest morning show.

We’re great at making an argument based on what we do. But we can’t win the argument.

Put yourself in the audience’s shoes. What do these claims mean to them?

10 songs in a row/45 minutes commercial free: Radio loses all quantity of music claims. It is a losing position when your real competition is audio that is always commercial free. What difference does it make that you out-music a format competitor? When either of you goes into commercials, they still check out the other station.

The best music mix for your workday: For whose workday? The Dentist’s office or the construction site? Those are different uses, aren’t they? Workday is vague. Identify exactly who you’re for, why and what you represent.

Today’s Best Music: According to who? The 17 year old high school girl or her 45 year old mom? And what kind of music? Hip hop? Soft rock? Alternative?

The Rock Alternative: This is better, but alternative to what? Is that a claim about music genre or ????

We may have the funniest morning show in the world.  It may be true that we play the most music. And who’s going to prove that we DON’T rock the valley?  There’s nothing wrong with positioning statements that plant a flag. But they don’t cause action.

So first figure out what you’re selling. And yes, you’re selling something. You’re selling value. And what is the cost of what you’re selling? Time. You’re asking listeners to pay with their time and attention.

The key question is whether your product is worth the investment.

Emotional Promos With a CTA

Promos should connect with listeners emotionally.

Here’s an example of a promo that connects to emotions. This is for a morning show feature, the Phone Scam with Jeff and Jenn on Star 94.1 in Atlanta.

This is a terrific promo that shows off the #1 emotion listeners crave in a morning show (laughter) by demonstrating Jeff and Jenn as being funny. The laughter is contagious and shows off how listeners will use the show.

And it sets an appointment for a trial.

Create Great Promos

All promos should do at least one of 3 things:

1. Move a Storyline Forward. Repetitive promos or sweepers that regurgitate the same message over and over don’t connect because they don’t move the story forward. Listeners respond more to stories with momentum than to relentless pounding with information. That’s why each promo needs to deliver a Specific Message…even if that message doesn’t tell the whole story. We do this all the time with promos for contests. They’re either really long, with a list of facts and information or the promo is so FAST nobody can understand it.

2. Call to Action. Each promo must give your audience something to DO. Branding is important, but it can happen with action.What action do you want the listener to take? What action can they take?

3. Add to Brand Values. Promos shouldn’t be designed to sell, but to offer suggestions that impact your audience to come to their own conclusion. If your words pack a punch, you don’t need to exaggerate the adjectives.

Conclusion

Promos are a powerful tool to influence an audience. Use them as a strategic weapon to drive activity and cause listeners to become more habitual listeners and over time, become loyal fans.

I’d love to hear your best promos. Send them to me by email Tracy@Tjohnsonmediagroup.com

 

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TracyJohnsonBlog

Why Your Show Sucks On Monday-And How To Fix It

Most everyone hates Mondays. There’s even a Boomtown Rats song that made it an anthem in the 80s.  That day is tough for listeners and for radio personalities.  It’s different than every other day. It feels different. Response is different. And the audience? They’re just…different. There are at least 3 reasons your show sucks on Monday.

And I have four things to help deal with it.

Why is it different? Here are three key reasons:

Monday Is Different

It’s easy to understand why listener moods are different after a weekend in a different, and usually more fun, routine.

They’ve been in weekend mode, and so have you. Now it’s time to crank it up again. They’re moving a little slower, and so is their family. The kids don’t want to get up. They don’t want to get up. And everyone is just a little cranky on Monday morning.

The result is that when they finally get started, it’s a more frantic pace.

Those clever segments that normally bring out a great response don’t produce the same results on Monday morning because they’re not as available or as eager to play along with your show.

You Are Different

If you’re on a morning show, you’ve been off for three days (one of the advantages of a morning show is that virtually every weekend is a three day weekend, from 10am on Friday through Sunday night).

It’s hard to shift gears again and get into a different mindset. Sleep patterns changed the last two nights. You’re tired, and have one of those weekend hangovers.

Show prep is probably not as thorough or as complete as it is on other days. Things happened over the weekend, and you haven’t been paying as much attention as usual. Plus, since everyone hit the door early on Friday, Monday’s show probably isn’t quite as put together as other days.

Like the audience, you’re adjusting to a new week. It feels different because it is different.

Physical Differences

If that’s not enough, studies show that you are physically different on Mondays. You tire more quickly and psychologically are less optimistic. It’s what you might call the Monday Morning Blahs.

All three of these are real factors.

So what’s the solution? Is that just how it is? Are we doomed to have a bad show because it’s Monday?  Never!

Fix That Monday Morning Show

Making Monday’s show great creates an opportunity. Remember, every show is dragging. What a great time to take advantage of those lazy competitors who are mailing it in!

Here are four things to pump it up and make it sizzle:

Show Prep. It’s always a good idea to plan a show further in advance. Some shows have laid out a show plan up to a full week in advance. This makes it much easier to get ahead of Monday morning.

It’s tempting to rush out the door right after Friday’s last break, but make it a priority to spend a few minutes to insure that Monday is ready to go. Start that process on Thursday if possible. I’m all for personalities getting into weekend mode as soon as possible, but establish a discipline lays out the content for the show before hitting the door.

Start Earlier. Knowing Monday is more of a grind, make it a policy to get to the studio earlier than usual on Mondays. Try to come in 30 minutes earlier if possible, but just 15 minutes can make a big difference.

This helps multi-cast shows to reconnect, plan content based on new weekend developments and get the cob-webs out before turning on the mic.

It also helps to play some warm-up games to get the blood flowing before the show begins. It may seem silly, but it’s amazing how quickly it helps pump up the energy.

Plan The Show Without Listener Interaction. Since the audience is dragging, they’re far less likely to participate. Getting upset at them won’t help. And begging for phone calls sounds horrible and desperate. Accept that the phones won’t light up like it might on other days, and prepare the show as if nobody will call.

This is good advice every day. Too many shows count on listener contributions to drive the show. Phone calls on the air are terrific, but planning for the audience to provide entertainment value is lazy. Plan the show for no phone calls. If they do, it’s a bonus.

Expect less contribution from your listener. This means your interactive content must be simpler, easier to play with and require less thought than other days might.

Prepare Psychologically. Most successes in life are a product of attitude. Mondays happen and there is nothing we can do to stop them. But we can program ourselves psychologically to start the week full of enthusiasm.

Figure out how to look forward to the new week with an attitude of new opportunities. Change your mood and Monday will follow.

Conclusion

Monday will never be fun. And it will always be different. That’s why it takes a little more focus and extra effort to make it work.

Supercharge every Monday by preparing for it and knowing that it’s one of the most difficult days of the week. This goes double for Tuesdays following a long weekend!

And if you need some ideas to jump-start the show on Monday mornings, we have some of those for you right here.

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TracyJohnsonBlog

How Talent and PD’s Can Learn to Celebrate Air Check Meetings

In a perfect world, air talent would receive regular input, filled with constructive, positive comments. The PD would be supportive and upbeat. And upper management would act as a protective shield from complaints. In this make-believe world, talent could look forward to, and even celebrate, air check meetings.

But in the real world, everyone dreads critique sessions. Talent already knows the breaks that sucked. And they also know that the PD has a natural ability to find every one. To them, it’s like taking a drink out of the jug labeled “Spoiled Milk”.

Jimmy Kimmel explains what reviewing his performance is like:

I look back at every show I’ve ever done and cringe. My vision of hell is a bunch of monitors with my old shows running on them.

Is that the way air talent looks at meetings with programmers? Sadly, yes, in most cases.

There are many excellent methods of evaluating and training talent, but one guideline should be at the center of each: and that is the air check meeting. It shouldn’t be a painful experience. Some personalities even come to love air checks.

Evaluating a show shouldn’t be an exercise just to stroke an air personality’s ego, nor an excuse to be critical. Both are a waste of time. The only goal should be in the endless quest for excellence. If this is a genuine goal of all parties, reviews can be collaborative, productive and pleasant.

So what makes some sessions fun and productive and others about as much fun as a tax audit? Let’s examine the differences.

Celebrate Air Check Meetings

Every evaluation should be through the ears and experiences of the audience. Period.

Get rid of subjective feedback, and focus on growth. That takes the negative sentiment out of the meeting.

Conducting a review without being critical makes it possible to work with highly sensitive and defensive talent. To learn this skill, understand there are three purposes of an air check meeting:

Produce Improvement: 

While it’s sometimes necessary to talk about performance shortcomings and point out areas for improvement, a spirit of pursuing growth changes the dynamic. This is often because programmers (and often personalities) usually don’t appreciate the progress they’ve been making.  Improvement is hard to measure and even harder to acknowledge from one day to the next.

A great way to gain perspective on growth is archiving air checks of each air personality at least once a month. Over time, you can go back and compare how we sound now to any point in the past. It’s like taking snapshots at various times in the life cycle of their Personality Success Path. When they feel the improvement, you can keep the momentum rolling.

Air check problems re magnified because many (if not most) programmers are “fixers”. They want to find problems and remove them. It would be wonderful if we could quickly and easily identify an issue, discuss it and have the problem fixed in a day or two. But that’s not how it works when people are involved.

Growing as an air personality is like improving your golf game. You spend hours and hours in lessons, working on your technique on the driving range and making adjustments. When the skills become muscle memory, your game reaches the next level.

Coaching air talent is creating muscle memory for performance. And that takes patience.

Prevent Bad Habits: 

Sometimes talent slips into habits that are more annoying to the coach than the audience. An alert programmer hears these crutches and address them in air checks.  These small tweaks are fairly easy to fix, but need to be addressed before they become larger issues.

It could be a recurring phrase that creeps into the show. Be sure this is kept in perspective. Staying in regular contact produces a relationship that isn’t as confrontational.

Further Discussion: 

Air check meetings can initiate dialogue that leads to breakthrough growth and new ideas. With the proper inspiration, talent can explore new opportunities to apply their personality.

Bad Air Check Sessions

On the other hand, there are also bad reasons to schedule an air check session. Many times, programmers ignore issues until they just can’t take it any more. This usually leads to a contentious meeting.

Programmers: Analyze your feelings and emotions. Then, before your react in the heat of the moment, step back and ask yourself if you want the meeting because of:

Spite: 

Sometimes the programmer or talent coach just don’t like the show. I know, that sounds strange, but it’s more common than you think. When that happens, they often unfairly attack the personalities because they are in an authoritative position. This is always destructive and leads to contentious meetings.

As a manager, you should be as objective as possible. Figure out how to be a fan of the show, even if you have to fake it at first.

Frustration: 

Everyone has a bad day, and if you’re in a bad mood, vent that negative energy elsewhere. Taking it out on the talent is the worst possible target. It’s better to find another outlet than sensitive air personalities.

If the coach is in a bad mood, reschedule the meeting!

Ego: 

When people try to demonstrate their intelligence or knowledge by offering harsh criticism, bad things happen. For some management types, challenging others makes them feel superior.

A good coach is self-confident and patient, but not egotistical.

George Martin: The Beatles PD

George Martin had one of the most difficult jobs imaginable. He was in charge of managing the Beatles. The extraordinary producer was a master of knowing how and when to let John, Paul, George and Ringo create without barriers.

george martin beatles

All the while, Martin was in the background doing more for their success than anyone knew, but he was smart enough to let them take all the credit. He was the consistent, steady hand and his fingerprints are all over the Fab Four’s success.

He helped the band get along personally and guided their decisions as they grew. Martin coached his personalities while putting aside differences to make their music and their band one of the greatest we’ve ever seen.

As a PD, try to be George Martin. Help personalities find their ultimate success.

Conclusion

Effective coaching isn’t about criticism. It’s teaching, encouraging and empowering talent to become great. Productive air check sessions will cause talent to crave more input. Talent places enormous emphasis on being shown that they are appreciated. Go into every air check meeting with this attitude, and everyone will start looking forward to them.

Air check sessions don’t have to suck. They should be something both talent and management looks forward to.

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TracyJohnsonBlog

3 Secrets To Become an On-Air Superstar

In 30-plus years of training, managing and coaching radio personalities, there are three key things that have never changed. And will never change. It’s my 3 Secrets of Becoming an On-Air Superstar. And yes, I’ll reveal the secrets below. But today, I want to focus on a single, most fundamental secret.

It’s Secret #1: The 5 Stages of your Personality Success Path.

You will turn up the volume on your personality brand when you earn the freedom to go deeper with your audience. There’s not a single personality reading this that doesn’t want that freedom. But you have to earn it, and it happens step by step through 5 Stages.

The 5 Stages of Personality Growth

There are 5 stages in the life cycle of every great personality. Everyone on the air goes through Stage 1, but not everyone makes it to Stage 5.

Introduction is when you’re brand new. They don’t even know your name, or really even care. In this stage, your goal should be to show that you love the same things they do.

Familiarity is when they may recognize your name but they don’t know anything about you yet. This is a critical phase…it’s still not the right time to talk about yourself that much…but you may want to introduce a feature here

Growth. This is when it gets exciting. They’re starting to know you and like the things you do on the air. They like the station better when you’re on. This is when you start promoting those features aggressively.

Like. The like phase is when you can introduce more personal stories into the show. They’re starting to recognize your character traits and know whey they like it when you’re on.

Love. And this is the ultimate goal. In this stage, it’s more about who you are than what you do. They choose the station because of you. This is where you want to be.

Performing In the 5 Stages

You have to know where you stand in the relationship with your audience, and perform accordingly. Personalities don’t become popular all at once. They grow popular over time. It’s a process that can be accelerated. But it cannot be rushed.

You can’t start out at Stage 5. And if you perform show like you’re in Stage 4 or 5 when you’re in stage 1 or 2, you lose!

One reason personalities fail is they don’t understand where they are in their success path. They think they’re in the love stage because they’ve been on a long time, but they’re really just in Stage 2 because they have never had an impact.

Your behavior must be based on how your audience sees you. Not how you would LIKE to be seen. If you come on too strong in Stage 1 or 2, you’ll run the audience off. They will hate you, and think you’re self absorbed.

Similarly, if you’re in Stage 4 or 5, but the PD is making you play too much music, you’re also preventing the audience from rewarding you.

Earning Your Freedom

And that’s the issue, isn’t it? You want to earn freedom on the air, but you probably think this is impossible because the PD puts up barriers.It seems like a chicken or the egg thing. You feel like you can’t reach the next stage because you don’t aren’t allowed time to perform,

You have to earn that freedom. And here’s the good news. You earn it from listeners. They demand more of you. And it starts by being great in every break now.

I know that at some stations, management just wants you there to play the commercials, execute the format and not get in the way. They don’t support personality. And they won’t get what I’m talking about here. Maybe you’ve tried to do some different things and been yelled at. They told you to just stick to the basics. I get it. It’s a balance.

But don’t let those barriers become an obstacle to growth. As you impact listeners, your power will grow. You’ll become a primary reason for tune-in.

This is what makes management afraid of you, by the way. They are afraid of losing you. Because when you become a meaningful personality that leads an audience fan base, you have power.

I know it can be frustrating to want to do more than you’re permitted. Every great personality wants to do more than they’re allowed. It’s universal. Personalities with 5-minute limits think they need 7. Those with a 3 minute window think they’d be better with 5. And those that only have 30 seconds know for a fact they’d be great if they had 3 minutes. Maybe you can’t control your break length. But you can control what goes into your breaks.

You Gotta Prepare

So prepare a great break-every break-based on the opportunity you’re provided. Now here’s the ironic part. The smaller the canvas on which you paint, the longer it takes to prepare. Seriously.

Ronald Reagan was asked to deliver a speech for charity. Before accepting, he asked how long the speech would be, because he wasn’t sure he had time. “What difference does it make how long?”, he was asked. “Well, he said…if you want me to talk for an hour, I’m ready to go now. But if it’s just 10 minutes, I need a couple of weeks to prepare.”

You may not be able to do everything you want to do, but you will learn to stretch the boundaries. And when you do, the canvas becomes larger, unlocking more creativity.

But here’s the thing: If you try and do it all at once, yeah, you’re going to get in trouble. And not only that, you won’t be able to do it well. Remember that this is a process.

You have to do it in synch with the 5 stages of growth.

How To Earn It

As you find your character voice and start growing through the five stages of growth, you’ll be amazed at the response from the audience…and your boss.

I once worked with a personality that was on in a time of day where ALL we wanted was the music to stand out. And the DJ’s job was to just make it sound good.

But he never gave up. He kept learning. He made the station better by projecting personality into every single segment while pointing listeners to the music and the station. He did it while doing what I wanted.

It wasn’t long before we realized that this guy was an great audience magnet. The better he got, the more freedom he earned. And the greater the bond with the audience. Soon, we moved him to afternoons. Then to mornings.That DJ?

He’s Dave Smiley. And he’s killing it with a 6-person morning show at WZPL in Indianapolis…#1 in the market for more than a decade.

You may not be able to do everything you want right now, but as you grow through the five stages, you will stretch the canvas. And when you do, you’ll unlock creativity you never knew you had.

Secrets 2 and 3

The other two secrets? #2 is that you have to know who you are and find your personal character voice. This is how your audience will get to know you so they can fall in love with you.

And the third secret is you absolutely must stop thinking of yourself as a radio announcer and become a storyteller that has a radio show. Mastering this skill will change everything.

I’ll write about those secrets later. But for now, focus on your Personality Success Path. That’s where your journey to becoming an on-air superstar begins.

Get More Details

I’m going into detail on all three secrets in my new, free webinar The Audience Magnet Blueprint. You can get access here.

And if you come to the webinar, I’ll give you a free copy of the Audience Magnet Blueprint eBook and a downloadable infographic of the 5 Stages of Personality Growth, with a lot more depth and information on how to behave in each stage.

This can be life-changing for radio personalities. It’s the difference between being stuck in a DJ or announcer job and getting on a career path to being a wildly successful personality. Don’t you owe it to yourself to get on that Personality Success Path and unlock you potential?

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TracyJohnsonBlog

Don’t Start At The Beginning

If you want to get the attention of listeners, you must hook your audience quickly, Nobody knows more about the importance of beginnings than novelists and screenwriters, but we think their rules of entertainment doesn’t apply to us.

After all, you are delivering four hours of entertainment every day. Listeners tune in to hear what’s going on in our lives and in our studio. We aren’t writing fiction, we’re doing a great radio show about US. That’s sarcasm, by the way, in case you didn’t pick up on it.

The Hook is the first step of a well constructed break, followed by Set-Up, Dress-Up, Payoff and Blackout-and it’s the single most important of the five. With that in mind, here are some guidelines from writers that you can apply to your show.

Here’s how you can become a better storyteller:

Hook Your Audience: Do NOT start at the beginning!

Advice for first-time novelists is, “Throw away the first chapter.” Chances are, chapter 2 is where it starts to get interesting. Start THERE, where the action begins!

What if you remove the first chapter of your break? The first 30 seconds or 2 minutes of a break? Too much? Yes, this means dropping the listener right in to the middle, but if it’s well crafted and compelling, they won’t care.

Get to the meat as quickly as possible. If you’re interviewing a guest, give just enough information to establish credibility. You might even ask the first question before you introduce the guest to hook the audience on the topic. Then, back up and put the question into context.

Don’t put too much emphasis on the amount of context the listener/reader really needs in advance. They’ll get it, if you develop the story in the setup.

Show, Don’t Tell

If you have to TELL your audience that they should care, you’re screwed. They either care or they don’t. It’s either relevant or it isn’t.

The motivation for caring should be inherent in the content. That is addressed in preparation, not in performance. Don’t explain it. Just do it and make it compelling enough to gain their attention.

No History Lessons

How long would you read a book that started with a complete historical perspective before the story begins? How long would you watch a James Bond movie if they explained the character’s history instead of showing the chase scene?

If you feel obligated to include the history, at least don’t put it up front. Bury it where it’ll do the least damage.To be fair, there are some topics where history is interesting and useful, but the historical overview won’t hook your audience.

MYTH: Credibility Is Important

How many times do you see a presentation where the speaker has bullet points and slides on their background? Nobody cares. It doesn’t make what they’re talking about better. And your listeners don’t care about you, either. They care about themselves.

Don’t try and prove how smart you are. If you have something to say, say it. Your brilliance will emerge. You don’t have to give your history or background.

This demonstrates your respect for the audience by caring about their time. When you care about the quality of their time, you’ll show it off by being entertaining, engaging, compelling and interesting. Or at least usefulBy being prepared.

Hook Your Audience: 7 Tricks

If you’re struggling with hooks, or just starting out, there are a few tricks. Use them to open breaks with an impact:

Begin with a question the listener wants answered

It doesn’t have to be a literal question, of course, but suggest a question that begs to be answered by piquing their curiosity. In a good movie, the viewer is immediately intrigued: “Who is this guy? Why is he in this situation? Will he get out of it? What’s this secret thing they keep referring to?”

Make them curious

Curiosity is seduction. Sometimes we suck the life out of topics, when they could be fascinating. Find passion in your topic. Preparation. If YOU don’t care – if you aren’t curious why should they?

Be provocative

Challenge a belief. Even if they instantly disagree, they’ll stay long enough to get mad at you. Start with your most dramatic and/or unpopular assertion. Get it out there. Don’t build toward it. Say it! Then support it (again, set up).

Evoke empathy

Start with a story about real people, or a character in a scenario they identify with.

Promise there will be conflict

We would rarely read a novel or see a movie if not for the promise of conflict. Tension and suspense are compelling. How will this turn out?

Mystery, suspense, intrigue

How many bad books and movies have you stuck with just because you had to find out who did it? Even bad movies or bad books. Look at your topic and find a way to add mystery. ANYTHING worth talking or writing about has potential for mystery which plays on their curiosity.

Conclusion: Hook Your Audience

The hook is the most important part of a story, and the critical part of your radio break.

Your job is to touch the audience emotionally in some way. They remember what they feel.

Your goal should be as author Paul O’Neil stated,

Grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, send your thumbs into her windpipe in the second, and hold her against the wall until the end.

That’s a lofty goal, but you can start by just getting them to give you one more moment. One more tune in. Ten more seconds. Then another. And another. Every break, every moment. It will soon become habit.

This is one of the 7 points of reference for air personalities in my 7-point ratings tune up. I’ll show you how to have your best ratings period ever in an exclusive, free webinar on March 13, 2018. Get details and sign up for the webinar here.

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TracyJohnsonBlog

Dealing With Tragedy On The Air

It seems that a week rarely goes by without a tragedy in the world. Each affects your audience emotionally and personally. And almost every time, radio stations are taken by surprise because it’s impossible to plan exactly what to do in every situation But we can prepare for how to deal with tragedy and emergencies when they happen. This guide will help you sort the steps to relate to your audience when they need you most.

Of course, there are many types of tragedy and emergencies. Some are personal (a sick child, a father who’s been laid off). Others are personal to a cast member. Many times, they’re local (natural disasters, for instance). And then there’s the increasingly common events of terrorism and mass killings.

When something extraordinary happens, will you be there to reflect it, be a part of it? Are you prepared to change direction as the situation calls for it? Jeff & Jer called it the ability to change course to “know how to be really good when things are really bad.”

Radio can shine and air personalities can stand out in times of tragedy. And I’m not talking about covering the news event.

As Deborah Parenti of Radio Ink puts it:

Cable news outlets run 24/7 updates from news sources and press conferences. They hash over the events with talking heads, “experts,” and “analysts”, interspersed with a few eye witness interviews repeated over and over throughout the day. Depending on the channel, some of it is also presented through a political lens. Indeed, it’s a role they have carved out as part of their 24/7 cycle, one which has also shunted broadcast TV coverage to more of a “bulletin” status…But where radio distinguishes itself and what truly spotlights its niche among all media is/was and will continue to be, its distinct ability to reach out, dig in and be part of the community. That’s a far different role than reporting on the community.

One of the most important things you can do as an air talent is find a way to become the show to tune in when something major happens. Weather emergencies, local tragedies and city-wide celebrations are moments that matter for your show. Your link to the audience is magnified. It’s the time when you have to be at your best.

Capture The Moment Emotionally

The ability to capture the moment can be the difference between success and failure. If you are able to identify those moments when they occur, react quickly and tap into your audience’s reaction with an emotional sincerity, you can make giant strides in your goal of attaining local celebrity status. this happens when you’re able to stay within your character profile, yet speak passionately in times when listeners are highly emotional.

Great personalities are able to speak with passion. Showing that you truly care about a subject can go a long way toward winning listeners. But you can overdo it when you pour too much emotion into the presentation.

Fast Company says:

Passion in speaking is like spice in cooking. If you’ve ever added cayenne pepper to a dish, you know you need to be careful to use just the right amount. Too much emotion in your speaking is like dumping in a whole tablespoon of hot pepper—it’ll be the only thing anyone will notice, and they won’t want to finish.

Passion vs. Emotion

Passion is important in delivery, only in small doses. To connect emotionally, you’ll need to use your personality skills.

The only thing the audience will recall is your emotional display. Speak with passion to allow your message to take on vivid color but stay calm. When listeners are surprised by the intensity of emotion, they miss your message. Emotions should be the spice to your recipe, not the main ingredient.

When you’re too emotional, your show become fatiguing. A little goes a long way. Your voice can become sharp, and you come off as if you’re shouting. Or, you are overcome with grief, and your voice sounds light, lacking the power of motivation. The audience might hear you, but they won’t be listening. At least, not for long.

While staying under control, build toward a high point, and use the rhythm of your delivery to add power to segments. If you stay in the same vocal tone too long, listeners become immune to the message.

Vary your pace, tone and inflection to keep attention and cause response.

Dealing With Tragedy: How To Respond

Each tragedy requires a different response. And while there’s no formula, you can work through this process to get a handle on your reaction.

Is It Local?

The first consideration is whether the tragedy is a local event. If it is, many of the recommendations and guidelines that follow don’t apply.

When an event  disrupts life in your community, your response should be bigger and deeper. It will also have an affect on how you should react over time. If the tragedy impacts your audience where they live, plan to be talking about it more often and for a longer period of time.

But don’t avoid it because the “event” is somewhere else. Many stations get sucked into “it’s not local”. That’s just an excuse. If the audience is affected by it and is talking about it, it’s local.

Be Who You Are

Unless you’re a news station, don’t try to cover it as a news story. The temptation is to distribute information and provide updates. You may even be tempted to broadcast a sister station’s news coverage. Don’t.

If you run news on your show, isolate the facts to your newscasts. It may make sense to add more frequent news updates, depending on the impact and timing of the tragedy. But your personality content should always be emotionally connecting with the audience. And you should tease the next news update frequently.

For most shows, it’s not about providing the facts or being on top of a breaking news story. Listeners are coming to your station for your reaction. This is a time to reflect your character through the filter of the audience’s mood.

The closer the event hits your target audience, the greater your response. But don’t try to be someone else.

Adjust, Don’t Change

In other words, know who you are and what you are for. What is the primary reason your audience comes to you? Be that. Your content will adjust, of course, but don’t change the nature of your personality brand.

Sometimes personalities try to explore the reasons for a tragedy. Unless you’re a news or talk station, that’s not your role. You can’t solve the problem and your audience doesn’t expect you to come up with any solutions. The goal should be to have a strong emotional reaction, but don’t let it become a rant on all the problems that led to the event.

When tragedy strikes, you will be taken out of your routine. Your comfort zone is challenged. That’s okay. It’s good to stretch your boundaries. Just stay within yourself and don’t try to do more than you are capable of

If you’re not sure what to do, it’s more important to talk about it frequently than to talk about it in depth.  One show I work makes it a point to reference a tragic event every quarter hour in some way, but doesn’t turn the whole show into constant coverage.

Respond Quickly

Most of the time, being quick is more important than being polished. Responding quickly is key. Timing is critical. Information moves at light-speed. While you’re not going to compete for covering the story, your response must consider recent developments. And you have to be on it while the story is top-of-mind.

When San Diego was on fire (a Sunday) and tens of thousands of listeners were driven from their homes, my stations took action. By Monday afternoon, we had over $1 million in cash to give directly to the victims. We didn’t wait. We took action.

Your response will vary depending on the timing of the event. Key questions to consider:

  • How long ago did it happen? If it happens at night, and you’re on the next morning, how is your audience feeling right now? Don’t re-hash the facts and details just because you didn’t happen to be on the air at the time of the event.
  • How much does the audience know? If the story just broke, or is happening while you’re on the air, it’s still fresh, and listeners are probably not fully informed. This would require a slightly different approach. But remember, information moves quickly. They’re probably just as informed (or more) than you are.

The most important thing is to make a decision and take action. Don’t wait. You’ll miss the moment. Get on the air and get moving. Figure out the details later.

Brand Values

How closely does this tragedy hit your audience’s lifestyle? When a gunman shot up an Orlando nightclub, it affected everyone in the world, not just the local Orlando community. The same happened in the Arianna Grande concert bombings, especially for hit music stations and parents of her fans, mostly young girls.

The more it impacts the lifestyle of your audience, the more it touches your brand values. And as a result, the attention it should receive.

When you think about it, every major tragedy affects your audience’s world. Find an entry point that can be an emotional connection for your brand. That might be collecting stuffed animals for children. Or taking care of pets and animals. Or a diaper drive for moms. If you’re a Christian station, maybe there’s a church that has been impacted that you can help.

Find a need in the disaster area and focus on that.

Psychological Impact

Some tragedies are physical. Others are psychological. If the event took place in another geographic location, chances are your audience is more impacted emotionally. The more you can speak emotionally and tap into those feelings, the more effective you’ll be.

Every event has a psychological impact on at least some of your audience. Judge the extent of that damage and respond to how your audience is feeling. Then craft a response that connects with the emotions of that psychological impact.

At one station I work with, the station targets adult women, many of whom have school-aged children. The host of the show is married to a school Superintendent. Following a school shooting, the show brought him on to talk about how he’s dealing with it in the school district. How will their teachers be talking to the kids the next day?

That’s an example of injected the show’s unique personality brand into the topic. At another station, the host has four year old daughter. Following a dramatic event that involved children, the show brought a guest expert on to explain how he could talk to a four-year old about the tragedy. This is quite different than just having an expert on to talk about the event and give general advice. It puts the show’s brand into the story.

Personal Response

If you are personally affected by the news, use that emotion. Bring your perspective to the audience, especially if it’s consistent with how they’re feeling. If you can be the personality that puts into words how they are feeling, you can become a source of comfort.

However, if you’re really upset about it personally, work that out before you go on the air. Talk to someone. You need to be calm, collected and in control of the show. When you’re too emotional, your voice can become sharp, and you come off as if you’re shouting. Or, you are overcome with grief, and your voice sounds light, lacking the power of motivation. The audience might hear you, but they won’t be listening.

What You Need to Gather

While hearing you on the air brings comfort to your fans, it’s also important that you have some elements in place. Here’s what should be on your checklist to gather as soon as possible:

Information:

Assign one person the task of searching local and national websites for information that fit your brand’s needs. This can have value for on-air and your online/social presence. Make sure they follow up and stay up to date. If you don’t have a producer, recruit someone to help. It could be a friend, relative or someone from another department on the station. Your attention should be focused on how you’ll perform and craft your on-air content.

Get Contact Information:

Who can you reach as s spokesperson that has authority or can add an interesting angle? Television reporters? Newspaper people? News anchors? Depending on the situation, you might also track down community leaders from schools or businesses, head of charities, Pastors of churches, etc. Use social media to track them down. You may not use them to report on the news, but those close to the tragedy can often give you a unique angle to explore.

Interesting Personalities:

If there’s a character or two in your city that’s doing something unusual, it’s a great way to talk about the event without sounding like everyone else. Look into social media to see how ordinary people are taking action. Find the ones that are most interesting, reach out and form a relationship.

Possible Angles:

Figure out what kind of stories you will be relating. Find something unique, such as: What happens to pets? How will you protect your family to get them all in the same place? Do you need help or can you help (get folks together)? Are there scams to watch out for?

Be Real, But Positive

As the audience gets past the initial shock, they won’t want to wallow in the negativity of the story for long. Pay attention to find the right time to turn the corner and represent hope and positivity.

Most every tragedy has good news inside the horrors. Mr. Rogers called it, “Look for the helpers” and tell those stories.

Again, use social media to find sources of content. It’s even better if you can develop a relationship with one of the heroes and spotlight their story. This brings it home in a whole new way.

Public Response (Promotion)

If you’re planning a public reaction (promotion), your station should have a process in place.

Once you have a handle on the tragedy, plan your reaction. Here’s a step-by-step process for finding how to deal with tragedy on the air.

  1. If organizing a promotion or public response, make sure everything you do is user-friendly and easy to participate. Pick a high-profile public location, like a mall or major retail area. Stage it there.
  2. Then, invite partners to get involved. See if other media, such as television stations, want to participate. Chances are, they’re looking for an angle to cover without having to create their own thing. Let them promote you!
  3. Find your niche and tell that story in a powerful, sensitive and emotional way. What matches your personality and brand? Find that and make it famous

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, my station (Star 100.7) bought a giant bell, similar to the famous Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

We installed it in a public location, then invited listeners to come and honor the victims. Each name of the 2,996 victims as written on a piece of paper. Listeners came, chose a name, said the name on the air and rang the bell.

We carried it all on the air live. It took over 8 hours. No commercials. Was this great PPM programming? Of course not. It was hard to listen to. And it was a tune out. But what an impact. It was powerful, dramatic and it stood out from everything else.

It was hard and took time and resources. But it paid off.

The easy thing to do is join in the thousands of others that promote a donation code or tap into existing relief campaigns.

Don’t do that.

It’s lazy and you won’t get any credit. Not that it’s all about credit, but come on! We know why you’re doing it!

Forget about those agencies that are working on their campaigns. Why promote them? Do something on your own. Be unique and make a difference.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, you can’t plan these things, but you can be prepared. This is part of being a well-rounded personality with layers of audience appeal.

For more on how to speak emotionally when tragedy strikes and examples of great shows doing it well, check out How to Be Really Good When Things Are Really Bad.

Photo Credit: Freepik.com

 

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TracyJohnsonBlog

Library Depth & How Often Songs Should Play

The ratings come in. You have a TSL (time spent listening) problem. The cume went up, but your average quarter hours are down. Your first thought is to examine music library depth.

Then the research comes in and the perceptual confirms it. Listeners say you repeat songs too much.

Listeners tell you they can predict the next song, and air talent is constantly complaining about having to play the same music over and over. You get phone calls asking why you play the same songs over and over.

What’s a programmer to do? Your natural reaction is logical. The answer is obvious, right? Fix this problem by adding more titles to the library to reduce fatigue and increase variety.

It won’t work.

9 Realities of Music Library Depth

In fact, slowing rotations is exactly the wrong move. Here’s why:

Ratings Are Misleading

There’s an inverse relationship between cume growth and TSL decline. I call it the two-switch theory of radio programming.

When reach (weekly cume) increases, it’s almost always a result of attracting secondary and tertiary listeners, not fans. These secondary listeners spend far less time with your station, so average TSL naturally declines.

Your audience reach has increased! Congratulations. You should expect a lower TSL. Avoid knee-jerk reactions to ratings.

More Songs=Weaker Library

You were already playing the best music for your audience (well, probably). That’s probably one reason  you’re attracting more listener to your station.

Every song added is weaker than what is on. It has less appeal to the cume you’ve attracted. As a result, it dilutes the power of your playlist.

The more songs you add, the weaker your library. The appeal of the station goes down and you lose the button-punch battle.

What’s Your Criteria?

If library depth is based on music testing, re-evaluate the criteria used to merit airplay.

Many programmers gravitate toward playing songs with low negative scores. That seems logical, but many times, the songs with higher negatives also bring out more favorites. Removing high negative songs may result in less frequent reasons for the audience to leave, but it also chases away passionate positives in some song scores. That passion is the incentive to stay tuned.

Theoretical attempts to reduce tune-out can cause bland stations. Those “non-negative’ songs almost always lack strong positives resulting in a “sameness” factor that is fatiguing and adds to a repetition perception.

Weak Song Repetition

Repetition issues arise when playing too many average or weak songs, not listener favorites. Playing a bad song once is one time  too many. My favorite song? You can’t play it often enough.

Test this theory the next time a listener complains. Ask which song is played too much. Then ask if they LIKE that song. Chances are they don’t. Then ask for their FAVORITE song and if you also play that too much. They’ll say “No, you should play it more”. Most likely, it’s in the same, or more frequent, rotation.

Sound Repetition

Repetition is also influenced by “sameness of sound”. Similar songs by the same artist (especially over-played recurrents and gold) add to fatigue.

And artists who tend to sound the same can increase perceived repetition.

Many/most listeners don’t distinguish between similar sounding songs by the same artist (Katy Perry, for example) and familiar songs by similar sounding artists. So while your music software is not breaking your scheduling rules, listeners hear it differently.

Not Your Fault-Maybe

Listeners generally have no idea which station they’re listening to when they hear a song. They heard it on the radio and assign “repetition” to their favorite station. Congratulations! That’s you! You’ll be credited for a repetition image, even if you’re not the station causing it.

It’s not fair, but it’s reality. And there’s not much you can do about it.

So if listeners are going to assign you a repetition image, at least be repetitious with  the best songs!

Or Maybe It Is

Repetition often results from poor music scheduling more than library depth. Listeners are creatures of habit, tuning in at the same times each day. You can have the largest library in all of radio, but if the same songs play in the same dayparts, hours and quarter-hours, they won’t experience the depth of your library.

It doesn’t matter how many titles you play if listeners hear the same ones. Another overlooked factor is repetition based on lifestyle. If they hear the same song on their drive to and from work, you might have a repetition problem.

Repetition Images May Be Good

If they really are hearing the same songs over and over on your station, that means they’re listening-a lot. Attempting to “fix” this “problem” removes the reason they listen in the first place, and reduces your appeal to both heavy listening fans and those who listen much less.

The more popular your station becomes, the more your repetition complaints will rise. Wear it like a badge of honor!

Listener-Speak

Fans always say they want “more variety”. We assume they want more depth and breadth in music.

What they want is more variety of their personal favorites. You can’t satisfy personal favorites, because everyone has a different idea of what that favorite is. Trying to satisfy the library depth problem will take you down a dark, lonely path toward ratings oblivion.

Personal Bias & Library Depth

Face it. You listen more than anyone else to your radio station. Your average P1 invests just a few minutes a day with your station. Don’t you want them to hear the best version of your brand every time? Can you afford to have their hear anything else?

That alone will lead to a tighter playlist.

It’s only natural for your personal tastes and preferences to creep into music decisions. Fight the temptation to compromise the best interest of the station because you like a certain song or genre of music.

Yes, your “gut” is important, but not as important as programming to the preferences of the audience.

When In Doubt, Leave It Out

One of my earliest programming lessons came from consultant Frank Felix. In an ultra-competitive battle between two classic rock stations, I was an advocate of a longer playlist. Playing “Stairway” every 19 hours seemed like a sure way to burn our library and develop negative images.

To Felix, library depth was an easy problem to solve.

I’ll never forget Frank telling me:

The way to defeat a direct competitor is that when they play nothing but the 20 greatest songs of all time, you play the 19 greatest. That way, once every 20 songs, you’re playing a bigger hit.

That philosophy applies to all competitive situations. Listeners never get tired of hearing their favorite songs. They quickly tire of average songs they don’t like so much.

If you’re not sure about those borderline songs that could go either way, leave them off. Generally speaking, it’s true that you don’t get hurt by what you don’t play.

Program For Passion

When assigning songs to categories, pay particular attention to those songs with high passion. Favor those with the most favorite scores. Many songs test well because nobody dislikes them. Those songs usually have low burn, and are very play-able.

However, they don’t deliver the same excitement as high-scoring songs driven by favorites. It’s fine to accept more burn in a high-passion song.

This applies especially to CHR stations. How many powers should you have? There really aren’t more than 3-4 true power hits at any given time. Beyond that are titles that are not yet familiar or lack the passion. Avoid the temptation to add more “A” songs, just to fill the category. It’s better to adjust the category based on the strength of current music.

Recycle

If short playlists beat large lists, how can you maximize your library? Learn to recycle effectively.

Very few listeners tuned in between 10am and 5pm will also be listening from 11pm to 6am. In fact, almost none. So why waste fresh library tracks when virtually nobody will hear the variety?

Recycling recurrent and gold categories is simply replaying the songs used during certain daytime hours in the overnight.

Some stations take it a step further and replay the exact playlist overnight. This allows the music programmer to spend more time perfecting the schedule in the most important hours rather than wasting resources on low-leverage times.

Most music scheduling systems handle recycling easily.

Conclusion

Finding the right rotations is more art than science, and it will take some trial and error to find the balance that works best for your brand.

Exercise discipline, objectivity and use research tools as a guide.

 

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TracyJohnsonBlog

How To Figure Out How Long Should Your Spring Promotion Run

One of the most difficult decisions for programmers, promotion managers and air talent is figuring out promotion length.

How long should a campaign last? A weekend? 2 weeks? A month? How can you decide how long a promotion should run? You want it to be long enough to establish roots and get traction. But not so long it starts to get boring.

In the past, radio stations extended promotions over a longer period of time. It was common for a contest to last 10, 12, or 13 weeks. Now, with shorter attention spans and a faster paced society, promotion length is impacted. The shelf life is generally shorter. It’s become more typical for a campaign to run 6-8 weeks, and many times a major promotion lasts less than a month.

The trend toward shorter and more concentrated promotions is going to continue. So how can you decide the proper length for a promotion campaign?

Here are six things you should consider:

How To Decide Promotion Length

There are many variables that impact how long your campaign should last. Here are six of the most important considerations:

How Big is the Promotion?

Obviously, a larger promotion can be sustained longer than a shorter one. And usually, the bigger the payoff, the longer the promotion can last.

This is not an absolute, but generally a bigger prize will command interest over a longer period, particularly if the promotion involves a large pay off. It’s logical, right?

But no matter how big the prize, if the storyline of the campaign doesn’t have enough depth, it’s hard to keep it fresh and interesting. I’ve been involved with many contests with big money prizes that just couldn’t hold up because the story wasn’t strong enough to support it. And I’ve also had great promotions with relatively small payoffs that last much longer.

If possible, extend the length of your campaign by building the promotion in stages. Instead of rolling out every aspect of the contest, keep some surprises back and add drama in layers. This also makes it easier for your audience to follow and understand.

A promotion built in layers has movement, momentum and will be perceived as even bigger than the actual payoff. It’s also more interesting to the non-player.

Pre-Promotion

Regardless of the actual promotion length, factor pre-selling into the campaign. Short promotions are challenging because your secondary listeners (also known as P2’s and P3’s) take longer to catch on. They figure out what you’re doing just as it’s winding down.

With pre-promotion, you can establish familiarity in a campaign while still running the actual promotion for a shorter time period.

If it’s a short promotion, pre-sell longer. In this regard, radio stations can take a page from movie companies, rolling out a campaign for a new film in stages. You’ve probably seen trailers that promote the next big blockbuster months or even years before it’s released. The closer it gets, it becomes more specific, revealing more details. And in turn, building anticipation for the launch.

Caution: Promoting too far in advance without updating the messaging and creative assets will result in fatigue before the promotion even begins.

Back-Selling

Many stations make a big mistake by back-selling their campaigns too long.

Once the promotion is over, it’s over. Listeners really don’t care who won, unless it was them. However, they do care that there actually was a winner. So use all of your resources to promote winners.

But on the air, back-selling should be short. Very short.

The ideal back-sell would creatively segue into a pre-promotion for the next campaign. By leveraging the success of the previous promotion, you’re build momentum for the next one while paying off the first.

if you are clever, you can transition from one chapter into a new one, much the way a movie company promotes a trilogy. One movie ends by setting up the next one.

When back-selling, the philosophy is, Don’t tell me what I missed…tell me what I’m GOING to miss. The promotion ends, but the story doesn’t.

Interest Level

Another factor that influences the length has nothing to do with the active audience. It’s all about the story that has already happened.

This is common in cause marketing.

You can constantly tell a story of how the cause is making an impact by revealing the benefits of the campaign in the past. That can extend the shelf life because it is about a story, not the payoff.

The actual promotion is a tactic that is just one in a series of ongoing events that all contribute to a larger story.

Promotion Weight

Generally, most stations don’t run nearly enough promos to reach critical mass. Attention spans are short, listeners are not paying much attention and it takes multiple impressions to create response.

No matter how simple the promotion, the audience just won’t get it right away. For best results, plan to overwhelm listeners with more promos than you think you need. That’s the only way to make an impact.

The shorter your campaign, the more heavily you should promote. Promoting a campaign 4-5 times per hour is not too much, as long as the promos are creative and interesting. But you can’t sustain this level for months. So a key consideration in duration of the promotion is taking into account how heavily you’re planning to market it.

In our fast-paced. competitive world, it’s usually better to run heavy promotion for short periods and then move into the next aggressive campaign.

Promote it Off Air

Great contests and promotions attract attention beyond the existing audience. They usually are more effective driving repeat listening occasions, but some promotions can also build cume if the promotion is interesting enough.

So doesn’t it make sense to leverage that aspect by promoting it externally? Don’t just rely on promos to drive it.

Along with ads on TV, direct mail or outdoor, use other resources. Social media advertising is highly effective and can be targeted by lifestyle, interest, demographics and geography. This is especially valuable if you’re also using it to build your station database.

If you have a good database, run extensive email campaigns. I have clients that run multi-week (up to 8 week) promotions with almost no on-air promotion. They drive it all off-the air, and it’s converting into measurable listening increases.

Conclusion

Okay, so how long should a promotion be? Obviously, the answer depends on a variety of factors. But if you force an answer, generally they should be at least two weeks, but not more than six.

On occasion, a promotion will run up to 10 weeks. More than that, and you’re probably stretching a bit.

 

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TracyJohnsonBlog

Get Your Own Pro Video Studio For Less Than $500

It’s clear that video is a powerful tool for communication, engagement, exposing a brand, selling a product and getting attention online. There’s no reason to invest thousands of dollars in expensive cameras and video gear. You can build your own video studio on the cheap!

Most of us are overwhelmed easily at the prospect of starting a video strategy, starting with the equipment and technology needed. But it’s not that intimidating when you really get into it, and you probably have some of the most important gear you need already.

Degree of Difficulty

You’ll be amazed at what you can produce in your video studio that’s built for less than $500. Not only is it  a fully-functional professional video studio, you can put it almost anywhere. You really don’t need much space.

Rick Morton, morning personality on Z90/San Diego explains  how he did it in this short self-produced video, which was created entirely in one corner of his morning show’s office:

Pretty cool, huh? And remarkably easy. Once it’s set up, you can generate a ton of high quality video.

Video Studio Shopping List

Here’s everything you need, with prices: to build your own video studio on the cheap:

Location

An unused office or just a wall in a low traffic area will do fine. If there’s absolutely no space at your station, do it at home. It’s a tax deduction! You will want to find a place that’s as quiet as possible. If it’s just outside the break room, you may have some background noise or have to re-record some of the footage and that can get annoying.

Cost: $0

Paint

For greatest flexibility, paint part of your studio area white (a clean white background can look great in some videos). Paint another part chromakey green (for a green screen background that can be replaced with any image you choose). In a third section add a backdrop with your logo. Paint it on or get a large vinyl sticker or  poster from a copy shop. Another nice effect is the backdrop with repeated logos on a plain backdrop. You’ve seen these in many press conferences.

If you’re building the studio to be shared with other stations in your cluster, make sure the logo can be replaced easily and quickly. Or, you may just go with the chromakey background to make it as flexible as your imagination.

Maximum Cost: $50.

Note: If you don’t want to paint a wall, or don’t have a wall to paint, get a green screen background for about $20. You can hang it whenever and wherever you need it.


Backgrounds

You can do a lot using the green screen and graphic or video backgrounds in production, but you should also have something that provides depth and identifies with your brand, like an aerial shot of your city. That’s what Rick used in the video above.

Try to find a high resolution photo and have it enlarged at a copy center. If you can’t find one, check with a local traffic service and see if they’ll take a picture from their helicopter the next time they’re out.

Cost: $30.

Camera

You could spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a professional camera, but you don’t really need to. All you really need is a smartphone, which you probably already have. Many video cameras on phones are higher quality than DSLR video. Cost: $0.

If you want a “real” camera, get a GoPro HERO3. Cost $199.


If you do a lot of action shots, it might help having this, but you don’t need it to start your studio.

Tripod

This is a big help in getting the perfect angle, and they’re dirt cheap.

Get the  Stargoods Flexible Iphone Tripod Mini Octopus (Set of 3). Cost $16.99 (for 3). Or, upgrade for a better one, like this. GripTight GorillaPod Stand Cost: $29.


Lighting

This is the most important item of all. Most amateur video is poor just because it’s not well-lit. Natural lighting is always best, but you can’t always count on it, especially if you’re in an internal office with no windows or a studio. So invest in a lighting kit like the 600W Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit by LimoStudio.

They’re not expensive, and will make a huge difference in how your videos look. There’s a bit of a learning curve to use lighting kits most effectively, but you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. And there’s always Google and YouTube to help you.

Cost: Under $100.


Software

You could spend several hundred dollars for professional software like Final Cut Pro but there’s no point unless you’re planning to become the next Spielberg.

If you have a Mac, you already have iMovie. That’s all you need. If you have a Windows PC, download simple video software that you can find it for free.

Cost: $50 (maximum).

Storage

When you create a video, upload it to your account on YouTube (start your own Channel) or Vimeo. You can upload it in HD, and the popularity of these platforms will lead to more potential fans discovering your work.

Cost: $0.

Conclusion

That’s it. You might find you can do this for as little as $200 if have most of the hardware (smartphone, computer).  But it will certainly be less than $500.

Now get to work. I can’t wait to see what you create.

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TracyJohnsonBlog

Admit it: You See Yourself Somewhere In This Morning Show Video

Film maker Mark W. Gray has a short form video starring Bill Jones (you may have seen him as the news man on Glee) that may hit a little too close to home!

 

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TracyJohnsonBlog

Radio is Not Free: There’s a Cost of Listening

Virtually everything comes with a price and a value. That’s what drives every transaction, and the economy. Yet since consumers don’t pay cash for radio, it’s easy for broadcasters to assume that it’s free. It’s not. Radio has a cost of listening.

Starbucks charges $4 for a cup of coffee. Their cost of materials is far less. There’s a lot of profit in that cup of Joe. But the value delivered to customers is worth more than the the ingredients. Otherwise, why would you keep paying for it?

The Starbucks brand is wrapped in their environment. That includes the stores in which they serve coffee. The convenience of being on nearly every corner. Their commitment to serving the community. The principles on which their brand is built. All of these things represent value that cause coffee drinkers to happily pay several times more than they would at 7-11.

An iPhone is valued by the Apple customer, though competing brands offer smartphones with similar features at a lower cost. Apple prospers because they deliver an experience to their customer. Their market share grows even though their products are relatively expensive devices with high margins.

These examples are easy to understand. Commerce takes place when the perceived value of a product or service is equal to or greater than the cost.

But what does that have to do with radio? Plenty. And it’s a good thing.

Is The Cost Of Listening Driving Away Audience?

Radio is a different business model. Money doesn’t change hands when a listening occasion takes place. But the price/value relationship still applies. Each listener makes entertainment choices for specific reasons. It could be to hear their favorite song, find out what’s happening in town, win a contest, get a laugh or simply find station to match their mood.

Your ability to deliver an experience that meets the desire is what your show is worth. The greater the value, the more the customer (listener) will put up with.

But there’s a price. Listeners pay for your “product” with time. The longer it takes to realize value, the greater the cost of listening.

Too many commercials (and poorly produced commercials) add to the cost of listening. The same goes for directionless, pointless talk. A contest comes on that’s too hard to play or they think they can’t win? It drives up the cost. After awhile, it gets expensive to listen.

Your topics are unfocused or confusing. A song (or three) I don’t like. Information that’s unimportant or irrelevant. Unfamiliar or uninspiring  personalities. Another 7 minute stop set. I’m not sure I want to pay the price of staying tuned in.

There are dozens of distractions that increase the cost of listening to your radio. And there are more and more choices to shop elsewhere.

When the cost becomes too great, listeners leave. They may punch the button to find another radio show or turn to satellite radio or their personal device. They may turn on Spotify or Apple Music, or go to a podcast.

Some escape to YouTube, interact with social media, play a video game, turn on a movie or any number of other entertainment options. Your competition isn’t just other radio stations, you know.

Keeping The Cost Of Listening Affordable

In a research project with Strategic Solutions Research, we explored what causes tune out. That’s another way of identifying what adds to the cost of listening.

Those six things are:

Not Getting Attention Quickly

Content That Has No Context

Slow Pacing

Not Enough Payoffs

Confusion

They Just Don’t Care.

Each of the six are detailed here.

You can reduce the cost of listening by providing more value. There are two solutions:

Lower Your Prices

Identify what you’re doing that is running off customers, and stop doing it. This is the first choice of many programmers. We add commercial-free blocks of music, stack stop sets into quarter hours with lower listening levels and tighten the personalities to reduce all that “talk”.

The lower your prices approach can be effective, to an extent. Objectively evaluate every detail of your station or show as if you were a listener. Now get rid of all unnecessary clutter. You’ll be shocked at how much you can clean up.

You won’t be able to remove all of these things, of course. Commercials are with us for awhile. But the more streamlined the station, the better your listener experience. Therefore, you make your station more affordable. It’s a better value proposition.

Increase Value

The other way to deliver a better experience is by increasing the benefits of the experience. With your list of most important brand qualities in mind, what can you add to make you memorable, unique and irreplaceable?

How can you deliver this experience on the air in every break and extend that value as a meaningful part of your audience’s lives on multiple platforms? Does what you offer match what they pay to tune in-and stay tuned in-to your show? To your station?

Chances are, those things revolve around your personality that can’t be duplicated.

Great personalities can charge more for their entertainment because it’s worth it.

Conclusion

When we deliver more value than is expected, radio becomes a bargain. How are you connecting to the audience emotionally to deliver an experience greater than the ingredients of your product?

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TracyJohnsonBlog

How To Screen Calls…Without a Call Screener

Most radio shows make use of listeners on the air, if they can. And for good reason. Great callers can add personality to a show and act as another microphone to bring out more of your personality. But it’s getting harder and harder to get calls. There are a variety of reasons, but one of the main problems is that most of us don’t talk on the phone as much as in the past. It’s easier to text or respond on social media.

And there’s another problem. Great callers are a terrific addition to a segment. But only if they’re great callers. Most of those calling in to try and get on the air aren’t great callers. And many of them end up on the air anyway because we’re so happy that someone (anyone) called. Or, a show doesn’t have time to properly prepare the caller. That’s usually because the phone screener position was eliminated (or never existed) long ago. And often, the producer was soon to follow.

That’s a shame. And it’s not good for high profile personalities. But it’s a reality that has caused more than a few personalities to compromise the quality of callers that get on the air.

So what’s a radio show to do? Is it possible to screen calls effectively? Yes, it is, if you’re creative, know what you’re doing and use the tools available to you.

Getting Great Callers

One of the keys to getting great callers on the air is getting more callers to call in. That makes sense, right? The more you have to choose from, the greater the chance of finding someone useful and interesting. But that doesn’t solve the screening problem. Because the more lines that ring, the more frantic it becomes in the studio.

Callers are not entertainers. In fact, most  are not even as qualified as guests on your show. So you can’t just hope that when you go to the caller they have something to say. Fortunately, there are shortcuts to screening calls and getting better responders on the air

Use Social Media

More and more shows are driving response to their social media pages. That’s fine, and it’s more likely to attract a broader audience response. But honestly? It’s really boring to hear personalities reading what listeners have typed on their Facebook page. Come on! We’re an audio medium. But you can use Facebook to get great callers on your show.

Did you ever wonder how some shows get calls without ever giving the phone number on the air? They’re usually more prepared that most shows who beg for calls and give the phone number every 10 minutes. Just plan your content further in advance. Put the topic on social media 1-3 days before you plan to air it, and see what kind of response you get.

Note: you’ll get more if you participate in the discussion that should follow.

When there are interesting comments, send a private message to the user, asking if they’ll be on the air with you. You can schedule the call at their convenience. Recording it will help you know where the call is going, and you’ll be able to tell the on-air story more effectively. And, you’ll have several calls ready to go before you even launch the topic. It’s like magic. As an added benefit, you can tell them when they’ll be on the air and they will be likely to tune in. And probably tell some friends.

Text Messaging

This is another popular form of communication, and a great way to screen calls. When introducing a topic, promote response by text. It works! And the texters will usually be more thoughtful efficient and edited! Now don’t rush one the air to read the texts. Message the best responders back and ask if you can call them and talk about it on the air. They’re not perfectly screened, but it’s a big step in the right direction.

Recycle Callers

When you get a great caller, use them for multiple topics. If someone sounds great on one segment, chances are they’ll have a comment (or something you can use) on another. That means you’ll have to prepare further in advance (again, you should be doing this anyway). Keep a list of topics in the studio and re-use your best callers. That’s one of the tips for getting the most from phone calls I share here.

Use Ringers

The most certain way to get great callers is to stack the deck by setting up each caller. Use ringers or regular contributors. Many shows have a roster of go-to folks they can use anytime. You can use family, friends, co-workers, personalities from other markets, listeners who sound great, actors and actresses or just about anyone else who can pull it off on the air.

Ringers are great because you can get them to say what you want, can record them in advance and make sure they fit into your storyline.

Conclusion

You don’t need a lot of calls to make a great phone segment. You just need a few great callers. If a random caller can add to your show, great! But chances are, they need to be screened and coached.

With a little creativity, you can not only attract responses you can use, they’ll be prepared and ready to perform the way you want! It’s not quite like having a producer or screener, but it’s a great shortcut. A word of warning though: Putting great callers on the air will produce a lot more callers, whether you provide the phone number or not. So you may want to beg for that producer/phone screener position after all!

 

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TracyJohnsonBlog

9 Reasons To Love With Air Personalities

Working with air talent is one of the most rewarding and exciting things I’ve ever done, and I have had the privilege to meet and work with some of the most interesting people you could possibly meet. As a talent coach, it’s a privilege to sort through the challenges in so many formats and markets. Here are 9 reasons I love air personalities.

[tweet_box design=”box_09″]Here are just 9 reasons Tracy Johnson loves air personalities.[/tweet_box]

They Throw Talent Fits

Talent is typically volatile and their personality causes them to be excitable. When they throw a talent fit, it’s fun, comes from a place of passion (and insecurity) and usually passes pretty quickly.

It’s also healthy. When They keep things bottled up, it’s like a volcano. When the pressure gets too high, they blow up! Much better to have it happen in short outbursts.

If you’re a PD, take a deep breath, step back and don’t over-react. Chances are it’ll be better tomorrow and you’ll laugh about it together. If not, fix it then.

When They Discover Something New

When personalities find a new way to connect to their audience, it’s better than a new flavor of ice cream or a new toy.

It’s even more fun when it’s something they’ve been working on for awhile, and the light suddenly comes on. That’s when they run into your office and excitedly tell you that they “figured something out”. Then they proceed to explain their discovery. And you realize it’s exactly what you’ve been telling them for weeks. Almost word for word.

Don’t compete for credit. Everyone learns at their own pace and in their own time. When they discover it for themselves, it sticks! Don’t deflate that excitement by trying to take way their glory!

Their Ego…and Their Fear

They can’t win without both. On Wall Street, they say stocks are driven by greed and fear. This is kind of like that.

Great personalities are driven by a deep desire to be popular and famous. I love hearing them talk about themselves. That ego needs to be fed, but also must be managed.

But they’re also fearful. They need to be supported and understood.

Both of these things take time and patience. The most important thing a PD can do is develop a trusted relationship. Do that, and the difficult discussions that arise from ego and fear are much easier.

Enthusiasm

It’s a childlike enthusiasm. Some call it immaturity. I call it a fun, youthful, charming and curious way of looking at the world.

Never, ever, ever suppress it. But you do need to direct it, focus it and help them channel it through their personality brand. Let them play. Just make sure they’re playing in the yard!

Sensitivity

Great talent lays it out there every day. This is a hard job. And the really good ones reveal things about their personal lives that causes them to be  vulnerable.

None of us like to be criticized, and when talent gets a complaint, it’s personal. That’s why they’re highly sensitive.

They need to know their talent coach/PD is a fan and has their back. Psychologists say it takes 9 compliments to offset one criticism. That’s a good model for working with personalities.

Testing Authority

They’ll challenge the boundaries and guidelines regularly. You set the talk breaks at 90 seconds, and in a week or two, they’re pushing two minutes. Then 2:30.

They’re not deliberately violating your rules, but are probably testing you. You know that, don’t you? Don’t take it personally, and consistently restate the things that are important to your brand. And, it helps to provide reasons why.

Work Ethic

Everyone thinks they’re lazy. After all, they only “work” 3-4 hours a day. But a lot more goes into it, even when most don’t recognize it. Really? The morning show gets up at 3am, usually is fully engaged until 1 or 2pm, then constantly thinks about the show and prep for tomorrow until their appearance that night.

Then they do it all over again. This is a hard job. Saying air talent is lazy is like saying an NFL player only works 16 days a year.

Programming

I love when they give their feedback on programming. It shows they’re engaged in the brand. Their ideas aren’t always valid, but usually there’s some genius in it that can make the entire station come alive. But you have to nurture it.

Most personalities seem to hate rules, formats and discipline, but get them talking about the station, and you realize how much they understand. And how much they can help you.

The Escape

Isn’t it great that they can’t wait to get out of the station when the show’s over, but can’t wait to come back in the next day and perform all over again?

That’s contagious.

Conclusion

Personalities make radio come alive.. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough true personalities. There are a lot of announcers. Announcers aren’t nearly as much fun to work with. They work shifts, but don’t perform shows.

Maybe I love personalities because they are rare. Or maybe they’re rare because we’ve programmed the personality out of the talent.

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TracyJohnsonBlog

Hook Your Audience: Don’t Start at the Beginning

If you want to get the attention of listeners, you must hook your audience quickly, Nobody knows more about the importance of beginnings than novelists and screenwriters, but we think their rules of entertainment doesn’t apply to us.

After all, you are delivering four hours of entertainment every day. Listeners tune in to hear what’s going on in our lives and in our studio. We aren’t writing fiction, we’re doing a great radio show about US. That’s sarcasm, by the way, in case you didn’t pick up on it.

The Hook is the first step of a well constructed break, followed by Set-Up, Dress-Up, Payoff and Blackout-and it’s the single most important of the five. With that in mind, here are some guidelines from writers that you can apply to your show.

[tweet_box design=”box_09″]Radio talent: Here are the five most important aspects of a strong hook[/tweet_box]

Here’s how you can become a better storyteller:

Hook Your Audience: Do NOT start at the beginning!

Advice for first-time novelists is, “Throw away the first chapter.” Chances are, chapter 2 is where it starts to get interesting. Start THERE, where the action begins!

What if you remove the first chapter of your break? The first 30 seconds or 2 minutes of a break? Too much? Yes, this means dropping the listener right in to the middle, but if it’s well crafted and compelling, they won’t care.

Get to the meat as quickly as possible. If you’re interviewing a guest, give just enough information to establish credibility. You might even ask the first question before you introduce the guest to hook the audience on the topic. Then, back up and put the question into context.

Don’t put too much emphasis on the amount of context the listener/reader really needs in advance. They’ll get it, if you develop the story in the setup.

Show, Don’t Tell

If you have to TELL your audience that they should care, you’re screwed. They either care or they don’t. It’s either relevant or it isn’t.

The motivation for caring should be inherent in the content. That is addressed in preparation, not in performance. Don’t explain it. Just do it and make it compelling enough to gain their attention.

No History Lessons

How long would you read a book that started with a complete historical perspective before the story begins? How long would you watch a James Bond movie if they explained the character’s history instead of showing the chase scene?

If you feel obligated to include the history, at least don’t put it up front. Bury it where it’ll do the least damage.To be fair, there are some topics where history is interesting and useful, but the historical overview won’t hook your audience.

MYTH: Credibility Is Important

How many times do you see a presentation where the speaker has bullet points and slides on their background? Nobody cares. It doesn’t make what they’re talking about better. And your listeners don’t care about you, either. They care about themselves.

Don’t try and prove how smart you are. If you have something to say, say it. Your brilliance will emerge. You don’t have to give your history or background.

This demonstrates your respect for the audience by caring about their time. When you care about the quality of their time, you’ll show it off by being entertaining, engaging, compelling and interesting. Or at least usefulBy being prepared.

Hook Your Audience: 7 Tricks

If you’re struggling with hooks, or just starting out, there are a few tricks. Use them to open breaks with an impact:

Begin with a question the listener wants answered

It doesn’t have to be a literal question, of course, but suggest a question that begs to be answered by piquing their curiosity. In a good movie, the viewer is immediately intrigued: “Who is this guy? Why is he in this situation? Will he get out of it? What’s this secret thing they keep referring to?”

Make them curious

Curiosity is seduction. Sometimes we suck the life out of topics, when they could be fascinating. Find passion in your topic. Preparation. If YOU don’t care – if you aren’t curious why should they?

Be provocative

Challenge a belief. Even if they instantly disagree, they’ll stay long enough to get mad at you. Start with your most dramatic and/or unpopular assertion. Get it out there. Don’t build toward it. Say it! Then support it (again, set up).

Evoke empathy

Start with a story about real people, or a character in a scenario they identify with.

Promise there will be conflict

We would rarely read a novel or see a movie if not for the promise of conflict. Tension and suspense are compelling. How will this turn out?

Mystery, suspense, intrigue

How many bad books and movies have you stuck with just because you had to find out who did it? Even bad movies or bad books. Look at your topic and find a way to add mystery. ANYTHING worth talking or writing about has potential for mystery which plays on their curiosity.

Conclusion: Hook Your Audience

The hook is the most important part of a story, and the critical part of your radio break.

Your job is to touch the audience emotionally in some way. They remember what they feel.

Your goal should be as author Paul O’Neil stated,

Grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, send your thumbs into her windpipe in the second, and hold her against the wall until the end.

That’s a lofty goal, but you can start by just getting them to give you one more moment. One more tune in. Ten more seconds. Then another. And another. Every break, every moment. It will soon become habit.

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TracyJohnsonBlog

How To Fix Your Radio Station for Generation Now

Over the course of several weeks, I sat down with over 150 millenials to learn their true feelings about radio. The project was conducted through focus groups and one on one interviews. And one of the most important takeaways is that we just don’t understand millennials.

This generation is interesting and becoming more and more important by the day. But you probably don’t understand who they are and how influential they’ve become.

Understand Millenials: There Are a Lot Of Them

First, those in the demographics we label millenials tend to dislike the term. They hate being lumped into a stereotype.

You know they’re out there, but most broadcasters tend to think of them as being on there fringe of the mainstream. They’re not. They’re mainstream. And what we typically call mainstream is becoming more and more influenced by millenials.

No matter which demographic definition you agree with, the generation is huge. The broadest definition of a  millennial is considered to be those born between 1978 and 1998.

Yet radio has pretty much ignored millennials as they were growing up. After all, they were teenagers, and younger. And we only cared about 25-54 year olds. Advertisers didn’t seem to care about them, so we ignored them.

That’s changed. The vast majority of millennials are 25-39 year olds They’re in your target demographic. Try winning 25-54 now and not appeal to millennials.

And get this: By 2030, there will be 22 million MORE millennials than boomers. And every boomer will be 65-plus, with the vast majority 70-plus.

Millennials are no longer “those people”. They are your target audience.

Understand Millennials: The Gap

That creates a big problem for broadcasters. There’s a big perception gap between Boomers and Millenials. And in many ways radio stations generally are programming to a boomer mentality.

That may be because we’ve spent so much time chasing Boomers and Generation X that we don’t really know how to program differently. You man have a 25-44 year old target demo, but most of us running stations think more like boomers than millennials.

The Quote That Scared Me

A fundamental thing I asked the respondents is what they generally feel about the radio. It’s an open-ended question designed to get to the heart of their impressions. In other words, when they scan the dial of all stations, what do they think?

One thing came back pretty consistently and is summarized in one quote:

We don’t understand why every station has Grandpa on the radio.

Ouch.

That doesn’t mean you are old. Or that you sound old necessarily.

It just means that you sound like you’re for someone else. This is a major problem that manifests in many ways.

For example, your Hot AC station may target 25-39 year olds. Traditionally, your content would include a lot of family topics, filled with raising the kids and protecting the nest.

But Generation Now marries later (or doesn’t marry at all), and starts families later. You think you’re talking to a 33 year old by talking about her pre-teens and teenagers on the air, and she thinks you’re Grandpa.

Conclusion

Many broadcasters think this will change. One even said,

As they mature, they’ll become just like us and their tastes will change.

Really? Thank again. It’s never happened in history. Just because you grow older doesn’t mean you turn into your parents. In fact, each generation influences society far more than society influences them.

There is a big culture gap between this generation the previous one. And it’s time for radio to reflect that. In the meantime, learn all you can about millennials. You may even start to like them.

Find out how in my free webinar How To Fix Your Radio Station For Generation Now. Webinar is Tuesday, October 10, 2017 1pm eastern time. Sign up here.

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TracyJohnsonBlog

How Air Personalities Can Make Content More Important

Whether it’s on-air content or online material, success isn’t just making the content good. It’s make content important.

It’s hard being an air personality. Really hard. And it takes time to generate original content every single day. Investing time in preparation is important. And every day, its important to be part of listener’s conversations.

Yet most shows are generating more content than you need. In fact, they’re generating too much content. The result is that everything is good, but nothing is really special. And you need special.

The 80/20 Rule of Show Prep That Will Surprise You

Instead of spending so much time creating so much content, spend your prep time developing less content, but prepare that content deeper. Make it unique, and make it special.

Then, practice recycling techniques to get more mileage from that truly “A” material.

Now, I’ll surprise you with a statement that you probably haven’t considered. You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule, where 20% of effort produces 80% of your results. It’s true. But there’s a new way to look at it.

What if you spend 20% of your time creating the content and 80% of your time promoting it?

How should you promote? Start with what you do on the air. Write creative teases for each segment. For your best moments, generate promos that drive traffic to your website or social media page. And don’t forget to promote the content via social media.

A sharper focus on fewer things almost always produces greater impact. Leverage your strengths of promotion to make content stand out.

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Baseball, The 3-Run Homer and Your Radio Station

As an avid baseball fan, I take every opportunity to connect my favorite sport with to radio. There are more connections than you might think. But what does baseball, the three run home run and your radio station have in common? A lot.

A three run home run changes the game. It turns a 2-2 tie into a 5-2 lead. Or advances a team from trailing 5-3 into winning 6-5. A three-run bomb transforms a tight, 1-1 pitching duel into a secure 4-1 lead. A three-run home run energizes the crowd and changes fortunes.

Former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver was asked the key to his legendary success. He became famous for his response,

Baseball is all about good pitching and the three run homer.

What’s Your Three-Run Home Run?

Radio stations often become masters of the mundane. We obsess over details that are important, but not transformational. Programmers make sure the music is on target, format clocks adjusted and music beds air just right. Personalities take care to hit the benchmarks, punch the promo at the proper time and compile pages of topics for the show.

But as important as they might be, those details don’t change the game. They’re not three-run homers.

Radio’s three-run home runs happen when personalities create emotional moments on the air. It happens when they recognize opportunities and go deeper into content. We can analyze, examine and critique all of the fun out of the radio station.

A three-run homer can be an over-the-top promotion that you become known for. At Star 100.7 in San Diego, we built Becky’s House, a transitional shelter for victims of domestic abuse. It started with a phone call from a woman (Becky). By going deeper, we hit a three-run homer that became a defining part of our brand’s community roots.

It can be a show’s signature feature. At Magic 92.5/San Diego, Jagger & Kristi have built a mini-brand around War of the Roses and Thousand Dollar Minute. Both features are three-run homers for the show.

Maybe your three-run home run happens each morning, by developing a segment into a Didja Hear moment that is memorable and shareable.

In baseball, three-run homers can overcome dozens of mistakes. Walks and errors are quickly forgotten when that slugger steps up and changes the game. It’s the sam for radio. That’s one reason you often listen to a legendary radio show and wonder “What’s so special?” You missed the three-run homer!

Sometimes It’s The Small Things

But a three-run homer doesn’t happen without many little things that make it possible. There have to be baserunners or the home run won’t deliver three runs. The pitchers have to prevent the other team from building a big lead, or the home run won’t matter.

Radio stations need balance. Doing the little things well are important. It’s the foundation for the brand. Often, we get so hung up on a big idea that we don’t recognize the small but meaningful moments that can endear personalities to fans.

We spend hours seeking the next big thing and never find it.

[tweet_box design=”box_09″]Here are 9 small things you could do each day that would develop great listener loyalty.[/tweet_box]

What could you do to put runners on base so your three run homer matters? Here’s a very short list of things you could do every day to build an audience:

  1. Return every phone call and email.
  2. Send a handwritten card to five people.
  3. Publish new content to your website or social media.
  4. Record a podcast on a specific topic.
  5. Contribute to a blog, forum or Facebook fan page that interests you.
  6. Call ten people in your station database to thank them for listening.
  7. Send congratulations note to three people in the community who did something special,
  8. Call every listeners celebrating a birthday (you should have the info in your station database) to wish them a happy day.
  9. Contact another personality to trade ideas and network.

Do enough of the small things, and you’ll have a better chance of having runners on base for your big moments.

Conclusion

Your competition isn’t doing these things. They don’t see the value. They’re only looking for one big idea that is worth pursuing.

Hall of Fame baseball manager Earl Weaver made a career out of playing for the three run homer, but Earl also had a great pitching staff and solid defense. Set aside time each day for both, and remember that it’s the everyday small things punctuated by an occasional home!

Sometimes it’s the small things. Sometimes it’s the three-run homer.

Photo credit: Freepik.com

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TracyJohnsonBlog

4 Subtle Signs Your Personalities May be Self-Absorbed

Nearly all great performers have a larger-than-normal ego. In fact, a healthy self-confidence or a swagger is necessary to be a compelling, confident air personality. But a self-absorbed show is deadly. In fact, it’s one of the most common things that repels listeners.

revolves-around-me

In the entertainment business, the world doesn’t revolve around you, it revolves around each individual listener. They have the power in this relationship, and to succeed, you have to fit into that world.

However, if you do it right, the world does cycle back to you. This is a delicate balance. Self-absorbed talk is a sign of vanity, which is of the 7 Deadly  sins of Radio Personalities, and it goes far deeper than just talking about yourself.

Vanity is a sneaky mistake that almost every personality has to fight on a regular basis.

Here are the signs that it may be a problem on your show:

4 Signs You May Be Self-Absorbed…and Not Know It

A show that is listener-based can tell endless personal stories without sounding arrogant or inside. On the other hand, some shows that only talk about external content can come off as being “all about us, not about them”.

Why is that? And how can you project a listener-first image while still relating your character through content?

Self-Absorbed Sign #1: The Entry Point

The hook, or entry point, should be designed to pique listener curiosity, to cause them to lean in and become interested. That means it should almost always start with them, not with you,

If a break starts with a story about you, or what you did last night, they tune out almost immediately.

Yet, a simple adjustment to the  opening line can make the difference between being relatable and self-indulgent. For a great example, listen to this segment of Jeff & Jer:

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Notice how that opening line sets up the following stories from Jeff’s life? Brilliant. This is a great example of how to set up the topic through a listener’s interest. You must make it about them, then project your personality through content.

Self-Absorbed Sign #2: Responding Naturally

On a multi-personality show, or when solo shows interact with listeners, many personalities are so focused on what they want to say next, they don’t pay attention to what is currently said.

The result is a disconnected conversation that doesn’t come off naturally or organically.

The offending air talent may not actually be self-absorbed, but they appear to be since they’re not really reacting spontaneously. They can come off as if they’re steamrolling the conversation, sort of an audio bully.

Another symptom is when personalities talk on top of one another, competing for attention to get their point in.

On-air breaks shouldn’t be a contest to see who talks the most, the loudest or the fastest. Talking over each other is one of the biggest causes of listener tune out, as proven in the webinar on demand Content Superhero.

Self-Absorbed Sign #3: Redirecting Conversations

Self-Absorbed people tend to redirect conversations back to themselves, when we really should be trying to reflect the conversation to us.

Listen to your show closely in air check sessions, paying attention to small ways that you may be so anxious to talk about yourself or deliver a clever line that you miss the entertainment value in the break.

It’s common to hear a listener comment on a topic, only for the air talent to turn that comment into a story about themselves. This is redirecting the conversation.

Reflecting, on the other hand, is inserting your personality and character into a topic in a way that causes listeners to want to hear your personal stories because it relates to them.

There’s an art to standing out on the air by connecting with the audience naturally while reflecting attention back to you.

For more on this, check out the webinar on demand, It’s Not About You, It’s All About You.

Self-Absorbed Sign #4: IMEWEUS

Imeweus is a big problem in radio. It’s over-use of the phrases I, me, we and us. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using those words, but when banter is filled with too many of these references, it can tilt the whole feel of the show toward being inside or about us.

Another sign of Imeweus is when there’s too much talk about what’s happening inside the studio instead of in the listener’s environment. It’s easy to forget what they’re doing while listening, and performers often communicate from their own perspective, not the audience’s.

The listener is blind. They can’t see you, yet many times we perform as if they can.

To overcome this habit, take the Imeweus Challenge: Focus on one break per day and eliminate those words in that break. It’s harder than you might think. You’ll have to think ahead, learn to re-phrase your conversation and pay close attention.

When it becomes more natural, do it once an hour. Gradually work up to going for an entire show without saying I, me, we or us. In about 3-4 weeks, this will become a new habit. You’ll be cured, and the show will be much more relatable as a result.

Bonus Self Absorbed Sign: Inside Jokes

Maybe you think it’s charming to create a little internal club. You know, the kind where only the insiders get the jokes? It’s not. It repels your audience, and even those you think are in on it probably don’t get it.

Inside jokes are like being at a cocktail party where you don’t know anyone. You stand around with two people who are having a conversation that doesn’t include you. You hold your drink and try to hide your discomfort. But you’re the outsider and you know it. You just want to leave.

For the audience, being left out of the conversation is an immediate button push. Make sure all content is for consumption by the listener.

Conclusion

Sometimes personalities get bored with the basics. We want to liven it up and make it more entertaining for us by being playfully inside. But the audience doesn’t perceive it that way.

Avoid inside, self-absorbed content. It will kill your relatability.

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The Cost of Listening

Virtually everything comes with a price and a value. That’s what drives every transaction. Yet since consumers don’t pay cash for radio, it’s easy for broadcasters to assume that it’s free. It’s not. There’s a cost of listening.

Starbucks charges $4 for a cup of coffee. Their cost of materials is far less. There’s a lot of profit in that cup of Joe. But the value delivered to customers is worth more than the the ingredients. Their brand is wrapped in their environment. That includes the stores in which they serve coffee. The convenience of being on nearly every corner. Their commitment to serving the community. The principles on which their brand is built. All of these things represent value that cause coffee drinkers to happily pay several times more than they would at 7-11.

An iPhone is valued by the Apple customer, though competing brands offer smartphones with similar features at a lower cost. Apple prospers because they deliver an experience to their customer. Their market share grows even though their products are relatively expensive devices with high margins.

These examples are easy to understand. Commerce takes place when the perceived value of a product or service is equal to or greater than the cost.

But what does that have to do with radio?

Is The Cost Of Listening Driving Away Audience?

In most cases, no money changes hands when a listening occasion takes place. But the price/value relationship still applies. Each listener makes entertainment choices for specific reasons. It could be to hear their favorite song, find out what’s happening in town, win a contest, get a laugh or simply find station to match their mood.

Your ability to deliver an experience that meets the desire is what your show is worth.

But there’s a price. They pay for your “product” with time and attention. The longer it takes to realize value, the greater the cost of listening.

Too many commercials (and poorly produced commercials) add to the cost of listening. The same goes for directionless, pointless talk. A contest comes on that’s too hard to play or they think they can’t win? It’s getting expensive to listen.

Your topics are unfocused or confusing. A song (or three) I don’t like. Information that’s unimportant or irrelevant. Unfamiliar or uninspiring  personalities. Another 7 minute stop set. These drive up the cost of tuning in, or staying tuned in.

There are dozens of distractions that increase the cost of listening to your radio. It’s getting more and more expensive to listen. And there are more and more choices to shop.

When the cost becomes too high, listeners seek value elsewhere. They may punch the button to find another radio show or turn to satellite radio or their personal device. They may turn on Spotify or Apple Music, or go to a podcast.

Some escape to television, interact with social media, play a video game, turn on a movie or any number of other entertainment options. Your competition isn’t just other radio stations, you know.

Keeping The Cost Of Listening Affordable

In a research project with Strategic Solutions Research, we explored what causes tune out. That’s another way of identifying what adds to the cost of listening. Those six things are:

Not Getting Attention Quickly

Content That Has No Context

Slow Pacing

Not Enough Payoffs

Confusion

They Just Don’t Care.

Each of the six are detailed here.

You can reduce your cost of listening by providing more value. There are two solutions:

Lower Your Prices

Identify the most important reasons a listener chooses you, and be great at it. Objectively evaluate every detail of your show as if your were a listener and remove all unnecessary clutter. You’ll be shocked at how much you find.

You won’t be able to remove all of the barriers. Commercials are with us for awhile. But the more streamlined the show, the better your value proposition.

Increase Value

The other way to deliver a better experience is by increasing the value of the experience. With your list of most important brand qualities in mind, what can you add to your show that makes you memorable, unique and irreplaceable?

How can you deliver this experience on the air in every break and extend that value as a meaningful part of your audience’s lives on multiple platforms? Does what you offer match what they pay to tune in-and stay tuned in-to your show? To your station?

Chances are it revolves around your personality that can’t be duplicated.

Conclusion

When we deliver more value than is expected, radio becomes a bargain. How are you connecting to the audience emotionally to deliver an experience greater than the ingredients of your product?

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TracyJohnsonBlog

Coaching Talent: Do You Really Want a Dog?

By Tracy Johnson

Be careful what you wish for. You must know what you’re getting into when you say you want a dog. If your parents bring one to you, there are responsibilities and expectations. The same is true for program directors who want high profile air talent.

Dog trainers will tell you that the key to their success has little to do with the dogs. It’s all about training the trainers. The dogs are easy. Their behavior is somewhat predictable, if you know what to expect, are patient and are prepared to manage them.

Just like training a puppy, air talent will make you crazy with short attention spans. They’ll wear you out with their energy. Personalities keep you up at night with problems only they think are important.

Their problems are rarely at a convenient time. They want to play at dinner time. Or eat at bedtime. When it’s time for their walk, they’re ready for a nap.

It takes a lot more time to manage air talent than you think. And sometimes it tests your will to live. But it’s worth it. Raise them well, and you’ll have a loyal companion. There’s nothing like it.

But get it wrong and they’ll make your life a living hell.
Do You Really Want a Dog?

When your child wants a dog, you kind of know what’s going to happen. They promise to take care of it. To walk it every day. They’re going to clean up after him. But when the kid gets tired of the dog, the dog will starve.

Do you really want a great air personality? Prepare yourself, your station and your staff. Because everyone in the family is going to be involved in raising them.

When bringing home a new air personality, be sure they’re integrated into the entire station environment. Don’t let them become an island. It’s easy for walls to go up between talent and promotions, sales or engineering. As their master, it’s up to you to help them become immersed in the operation and feel comfortable. And, you must communicate with the other departments so they feel a part of the process.

So the first question to ask is: “Do you want A dog? Really?”

High-profile air talent demands time. You have to love your show. Spend time with them.
The Role Of Program Director

Sometimes you’ll be a counselor. Other times a psychologist. At times, they just need a friend or confidante. It’s a lot of hard work. You can’t just get a dog and bring it out only when it’s convenient or play with it just when you feel like it. Or when you have TIME for it.

You have to make time and invest time. And your schedule has to be flexible to make time on their schedule. And that can be a pain.
Okay, You Want a Dog. What Can You Expect?

In her book Thanks for the Feedback, author Elaine Lin points out three different aspects that all apply to the process of managing talent successfully. She calls it ACE:

Appreciate Them: Let them know you love them. Coach them to bring out their best. Evaluate them honestly and fairly.

Apply management skills to each aspect for best results. Appreciating them means showing that you’re a fan. Make sure they know you’re on their team, in their corner. Let them know you love them, and value what they bring to your station every single day.
tjohnsonmediagroup.com/blog/coaching-talent-really-want-a-dog/

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TracyJohnsonBlog

When Bad Ratings Happen To Good Stations

It’s the most stressful time of the year! Well, one of the most stressful, as ratings are delivered, budget strategies contemplated and futures plotted. When the “report card” comes in, how do you respond? Most PDs I know are generally optimistic and hopeful, eagerly anticipating positive results. But bad ratings?

What happens when a bad book strikes? How do you handle it? Do you scramble for explanations, justification and rationalizations? How do you address the team? Each situation is different, of course, but I’ve had my share of both good and bad ratings periods in my career.

Here are some things I’ve learned in dealing with it:

How To Respond to Bad Ratings

Bad ratings happen. Here’s how to keep it in perspective

It’s the Past

Realize that ratings are a reflection of what has already taken place, and often not a particularly accurate one.

If you have the right strategic plan, maintain commitment and focus. It usually takes much longer than we would like for the audience to respond to programming adjustments.

That’s frustrating, but don’t allow it to take you off course. There’s nothing you can do to affect the current ratings, but you can impact the next one. Move forward.

Ratings Are an External Force

You cannot control external forces.

You can only affect your actions. We don’t operate in a vacuum. Analyze what competitors have done, and objectively critique what worked and why.

Don’t react to other stations, but do pay attention to how those stations have affected your audience. Maybe the music cycle is working against you, Or, if you’re a news station, that big story might not be there. There’s nothing you can do about those those.

Show Confidence

Don’t allow your staff to obsess on ratings.

Share the information, point out positives and negatives, but instead, focus on doing great radio and impacting the audience’s life every day. Sometimes you get kissed, sometimes you get screwed. In the long run, it works itself out.

Great stations have a way of being rewarded with more good books than bad. Stations that focus on last quarter’s ratings always struggle.

Analyze and Learn

A bad book, or series of bad books, could point to a legitimate problem. But ratings aren’t research.

You can’t program your station or adjust your show based on the Arbitron or BBM data. Use perceptual research, focus groups and other forms of analysis to understand how and why audiences are behaving as they are. Drawing conclusions based on ratings lead to flawed strategies.

Focus Your Team

Your staff looks to you for leadership. Be a leader. Admit station weaknesses, and have a plan that involves your team to move forward. Commit to excellence and a strong strategic vision, then communicate it clearly and with confidence. Take the focus off a bad book and direct attention to the future.

Fix It Now

Did you have a bad ratings period? It’s over. but don’t let one bad book turn into a losing streak. Get a ratings tune up by checking into this webinar on demand:

Conclusion

Bad books happen. Good books happen, too. Be prepared to manage through the ups and the downs while focusing clearly on how to make a difference in the life of your target audience.