One of my favorite topics to write about is new leadership books and I love sharing when it comes from someone who was at the leading edge of the master class.
It also helps when it is someone I was particularly fond of.
When I learned that my late friend Bob McCurdy’s posthumous book called “The Quest for Excellence” The Chase for Self Mastery and Leadership Distinction” had been released it was a no brainer that I would write about the book and share some thoughts, not only to share his insights but to also spread his word and the hard work he put into the book.
The book is chock full of tremendous insights and inspiration from a man who was driven by the idea of continuous improvement.
I think a better way to put it he was obsessed with continuous improvement and the book is a testament to Bob’s drive.
Bob details a series of life lessons and business lessons that are a proven backbone to winning.
In the life lessons department Bob refers to “The Formative Years” and his intense drive to outwork anyone he collaborated with or competed against(Life Lesson #1-The One Who Outworks the other usually wins.)
Bob showcases his wide array of influences that span his business experience and his sports career including Life Lesson #3-If you are not improving, someone else is, with the quote from Hall of Fame Basketball Coach Pat Riley “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better”.
Bob and I shared a passion for the work and words of Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden who help foster Life Lesson #6-Don’t be derailed from pursuing your dreams with his quote that Bob acknowledges-“Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you”
Bob gets to his business lessons in Chapter 4 which is titled “This is a Helluva lot harder than basketball” and those lessons served Mr. McCurdy very well.
I love Bob describing what he called his “PDR habit” which is his core Business Lesson #3-The importance of Practice, Drilling and Rehearsing-P D R and how he turned his home into his own “ personal university.”
The visual of him turning his home office loose with energy and new found learnings comes shining through in his narrative.
That thread around continuous improvement also comes echoing back with Business Lesson #12-The Skills that got you there are not enough to keep you there as Bob sites the great Julius Erving-“The key to success is to keep growing in all areas of life-mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical.”
There are so many precious elements of the book but in particular are Bob’s memos from his Katz days as well as his Beasley days which are all captured here.
The “Quest for Excellence” is a mandatory read to motivate you and your organization to greater heights.
Quite simply that was Bob.
Always striving for greater heights.
Bob passed away last year after a valiant fight with cancer and I remember how driven he was to finish the book as he was racing against the countdown clock of life.
Miss him now more than ever!
The radio business is stuck without a unified message about the positive attributes of the industry.
Competition is fierce for attention.
All generations have” go to” options besides radio when they seek entertainment.
Some are paid and some have free components but there are plenty of options.
Personal choice is easier than ever when it comes to options such as plugging in your phone and letting your choice come to you, when you want it and how you want it.
Remember the days when a captive audience sat by the radio in a living room listening to a show?
I don’t and neither does the audience, although the business sometimes still behaves that way when it comes to content delivery.
I wrote ten years ago that radio suffers from an inferiority complex that must be addressed and the business must snap out of it.
Yet, little is done other than retreating to a defensive position that only makes us smaller in the eyes of the advertising community.
In July of 2019, my late comrade Bob McCurdy wrote in this publication “Radio needs to show more swagger” when it comes to realizing and touting the benefits that the industry provides to consumers and clients.”
Bob was a passionate advocate on behalf of the industry, but he also wasn’t afraid to lay out the facts to advocate a change.
When an industry is maligned for standing still in the face of change it will ultimately catch up to it.
Radio is long overdue in creating a branding campaign that is thoughtful, creative and simple to promote the business.
The business should take the industry strengths and run towards those elements proudly in the branding campaign.
Its time to not take anything for granted and tout what the business means to all aspects of the value chain.
For listeners Radio is a source of constant companionship that creates a tremendous bond with brands.
Radio is the conduit for engagement in every community.
A great Radio brand represents the pulse and vibe of every community.
Radio is always at its best when it serves a local community in times of need.
Time and time again this has been true and is something that can’t be duplicated from other sources of content delivery.
WMMR in Philadelphia exudes the heart and soul of the market. www.wmmr.com
No station in America sounds like MMR and its special sauce is a sense of constant uniqueness and imagination.
Each daypart on the station sounds unique to itself so this is not a homogenized presentation that could be heard anywhere USA.
The talent at the station is united around specific goals: the love of Philadelphia and the love of music!
Radio has tremendous assets when it comes to personalities and what they do for their audience, their advertisers and their communities.
This is another unduplicated strength that needs to be touted.
Listen to great personalities like Chaz and AJ who host mornings at WPLR in New Haven and you observe a show that is so dialed in to the market and makes it look effortless www.wplr.com
They are remarkedly entertaining, but they also have the keys to the market by having relationships with every key influencer spanning the world of entertainment, music, sports and politics.
They have earned loyalty from their audience as a result of many years of great performance.
The audience loyalty for the Mega 97.9 show in New York City is an outstanding example of the asset radio has with tremendous personalities www.spanishbroadcasting.com
The show is EL Vacilon de la Manana(roughly translated to “The Morning Tease”) and its history of fan engagement and creative content has led the NY market and its other syndicated markets for many years.
There are many other great personality examples that I’ve left out because of the sheer volume that involves mentioning them.
Visit every large market and you can find them and hear the meticulous work they deliver day in and day out.
Look if we are being honest, we know that in many cases these “perceived strengths” are being minimized or eliminated when financial cuts need to occur.
When looking at the radio businesses strength in community I fear post pandemic there aren’t the proper resources to execute the best street strategy.
Maybe that is another important point in this branding campaign.
If the business acknowledges the importance of its strengths maybe it won’t eliminate these positions and in fact maybe the business can recommit to these principles.
Let’s advocate all companies finding a common ground putting industry first and their own individual companies second and unify around a brand messaging campaign.
It is more important now than ever.
AUDIO CONTENT RUNS AMOK
There is excellent news if you are a provider or creator of audio content.
Audio is cool and it is not only available on- demand but it is in demand.
Audio is available on more platforms of distribution than ever.
There is of course traditional radio which has always tried to be a steady and reliable source of content and audience engagement.
The rise in content creation from Podcasters has been a boom for the audio sector as well.
Then along comes Clubhouse which has inspired other social media type platforms and the trend for social going private along with people gravitating toward niche communities.
What got me thinking about writing this article was the dramatic negative trendline regarding Clubhouse downloads and consumption.
First, we hear that Clubhouse enjoyed this surge in use during the pandemic and could be valued at 4 billion dollars without any revenue.
They experienced a sharp spike in February with 9.6 million downloads and in April numbers plummeted to 900,000 downloads worldwide (according to Sensor Tower, a company that offers intelligence on the “app economy.”)
Is it the novelty of a new app to play with wearing down or is it the quality of the audio content catching up with it?
Even if it is some combination of both it begs the important questions of content creation and presentation and the difficulty of it for novice presenters.
Spotify just announced its live audio app and Clubhouse rival, Spotify Greenroom which came behind the company’s purchase of the sports focused app Locker Room which promises to leverage their personalization technology to better connect users to content they want to hear.
Twitter is jumping into the audio fray with something called “Spaces” and Facebook has created their version called “Live Audio Rooms.”
Not to be outdone, Reddit will offer its community Reddit Talk, a similar venture that hopes existing users will flock to a new feature rather than download a whole new app.
All of this has fueled new voices that are being heard in some cases for the first time.
It has also created a dash for content creation that has run amok when considering quality.
Radio is the original social network and has generally taken a quality first approach.
There is always room for improvement and radio content providers get how to win audience attention.
While there are many great examples of well-orchestrated podcasts, the highway is littered with poorly executed examples that have gone to market.
Steve Goldstein, the founder of Amplifi Media has done great work in sifting thru the 2 million podcasts and his analysis makes the point that podcasting is hard work.
Those of us who have been content creators or content presenters respect that delivering content and connecting with an audience is hard work.
Just as riding a bike for the first time was a dispiriting experience because of the degree of difficulty we all remember the first time we cracked a microphone as equally challenging and humbling.
The work that needs to be put in to curate and tell a story with a succinct beginning, middle and end is significant to say the least and is the difference between content that connects and content that repels.
Let content run amok elsewhere and be great every second you have an opportunity to connect with your audience.
That will always win in the long run.
Should Nielsen Consider Changing the Quarter Hour Credit Rule?
Recently, I wrote about the continuing decline of PUMM levels and how this should be a serious reminder about the importance of the industry’s commitment to talent and excellent execution
Competitive options for consumers are plentiful and the business needs to showcase its best work 100% of the time.
Broadcasters have figured out the need to play within the quarter hour system so they can maximize listening credit (although some are still sloppy and are losing listening credit).
One must wonder if the quarter hour credit rule is hampering the business and stifling creativity at a time when we need it most?
This rule goes back to the 1940’s and 1950’s when radio programs were 15 minutes and longer in length, so it made logical sense for ratings to be measured in 15-minute units, thence the birth of the quarter hour metric.
Since then, EVERYTHING has changed with radio distribution BUT the quarter hour remains the metric of record.
Measurement companies (Arbitron and now Nielsen) have given a strange measurement benefit to clients with the 5 minutes = 15 minutes crediting rule if the hard quarter hour rule is adhered to.
Thank You for that but when you evaluate raw listener data you see so many instances of lost quarter hour credit.
This becomes less of an issue in Diary markets as listeners are more likely to round to the quarter hour rather than record their listening precisely.
When looking at PPM detail data you see those heartbreaking instances of a morning show listener who listens from 6:11 am till 6:19 am yielding a big fat zero in listening credit.
In this example a listening occurred for 8 minutes but zero credit.
Or how about the example of listening from 3:56 PM to 404pm where another 8 minutes of listening vanishes into thin air.
The ratings highway is littered with examples such as this illustrating the fragility of the ratings system and illustrating the fact that every meter counts.
Just to put the fragility under closer spotlight if a market 25-54 population is 2 million plus the number of weekly meters is under 700.
There is no doubt that the many editing rules that Nielsen deploys helps broadcasters gain listening credit.
Audience measurement in radio and television faces many challenges when it comes to all listeners being measured.
Nielsen deserves credit after years of complaints from clients for rolling out their PPM Headphone adjustment in 2020 which resulted in a lift in ratings for all markets and formats.
Both Arbitron and Nielsen have looked at the quarter hour credit rule and the implications of changing this over the years by creating an impact analysis evaluating what the change would mean.
In those instances, the lift was viewed as not significant enough to warrant the change.
Isn’t the radio industry at a point where any lift should be viewed as a good thing?
I believe this is at the very least a conversation and analysis worth having.
A few days ago, Sirius XM announced a partnership with Tix Tok as the satellite radio company along with Pandora will partner with the social video platform in creating new channels of distribution.
This will specifically include:
A Tik Tok channel on Sirius XM
Hosted Tik Tok playlists on Pandora
Re-Airings of Pandora Live Events on Tik Tok and this is just a beginning.
Tik Tok Radio is described as “sonically synched to the Tik Tok experience, the channel will feel like a radio version of the For You Page.”
The announcement about the upcoming debut of Tik Tok Radio bugs me for a number of reasons.
I realize they may be aspirational on the ultimate outcome of this initiative, but this is an important announcement to follow.
First and fore-most hats off to Sirius XM for boldly going where others have not gone.
But why does an innovative move have to come from them?
As Fred Jacobs notes in his latest Tech Survey and his recent blog “Our Tech Surveys have consistently shown the biggest existential threat to AM/FM radio isn’t Spotify, EDM Electric Cars or cicadas. It’s the growth of Satellite Radio, the platform that is closest to broadcast radio by style, formatics, personalities and accessibility.”
Sirius XM needs to be watched closely when it comes to unique content creation and new imagination.
Who know how Tik Tok Radio on Sirius XM is going to pan out but the popularity of Tik Tok and the growth curve shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Edison’s Infinite Dial 2021 reports Tik Tok’s Social Media Brand Awareness at 86% of the total 12+ US population up from 64% the year before.
Radio needs to be thinking outside of the normal comfort zone and create new format possibilities for the future.
This needs to be a major priority for the industry.
Take a risk.
Try something new with an available channel of distribution.
Secondly, the fact that Sirius XM thought about a partnership with Tik Tok is annoying as well.
I don’t know the financial terms of their partnership but radio must seek partnership opportunities to thrive for the future.
Third, Sirius XM is capitalizing on a newer form of bite sized content built for a new generation.
They are tapping into a trend and creative influences that are altering the landscape.
They are tapping a platform that has often been the beginning of new, viral word of mouth expression unlike anything we have seen.
The record labels have been hip to this for quite sometime and have used Tik Tok analytics for their benefit in decision making processes.
My fourth concern is how Sirius XM is tapping into Tik Tok’s talent development pipeline.
The Tik Tok Superstar Bella Poarch will provide a launching pad for this new service with her 70 million cume so no need for them to stress where their marketing budget will come from.
The world of influencers is a two by four reminder over the head of radio programmers that talent is everything to the future and radio needs to fuel the talent development pipeline.
Lastly, note the use of the term Radio in this announcement.
Enough said when considering why this announcement bugs me.
Hopefully it bugs you as well and is a wakeup call for industry innovation.
Back in 2010, when Arbitron(which is now Nielsen)introduced a new era in radio ratings with the introduction of their Portable People Meter Service(otherwise known as PPM)it also introduced another term that the industry needed to follow: PUMM.
PUMM stands for Persons Using Measured Media and is defined as “The total reported exposure to encoded media in the market.”
PUMM levels have been on the decline for years and this is keeping me up at night.
Are available audiences just vanishing or are they melting away due to various competitive factors?
Melting is a more exact answer to this dilemma especially in light of Nielsen’s 2020 rollout of the PPM Headphone listening adjustment which addressed years of client complaints that the PPM Meters weren’t adequately measuring radio listening occurring on headphones.
This measurement gap was long seen as a significant culprit of declining PUMM and since the implementation in October 2020 has provided a lift in PPM markets.
The PUMM decline started getting industry attention about four years ago and became a topic of conversation for industry groups I was part of like the Nielsen Advisory Council and the NAB’s Committee on Local Radio Audience Measurement.
Depending on the market the decline ranges from 2 to 5 % per year and is additionally complicated by the behavioral factors associated with the pandemic.
This should serve as a wake-up call to content creators and the need for consistent content excellence.
Follow what has happened with the Television industry and it should give you additional concern.
Traditional consumption has changed for TV.
The impact on Television viewing habits manifests itself in regular ratings horror stories like The 2021 Oscars which laid a massive egg and was watched by a mere 9.85 million viewers.
The content creator of today needs to “bring it” to compete with a short attention span world.
They need to be well prepared and engaged with an audience every second with compelling content that can’t be found anywhere else.
As new platforms emerge for consumption there are stark reminders like at this years Grammy Awards when the group BTS shared a 17 minute clip on a platform called VLive, that raked in almost as many viewers in such a short time as the entire two hour show!
So where is the audience melt coming from regarding PUMM declines?
Multiple sources according to Edison’s 2021 Share of Ear Report:
On-Line Audio consumption now is at roughly 193 Million 12+ and is spread across Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, You-Tube Music, SoundCloud and Sirius/XM as consumer choice.
Then there is owned music which as a consumption option now has 48% of 12+ population.
The options are vast when it comes to how consumers spend time with other entertainment options and this needs to set off alarm bells.
The Covid factor has also forced a shift in behavior that must be acknowledged when it comes to radio consumption patterns.
Although a return to some normalcy cannot be ignored, some companies will undoubtedly allow more work from home options as an employee perk.
The future of computing patterns is uncertain and we know there has been change.
As behavior has shifted it would be wise for radio to find ways to welcome back their audience as if it is “new cume” coming into the pipeline.
I can imagine great real- world production with actual listeners that could accomplish this and help a station stand out in their market.
The “Melt” is not only due to consumption options chipping away at audience.
Its about those unfortunate examples of weak investment in the long- term future of a brand.
Quality is Paramount to Future Success!
Another important reminder that content providers “have to bring it” every available second as they compete for attention and mindshare.
Between investment in great content and acknowledgement of why PUMM levels are under attack the time is now to “Stop the Melt.”
Is your culture based on appreciation?
There are many important core values that should permeate your organization.
Transparency is important so the organization always knows where the business is headed.
From transparency comes a great funnel of communication where the mission is always very clear.
Empathy is always an important core value that guides the mission thru good and bad times.
At its core, one value that is crucial for a successful organization is appreciation.
If you are in a key leadership position that can make a difference challenge yourself to evaluate whether you can build a greater culture of appreciation to drive your organization.
Appreciation is one of the simplest examples of practicing strong etiquette skills in today’s complex world.
So if it is so simple why is it often a missing link from how today’s leaders frame their mission?
Unfortunately, leaders often just “check the box” when they are considering what core values are most important to their future success and they miss the importance of appreciation.
Appreciation can drive an organization from top to bottom, inside the entity and outside as well.
Inside an organization some areas to consider are:
Does your team celebrate and acknowledge great moments of success and thereby showcasing great efforts of performance within your entire building?
This is like an internal bragging book that lives and breathes somewhere physically in your office space.
Does your team celebrate and share great content that has been created as a statement of appreciation?
Does leadership show appreciation for ratings and revenue victories?
Those victories should never be taken for granted.
Appreciation that is expressed among all aspects of the organization and across departments is a contagious fuel for a great culture.
Every department, from on-air, to sales, to promotions, to production, to engineering, to digital, to traffic, to accounting and everything in between deserves acknowledgement and appreciation.
External delivery of appreciation is also vital to the culture of organizations and should be steeped in well honed etiquette skills as well.
Appreciation for what clients and partners mean to the success of an entity.
Appreciation for the audience and their loyalty.
These are vital factors in how brands are perceived.
Appreciation for the community is equally important.
Everything should pass thru the filter of appreciation to be certain this aspect of operating IS the culture.
This is your opportunity to define the heart and soul of your organization for the years ahead.
Does your Air Talent have strong etiquette skills?
I want to give a shout-out to talent coach extraordinaire Steve Reynolds for his motivation on this post after he read comments by Drew Horowitz and I on bringing etiquette back.
Is your air talent aware of the importance of practicing strong etiquette skills?
They have been warriors during the last year of the pandemic entertaining, informing and providing companionship for audiences in every market.
They like everyone have been under incredible duress to perform under unique circumstances.
Your talent is on the front line representing your brand day in and day out.
I believe it would be healthy to give them a gentle reminder about some rules of etiquette as they conduct themselves.
Does your talent acknowledge and respond to all forms of incoming communication from listeners?
I remember when the awesome social media strategist Lori Lewis first came onto the scene making this point many years ago.
Acknowledging and responding to audience incoming(whether it be positive or negative)is vital to maximizing that relationship and is a crucial cog in business etiquette across the entire spectrum.
If someone takes the time to engage they deserve response.
There should be no ambiguity about this.
The manner that talent interacts with clients is also crucial in the hierarchy of business etiquette.
Does your talent go the extra yard when client interactions occur?
Do they work at developing a personal relationship with the clients that is built on respect?
Do they communicate with the client contact with a simple note of thanks for the business?
If your clients are investing in your talent and your brand they deserve to be treated properly.
The same holds true for relationships with other partners and collaborators such as non-profits that are so important for success.
Once again there should be no ambiguity here.
Lastly, how does your talent internally practice etiquette?
I’ve seen stations that I’ve competed against implode internally that have talent practicing a lack of respect for each other and for the common goal.
Egos are a part of the mix at every station and no one is expecting a staff to get along perfectly.
But at the core there has to be a sense of etiquette that prevails over chaos and backbiting.
Once again there should be no ambiguity here.
The ultimate “cold shoulder” of business is the act of ghosting.
Initially born in the early 2000’s around the on-line dating universe, ghosting is the colloquial term describing the practice of ending communication or contact with a partner, friend, business relationship, job candidate or similar individual without any apparent warning or justification and ultimately ignoring attempts to communicate made by said individual.
As the proper rules of business etiquette are under attack this tactic has unfortunately crept into the business world and has become a standard operating procedure that many sadly practice.
Why has this practice accelerated?
Impossible to answer completely but one has to wonder if the rise of social media over the years has been an accelerant?
Social media makes it easy to think individuals have connected with one another yet social is a quick messaging to an individual and then it’s “on to the next thing.”
The “on to the next thing” mentality has made our society less engaged with truly understanding the feelings of others.
We can all acknowledge that an email inbox that is overwhelming and overflowing can stress out the best of us, but where has the commonsense decency of business and personal interaction gone?
Every business has become prone to this problem.
I hear from many broadcast professionals who are searching hard for their next gig who experience the frustration of being “ghosted” in a job search.
Typical scenario is an individual has a great conversation or two with a prospective employer, vibe feels good and they sense a good potential match or collaboration.
Individual does follow-up reach out to prospective employer and without any explanation or rationale the reach out is met with crickets.
No explanation, no communication just a deafening thud to the conversation.
Then the interaction worsens when a job applicant doesn’t even get the courtesy of a rejection letter to let them know of another candidate getting a position.
These are simple rules of personal and professional etiquette that have almost vanished from standard operating procedure.
If you are ever in the hiring and recruitment process for your business it is imperative you have a system that clearly communicates to job candidates the status and ultimate determination in the hiring process.
Furthermore, if a job candidate asks for some feedback on why they didn’t get the position offer them helpful input on why it wasn’t a match.
It is part of your brand identity on how you conduct business and it ultimately carries a lot of weight on the impression people have of working for your company.
Do the right thing by people and make ghosting a thing of the past.
This would be a positive step in improving the business etiquette of your company.
Utilized by many but forgotten by some, The Feedback Loop is one of the most valuable assets any organization can have in its arsenal.
The loop is critical to an organizations internal operation when it is deployed to get close to the energy, vibe and outlook of the frontline workers.
How do employees feel about the state of an organization?
Are they optimistic about the future or do they dread the outcome of each day?
Do they have a clear understanding of the mission and purpose of the company?
The Feedback Loop gets close to the heart and soul of the team and can detect festering wounds that may not have fully surfaced.
By finding a way to ask the right questions of your team in an organized research manner , you are creating an important early warning system if problems exist on the road ahead.
If you have one of many workforce’s that are working virtually, now would be the time to probe via the feedback loop if zoom fatigue has truly set in with your team.
If that is the case you can create a new strategy to meet the needs of your team just like Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser realized when she acknowledged the stress on her team during the new zoom abnormal.
Fridays at Citigroup are “zoom-free” as staffers are banned from scheduling internal video meetings as a way to help address workplace malaise.
The world is shifting quickly and having a feedback loop for your internal team is critical to tapping the vital signs of your employees.
The Feedback Loop is also critical when it comes to staying close to your customers, clients or partners.
Sometimes the fast pace of life has us lose sight of the real tone and complexion of a marketplace and by creating regular feedback loops you stay close to what is really happening.
Are you strongest customers happy with the service they are getting from you?
Are they happy with the results they are getting from you?
Are you making it simple for them to transact business and are there ways you can make it even MORE frictionless?
The Feedback Loop can help you solve problems and create new opportunities and solutions.
Client advisory boards are a great way to obtain feedback and stay ahead of your competition.
The Feedback Loop is also critical on a consistent basis with you listeners/audiences.
Formal research obviously keeps you up to date with the ongoing status of your important brand images, but a regular feedback loop can also clue you in on potential changes that are fast developing.
Tapping your “frequent fliers” for feedback requires courage and tenacity to hear the truth but should be a part of regular input.
Asking for feedback from all of your constituents provides another important benefit.
By asking for input, the image that you care what they think truly goes a long way in cementing an honest and open relationship.
Couple that with activating suggestions that might occur from this process and you have a powerful brand enhancing benefit with The Feedback Loop.
Buzz Knight shares his thoughts about media happenings