As we wind our way thru a tumultuous year, it is important to stop and think about one of our most important assets, TALENT.
How are you keeping your talent engaged?
How strong of a bond have you solidified with your talent?
Does your talent believe you have their back and will they run thru walls for you?
Some thoughts on how to do this at a time it is more important than ever that they feel good about the work they are doing.
1)Share the state of the state with them on a regular basis.
This includes pertinent ratings results and goals, revenue goals, social meeting engagement goals.
Sometimes we take for granted that everybody has the scorecard and knows where we stand and that is not always completely true.
Communication is a key priority in keeping talent engaged especially in these times that can be so isolating.
2)Acknowledge great examples of flawless execution
This can be another instance of what we as programmers take for granted and don’t remember to acknowledge their talent.
Flawless execution is always a top priority whether it be: stop set placement, great storytelling, the art of the tease or in general spectacular content “in the moment.”
You can never overdo acknowledging flawless execution and it will help foster great talent engagement.
3)Do you listen to how talent currently themselves is feeling about their work?
Sometimes just listening and letting talent talk is the most valuable way you can engage with them.
This is especially important now as in many cases talent continues to work remotely and they can be feeling isolated like many of us due to Covid restrictions.
Ask good questions but make sure you are a good listener and you are willing to hear the answers.
4)Do you find opportunities to let your talent dream big?
Give them the freedom to think of what they have previously viewed as impossible.
Your job as a leader is to give talent the opportunity to dream and to help them realize their goals.
5)Discuss what talent is engaged with outside of their radio world.
By understanding the rhythm of their life you have a better chance of appealing to their most passionate interests.
Sometimes this discovery just happens in casual conversation and that’s ok as well!
6)Make it fun/not a chore for talent to be with you.
If they dread the experience with you they likely will be tuning you out.
Be sensitive that you aren’t droning on for the sake of conversation.
7)Practice empathetic leadership with your talent.
If they know you understand truly where “they are coming from” the better the engagement in the relationship.
By understanding talent in more detail you’ll understand the right buttons to push.
8)Knowing who talent is engaged and entertained by is a helpful window inside their thought process.
If you understand who has influenced or mentored talent throughout their career you’ll be more effective in managing them moving forward.
9)Make sure talent knows how obsessed you are with details of their show as a specific way to demonstrate that you care about them.
There is nothing worse than talent feeling you aren’t paying close attention to the work they are producing.
10)Don’t forget to fill talents “bucket” up with positive reinforcement on a regular basis.
This is such an underutilized technique and it is critical to building a positive and productive mindset for talent.
You have to be a straight shooter but keep the balance of the conversation positive and upbeat.
Radio keeps mentioning local whenever it can, but do stations really walk the walk?
It’s easy to throw the term around but like many truths often these are half- truths.
So what are some examples of localism at its best?
1)Your station is SO embedded in your community that the political leaders are friends and family to your organization.
They look to you in times of need and you have a track record of delivering.
They ACTUALLY listen to your brands!
2)Your stations are SO embedded in your community that getting your brands played on the radio in high traffic locations is a lay- up.
You are a dominant force in your community and are heard EVERYWHERE!
3)Your stations are THEE go to source from other media outlets in the community.
This is especially true in breaking news cycles around music, pop culture and other news worthy events.
4)Your charity relationships go well beyond just running a PSA to support an event.
Charities are true partners with you on a local level and together the partnership produces amazing results!
5)Your local sports franchises don’t hesitate to partner with you even if you aren’t the rights holder in the marketplace.
Team ownership knows the value of a great local relationship.
6)Your brand is so local that when out of towners consume the content they are occasionally lost and out of the loop of some of the conversation.
This local content can consist of slang, new local trends or anything that is hyper-focused to the market.
7)Your stations are so local that they truly are the local social network of the marketplace.
Great brands connect with an ear to the ground in the local marketplace better than any social network ever can.
8)Your local brands are so connected to a market that they set trends and create them rather than follow trends.
This can manifest itself in the form of local events, local catch phrases or any other local movement that unites an audience.
9)Your stations are so embedded locally that your programming leadership knows every zip-code and every nuance of every town and village, so you can super serve the audience and their passion points.
Your brands know how to blanket the local marketplace.
10)Your brand is so attached locally that with a world of competitive choices the other options are irrelevant to the marketplace.
Localism is clearly a competitive point of difference for the radio business.
Quality must always come first, but great local radio gives any competitive option a difficult battle to fight.
What are your examples of localism at it’s best?
With the passing of Labor Day means the passing of the Summer and on to Q-4 and with that it’s important you and your team come out of the gate strong.
Here are 10 steps worth considering that can help you be effective doing that:
1)Pull your team together(in whatever form of in-person or virtual)and do a State of the State Meeting. This is all hands on deck and it is designed to give everyone a sense of what the current state of the marketplace is, how you are performing and what you intend to do to be successful.
This is step one allowing you to set the table to organizing your mission.
2)Meet one on one(or virtually)with your key team members to get a sense of how they are doing personally, how you can set them up for success and what are the priorities in doing that.
This is a way for you as a leader to look them in the eye and really determine if and how they are up for the challenge.
3)Have your sales leadership do a quick assessment of the largest clients by category by reaching out to the clients, asking them what their key priorities and needs are and determine next steps.
4)Have your programming leadership work with marketing and promotions and do a quick database survey of your audience to see what they are feeling these days as well.
This is a reality check to help guide your brand’s tone and temperament in communicating to the market.
5)Evaluate current imaging campaign for a station brand and freshen up the production pieces to reflect the mood of the market.
If the audience for example desires each brand EVEN MORE for “escapism” in this current climate then have that reflected in the attitude of the imaging.
6)Evaluate all music clocks(if you are a music station) to determine effectiveness relating to your most recent research and make necessary tweaks to freshen up what is coming out of the speakers.
7)Evaluate your current airplay(if you are a music station) to determine it most effectively executes your latest research and if you are playing the best music.
8)Make sure that all social media platforms are consistent with best messaging for the current times.
9)Do a post mortem of all promotions for first three quarters as a beginning step of planning for 2021. What worked, what didn’t and how to create more of the magical elements that are needed to stand out.
10)Dream big as an organization with your sites set on how to turn our many challenges into big opportunities!
Return a phone call
Answer an email
Help a colleague who has lost a job
Encourage a colleague with a new venture
Support an industry initiative
Propose an alternative idea before shutting a good idea down.
Salute a past mentor
Find someone new to mentor
Share an interesting article that might improve someone’s work
Thank someone for their valuable time
Challenge the status quo
Respect the past
Re-imagine the future
Seek great before settling for good
I recently was honored to collect thoughts for the Radio Ink August Magazine issue from a variety of great minds for the topic “40 Ways Radio can be stronger in the next 100 years” article in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Radio.
I probed an anonymous cross section of business leaders and I was struck by all of the passionate and very candid responses to the question that touched a lot of nerves.
For that reason I decided to share some leftover responses that got minimized or left on the editing floor.
These thoughts were too good to leave to vanish in thin air.
I broke the thoughts out by general topic as there were many recurring themes.
“What do people want that radio does really well? Human voices telling stories, reflecting our own lives in conversation. Radio stations/ talent stables/on demand audio channels can remain relevant destinations where the best hosts are found. Yes think about the amazing music hosts that mix stories and songs.”
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve found that people have been home for much longer than ever before and they have discovered that Spotify and Pandora and Apple TV and Netflix are not only easy to use but enjoyable. The Consumer is in charge and the only way radio can differentiate itself in this crowded media landscape is to provide something that others aren’t, that’s a local story with local information.”
“What does Radio have to do in the next 100 years? Reinvent!!! And understand that it is not in the Radio business but in the content/product business! Every industry has been challenged in their life cycle because of new technology, changes in the marketplace dynamic, a shift in consumer desire and consumption. Those that don’t adapt and reinvent themselves suffer a fateful end! Radio must realize it is in the content business. Consumers have too many choices for content which is exactly why Radio must produce content that serves a purpose for the consumer. Too much of what airs today is bland lifeless content that lacks unique appeal. Stop and think about it, why does the industry continue to spend money to air great content that airs one time! It makes no sense! One of the things ESPN did so well in its heyday was getting the content on as many platforms as possible. The radio industry has attempted to do that but gotten bogged down with concepts like podcasts rather than understanding where the consumers are: You Tube, Twitch, Instagram, Facebook and others. All of these are simply platforms for distribution. And there will continue to be new ones. Radio is a platform to deliver content.”
“Radio industry leaders need to stop being cheerleaders for radio. In the 2000s, newspaper executives were cheerleaders for print. It made them look defensive or worse, daft to what everyone else knew what was happening. Their response to losing about 10;billion in print classified advertising within four years was to create and trademark a logo called “Bona Fide Classifieds” showing a 1930s style newspaper carrier holding up a newspaper. They asked all newspapers to put it on their classified pages, stating “classified ads in newspapers are REAL and online classifieds are not.”
“Too many groups will not walk away from any piece of business. Buyers don’t respect the industry. They know they can get whatever they want and continue to drive pricing down. There is plenty of demand for radio, however we keep selling more spots for less money.”
“We’ve got the all important local connection, we influence our community and deliver for advertisers. Too often those in position to buy radio advertising perceive radio as second fiddle. We need to shift that perception to crystallize our position as the most powerful reach medium available.”
“In 2001, newspaper publishers were engaged in strategic planning for the future. They picked the futuristic year of 2005, which would be the equivalent today of doing strategic planning for 2025. While it sounds great, the problem is 5 year planning hangs on short term trends. In 2001, the dot com bubble had just burst giving credibility to publishers who felt the internet was mostly a fad. Today, the equivalent of the dot com bubble burst for the radio industry is Proctor and Gambles reported retreat from radio and the abandonment( for the time being) of Facebook advertising by Unilever, Starbucks, Ford and others. If history repeats itself(it will)these advertisers will return to Facebook or find other forms of “social media” that are most acceptable. Radio dollars will continue to erode.”
We’ve reached the back of this illustrious year of chaos and it’s worth hitting the pause button for a second to deal with everyone’s favorite topic: Data and Metrics.
OK it’s not everyone’s favorite topic but it’s a necessity in this day and age.
You can’t avoid it.
My suggestion is that whether you are a Market Manager, Director of Sales, Program Director, Digital Manager or anyone I’m unintentionally leaving out you should assemble your team and review your existing metrics, prioritize the ones of greatest importance and specifically set and reaffirm the goals for the back of the year.
It is no doubt your teams are swimming in a sea of numbers and as the great Peter Drucker said: “Managements job is to simplify” so it’s time to take on this herculean task.
You can do it…and you need to do it!
Here is an attempt to put perspective on the challenge of prioritizing metrics and give you a nudge in the conversation.
Your mileage may vary.
Any conversation about metrics has to include this disclaimer because every situation is different.
Every market has it’s competitive nuance and metrics can sometimes only tell a part of the story.
There are differences by format types, gender, age and ethnicity that need consideration when thinking of metrics.
Consider the details of your unique circumstance as you ponder the metrics.
Cash Flow and Revenue Projections
This is obviously the big picture set of numbers that is and will always be of most importance for every company, no matter what the size or business.
Surprisingly, that information is not always shared in totality in some market cluster situations and it leaves some team members in the dark and often wondering what the “state of the state” really is.
Everyone should share in the pain and enjoy the gain.
Leaders should consider the best and most efficient process to share this information across departments within their organization so everyone is aligned on the mission.
Winning in the ratings game still matters and there are so many ways to evaluate, frame and sometimes put a spin on the details.
The facts around these results can also vary depending on the differences of PPM versus Diary and what actions you have chosen that support your brand.
When a monthly or quarterly “data dump” occurs bring your respective teams together and decide where you’ve won, where you’ve lost and what actions need to be taken to improve upon your work.
Evaluate all of the critical fundamentals like weekly cume, average daily cume, time spent listening, market PUMM levels etc and consider how seasonality, news events and abnormal listening patterns factor into the current results.
This is a critical factor when consideration is given to making changes with one of your brands.
Success can be a game of inches and consideration also needs to be given to how much audience growth is needed to jump up the ratings point ladder, which we know is ever so critical in a world of competitive ratings compression.
Build the best case you can take to the market to tell your story and win the battle for mind share.
Find new ways to make the case for how clients are achieving great ROI for their advertising spend.
Here’s where the world has continued to evolve and where it can get really crazy to prioritize and make sense of the data and set specific and achievable goals for your team.
Digital teams who are part of content creation and Digital sales teams need Managers who understand how to simplify and manage the data flow.
Remember when the digital metrics evaluation was led primarily by monitoring website traffic, growth and specific user behavior data?
This at it’s core still needs constant nurturing for growth.
Database management and growth was part of the early stage of digital and we can’t forget about goal setting for that important initiative.
Are you making sure that you are providing a meaningful value proposition for the members of your database?
Many stations seem to have given up on growing their database as a result of other “shiny objects” entering the picture.
It is of critical importance as well to evaluate where your performance stands with all of your social media platforms and how you intend to grow your brands footprint.
Defining specific metric and loyalty growth should be agreed upon by all members of the team.
As our business as a necessity becomes omni-channel , the list that falls under digital seems to sprout new tentacles that need to be managed and evaluated.
With Podcasting entering the landscape over the recent years managing subscriber growth is a priority.
Podcasting platforms also allow for granular analysis of how people consume your content, where they get fatigued, devices they utilize, etc so you have an opportunity to find ways to improve your product.
As mobile consumption becomes a continued key area of listening behavior, are you evaluating app downloads and setting particular growth goals for your brands?
Managing your assets includes managing how frequently you promote your assets over the air.
You should treat yourself like a good client when it comes to using inventory to promote these assets.
Because Smart Speakers have grown as a listening destination those metrics need to be managed very closely to grow usage.
Many brands have video as part of their portfolio and this has opened up the importance of not only the number of views you are garnering but also what your completion rates look.
This is another area for you and your team to study audience behavior so you can consistently tweak content for improvement.
In summary, there is too much at stake in every competitive situation to not pause, bring your team together, define priorities and set metric goals for your future success.
There’s a thin line that separates Good to Great.
We see it in business, sports, entertainment and leadership.
As Jim Collins in his legendary book “Good to Great put it “Good is the enemy of Great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.”
When thinking of the key components to a great radio station and great programming it’s important to note the little things that add up to separate good to great.
A perfect segue
Beautiful imaging matching the mood of the day
Artful teasing of content by the air talent
The right song for the right moment
Entertaining commercial production
On air audio processing that creates a great listener experience
In car dashboard messaging that actually is accurate and meaningful
Social media posts that are purposeful, timely and brand centric
Community involvement that is more than a collection of random PSA’s
Localism that is so spot on that it puts a smile on your face
Hitting stop set placement perfectly
Talent that understands topicality, brevity, audience engagement and connection
A radio station that feels like a living, breathing entity rather than just a recorded loop
These are some of the hallmarks of great radio
Great radio that executes brilliantly in the moment
You can tell right away when you hear it
It’s like the beauty of a swiss watch
We all know of the adage that “the little things all add up” but is this notion part of the lost art of brilliant programming?
Are Programmers so in the mode of just trying to survive and get thru a day that the little things are slipping thru the cracks?
Great programmers have always been the ones who obsess over the little things and get them right every time
For them the little things are a badge of honor
By them instilling that in their teams it leads them to success from every department right up to their top air talent
Make the little things be infectious in your organization and you will win!
If we let the little things gradually slip away we will be left with nothing.
A crisis demands action.
Hopefully it delivers the correct actions
As we mightily battle the new challenges and try to create new opportunities, the speed of our actions without question is vital.
I get concerned that our speed with regard to our relationships is creating new problems.
When I define relationships I’m thinking of our relationship with our audiences and our clients.
Granted both require some different strategies but as relationship is defined “the state of being connected” is universal.
Our audience relationship is under assault when it comes to the in person connection and the deep relationship at large with our audiences.
In most cases due to COVID listeners can no longer come to the station in-person for studio tours or to pick up their prizes.
Station appearances with on air talent have been dramatically cut back and altered.
So how are you keeping tabs on your relationship with your listeners?
Are you communicating with them frequently via your email/database offering with valuable communication?
Does your audience have an easy way to reach you and give you feedback?
Are you maximizing your communication with your audience via every platform available to you?
This is the time to step up your strategy of connectivity via Facebook, Facebook Live, Twitter, Instagram and You Tube as a road to deepening your relationship with your audience.
The same holds true when it comes to your relationship with your clients.
Their world has been rocked during this crisis and the way they conduct business has changed as well.
Have you figured out how to deepen your relationship even further with your clients?
Do they truly feel you are a problem solving partner with them?
As the world is challenged navigating this crisis, don’t lose site of your important relationships and try to figure out ways to let the crisis motivate us to greatness.
In this edition of The Future of Audio we speak with Ben Arnold, industry analyst at the NPD Group.
Ben previously served as Senior Director, Innovation and Trends at the Consumer Technology Association.
Ben’s expertise in emerging trends and his passion for technology and culture makes him perfect to tap for knowledge on our future.
BK: What Audio trends do you see evolving in our business in the next three to five years?
BA: In terms of Audio trends, I think we are seeing the hype around digital assistants and voice control begin to quiet down. Digital assistant access in speakers and headphones is a given these days and consumers are comfortable enough using these applications to queue up music or access information-however I don’t think it is a major driver of sales. Everything right now is about content-music streaming services, gaming, video, podcasts.
The pandemic has given rise to more consumer investment in content devices and services. Although our routines have been disrupted(I know that is a big challenge for radio)I believe consumers are finding new routines. Audio continues to be a growth driver in electronics, so we know that consumers have multiple ways to engage with content. I think the opportunity for radio is in harnessing the interest in content and all the options people have(from a tech device perspective)for consuming it.
BK: How do you see radio's future when considering the disruptive forces around us?
BA: Pandemic aside, I think consumers interest in content and the continued investment in listening devices are good things for radio. It’s unclear what the enduring impact of the pandemic will be, but something we can bank on is that traveling and commuting will be vastly different for a lot of people. This is a big challenge, but I don’t think people’s affinity for the content changes. Maybe instead of listening for 45 minute chunks in the morning and the afternoon, the change in routines drives people to listen in multiple shorter increments. Perhaps more people move to listening to radio on their mobile devices. Maybe this adds a new opportunity for targeted ads or new forms of ad units.
BK: What are the leadership challenges for radio's executives?
BA: All of these changes represent a shift in how people consume audio content. I think executives should be in tune with how technology is changing listening habits and have the courage to explore new opportunities. Companies with innovation in their DNA will be best suited to turn these changes into opportunities.
On this final edition of our series “The Future of Audio” we speak with my friend and one of the leading international Radio Consultants Phil Dowse.
Phil’s track record of bold and truthful consulting along with a myriad of creative ideas and solutions makes him an inspiring leader in the global audio industry.
BK: Give us a perspective of how radio has been impacted in the many countries you work in and around Covid-19?
PD: Radio has been gifted a unique opportunity to reinvent itself
It has a finite time frame to come out of Coronavirus with a new and a more loyal audience
Its time for radio to galvanise its tribe
Its time to deliver amazing stuff without accountability . There is no risk . (Many countries have halted Radio Surveys)
This is our approach in Australia with the ARN Radio Group.
In the UK, Europe and Australia advertising was initially hit hard but is now slowly recovering as new opportunities arise as countries see the way out of Covid.
Certain businesses began to thrive early (DIY, Essential services, Groceries, Takeaways, on line clothing for example) but now both agency and direct clients are flowing again, as market confidence begins to bounce back. It’s been a challenging time for Australian media but the number of briefs now being worked on is back to about 80% of pre-COVID volume.
BK: What specifically do clients in these situations say they are looking for when it comes to their messaging and tone?
PD: Clients are wanting more and different opportunities. Most of the stations I work with globally have really embraced this. Bauer in the UK for instance is encouraging every client to have their radio adds updated to reflect the times. They have assembled a ‘tone’ team from content, creative and commercial, guiding brands through pandemic comms.
Most Australian stations had a number of key partnerships that were running as they went into lockdown. How they helped those clients change their messaging to be more sensitive and relatable to audiences became a big issue and opportunity. It was about getting the balance between the right tone of the station and the appropriate tone for the client.
BK: What has been the impact on listening habits?
PD: Listening habits have changed also. All markets are different but in general Morning Show listening is about the same but workday til 4 pm is way up with Podcasts and Digital up massively
We identified three very distinct phases in the pandemic life cycle
• Information Phase/scared
• Reflection Phase/the new normal in lockdown
• Escapism Phase/ How are we going to look coming out of this
As stations (and markets) move through these phases so programming changes and evolves too
BK: Just as advertisers have evaluated their tone have stations done that as well?
PD: Tone was been a key word . Station tone needs to reflect how listeners are feeling and thinking.
BK: Have any specific tactics worked you can share?
PD: Some of the tactics that have worked globally include;
Countdowns. With more people at home , engagement with radio is greater. We are finding countdowns are working really well for Cume and TSL. Top 500 songs of all time.That a 5 days of musical content. Easy to sponsor or split it up for 5 daily sponsors. Lots of social adds on’s
Door Drop . With food being scarce and lots of competition amongst essential goods clients a door drop campaign where food parcels are distributed
3 Minute adds’. Listeners buy 30 secs and get 3 mins.
30 Sec ‘Clients of the week’ spots (3 clients in each 30 sec spot)
First Plane Out Idea . This is huge and will happen in multiple markets. We give away the first plane out of town!
Virtual Weddings. This is a big one. No cost , great content, multiple sponsors.
Zoom Break ins. Love this. You win a Zoom Code and get to have a virtual meal with the morning show team
BK: Do you see any opportunities format and content wise that could be emerging?
PD: In terms of opportunities Pop ups / Niche formats may well be the go (Digital platform or Podcast)
Fix It Radio in the UK is a great example of this targeting tradies. Low cost, great sponsorship and commercial opportunities, massive TSL.
Pop up stations feeding information to students studying year 12 (revision notes to year 12 students who cant get to school and to whom on line lessons just aren’t enough) is a great idea
Looking at your radio groups power. How can you turn your station into a'' super brand''? Using your power to develop new content, a new show, a new podcast or a new station
Using all your groups best female talent to form a super team or show (or even podcast or station)
BK: What are the leadership challenges that you see in this moment that we’ve never experienced before?
PD: The obvious monetary ones ...managing staffing in these times
In the UK and Australia most programming and on -air teams have been in studio throughout Covid with all other staff working remotely
Going forward radio station staff will go back to work in the office ...for the short term anyway. As the coronavirus takes a steep toll on the economy and the workforce, many won’t have jobs to go back to. Some who are still employed will now permanently work from home, and some groups will choose to downsize their leases or look for flexible office space rather than long-term leases. This could be THE change for the new normal.