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Choose Your News

– Mike McVay

The title alone sounds like a morning show feature where a listener, or morning show cohost, picks a story that the on-air team will talk about. Although that’s not what I’m referring to in this case. My reference is about the way various news networks and news/talk stations seem to take liberty with blurring the line between news and commentary. One is supposed to be factual. The other is supposed to be opinion based on facts. 

Audience research that I’ve seen, from several different sources, continues to show what’s been the norm for the last few years. Be the audience conservative or liberal, the average American wants those in office to do what’s right for the average middle American, and not be extreme. NBC’s Sunday news program, Meet the Press, recently shared that both political parties are unpopular and divided. The New York Times found in their research that most American’s view the major political parties as two camps bickering endlessly and fruitlessly over unimportant issues. 

Why then do we see and hear such polarizing commentary and editorial comments masquerading as news? Because the active audience searches out the news that fits with their opinions and beliefs. Choose Your News is everywhere. It’s not just radio. It’s also on television, podcasts, blogs, online news services, social media, online, mobile and printed newspapers and books. Eaves drop on a conversation and you’ll hear opinion quoted as fact. Open the front page to your internet server and you see stories written and presented with a political slant that is thought to be attractive to the users of that service.

This syndrome of an audience, wanting to live in an echo chamber and hear only the news that supports their beliefs, isn’t new. It’s been central to the lack of universal commercial success for liberal talk radio. Many of us remember Air America as one example. The problem is that NPR satisfies the liberal opinion in a massive fashion with dominant ratings in market after market. Conservative talk radio leads in regard to talk radio on commercial stations. More and more such stations are adding an FM signal be that from a translator or a full signal simulcasting their AM. 

The conundrum, as I see it, is do you present the news and commentary that the audience you’re targeting wants to hear or do you present the news as fact-based stories without commentary? My supposition is that news should be news and commentary should be identified as commentary. One should be a story written in a descriptive fashion that is factual. No opinion. No fiction. Facts. That’s the news. Stories important to your community and written in a way that targets to your audience. News.

The other is a commentary. Which may be supported by facts or opinions, which should develop from deep facts, and presented in a way that matters to your audience. The commentator is usually a personality whose character has been developed over a period of time. The audience that listens regularly knows what that personality (commentator) believes in and stands for and they generally live up to the audience’s expectations. Like the news, commentary should be important to your community.

When I say important to your community, I mean stories that connect to your local listening area. They can be national stories, but they have significance in your city, town or area. Local talent who pick-up the talking points of National talent, without understanding the point of differentiation, fail their audience’s need for information. If all your personalities are going to do is echo the national narrative, then why have a local talent on the air? 

If you draw on a white board a dot, and a circle around the dot, and then a larger circle around the dot and the first circle, and several more circles around those, you have what looks like a target. The dot is an individual listener, the innermost circle is their family or home, next is the neighborhood, their community, and so on. You get it. The closer you can stay to an individual, and what affects them or their family directly, the more relevant the story will be to them and the more valuable your content will be. The more frequently they will listen to your programming and content. Frequency builds familiarity and that builds loyalty. 

The three principles that I would like to put forward for consideration regarding Information categorized programming:

News; Be fact based. Leave the commentary for the Talk talent.

Opinion; Identify it as such. It’s Commentary. 

Content; Focus on what impacts the listener, their family and their inner circle. Be that Local or National.

Fantasy

- Mike McVay

“Every man has a place. In his heart, there’s a space and the world can’t erase his fantasies. Take a ride in the sky on our ship, fantasy. All your dreams come true right away.” Written by Maurice White, Eddie Del Barrio and Verdine White, sung by Earth, Wind & Fire, the lyrics describe the escape that comes from our imagination. Be it a daydream, a passing thought, a goal or an actual dream, fantasies are a part of all of our lives.

Mediabase, having just expanded and absorbed all of BDS’ subscribers, is a platform that many of us are new to despite being familiar with the service. I’m enjoying the different aspects of the tracking service. Particularly the ability to review a couple hundred stations music logs, liners, promo copy and creative.  The use of the word creative in this case is a loosely used term.

Radio station after radio station fails to create fantasy in how they write and produce their station imaging and in how they use audio to enhance their promotional messaging. Promo after promo is written with the necessary details, but without an acknowledgment of the benefit of winning the prize. You should know the answer to why someone will want to win a prize before you start writing your copy.

You’re giving away a trip to Hawaii? Understand why someone wants to win a trip to the islands. Instead of using Hawaiian music and the sound of the surf, use the sound of a jet on takeoff and sounds of irritants (dogs barking, phones ringing, boss squawking, cars honking) fading out as the journey to the 50th state begins. That’s why you want to go to Hawaii. It’s 3,000 miles from the mainland.

Many of the scripts I saw in Mediabase are akin to reading the ingredients of a laundry detergent. Tide isn’t sold by hyping that it includes Acrylamide – Methylacrylamideopropyltrimethyl ammonium chloride copolymer.  Instead, they market that “Tide has unique formulas that helps deliver the cleanest clothes you can get.” They promise “Whiter whites.” The benefit is evident and their commercials put a spotlight on what’s important to the consumer.

A large number of statements being used on-air as sweepers or liners are not credible, have no clear benefit, and aren’t easy to understand. Is it credible to exit an 8-minute commercial break with a sweeper that screams “More Music?” You’re better off to simply promote the upcoming three artists on the way or simply mention your station name/frequency that you’re back to the music. If someone just sat through an 8-minute commercial break, they’re not paying attention.

One programmer I spoke to opined that she wished she had the time to write creative promos, but doesn’t, because of the other tasks that require her time. She herself referred to the distractions that take her and many Program Directors away from the creative side of their role. Which should trigger an alarm that sends everyone scrambling to battle stations. If you are a program director … the most important are on which to focus is on what comes out of the speakers. During my time as a PD, and even as a corporate programmer, the area where my input was most beneficial was in that regard. Be responsible for everything that comes out of the speakers.

It is unfathomable to me that any responsible programmer would not spend time writing and rewriting promo copy and liners to be benefit based. Before seeing and hearing it, I couldn’t imagine that a station wouldn’t update their messaging at least weekly, if not daily. Imaging, promotional messaging, sweepers and liners are where a radio station develops its’ personality. It is one of the few areas a PD can control.

Consulting and working with Benztown these last few years have given me insight into the forethought, strategic discussions, and creative process around imaging, event and contest promotion and the importance of audio integration matching the brand of a station. These are things that were a universal focus of radio at a time when stations had copywriters, individual producers and voice talent on standby. The multitasking nature of the business today has eliminated inhouse imaging talent in many cases. Not all, but mostly.

Because Benztown is a global company, I’ve ben able to hear the type of imaging and audio being created by stations worldwide. Radio stations in Australia and New Zealand, countries where I’ve consulted before, are giving the best of America a run for their money. The fantasy of winning an experience is well sold because the copy is well written and produced in unique ways that jump out of the speakers. There are, of course, some pretty amazing radio stations in the USA that do some very creative imaging. Unfortunately, those stations are in the minority.

Make it a New Years Resolution to create brand imaging, promotional messaging, liners and sweepers that are a part of the entertainment and engagement on your station. Do not make it “just another commercial” on your station. Focus on the benefit of a prize that’s being given away, the fantasy of an experience, the reason someone wants to win, listen, participate in whatever it is you’re offering. Break away from checking boxes next to tasks. Create. Be creative. Outsourcing is not a dirty word. Be a part of the process as it is the programmers’ vision that will create the stations personality.


Forecast 2023; Memorable Moments

–Mike McVay

If you made it to Radio Ink’s Forecast 2023 last week, you know that it was well attended, packed with amazing guests and full of great information for Radio & Television executives to walk away with and take advantage of for their companies. This was one of those days when you sit down at 8:00am and suddenly it’s 5:30pm. The sessions were that engaging.

The perspective of most of the speakers was positive for radio. They’re not looking at a company’s debt structure. They’re looking at revenue forecasts, indications from advertisers, the economy and a return to a world that existed before the pandemic. The future, despite the “R Word” being mentioned, appears to be promising. It will be what we make of it and what we’re willing to accept.

My memorable moments may not align with yours, but I looked at most things through the filter of “what does it mean for content creators, programming, and the economy that enables growth.” What I am sharing are those things that resonated with me. Which was much of what I saw, but not all of what was presented. I will say that, as I wrote in last Monday’s weekly Radio Ink, this is the conference that I attend to learn about where to focus for the next year. I was not disappointed. 

It was special to hear the amazing Jeff Smulyan speak about his career and share excerpts from his forthcoming book, Never Ride a Roller Coaster Upside Down, as he was interviewed by celebrity journalist Juliet Huddy. Where else can you see the likes of Angela Yee and Ryan Seacrest share a stage? The leaders of media, both Television and Radio, Network and Local, were all there … and more.

Hearst Television President Jordan Wertlieb and iHeart Media CEO Multiplatform Group Greg Ashlock opened the session with projections and predictions. It is their belief that those companies that are focused on growth will need reach and scale to continue to grow. It is true that during every recession we’ve seen, the business that continue to invest often overtake those who do not.

An indication of what could help buoy radio was highlighted by Scott Painter of Autonomy. He refers to himself as a serial gamechanger. His business leases automobiles, or as he refers to it, sell subscriptions. He’s very focused on the Electric Vehicle. He shared that the automotive category, historically big for radio and television, should be in a position to rebound in a dramatic fashion. Given states like California, and others to follow, making it a law that autos be electric within ten years, manufacturers will need to hustle to build them and dealers will have to market to sell them.

Tesla is aggressively working on building out the electric auto. They’re leading the category in a significant fashion. Tesla built 300,000 cars this year. All other auto builders who have electric vehicles built 30,000. There are 300 million cars on road. Only 1 million of them are electric. Electric auto manufacturing will be a huge boom. Americans WILL be driving an electric car. That means that dealerships will be competing to get buyers into their stores. 

Mister Painter echoed what I’ve been saying in regard to the best air talent being able to tell stories and sell product.  He said “Radio personalities are the best messengers to make a message memorable and to break through.” Scott added “Radio has been an excellent way for us to tell our story.” Several years ago, there were ad agencies that specialized in working with products that wanted on-air talent to tell their story. That’s an area for growth. If done properly, and sold at a premium, maybe we could play fewer commercials overall without losing billing. 

Andrew Rosen from Miller Kaplan led the Economic Forecasting panel. It featured the RAB CEO/President Erica Farber, Leo Kivijarv of EVP/Research at PQ Media, Steve Lanzano, CEO/President TVB, and Vincent Le Tang who is EVP/Managing Partner at Global Market Intelligence, Magna Global. Vincent projected radio to be flat for 2023. Which means it remains below 2019. Although he projects the medium to grow by 5% in the next five years. 

This session underscored the advertising communities’ interest in audio. Sports betting, cannabis, recruitment and the arrival of electric cars at a high level. These were all mentioned as potential drivers for advertisers. Podcasting can over deliver for a niche advertiser because of the targeting, while OTA Radio still has the greatest reach. Erica said “The days of General Market are over. The term is All Market.”  

The group agreed that cannabis will eventually be a big advertising category. It is already being sold legally in 35 states. Some radio stations are accepting advertising from cannabis growers and selling paraphernalia and CBD products. Cannabis remains under federal law. Once that is addressed it will open the coffers for media.

Dan Day, Research Analyst at B. Riley Securities made a memorable comment when he said “Smaller broadcasters are gushing cash flow. Larger broadcasters struggle because they are over leveraged.” He added “Despite that, it’s a good business.” Patrick Communications Managing Partner, Larry Patrick, added that “living on local revenue is the future.” A memorable phrase that is likely somewhat based on what we saw during the pandemic. When National business dried up, Local business saw less erosion.

This session also touched on the financial headwinds that many companies are facing, but the experts also talked about the competitive headwinds being kicked up by streaming for both radio and TV. Patrick on Streaming “They want television sports and they will pay for the big sports.”  Which leads me to compare the approach of the streamers back to what’s been said about Cannabis. It’s a gateway drug to attracting an audience to streaming television away from the competition of OTA TV, Cable TV or Satellite TV.

NAB President and CEO of the NAB, Curtis LeGeyt, was interviewed by Jordan Wertlieb. LeGeyt is open, appears to be truly honest, is assessable and very much engaged as he continues the learning process of his new role. He is everywhere and is being seen everywhere. No offense to previous CEOs, but I appreciate his everyman approach to meeting with leadership as well as rank and file.  The most memorable quote was Curtis saying “This is an industry that needs to succeed.” He added “The card to play for Washington DC is Local and Trusted.” 

Personalities would line-up to buy the video of Angela Yee and Ryan Seacrest in the session titled “Secrets to successful Brand Building.” The two legendary national personalities were interviewed by iHeart EVP/CMO Gayle Troberman. Their secrets to success; start with creating a connection with the audience. Be everywhere you can be and be seen everywhere. Take advantage of social media, podcasting and personal appearances. Seacrest noted that when you’re live you can “watch the dashboard of social media to see how people are reacting to what you’re doing on-air.” He added “React to that.” 

When asked about their Forecast for 2023 and trends to watch, Ryan suggested to focus on the frequency of live events and build on what you’re doing. Angela believes the Metaverse is going to open the world for personalities. Creators are able to create new events. One example mentioned was that Charlie Puth appears as a part of the iHeart Metaverse “iHeartland” by performing in Roblox. It makes sense that virtual reality can be used to transport listeners to concerts, events, put them into movies and shows, and bring them into the studio with them 

Dan Mason, who has done everything in broadcasting including Sports Play-by-Play and is the former President/CEO of CBS Radio, interviewed Wayne Kimmel. The guest is Managing Partner of SeventySix Capital and Founder SeventySix Capital Sports Advisory. This session was all about Sports Betting and News Sports as a part of radio’s future. The financial upside for the genre has been much lauded. This session added more depth to the category. Learning moment; I had no idea that there are 36 colleges that award scholarships in E-sports. Mason suggested that, much like Beasley does, radio stations could own E-Sports teams. Sports Gambling and Gaming is a growth area for broadcasters and one to be explored.

Forecast 2023 closed out as it usually does with the Executive Super Session. Moderated by Gordon Borrell, CEO Borrell Associates, CEO Beasley Media Group’s Caroline Beasley, CEO Standard Media Group’s Deb McDermott and the aforementioned Greg Ashlock, Jordan Wertlieb made up the panel for this session. Gordon suggested that a bright spot for media is that there are twice as many advertisers as there once was. Television and Radio need to go after those advertisers. Digital is outdistancing all other media in ad dollars generated. Broadcasters should be diligent in utilizing digital targeted marketing and offering digital and microtargeting as a part of the marketing we sell.

It was clear that localism is important and will become more so in the future. Reach matters. Given the number of cars that will be sold in the next several years, car dealers will need to market to attract what they believe is their fair share of people who buy cars.  Auto is the category expected to show the greatest growth. Radio will be selling more video advertising as a part of their digital programs. That will be another way to grow budgets. 

Greg Ashlock closed out the session noting that on-demand radio and podcasting fools some listeners into thinking that they’re listening to the radio. Ashlock suggested that “we should be taking a lead from online retailers and use the angle of “If You Like.” He continued “If you like storytelling podcasts about sports, then you’ll like Collin Cowherd.” A memorable moment and an easily applied tactic. Which is the type of gold you expect to mine at Forecast.

Suggestion; print this article. Grab a highlighter. Mark those things that have value to your situation, be it as a station operator or advertising marketer, and apply the experience from these highly successful individuals. You can always discount the wisdom of others, but to ignore it is akin to looking away when gifted something extraordinaire, without any consideration of its value. 


 

 

The Star Programmer of 2023 and Beyond Would Have These Qualities

– by Mike McVay

The year 2022 is drawing to a close. Since the pandemic, the evolution of media has accelerated, and the expectations of listeners, advertisers and broadcasters has been forced to change. What “was” is no longer, yet there are many things to feel optimistic about when it comes to radio in regard to reach, rebound and driving revenue for advertisers.

Taking advantage of these opportunities means a shift in job descriptions, expanded responsibilities and the criteria for those individuals to be considered for such positions. The Program Director position is one that has been evolving for several years. Since 2020, the role of the person responsible for performance content, has changed out of necessity. Whether you refer to the role as Brand Manager, Content Chief, Executive Programmer or Program Director, there are specific qualities that are needed for the position in 2023 and beyond.

The Star Programmer of the future will need to be hyper-focused on the audience and reach them where they listen and whenever they listen to audio. The traditional dayparts of the past are fluid and vary by market dependent on the work habits of the audience in a particular region. Who are the biggest employers in your community? If the need for employees to be on-site to execute their jobs is mandatory, then there will be traffic patterns that need to be paid attention to in order to entertain and inform the audience during peak travel hours. 

The programmer of the future will need to be self-motivated and yet capable of motivating others, research smart when it comes to understanding the ratings and how to drain them for every drop of audience information that’s possible to extract, and they need to be strategic in their thinking. If ratings drive revenue, then tomorrows PD will need to be focused on both the audience and the advertisers. The must help build both factions of the business.

They must be creative, communicative, capable of coaching talent, and have a clear view of the audience that they’re working to attract. They will need to have more than a basic understanding of social media, the use of digital as a marketing tool, and possess the stamina to be tireless in their objective to accomplish their goals. They need to have a basic understanding of marketing. 

The medium has changed where “Radio” means “Audio” in many situations and as such is more than the receiver where Radio is heard. That’s not running away from referring to our business as “Radio.” It’s acknowledging that people listen to the radio on their phone, smart speaker, computer, an app, on a podcast and over the air. The PD of tomorrow needs to accept that fact and be platform agnostic. They will need to understand audio and throw off the shackles that come from pure play thinking. People want to hear what they want to hear wherever they want to hear it.

The new role for the PD will require them to be adaptable, able ton think strategically and have a more than basic understanding of audio. The very best Program Directors that I have known in my career are intelligent. I’m not speaking of an IQ here, but rather am suggesting that these content creators and content managers have to be much more than an executor of someone else’s plan. They have to be capable of participating in strategic design, collaboration and execution. 


I cannot imagine that there is any one person who has all of the qualities detailed here.  There may be one person who has most of them or several people in a programming department that combined have all of them. If you’re serious about programming you need real true content creators who possess skills significantly greater than when the world was less complicated and competition was at a minimum.  One more thing … you will need someone who is scrappy. 


The Usage and Ubiquity of Radio

– Mike McVay

The regrowth of the radio audience is somewhat dependent upon the usage of the medium. Usage is all about where people listen, how they listen, why they listen and how often they listen. Those choices are based on satisfying a need. 

While it’s commonly known that the primary reason individuals listen to the radio is companionship, the service elements, information, entertainment, emotion and use as a utility, is often the reason someone uses radio. Satisfying that need brings an audience back to the station regularly. Repeat listening builds time spent listening and that builds ratings. 

How the radio makes you feel is one of the most common reasons why someone listens. Those of us who have watched countless focus groups know that you hear the audience say they listen for many emotional reasons.  Comments include “it gets me up”, “puts me in a good mood”, “gives me the news I need”, “sounds like fun”, “helps me chill out” … and many more responses of emotion. It is this reason that we also know that people program their own radio station by switching stations. 

The radio wakes you, provides traffic, news, weather, conversation, debate, music, fun, relaxation, and entertainment. All of which is also available on acceptable substitutes for the radio. These attributes were enough for radio in the pre-streaming world, but it isn’t enough today. There are many places other than radio to find the aforementioned benefits. The challenge to return to first choice is about the content we present much more so than the reception device. We have to satisfy the need of the audience for usage. 

We should also be thinking about listening locations. The ubiquity of radio is as great as it has ever been since the invention of the portable radio. That’s because the radio can be heard everywhere that streaming is heard and in more locations beyond the reach of streaming. Edison Research, in their latest Infinite Dial study, shows that 88% of Americans age 16+ own a mobile phone, and as the availability of audio apps and podcast apps has increased, so has consumption on a mobile phone. Edison Research’s Share of Ear® database has been tracking audio consumption on various devices since the beginning of their study in 2014. 

According to Edison Research, in 2014, around half (49%) of ALL audio content was consumed on a traditional radio receiver, compared with 18% that was consumed on a mobile phone. The years since showed steady growth for mobile devices as time spent with traditional radio receivers declined. As of a year ago (Q4 2021), radio receivers still had the slightest edge over mobile, with 33% of all audio being consumed on a radio and 32% on a mobile phone. With the latest release of 2022 Q3 Share of Ear data, consumption of audio on a mobile device has now passed radio receiver consumption, 33.3% to 33.1%.

The bottom-line; Americans Now Spend More Time with Audio on Mobile Devices Than Radio Receivers. That should be seen as a flashing red warning light on the dashboard of your brain. If you’re not simulcasting your content on all platforms, and you’re not promoting the availability of your content everywhere, then you’re missing an opportunity to attract an audience. 

You should be everywhere, be seen everywhere and be heard everywhere. The greater the magnitude of your platform, the more in competition you are with the streaming services and rating robbers. This means having a strategy for on-air promotion, easy to use apps, revenue generation using digital resources for sales and putting yourself in position to compete with the DSP’s and digital ad sellers.

It’s been reported that podcasts are now beating AM/FM for talk/personality listening. Which should be a second flashing red light on that dashboard in your cranium. Which should serve as an encouragement to repurpose your radio show audio to be in a podcast, so that it’s on-demand. Podcasting is in competition for the audience’s ears, unless it’s programming you’ve created on the podcast, and you’re branding it as a part of your station. Radio can and should be ubiquitous including podcasting.

We know from experience that unique original podcast content performs best for podcasters. That shouldn’t stop you from repurposing your content to be a podcast of your program making it on-demand. Be aware that you can grow ratings from on-demand listening. If your podcast is encoded for PPM, and it is exactly replicated as it aired, it can get you PPM credit by being listened to within 24 hours of the original airtime. Sidenote; your podcasts should be available on your station’s app and digital platform, too.

Build a radio station that satisfies a need to be used. Take advantage of every outlet available to you to be seen everywhere and be heard everywhere. 


Rebooting Radio

– Mike McVay

We all point to the pandemic as the start of an accelerated change for radio, as well as all of media, and many businesses. The evolution of media evolved quickly when the location of media usage changed. Much of the way in which people use radio has returned to its former patterns, being that it’s the commute-friendly medium, but that in itself isn’t enough to buoy an entire industry. 

When your computer, your WIFI, your TV, or your Cable service is disrupted and not working properly, you reboot. We all need a reboot as we approach the new year. Personally, professionally and as a business. We need to flip the off-switch of our radio stations, wait three minutes, and flip it back on. Hit restart. Take advantage of this moment to make radio better.

Start by asking yourself … What’s the benefit to the audience to listen to your radio station? Is it to be informed, provide entertainment, have fun, create interest, provide news updates, commentary, relaxation, play the “hits”, air background music or other audio that is “white noise?” Is your station being used to create companionship? Why should anyone listen to what you’re offering?

The world continues to eschew actual radios for online listening. In auto, Smart Speakers, mobile, computers, via bytes of social media, podcasts that repurpose radio shows and connected to video. Because of this fact, every radio station in North America should consider Total Line Reporting (TLR) because the audience listens on multiple platforms. That is to say that I strongly believe you should be in a full-simulcast with what’s over the air onto all other platforms where you deliver audio. 

Be conscious of the fact that if you’re not a full-on simulcast you are missing out on getting credit for the audiences that are hearing your station on other platforms. Your advertisers are paying full-boat for a product that no longer delivers 100% of the listening audience. Notice that I’ve not mentioned how poor some stations digital streams sound when they’re not 100% TLR. Until this mention, that is.

Make the product better. Connect the dots between content and where your audience listens. There comes a point, among really good programmers, that research, marketing, coaching talent, creating imaging, contesting, and building a strong format clock, are just a part of the cost-of-entry. I’ve sat in many meetings over the years where executives demand that the ratings improve, but they’re unwilling to make the necessary changes to improve them. Having better ratings is not your birthright. It doesn’t just happen.

Commercial loads … spot loads need to be lowered. We, as an industry, play too many minutes of commercials and we air too many units. We should give higher value to the live commercials we air and we should continue to sell and execute live appearances at a premium. Commercial production needs to improve. Promotional messages need to be viewed as if they’re commercials. Same as a promo for a podcast. The audience hears them as commercials. 

On-Air Talent need to be personalities. No one needs a nice voice that lacks an engaging personality or strong content. Talents need to do better show prep, need to be aware of audience research, understand the art of performance as a personality versus being an announcer.  Local versus national, as a debate, will continue to be argued. I can point to talent that voice-track into a market, from elsewhere, and they’re more entertaining and prepared than the locally live talent. It is a privilege to speak on the air today. Don’t take it for granted. 

Be available when your audience is most available. Stations should look at their surge hours. When are the most listeners listening to your station during? That’s when you want you best talent on-the-air. That’s when you give away the biggest prizes. That’s when you air fewer commercials. That’s when you have the most critically important stories on spoken word stations and the biggest hits on music stations.

Creative “spur of the moment” programming should be the norm and not special. We should always be prepared to break format and do something entertaining or informative that encourages a listener to return listen to your station or to talk about your station to another potential listener. Those “talk about” moments are golden segments that should be replayed in promotional messages and talk about by other personalities on your station.

Unleash your creative animal. Create dynamic imaging. We’ve been doing that regularly with Benztown from Los Angeles. Develop unique ways to share messaging to the audience. Realize that how people use radio has changed. We have to change. We need a reboot as an industry.

 


 

Talent Make the Difference

– Mike McVay

The most recent NAB/NYC was held last week at the Javits Center. The daylong programming track focused on Artificial Intelligence, the Connected Car, new technologies, radios competition and Talent. Talent was a big topic and a part of many panels during the NAB. There were few on-air talents in the room, but they were talked about. Their importance. The possibility of accelerating a brands growth because of the talent on a radio station. Building longevity using talent Success being so greatly dependent on having the absolute best talent.

Jason Barrett, Tony Gray, Angela Perelli, and Joel Denver were involved in one session that discussed personalities as a part of their presentation. Weiss Agency EVP Heather Cohen interviewed well known personality Angela Yee. I moderated the Group Programming Session that included Thea Mitchem, EVP/Programming for iHeart, Jeff Sottolano, EVP Head of Programming Audacy, Justin Chase Chief Content Officer/Beasley Broadcast Group and Colby “Colb” Tyner SVP Programming/Radio One. 

The benefit of talent was highlighted as creating consistent tune-in, appointment listening, making a station a destination, providing uniqueness and in building audience loyalty. The revenue generated by personalities through endorsements, appearances and by attracting a large audience make a program and its’ talent attractive to operators. These benefits are magnified by the level of competition for the audiences’ ears. Listeners owe us nothing. It isn’t our birthright to have an audience. We have to work for it each and every day. 

Every year of late, as budgets are being planned for the coming fiscal or calendar year, we see the elimination of on-air talent. It’s happening at a time when on-air personalities are the most notable reason someone selects a radio station.  The value of and the need for good and strong programming content has not changed.  The only thing that has changed is the level of competition from your radio competitors along with social media, streaming services, video, podcasts, digital and many more places for advertisers to place their ad buys. There are many places for your audience to find entertainment or information. 

There are many distractions in the lives of the audience. Radio isn’t as important to them as it once was. Those factors alone are reason for stations to invest in talent. What should really get the attention of radio is that several of the streaming services are adding air talent to their streams. Personalities who create a connection with their listeners build loyalty. Loyalty creates repeat tune-in. Repeat tune-in builds ratings. Those personalities may be local. They may be network or syndicated talent. They may be voice-tracked talent. What they must be is entertaining. 

In some cases, we’ve given away our audiences because we’re no longer creating the dependency that listeners once had for our stations. You can get the weather, the time, news stories, Amber Alerts, EAS and social media on your phone. There have to be on-air personalities to deliver that information. If you’re voice-tracked or automated, then what’s your plan to deliver crisis coverage? Services are available. Systems exist. Unfortunately, there are some stations that have no plan for extreme situations. 

It is arguably more important than ever that air talent be show-ready to put on a show. They are well prepared before they arrive at the station.  So much so that when they turn on the microphone, they snag the audience in the first seconds of a break.  It takes about that long for a listener to make a decision as to “do I listen or do I reach over and push the button on my radio?”  You have to be well prepared, regardless of the shift you’re hosting, because today’s audience is less patient and far less tolerant than in previous years. You have to do a Show and not a shift


Instant gratification is important to our busy audiences. If you’re on a music station, play the hits frequently. If you’re on a spoken word station, then the hot topics are your hits. Talk about those topics frequently. The personalities, who can create entertainment over song intros, entertain and build a connection with the audience, will be successful. Personalities who can present content that is compelling and brief are the individuals that will perform best in the ratings. We saw lots of stars at the NAB/NYC and at the Marconi awards. They’re always prepping and always learning. 


If yours is a station of critical importance to your cluster of stations, then you need personalities on your station. That star talent, and your station being THE place to hear that star talent, makes your station a destination. If you don’t have a star, you’re not a destination, and you’re not going to be consistently high rated. 


Radio stars build loyalty. They create day-to-day tune-in. That’s the secret weapon. Get a star. If you have a star. Keep them. That’s easier than trying to find a new star. Stars are rare. Treasure the ones you have in order to keep them. 

 

 

Coaching Personalities; The Foundation to Winning Radio

- Mike McVay

Share with your Program Directors; The coaching of talent can make a big and immediate difference in a station’s ratings. Unfortunately, too many Program Directors either spend too little time coaching an on-air personality or they overcoach them and attempt to control every element of a show.  Keep in mind that you’re not directing a movie. You’re guiding a personality as they work extemporaneously. 

Coaching talent is not a short-term project. The approach has to be that it is a long-term project. You have to start by building trust as a two-way street. You need to understand who the person is that is a personality. It’s a good start to explain your coaching style to the talent and ask the personality how they like to be coached. 

There are those Program Directors who like to share every opinion that comes to them from others. To do so serves no purpose beyond creating confusion. A funny thing about opinions regarding a radio personality. Everyone thinks they sound good when the ratings are good and they sound bad when the ratings are bad. Every station and every show have the occasional wobble. The PD should shield the talent from opinions and focus on building a performance that leads to consistently good ratings. 

Tips to apply when coaching talent:

  • Focus on the forest and not the trees. When a PD is too far into basics and bits/features, the talent feels as if they’ve lost control of the shows content, and they stop being genuine and start to sound contrived or manufactured. 
  • The show has to be about more than the basics. The basics are important, but no one listens for the basics. They listen to be entertained and to be put into a good mood. They want to start their day feeling alive and energized. Audio adrenaline. The same for an afternoon show. Make me feel good after a day of work. That comes from entertaining. 
  • Focus on the content of the show. Is it fun, funny, interesting, emotion evoking and targeted properly to the station’s specific audience? What about the delivery? Is it clear that the talents are well prepared? A talent that rambles or talks too long is not prepared. 
  • Listen to the talent. Make them a priority when you meet with them. Don’t be checking texts and interrupting the meeting to take calls. I repeat … Listen to them. I’ve sat in meetings between a PD and the talent before, heard a morning talent tell me what type of show they feel they do best, and the PD then suggested something that was 180-degrees away from what the morning talent believes to be what they do best. If a 180-degree change is needed, then you address the need for a change, but don’t offer a content suggestion that’s contrary to the talent’s personality. 
  • When I start to coach a show, or specific talent, I begin by understanding who they are, who the audience is, what the objective is for the station and who is the competition. I never focus on the basics in the first few sessions. It’s like coaching a baseball pitcher. If they can throw fast, you work on that, then later you teach them control. So, a few batters get hit. You get there.
    Many PDs don’t coach their talent. It may be a time issue, it may be because of their multi-tasking responsibilities, but many fail to have regular coaching sessions. 
  • Some PD’s coach with “What not to do” and don’t point out “what you did well.” If all you do is define the parameters of a show with negatives, it will be easier for the talent to do nothing, than risk getting into trouble for doing something.
  • The best morning shows are fun, funny, connected to the community, have a strong link to the listeners lifestyle, thinks like the audience thinks, is continually doing show prep and is anchored by an intelligent person. I’ve never seen a successful morning show that wasn’t anchored by someone smart.
  • The best on-air personalities can be difficult to coach. They can be difficult to keep focused. Some have issues that go far beyond anything in the average programmers scope of expertise. However, the very best air talents are intelligent, committed to excellence, have a strong work ethic, a keen sense of right versus wrong when it comes to their audience and they often hear a “party” in their head that no one else was invited to attend. Great and successful air-talent are involved in their community. They are everywhere and they are seen everywhere.

Always remember this; don’t fix what isn’t broken. Evolve and grow your talent before any ratings decline takes place, but don’t make dramatic changes without being prepared to run the risk of a significant loss of audience. I can put up with a lot of “stuff” to be number one.

Most importantly. When it comes to coaching air talent … apply the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


 

The Emperor Has No Clothes

– Mike McVay

The expression “The Emperor has no clothes” comes from Hans Christian Andersen’s folktale titled “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  The tale tells the story of two swindlers pulling a fraud on an exhibitionistic emperor, who is obsessed with clothing and fashion by telling him and his court, that they will tailor an outfit that can only be seen by the wise.

This results in nobody acknowledging that the emperor is in fact naked. This continues until the very end of the tale when the emperor is displaying his new outfit publicly.  The emperor’s presumed inviolability is desecrated by a village boy when the youngster cries out, "The emperor has no clothes!" The facade is suddenly shattered. 

The expression, be it as was written originally using “Emperor” or as is often said “King”, is one that pops up in conversation from time to time. Often when something that’s obvious is being ignored. Frequently as a way to magnify the item that’s being ignored. Mostly referencing whoever represents the “Emperor” that everyone else sees whatever it is that’s going unmentioned. Except for the leader of the kingdom.

Given where radio, or audio if you so choose, is today … there is an abundance of nudity in the kingdom. There are those things that are obvious, that aren’t being ignored, but aren’t being addressed. There are those things that would be too costly to address in a world where shorter term thinking is important. There are those things that are unseen because of an ostrich-like approach.  The transparent, and yet ignored, items are fairly obvious to everyone. Usually to the leader of the kingdom, too.

Unfortunately, the problems of radio are well known, and often talked about with no solutions being offered. “It is what it is” seems to be the response most often shared and heard in conference rooms, offices, around the coffee machine in the lunchroom, and frequently at the favorite watering hole after hours. 

Those obvious problems are Too Many Commercials, Elimination of Talent, Lack of Research, The Nearly Total Absence of Marketing, Promotions & Contesting Greatly Diminished or Eliminated, Too Many Podcasts; mostly from hobbyists, Commercial Production is Lacking in Creativity, Imaging is Lacking in Creativity and there is no support staff. I might add a willingness to invoke The Prayer of Serenity and leave those things go that can be changed. Sidenote; if you’re unfamiliar with the prayer, it is worthy of a Google search.

There are solutions, or opportunities, to at least partially cover the nudity that exists from the ignoring of the lack of clothing. The challenge and the opportunity are listed here:

  • Too Many Commercials; This is the toughest one to address, because no one is willing to allow their competition to get an ad buy that they want or need in order to hit their monthly budget. Given that on-air personalities are important, I would lower the commercial load by four minutes per/hour, but add two live sixty-second endorsement reads per/hour. Charge a premium for them. If the worst that happens, is you eliminated two-minutes and broke even financially, that’s fewer minutes of messages at the present. It’s a start and likely fewer than your competition is airing in an hour.
  • Elimination of Talent; this response will likely ruffle some feathers, but there is evidence that syndicated/network shows can beat local programming. That is if the show is really good and the station works to vertically integrate it into the community. The same for the use of Voice Tracked talent. I’ve heard talent who are VT that sound better prepared and more a part of the community that some locally live talent. I am not advocating the elimination of local talent, but they should be better sounding than network or VT talent, otherwise why not use syndication? The audience compares all talent they hear on-air regardless of the platform. You have to compete.
  • Lack of Research; the adage is “ask the consumer what they want and give it to them.” However, they don’t always know what they want if they’ve never experienced it. Steve Jobs said “Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, "If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, 'A faster horse!'" People don't know what they want until you show it to them.” It’s after you show it to them, familiarize them with what you’re offering, that you can determine if what you have is going to be a success or not. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do research. I’m saying that you need research to gauge success. Don’t go by the rating services alone.
  • The Nearly Total Absence of Marketing; spending on external marketing is an expensive challenge with little return on the investment. Direct marketing, targeted marketing, social media, digital, guerilla and street-level tactics are all more cost efficient and have impact that can be monitored. It can be proven. I’m not beyond asking advertisers who have portable signs in their parking lots, or marquis above their businesses from posting a message supporting my radio client. I’m good with things as small as handing out “Tune-In” cards that ask the audience to listen-in for a secret contest to win. Think of it this way … if you hand something with your call-letters/station name & frequency on it to everyone you meet everyday no matter where you are … you’ll expose a lot of people to your station over the course of a year. Big winning radio stations were not made in a day. 
  • Promotions & Contesting Greatly Diminished; contests are either group contests that sound national in scope or small prizes. Few stations giveaway unique and individual prizes or experiences that are specific for their audience. There are companies that can solve for that who present experiences for stations to use to grow audience, satisfy advertisers while growing revenue, as incentives for advertisers and for employees. While research says that only 5% of the audience listens to a radio station because of prizes, we’ve all seen ratings jump on stations that sound good and have great experiences and prizes to giveaway. 
  • Too Many Podcasts; mostly from hobbyists … the reality of podcasting is that when radio stations are involved in it, they should either use a program as an on-demand feature or record a unique show that’s available only wherever the audience gets their favorite podcast. Podcasting itself isn’t really a problem, because if no one hears it, it had no impact be it negative or positive. The promotion of podcasts on-air on stations that fail to match the radio stations audience is a problem. Sidenote; those of you that worry that a podcast is taking from your audience, it may be, but podcast listeners listen to their podcasts when they want and where they want. They’re no more of a competitor than a great series on Netflix. Everything in media is a competitor to radio. That alone is why we should be focused on making the product better.
  • Commercial Production is Lacking in Creativity; regardless of market size, your advertisers expect their commercials to sound every bit as good as the national commercials on your station. Inferior commercial production hurts the advertiser’s prospect of selling their service, product, assets or branding. The fact that most radio sales people also write the commercial for their client, is where the degradation of the commercial begins. They don’t help the audience or the advertiser. There are companies that can assist in writing, producing your commercials and spec spots. 
  • Imaging is Lacking in Creativity; writing promotional messages, liners, sweepers and branding messages is one of my fun things to do. If you’ve ever seen my wardrobe, you know that I like “Flash” and that’s how much of what I write sounds. Which is not always the right fit for a station. The imaging on your station has to match the audience’s expectation of your station, the product that you’re airing, and should have a message that’s based in a benefit. There are many smaller, medium and large market personalities, production directors and programmers who produce great imaging. Although there is a preponderance of program directors and production directors in all size markets who copy stations in other markets without understanding the objective of that other station. Much like commercial production, imaging can be outsourced for production, writing and voicing. There are companies that do that, too. The best sounding commercial on your radio station should be the ones that market your station.
    The reality of the industry’s situation is that it is a For Profit business. We are mercenaries. I clearly understand the need to generate revenue. My fear though, is that because we continue to diminish the value of what’s on-air, we’re becoming akin to the local newspaper. It’s no longer a primary source for news, sports, weather, entertainment or even coupons. The Sunday paper at my home is the size of the weekly “trash” newspaper you find for free on a rack in the foyer of your favorite bar or restaurant. We have to stop settling and do what we can do to improve the listening experience for our advertisers’ messages and for those who use radio … no mater where they listen to audio. 

 


Santa Claus is Coming to Town 

- Mike McVay

Christmas decorations are already appearing in stores just as Halloween decorations are going up. The merchandising world pushes the holidays earlier and earlier as brick & mortar stores look for every advantage over online shopping. Consumers grumble, but they shop anyway, because not everyone wants to wait for “the season” to make their purchases. 

The same type of grumbling takes place among radio audiences every year. “They’re starting too soon.” “Why can’t they wait ‘til Thanksgiving is over before they start playing Christmas music?” Yet the growth of ratings driven by Christmas music entices everyone responsible for programming to roll the dice and risk the exchange of audience that takes place. The question to ask is will the audience that comes to our station for Christmas music be greater than those who leave because of Christmas music. Those stations that are best known for playing 100% Christmas music are the ones who benefit the most from this tactic.

The debate every year is do you play 100% Christmas Music on your station, and if so, when do you flip the switch to be All Christmas All the Time? I’ve been involved in consulting stations that go 100% Christmas or compete against those that do for many years. The All-Christmas tactic has been growing audiences since at least 1996. You find the tactic working even in markets that almost never see snow. 

The Christmas format scored its biggest ratings in 2001 following the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack. The holiday season in 2020 showed strong ratings. When the pandemic first took hold, we saw some radio stations purposely program Christmas music at night. It was April and May … and they were playing “Holly Jolly Christmas.” That tactic saw some rating spikes as the approach provided relief from the drama and despair of the daily news. 

I believe the fact that the positive performance of Holiday Music during difficult times validates that the All-Christmas Music tactic is diversionary. It’s conceivable that the tactic will perform well as a diversion from the aftermath and drama sure to be caused by the mid-term election. The fear of a recession on the horizon. Social issues that have divided the country. The lingering illnesses caused by the pandemic. 

Some despise the tactic as they believe the change to All Christmas is a format change. I would argue that it isn’t a format change. You’ve already seen me describe it as a “tactic” in previous paragraphs. If you are the station that’s known for playing 100% Christmas music, then it’s another part of your on-going music format. It’s a part of your brand. It’s in your DNA. 

Adult Contemporary stations seem to be the most successful with the All-Christmas tactic. There are some exceptions in that I can point to Classic Hits and Country stations that have done well by playing All Christmas Music, All the Time.  Repeating that those are exceptions. Many stations that flip to All Christmas also add a Scrooge Channel to their website, which is where your loyal listener who doesn’t want to hear All Christmas can hear your regular format.

To those who are worried that they’ll lose audience, this is the one time of year when you can make such a programming change and the audience knows when you’re finished, so they can come back to your station when you return to regular programming. It’s also a great time to promote what you do for the other months of the year.  All Christmas is a cume magnet. Promote your regular programming frequently as you may be able to convert new listeners by advertising your programming on your own station. 

When to flip-the-switch and go all Christmas also brings debate. Given that Nielsen ratings has moved earlier to nullify the tactic, many stations have been moving their start date earlier and earlier. The commonsense starting date is the day after Thanksgiving. The weakness in that start date is that you have a short window to impact the third month of the fall sweep. My preference has always been one to two weeks before Thanksgiving, starting on that Friday. 

Many have done research on when to start the tactic. The audience tells you that they want you to wait until after Thanksgiving. The ratings show otherwise. There is a difference between one’s opinion and one’s action. I point to political polling as evidence that some respondents say what they think you want to hear. 

This year, given my anticipation for there to be a huge appetite for Holiday Music, I expect to see many stations make the flip on Friday, November 11th. That start date moves the tactic past the Midterm Election, and lands just in time to give the audience relief from the insanity that’s sure to follow what promises to be a drama packed election.

The keys to winning The All-Christmas Battle:

Play the Christmas Classics, over-and-over again, just like a Top-40. Create a super power category for the Original Classics, power category, regular category, and lunar category. Place the instrumentals into a category and manage how frequently you play those songs. The currents that work best are covers of classics, which gives you a feeling of variety, although there is the occasional original Christmas current. 


Play the biggest songs a lot. That’s an unusual move for an AC station, but the benefit of a tight rotation on the Classics of Christmas provides instant gratification. That leads to greater Time Spent Listening. Not less. It’s counter intuitive. 


Separate titles by an hour and fifteen minutes. Separate artists by forty-five minutes. These are short songs. Over schedule in every hour. Create a tertiary category that’s scheduled just before the stop-set. That song is played for timing if needed, but dropped if not. These songs should be familiar songs, too. 


Hold-off on the overtly religious songs, like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” or “O’ Holy Night,” until you’re a week to 10-days before Christmas. Keep them distanced on-air so that you don’t alienate a part of your audience. Be conscious of your content into and out of a song that is religious in nature. Separate by two hours. 


Novelty songs (Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer) are fun, but they burn quickly. If you’re going to play novelty songs, use common sense. Keep them away from religious Christmas songs. Don’t play them anywhere near another novelty song. Make sure the song matches the atmosphere you’re trying to create.


Production, imaging, promotions and contesting round out the product. Using holiday sounding jingles, special imaging that includes sleigh bells, artists wishing the audience “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” as well as your on-air staff recording similar greetings and making a big deal on-air for when you throw-the-switch to All Christmas. These things create a warm feeling and emphasize the spirit of Christmas.  You’re creating an atmosphere. Be the audio version of a snow globe for the holiday. 


The Christmas season is a great time to sell special advertising packages. If you’re the 100% Christmas station, look at your audience share from last years tactic, and sell off of those. The audience during your Christmas music programming is fluid, but almost always lands on a cume that’s greater than during the regular format. More ears will hear their message during this time. It makes sense that it should cost more to advertise inside of the Soundtrack for the Holidays. 
May the joy of this holiday season fill your hearts with love, your coffers with cash and your listeners with an insatiable desire to hear Christmas music every hour of everyday this season. 

 





Shake it Off

– Mike McVay

Not talking about the song by Taylor Swift, although the message could be the same. October’s arrival signals cooler weather, fall foliage, the start of Q4, budget planning, College Football, Halloween, the baseball playoffs and the World Series. 

A couple years ago, a friend and I went to an Atlanta Braves game on a Sunday during their Braves Alumni weekend. We met several former players and got to talk to many of them. These legends were all friendly, engaging and loved sharing stories. Because we’d met one particular legend in the past, he spent more time with us, and the lessons learned were valuable. 

The player was Ryan Klesko. Former outfielder and first baseman. He played for the Braves, Padres and Giants. His biggest years and World Series win was with the Braves. A player who in his early 50s looks like he could still play, the man spoke of competition, strategy and the drive to win. You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. It was the strategy of the game, and his commitment to strategy, that most interested me.

If you’ve been to a Major League Baseball game in recent years, you’re aware that music is played as players walk to home plate to bat. These songs are called Walk-up Songs. The players usually get to pick the song that they’d like to be played. The Guardians player Oscar Gonzalez has the Cleveland team play the theme song for Sponge Bob Square Pants as his walk-up music. He’s obviously having fun with the game and wants to throw-off the opposing pitcher. How can you want to attack anyone who makes that his walk-up music?

Ryan Klesko shared that his self-selected walk-up song was “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood.  He said that it psyched him up, but it also fired up the pitcher, and that was his strategy. Ryan’s theory was that if the pitcher was pumped up, the odds are that he would shake-off whatever pitch the catcher wanted him to throw. Mainly because the pitcher wanted to throw a fast ball. Klesko said that if the pitcher shook-off the catcher, he knew what pitch was coming. He would sit on a Fast Ball in the strike zone and look for that pitch to hit. The former Braves batter credited this strategy with him getting many first pitch hits.  

It begs the question “do you have a competitive strategy to win the ratings battle?” How do you psyche out your competition? It’s a lost art whereby we, as PD’s, pay attention to what the competition are doing, analyze it and look for opportunities to outsmart them or take advantage of a mistake they might make. I’ve listened to hours and hours of audio, examined clocks, gone nearly blind staring at music monitoring from various services of “US versus Them,” digging into the music scheduling system for my station, and pouring through the ratings looking for a nugget that can be turned into a secret agent.

The approach of many programmers today is to execute a plan in a vacuum. They have what they do and they always do it. They’re not changing that routine for anyone. If a pitcher keeps throwing balls that are hit for a homerun, someone steps in to teach them how to pitch without giving up the longball, or they’re pulled out of the game. Maybe traded. Pulled from the starting lineup and sent to the bullpen. Possibly even sent down to the minor leagues. To be fair there are times when the routine is prompted from someone above the program director and thus the PD is an executor and not an innovator.

Competing means that you are fully aware of what the competition is doing on-air, on the streets, in marketing, on social media, their content (Music or Spoken Word), talent level and history of their on-air personalities, what their research shows and what contests they’re considering. You have to know them.

My advice to those responsible for programming would be to take advantage of the tools that exist today to know as much as possible about who you’re up against, what their history is when it comes to competing, what actions do they take when attacked, and how seriously do they attack a competitor. Do they block a serious attack, or do they stick to their strategy (routine) no matter what that is for them? These are things that you need to know.

Most importantly you need to know yourself and your station. You need to understand the value of the opportunity to be successful. Is there an opportunity to attract and satisfy the audience you’re desirous of attracting? Do you know your audience’s wants, likes and dislikes? Is there a clear path to success or is the battle going to be long and hard? If it’s the latter, are you, management and your company prepared for such a battle? Are your expectations of the timeline and resources realistic to be successful?

Your competitor is watching you closely. They want to psyche you into a mistake. Work harder, be better informed, be better prepared for a long arduous fight and avoid falling into a routine. Respect your competition, and take their moves, seriously. Don’t fall victim to their tactics. They’re watching for you to “Shake it off.”




 

The Farm Team

– Mike McVay

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal focused on televisions new approach to use Over the Air (OTA) TV to train talent and expose shows in order to build a fan base, before moving them to pay-per-view streaming. The headline screamed “TV Networks Have a New Role; Farm Teams for Streaming Shows.” It not only piqued my interest, but it made me aware of a paradigm shift happening in video that has happened in radio, and could be magnified and expanded. That is focusing on radio shows to push to podcasting and podcasting to push to radio. All while training talent. 

There are a few examples of podcasts that have developed into radio shows. Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino at Westwood One come to mind. Clay Travis was a well-known radio host in Nashville and the founder and creator of the site Out Kick the Coverage, before he teamed-up with Buck Sexton and they joined Premiere Networks. Joe Rogan becoming a multimedia superstar is an example of a New Media star spawned from podcasting. 

These high-profile examples are the exception and not the rule. They do shine a spotlight on the fact that there is no longer credence in the often-used argument that radio lost its’ farm team when it did away with overnights and weekends. If our industry is dependent on only finding talent on the fringe timeslots of radio, or only in the smallest of markets, then we’re destined to remain largely mediocre.  If Shakespeare was accurate when he wrote “The world is your oyster” then the future is bright and there is much opportunity. One has to look for it.

Much like OTA TV being used as a farm team for streaming video, today’s farm team is podcasting, social media, college broadcasting & media programs, marketing classes, radio trade schools, the National Radio Talent System (Powered by the RAB), comedy clubs, speaker’s bureaus, and of course small market radio stations and training talent in a fringe daypart. 

Open your ears to wherever you find entertainment and close your eyes to hear if you can imagine the talent being evaluated as a host on the radio. Have you ever been at a party where there’s that one person that others gravitate toward just to be near them? They’re listening intently to their stories, laughing and offering their own comments, and the feeling is noticeably pleasant. That’s the type of person to look for and to engage with to see if they have the ability to entertain audibly on the radio.

TV itself has been a source of rich soil to find talent that are already grown, but radio is a much more difficult medium than television. It’s one thing to look good, sound good, and be able to deliver in a natural fashion that which is being spoken into your ear, but it’s another to be able to be extemporaneous, paint a picture with words and engage an audience using only the sense of sound. 

To that end, veteran programmer an radio icon John Gehron once suggested to me that before hiring a TV personality for radio, I should have them audition daily for several weeks in a row. Literally role play for multiple weeks and see if they can really execute as a radio personality. One side benefit was that I also learned which talent were truly committed and which ones decided that “radio is just too hard.” 

The bottom-line is that searching for talent, training talent, prospecting for talent, is a 24/7 mission. Today’s farm team is everywhere. There are actually more opportunities for talent to be trained and more places where they can get experience. The question is can they make a living in today’s radio industry? That’s an entirely different topic, but the best do make the most.

  


 




 

Real Time Coaching

– Mike McVay

The NFL returned this past week. Thursday night kicked off the season and the weekend had a full schedule of games. It was a huge “Couch Potato Moment” for me and many North Americans. No team gets a “Bye” week the first week of the season. Despite this month signaling that winter is on the way, I love September. College Football on Saturday and the NFL on Thursday, Sunday and Monday.

Professional football is always a great inspiration to me in how to direct a radio station’s programming, coach their talent or guide podcasters. It was some years ago that I first noticed the announcers on the network detailing the attention paid to each individual player by the coaches who are located in the booth above the playing field. Not all coaches are on the field. They have a better view from a sky box. 

As recent as 20 years ago, photographers in the skyboxes took pictures of each play, faxed them to the position coaches in the boxes, and they sometimes faxed them to the sideline. Players picked-up a sideline phone and spoke to the coach. It was very 2000 technology. That technology upgraded quickly and today coaches see digital pictures on Smart Tablets and speak to the players through the same device. All while they look at the same images. This is real time coaching. 

The coaches’ look at every detail of the play, they look at what the competition is doing to them, and what they are doing to the competition.  They try to catch the players doing something right as well as catch them doing something wrong.  They are teaching the players, in real time, by reviewing actions and they using examples as teaching tools. 

Programmers coach and direct air personalities, or Managers review the performance of sales people, to specifically help them improve their performance.  It shouldn’t be to point out the negatives or indicate to the subject where they have failed, but rather to show them how to improve while offering them encouragement to do better.  Catching your personalities doing something right gives the talent gratification. This is because they’ve perfected that part of their craft. It also tells them what to do more of as we all want to satisfy our superiors by preforming at a high level. True committed professionals always want to improve their performance. 


Research conduct among air talent from two different sources show that on-air personalities want to be coached … and in many cases … are not being coached. Program Directors who are reluctant to coach their air talent could be because they’re too busy due to multitasking. They could be dealing with the influx of new media platforms, maybe they’re simply shy, or maybe they fear confrontation. I remember one major market PD that I worked with telling me that “by the time an air-talent gets to this level, they don’t need coaching.” Who doesn’t want to be continually improving. We’ve all heard the story that even Tiger Woods had a coach. Athletes at the highest level have coaches. On-air performers also need coaches.

The classic situations are those PDs who make statements like “our air-talent know how they need to sound.  If they don’t know how to do a great show, then they don’t belong here.” That approach sounds like a great way to encourage an aspiring personality to make a mistake that costs them their job, or damages their career, and maybe even destroys their brand. It’s an irresponsible approach on the part of the program director. It encourages failure. It leads to the termination of the talent, and often, the PD. 

It’s sometimes too easy to terminate a personality. As Program Director’s we need to realize that when we terminate a personality, while they may have failed, we have surely failed. Sometimes it cannot be helped, but if you hire wisely, then you increase the odds that you won’t have to terminate that talent. You should try your best to hire wisely and then fire reluctantly. You owe it to the employee, and your employer, to work with talent to improve their performance to a level that’s more than acceptable. Termination is the last thing that you don after all other options have been exhausted.

Let’s start with coaching. Decades ago, I used the word “Critique” when it came to coaching sessions. I came to realize quickly that critiquing is all about finding fault, being critical, and not positive. No one wants to be critiqued. We all want to be encouraged and that’s what coaching can do for a talent. If you define the parameters for a program with negatives, you discourage the talent from trying anything. The talent starts to thing that It is better to do nothing than risk getting into trouble by doing something.

There are three methods of coaching that I like program directors to employ in a rotating fashion. I’d like to suggest that you use these coaching techniques to help guide your on-air team of performers.

They are as follows:

1. FRAME-BY-FRAME:  
This method of coaching reviews every frame in which the personality talks.  Call-letter placement, basics, for example, service elements, etc., are all analyzed.  Does the content presented by the personality create a level of interest from the target audience?  Informatio

n talked about should be of interest to the target audience, one major thought per/break, but that’s not because of the talent. It’s because of the loud noise level in most every market.  Does the personality sound natural as he/she delivers content?  

These frame-by-frame critiques should be returned to the personality in written form, along with a link to the audio, that they can review each frame and read along.  The PD should be available for questions and should explain EXACTLY what is meant by comments in the coaching memo. Don’t be nebulous. Be specific.

2. THE OVERVIEW:  
This coaching tactic is presented in written paragraph form and discussed with the personality.  The content, flow of the music (or topics for spoken word), and basics are all analyzed.  This form of coaching is not as critical as a frame-by-frame review, but gives more of an impression of what a listener may hear and feel. You’re considering the overall feeling of the show. Requires the same level of specificity as the Frame-by-Frame method. 

3. SELF-COACHING:  
The personality operates the audio and hits pause after each frame telling the PD (or whoever is coaching them) how they feel about that break.  This form of review is very interesting in that you will find most personalities are harder on themselves than you, as a PD, would ever be on them.  Most talent, not all, will tell you what they feel they need to do to improve their show.  You need only guide them as they determine if there is anything that they can improve upon. You want to be encouraging as you guide the talent in this self-help method.

OVERALL:

Apply the Golden Rule to how you coach. Remember, if you have a fun & funny show, that humor is subjective. Just because you don’t think something isn’t funny, doesn’t mean that it isn’t funny.  Repeating what I noted earlier; If you define the parameters for a program with negatives, you discourage the talent from trying anything. The talent starts to thing that It is better to do nothing than risk getting into trouble by doing something.


Allow your talent to do their job and guide them with coaching. Don’t critique them. Don’t stifle them. Let them be who they are. Coach them. 


 




Ten Rules for Every Radio Show

– Mike McVay


1. The show never ends – It’s not a “shift.” It’s a “Show.” When a talent says “Goodbye” it signals that a listener can turn-off the station. View your entire programming line-up as one big show. Each air talents performance is an act as part of that one big show. Never signal to the listener that “it’s over.” It’s a disservice to the on-air personalities that perform after your show, and it is a disservice to the station.


2. Time checks matter in the morning – It is true that fewer people wear a watch. Especially people under 40. The time is available on your phone and almost any other device you use, so why say the time on the morning show? The answer is that it not only serves as a verbal reminder, especially in the morning, but it serves as a benchmark. A benchmark is defined as a standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed. For our use it’s as a way of telling time. “If I’m not crossing the railroad tracks by 7:45, I will be late for work.”


3. Consistency creates habitual listening – That’s because people listen in a series of time. They awake at a consistent time. They shower, dress, grab a bagel, and head out the door to work. Even if they’re a WFH worker, as I am, you have a morning routine. Many have an afternoon and evening routing. This consistency begs for serial-like content that can be heard at the same time, during one’s routine, so it encourages repeat listening.  If you’re a morning commuter, and you hear “War of the Roses” every morning at 8:15, that feature may become one that you follow and look forward to daily.  We cannot easily compete on a music level as the playing field is level. Look to the tactic of consistency to create habitual listening.


4. Efficiency in speech matters – I’ve never liked the word “brevity” when used to tell an air talent that they should speak less. I’m a believer that on-air personalities create a reason to listen. There’s more uniqueness to personalities than there is to the music on a music station or the news reports on a talk station. Where talent get into trouble is using sixty-seconds to say something that could have been delivered in thirty-seconds. Being efficient as a talent means that you use only the words necessary to completely sell the thought or idea that’s being conveyed. If there’s no way to say it more quickly than sixty-seconds, then you were efficient. If someone else can address the same topic in a shorter period of time than sixty-seconds, then you were not efficient.


5. Talk to the individual listener – Radio is best when it is a one to one medium versus one to many. Use the words “You” and “Your” when communicating to your audience. While you hope there’s more than one person listening, focus on an individual, so that you’re talking TO someone and not AT someone.


6. Be direct and explain yourself – The listener is multitasking while they listen. Don’t present a complex algorithmic formula and expect anyone to understand it, let alone remember it. Be to the point, weave the important details into your story, and don’t be verbose in doing it.


7. No needless repetition – While I just suggested you explain yourself; I am not suggesting that you repeat yourself, except for a phone number … texting … a website … or an E-mail address. Those things you repeat slowly so the audience captures that information. The reason for not repeating other types of content is pretty simple. If I wasn’t paying attention to hear it the first time, I’m not paying attention the second time. If I was paying attention, then I’ve heard it.


8. Identification is important – There are those that believe that you do not need to say a stations brand name (call-letters if you use them) and frequency because the Personal People Meter picks up your radio listening. That’s assuming, of course, that you’re in a metered market. In a diary market, you definitely want to repeat the name and dial position of your station frequently. PPM markets should also repeat the same information regularly. The reason being that it brands your station and enables the listener to memorize where to find the station. Who are you? What do you do? Why should I listen? Where can I find you?  If I’ve just discovered your station, and I want to return listen to it, I need to know where it is and what the station delivers to its’ audience. Identification of a personality is important. It’s how we bond. When I hear a talent that seldom says their name, I equate it to having a large ego. “Everyone knows me.” They don’t.


9. The studio is the same as a stage – Working from Home has changed the studio location and situation for many. Those who continue to perform their show from home have likely created a studio now. Wherever it is in the house. For those of you who’ve done it, there’s something special about walking into a radio studio. It’s where the action happens. It’s Captain Kirk at the Con. It’s NASA preparing to launch the Artemis. It’s walking onto the stage at Madison Square Garden. It’s Showbiz. You want the studio to have that special aura. You don’t want it to be a highly trafficked location. Meaning keep out anyone who is not essential to the show. The people who walk through that door are a special breed. They need to perform.


10. The microphone is always on – This is an abstract concept that I was taught some years ago. When in a studio, conversing with a couple of the personalities, one of them said something negative. The other talent pointed at the VU meter on the microphone compressor as the needle bounced. He said “the microphone is always on.” It’s true. The On/Off switch allows what’s being said into the microphone to go on-air. The point being that you shouldn’t be negative in the studio. Don’t use profanity. Don’t say anything that you don’t want anyone to hear. Don’t be out of character. That approach should put your head in a better place … and keeps you from being cancelled. If you wouldn’t say it on the air … don’t say it in the studio.

 






 

The Excitement of Media

– Mike McVay

It’s easy for those of us who’ve been in media for a longtime to forget the feeling of excitement we once had to work in Radio. The thrill of walking into a station. Seeing the receptionist. Noticing the posters on the walls. The music playing in a hallway. The camaraderie of sitting with others who share the same job category as you and swapping stories. The feeling that you’re not working. You’re being paid to have fun. The “bennies” that go with the job. Concert tickets, sporting events, the free meals and unclaimed prizes in the prize closet.


The pandemic accelerated changes that were already on the horizon for the business. Prompting a reason to feel anything but excitement. A number of radio stations no longer have receptionists. No one comes to the radio station to pick-up a prize and it’s rare when an advertiser shows up to see how their commercial is written, recorded and scheduled for on-air. Phone systems, direct communication via Mobile Phones, E-mails, technology that allows for prize fulfillment and direct delivery from the source has pretty much eliminated the need for a front desk person.


There are fewer on-air people in many stations due to voice-tracking, syndicated/network programming, and some stations with dayparts that are delivered as music & sweepers without any form of personality. Production and Imaging is largely outsourced. Many stations have moved their Traffic departments to a hub. Engineers cover multiple markets.


If you think that where I am going is to exclaim “ain’t it awful” … you would be wrong. It’s not awful. It’s just different. If done the right way, in a committed-to-excellence fashion, it can be stellar. What it is … I repeat … is different. For many it is still exciting. Especially the young whose expectations are still being formed.
The excitement of media was present, more than anywhere I’d seen lately, at Morning Show Bootcamp and Podcast Movement. MSBC was held in Chicago the week before last. Podcast Movement just wrapped in Dallas this past Friday. The feeling of excitement may have been heightened because for many it was the first big in-person event for them post-covid, but for whatever reason, the coming together of on-air talent, program directors and managers, podcasters and content creators was vibrant.


Imagine this … young personalities sitting in a meeting room, packed, watching seasoned and successful on-air personalities share their stories, their secrets, their obstacles and offering advice as they pay-it-forward. Attendees lining up to ask questions of people that they’d likely never have the chance to otherwise meet, or having the courage to approach. Waiting at the stairs to the mainstage as speakers came off the dais. Asking for selfies. Swapping contact info. These were people excited to be in the business of entertaining and informing using audio.


Podcast Movement, started in 2014 by co-founders Dan Franks and Jared Easley, is as much an exhibit show as it is a learning conference. The large crowd of attendees, and their excitement combined with the events around the conference, brings back my early memories of going to the Radio & Records conventions. The now defunct music and radio magazine fired up the media community annually with a three-day convention that featured parties, rock stars, hospitality suites and lots of high-profile speakers. Not necessarily in that order.

Podcast Movement brings forth the same type of enthusiasm for today. The hallways were packed with youthful innovators. The main stage was packed with superstar-types who had lessons of life to share. There was even a bus for attendees to attend a party underwritten by a large media company. There were varying levels of podcasters on-site. A large number of radio people attended as did executives of their companies who position themselves as an “Audio” company. Audio is hot. There is real true excitement for Audio. I could argue that while different, podcasting and social media has stoked the fires of Radio. At least those that see podcasting as something more than a place to repurpose their radio shows.


If you want to see even more excitement about radio and podcasting, visit a college and talk to the students in the radio department. Listen to the excitement as they share their stories of being heard on the radio by friends & family. Notice the enthusiasm as radio becomes a big part of their social circle. Hear them brag about a podcast that they’ve created. There’s passion there for all things audio. It’s about the performance and the creative process. That’s what I saw at Morning Show Bootcamp and Podcast Movement.


You can expect that a similar excitement and energy will be evident at the Radio Masters Sales Summit to be presented by Radio Ink and The Center for Sales Strategy. That takes place in late September in Miami. Sales people, the really good ones, always bring a high level of energy, excitement and engagement to everything they do, which is why they’re so good at their job. You cannot “phone in” the sales job. You’re either selling or you’re not. If you’re not, you don’t stick around very long.


These conferences are a part of on-going education. On-going education and training protocol are important for media sales, including Radio and Podcasting, in this highly competitive world. Radio presenters are looking to attract an audience in a noisy world. Sellers are looking to generate more revenue by repping big audiences. Podcasters are looking to increase their number of downloads and get more money for them. Podcast platforms are looking to find and sign the rising stars that will deliver revenue to them. I know that not everyone can afford it, but if you can and you care about the future of your business, why would you not invest in on-going education for your team?


There is a lot of excitement to be found in our industry. It doesn’t require a scavenger hunt to find it. Open your eyes and ears. Stop the whining. If you want to create an exciting atmosphere in your business take these five steps.


1. Remember that this is Show Business. We got into this business to put on a show. Be a part of the show. We want to be in or around the spotlight.

2. Make the workplace look and feel like it’s a part of the entertainment industry. Too many radio facilities look like an insurance agency. (No offense intended to the insurance industry).

3. It’s a Show. It isn’t a shift. Create a positive atmosphere where your talent can perform. It’s not work. It’s play. Don’t make them “punch the timeclock.” Encourage them to put on a show.

4. Share the wealth. Meaning the tickets, the events, the meals, the fun and the unclaimed prizes. It does no one any good when expired tickets are found in someone’s desk drawer.

5. Respect and reward your on-air talent, your best sellers, the production team, the admin team members that go beyond the call of duty … including the traffic department, the engineer or IT worker who keeps the business up and running, and the promotion team.


Your place of business will prosper if you create the type of excitement that I’ve witnessed in the last two weeks. We’re in the FUN business. Don’t forget it. Have fun.

 






 

SUCCESS IS ALL ABOUT SHOWBIZ

– Mike McVay

 
Last weekend, because of a charity that I’m involved with, I was part of a group invited to attend WWE’s Summer Slam in Nashville at Nissan Stadium. To be honest, I have been to wrestling matches before, but not like this. This was a most special night. I met with and had a chance to speak to Stephanie McMahon, albeit briefly. She’ the Chairwoman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of the WWE. I found her to be totally engaging and engaged in our conversation. Wrestling isn’t a “thing.” It’s the “only thing.”


Wrestling isn’t new to me, but seeing it up close was. Some air-talent that I’ve worked with have served as ring announcers. I was involved in consulting a radio show that was connected, through family, with “Mean” Gene Okerlund. I’m a casual friend with a wrestler in the NWA. The purpose of me sharing my (albeit limited) wrestling resume is to say that, despite all of that, I had no idea that the WWE was the entertainment conglomerate that it is. Their leadership team is all about entertainment and performance to a high level. They are all about giving their fans an unforgettable experience. They did that and more.


The build-up to every match was enhanced with video. The wrestlers entered the outdoor stadium with spotlights on them, wearing costumes that belied the character of who they are, and they performed as they walked the long-elevated walkway to the ring in the middle of the stadium. Walk-up music blaring. Fans screaming and cheering. It is best compared to what it must have been like when gladiators walked into the coliseum to fight to the moment of “thumbs up or thumbs down.”


The WWE is over the top in creating and presenting Show Biz. If you’re like me, and I expect that most of you reading this are, almost everything you see comes back to radio. You see something amazing and you ponder its’ correlation to radio or, if you prefer, audio.


What brought it home to me is the admission that, in many cases, most of what’s “out there” today lacks show biz. We’ve largely forgotten that we’re in show business. Not forgotten from everyone. Not missing everywhere, but what was once common is now viewed as unique and special. This in no way is meant to impugn the talent of the highly successful personalities that are on the radio today, but rather to note that total entertainers are rarer every year.


There’s a certain belief that “Showbiz” means glitz and glamour, rockets swooshing through imaging messages, and listeners screaming on the air as they win prizes. When I use the word “Showbiz” it’s none of those things that are manufactured. No audio glitz. It’s the way Elvis Duran works the phones and manages a room full of voices while making the audience a part of the show. It’s Matt Pinfield telling a never heard before story about someone or something that changed the face of music.


It’s how Kellie Raspberry and Big Al interact with one another. It’s when Ellen K gets choked up talking to a listener who lost their home in a fire. DJ Envy, Angela Yee and Charlamagne Tha God cornering Kamala Harris, and it’s Bert Weiss sharing the story of how he muffed his marriage proposal by not having the ring with him.


Showbiz is Mark Levin holding an audience for an hour while doing a monologue. It’s Dan Patrick arguing the severity of the penalty for QB Deshaun Watson. Glenn Beck using a dynamic vocabulary to paint a verbal visual that could be a movie. Doug Stephan describing a day in his life that mirrors something from Lake Woebegone. John Tesh providing Intelligence for Your Life, trapping a listener in their car, because they want to know why French women are considered to be the most beautiful women in the world. There are
Showbiz isn’t measured by how much you talk. It’s measured by what you say, how you say it, and how it resonates with the audience. It isn’t how long it takes to say it. I can show you talent who can tell a compelling story over a ten-second song intro. Talent who communicate and connect when they turn on the microphone. Personalities that are always in show prep mode. Whatever they see, whatever they do, they’re evaluating its worth to their audience and making a decision as to whether it makes onto their show or not. That’s what’s at the foundation of creating showbiz.


Bring the showbiz back to your station. Bring it to your show. Think differently. It’s not an air-shift. It’s a show.

(Below, Mike with WWE's Stephanie Mcmahon.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





WE GET LETTERS

Response to the August 8 article in Radio Ink titled “Success is All About Showbiz”

Mike,

If you don’t stop writing pieces like you wrote for Radio Ink this week, I will have no choice but to continue to have my overwhelming admiration of you continue to boil out of control.


Really. Amazing. Piece. It isn’t just the writing. It’s who you are. It’s how you think.


I am someone who studies behavior, strategy and wisdom and I see you. Thank God I always have, starting with those McVay Schools I was so appreciative to attend as a young programmer.


You can just simply read you and understand there’s still gas in the tank.


Every day I hope that you are having your best life.


Thank you for … being Mike.


Respectfully,
Loyd Ford


Rainmaker Pathway Consulting Works
Country – Classic Hits – Hot AC – More
https://RainmakerPathway.com

 




 





No Excuses

– Mike McVay

One of my radio friends sent me a text the other night, as he left a concert, sharing his disappointment in what he heard, but didn’t see. The performance by the artist satisfied him. The poor performance by the radio station who was involved as the presenting station was at the root of his disappointment. The air talent who came on stage to thank the audience for attending the show, and showing their support, barely said anything about the radio station. No invitation to listen. No mention of anything involving the station on-air or regarding contests & promotions, and no connection to any of the artists music on the station.

My friend is a well-known high profile major market personality. He’s been on stage at such events. He knows how to motivate an audience. At worst, he knows how to pique their curiosity, and some in the audience will try the radio station on their way home. He also shared that on the way home, he popped on the radio station, and heard nothing from the artist that would tie the station and the concert together. A different station that I’m very familiar with, in another market, notes the music on the set list as it is played, and then plays back those songs that are available in the exact order of performance.

It was also mentioned that there were no signs for the radio station in the arena. To be fair, it is difficult to get approval or permission from most concert promoters to post signage in the performance or seating area. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a station vehicle near the venue. If you have a station vehicle, it should be on the road, and not in your parking lot. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have station logo’s T-shirts to give out to ticket winners, or hand out as people arrive, and it doesn’t mean that you cannot use social media to promote your stations connection to an artist and their music.

There is no excuse for accepting how things are as immovable objects that are blocking your path. Don’t turn back. Go around. Go over. Spend time ideating (what we used to call brainstorming) and come up with ways that you can involve a sponsor as an underwriter for those things you should be doing, but have no budget to do. The ability to “find a way” is a rare trait, but most highly successful stations have someone or some people, who find a way to market, promote, reward and build an audience.

There are many things that have been said these past few years that are excuses wrapped in explanation. The pandemic has been a blanket excuse for many challenges that were seemingly too big to overcome, one that no one wanted to overcome, or one that was used as an excuse to accomplish other goals and objectives. 

There is absolutely no doubt that the pandemic was a catastrophic financial event for most businesses worldwide. Media was hit badly with some businesses around the industry seeing a 40% loss in revenue.  It has changed how we do business. It has changed where we do business. It has driven many out of the business. The fact remains that using the pandemic as a blanket long-lasting excuse is unfair.

“Our ratings are down because of the pandemic.” Someone is still number one. Yes, the audience is smaller, but someone is still number one. The rankings are relative. We’re months past the end of 2020. The pandemic is a factor. Don’t make it an excuse. Resist the temptation to find blame. Find solutions.

“We can’t be out on the street because we don’t have a street team.” That doesn’t keep you from being everywhere and being seen everywhere. Air talent are local celebrities. Use them appropriately and take advantage of the investment in time and energy that you’ve made to create their stardom.

“We have no budget for promotion.” Become a streetfighter. Visit clients who have marquis outside their businesses and ask them if you can put a message on their signs. I’ve done that in the past. No money for billboards? We found people who have giant signs at their business locations and put tune-in messaging on them.

There are no personalities out there who are within our budget. I know a lot talent recoil at the proper noun “Voice-Tracker” … unless they are one. Like anything in life, there are good ones and bad ones. I can point to some VT talent who sound better than local talent in their market. That’s because they put the effort in to be local sounding, connected to the community, and entertaining. If you can’t afford a local on-air personality, why not consider a Voice-Tracker?  No excuse. 

There is a common misperception that there are no young people available to “come up” through the minor leagues of the performance side of the business. I get that, but it is an excuse. There are few weekend personalities and even fewer overnight talent. You have to look elsewhere.  I’m often honored to speak at broadcast schools, the Broadcast (Radio) class at universities, and have talked to high school students who were blessed with a radio curriculum. That’s a starting point. 

When many of us started in radio, it was sitting in our parents’ basement or attic pretending to be on the radio. That was akin to throwing a football through a tire ten-thousand times. Today you’ll find performers on TikTok, YouTube, social media, Clubhouse and places like AMP from Amazon. You have to look, but there are plenty of examples of youthful on-air talent who started elsewhere. 

There are no excuses. There are causes. Maybe even real limitations. No excuses. Look for a way HOW and use the word NO when there are truly no other options. No excuses.

 






 

Vin Scully; The Gift of Visual Story Telling

– Mike McVay

Much has been written in the way of tributes to the Los Angeles Dodgers longtime play-by-play announcer Vin Scully who died August 2nd. The many heralded events he called include announcing games when Jackie Robinson was a player for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Sandy Koufax perfect game and more recently Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter. The list is long.


Scully’s gift for storytelling was an offshoot of his first ambition: sports writing. Scully’s skills as one of the most descriptive broadcasters began in a time when more people listened to sports on the radio than watched it on TV. There was no such thing as watching a sporting event on a stream in those days. Most of America was dependent upon audio first. You could see the green of the field and thought that you could smell the new cut grass. 

The very best play-by-play talent paint a picture by describing everything they see as if they’re describing a game to a person who lacks the sense of sight. Describing the obvious important parts of a game, but adding the vision that acknowledges surroundings, atmosphere, the intangible feeling that is created by the crowd and allowing the sounds associated with a game to bleed through in the background.

Vin Scully also knew when and how to use silence to magnify a moment and make the audience a part of the experience. A grand slam in a critical game? After making the call, he paused and you heard the roar of the crowd, and suddenly … you were there. The fact that the average person listened to Vin and never thought about the uniqueness of what he was doing, is proof that he made the “hard” to appear “easy.” That’s something all of the great ones do. It’s easy, until you try to do it, too. 

Baseball may not be America’s pastime anymore, but it still signals so many things that many of us who grew up listening to it, think of when we hear a game today. It means summer is coming when you hear the first game in late March/early April. It’s a part of the time of year when the sun rises early and sets late. When kids are out of school. When you starting counting the days to a vacation. When the playoff’s approach, it means school has started, football season has begun, leaves are turning and winter isn’t far away. 

The homerun call, that exciting statement that is exclaimed enthusiastically when a ball leaves the ballpark, adds to the game’s excitement level. It also is a part of the memory fabric of the game.  My hometown team is the Cleveland Guardians, formerly known as the Cleveland Indians, and Play-by-Play artist Tom Hamilton’s “It’s back, wayyy back, gone …” is one of my favorites. Hamilton is an efficient personality who uses only the words necessary to completely explain or describe the purpose of his talk. The word economy he presents is punctuated enthusiastically, never losing his genuine enthusiasm.

Ken Levine, who is well known for the many shows he’s written, (M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frazier and more), in addition to having been “Beaver Cleaver” as a Top-40 DJ, has experience as a Baseball play-by-play talent. We worked together at KTNQ/Los Angeles, which is where I first saw and heard his creativity, given that he is a powerful storyteller. Ken once told me that, when he was with the Baltimore Orioles, he started the season using the home run call “Elvis has left the building.” That worked until he had to say “Elvis … is off the wall.”  That certainly creates a visual. 

Bob Prince, the Pirates PBP announcer when I was a child growing up in Pittsburgh, created “The Green Weanie.”  He was known for always following a close win with the words “We had them all the way.” Joe Nuxhall and Marty Brennaman worked for the Cincinnati Reds. The duo would froth each other into a frenzy during tight spots on the diamond. They made me long for a rain delay just to hear them converse with each other. You likely have your own favorite announcers. Think about what they did/do that stuck with you? What’s the one thing they said that made a lasting impression on you. 

There are few on-air personalities that really focus on the practice of telling stories efficiently. That is, too few possess what many major league baseball play-by-play personalities do in regard to being a visual communicator. One can argue that baseball, being the slowest of the pro-sports to broadcast, allows for more time to paint a picture. Yet, it’s not really about the amount of time it takes to be descriptive, but using pointed descriptions that are relatable. Which is something that all talent can do. If you can enable the audience to visualize your story, you will have connected with your audience. That enriches their listening experience.


Think of the gift given to us by the great Vin Scully. Remember and appreciate him for his pioneering style. Communicate in stories. Tell those stories visually and descriptively. Use audio, when more appropriate than words, and engage silence or use an abnormally long pause, when a moment is to be magnified. 






 

The News Problem Isn’t New

- Mike McVay

Something of interest is happening as the Spring rating results return. News/Talk and All News stations are rebounding. The News/Talk audience is coming back. It’s not a huge resurgence, but there are a few standouts that are at the top of the heap.
Most are seeing modest growth. The key is that they are seeing growth after a year of a slide to the basement.

 

The rebound shouldn’t be a surprise. There are big topics that are high profile and demanding of attention, discussion and coverage. The economy, the January 6th commission, Roe v Wade, midterm elections, the shootings at Uvalde, and don’t forget about Covid and the multiple variants.

  

Those topics are bringing people back to the news format, but more importantly, the format is benefitting from the shift of stations to focus more on local stories of interest and to qualify how national stories connect to their markets. Through failure we’ve learned that we have to connect the dots to our communities to engage the local listener. 

  

It’s not enough to talk about the rate of inflation nationally without acknowledging its’ impact on your community. You should note the price of gasoline in your community and how that one item alone increases the price of groceries, clothing, goods and services … and so on. Local connectivity is important. These stories should lead your newscasts. These trending topics should lead the discussion of your hosts shows.

 

Radio created huge burnout following the 2020 election. Leading up to it we found the format and its personalities mostly echoing one message. Local on-air personalities echoed what national on-air personalities were saying. Listening to the echo chamber became maddening. Many local personalities failed to talk about the flashpoints in their own markets and chose to talk about what the network and syndicated shows talked about. News/Talk radio became a loud argument of who is right or who is in the wrong.

 
It became popular for mental health experts to recommend listening less to news/talk radio, watch less of the TV news channels, turn-off the news in-general, step away from social media and avoid electronic or printed daily news updates. This “ostrich” strategy (put your head in the sand and ignore everything) apparently worked for some listeners. It impacted radio overall. It impacted the News channels on TV. It negatively impacted streaming news channels.

 
The audience is returning because many Program Directors and their talent are realizing that there are many more immediate things in listeners lives that have nothing to do with many of the national news stories. The economy is one of the few national stories that universally impacts the populous.  It’s a huge problem. The economy keeps us awake at night. That one topic is overwhelming and tops most social topics, global topics and even the future of the environment. 

 
When it is all said and done … most people are a selfish people. We want to know about those things that are going to impact us negatively on a personal level and what’s being done about it. We the people care about our tightest inner circle. Our families and our friends. Refocus there and deliver to your audience the news that the audience cares about most. Connect national stories locally. When you talk about the terrible tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, bring it back to your community. What’s being done locally to prevent such a repeat of this unthinkable tragedy? The key root word being “local.”

 
There is greater concern about construction on a bridge being out, when it impacts one’s daily commute and will do so for a year, than there is about whether or not the President fist-bumped a Saudi Crown Prince. I’m not suggesting that you ignore that gesture by the President, as it is a high-profile story, but rather that you leave the deep drill down and multiple-day focus on a topic like that for the national hosts. Pay more attention to what the local audience cares about. 

 
To the non-news stations, combat burnout by being the alternative. Start by acknowledging that research shows us that people who listen to anything other than a news/talk station, do not want to hear your non-news/talk station (meaning a Sports or Music station), talking about politics and polarizing social topics. That’s not why they’re listening to your station. Be true to your brand. 

 
Kudos to the News/Talk programmers who have shifted the paradigm and are paying attention to their local communities. God knows that there’s enough going on in Everytown, USA to satisfy the need for news in the local community. The smart programmers know it and connect to it.

 







 

The Legends Speak; Bits and Pieces

- Mike McVay

The most recent print edition of Radio Ink is the Top-40 Most Powerful issue. One of the feature stories in that issue is one that I authored for the publication. It’s an interview piece with four programmers who had held positions at the top of the programming success ladder for many years. That interview is one to be read and shared. The honesty with which these four individuals spoke offered insight that was unique and fresh in many ways. The participants included Scott Shannon, Buzz Knight, Ed Salamon and Mike Kennedy. 

Scott Shannon, is the highly rated morning anchor on WCBS-FM/New York City. He is best known for launching Z100/NYC as PD and morning anchor, creating and hosting the first ever Morning Zoo at Q105/Tampa while serving as PD, same for Pirate Radio in Los Angeles, and immediately prior to WCBS-FM was the PD and morning anchor at the legendary WPLJ/NYC. 

 Ed Salamon started at KDKA/Pittsburgh in the Research department and learned what the audience wanted … and gave it to them. He also programmed WEEP/Pittsburgh, WHN/NYC, served as Corporate PD for Storer Media, before going on to hold senior level executive positions at Westwood One and United Stations Radio Network. He was the Executive Director for the Country Radio Broadcasters before moving on to education where he taught Mass Communications as an Adjunct Professor at Middle Tennessee State University in 2003 and later at Belmont University in a similar capacity. 

Buzz Knight most recently served as EVP of Strategy and Innovation for Beasley Media Group, which he joined in 2016 upon the closing of the company’s purchase of Greater Media, where he was the VP/Program Development. He is an accomplished major market programmer and today heads-up the consulting firm Buzz Knight Media. He also hosts the podcast “Takin’ A Walk.”

Mike Kennedy is a Kansas City legend who has programmed multiple stations in that market, entertained on-air, was VP/Programming for Wilks Broadcasting and also Steel City Media and most recently the OM/PD for Audacy owned 106.5 The Wolf and 99.7 The Point. Mike has been involved in every aspect of radio, and like Shannon, is a highly success air talent as well as programmer. 

As happens with films when they’re edited, so it is with an article like this, and some parts of the interview fell to the cutting room floor. Those thoughts and comments, that were too lengthy for the constraints of a print magazine, are shared here in bits and pieces. The conversation that we started in the print edition needs to be rounded out. Although I expect that the print edition will be shared by the many who appreciate the experience and candor spoken by our guests.

Scott Shannon noted that radios problems aren’t, as many believe, on the hands of the owners of the biggest radio groups today. He sees them as trying to save an industry and fix the problems created by the early aggregators at the start of deregulation. That is those who started buying up radio stations in many markets, cutting jobs in order to cut costs, and damaging the product itself. That trend has continued, unfortunately, which has led to interrupting the pipeline to easily find and train talent.

There are places where personalities are training, like personal Podcasts, Streaming Radio and on social media platforms like Amazon’s AMP, TikTok and Clubhouse. These locations require a leap of faith by a programmer to believe that the talent can translate to radio. There are some very strong examples of those who have succeeded in radio after coming from a non-traditional entertainment product line. To Shannon’s point though, it’s not as easy to find these people, because of fewer opportunities. 

Buzz Knight noted that talent development and retention, innovation and revenue generation are critical areas that need to be addressed by broadcasters who are in the business for the long haul. The point that Knight was making, and one that I agree with him on, is that all too often today operators are focused on the now and not the future for growth. That’s understandable given the publicly owned companies have to show a profit every quarter.  That’s unfortunate because listening habits are seasonal, we’re at the mercy of the rating system, and audience change takes time to imprint in a market.

We’ve all heard the expression that in radio we suffer an inferiority complex. It’s true. We’re the first to apologize, to praise a competitor from outside of the industry and to point out our own flaws. Knight noted “this is not the time for the industry to have an inferiority complex. The industry should operate in an offensive posture when it comes to messaging within the advertising community.” 

To that end, the RAB lashed back at SiriusXM last week, when the satellite broadcaster distributed nationwide an advertising campaign that asked the question “Why waste your time with AM/FM Radio?” Thank You RAB. Blocking a serious attack from a competitor is always the right move. I applaud the RAB for doing this. The facts they shared show that OTA Radio dwarfs SiriusXM. However positive the RAB’s press release was, it is on our shoulders as broadcasters to improve the product, to stop the erosion. Want to beatdown the DSP’s and Satellite Radio? Make OTA Radio better. 

Personality is clearly one of the ways to do that. Ed Salamon talked about the level of air personalities that he worked with in New York City and when he was overseeing Ten-Q in Los Angeles. He compared the likes of The Real Don Steele, MG Kelly, Jackson Armstrong and Beaver Cleaver to today’s talent. The on-air personalities took responsibility for connecting with the audience because they saw the value of making that connection for the station and for themselves in their own careers. 

Mike Kennedy shared his concern that many radio stations direct their audience away from their talent to programming coming from other platforms and out of the market. He’s not wrong that when we point an audience elsewhere, they have to leave somewhere, and that’s likely where they heard about the other product. He’s not suggesting that we stick our head in the sand, ostrich like, but that it seems like the companies believe in the power of talent … just not their own in many cases. 

The wisdom that comes from the more than 160 years of combined experience from these four legends is impressive. Their self-effacing approach underscored the honesty of their opinions. They were outspoken in regard to the beliefs they hold to be truths. Truths worth reading. The complete original article is in the July 2022 issue of Radio Ink. 

 






 

The Basics Are Important

– Mike McVay

Once upon a time, I lived in a condo, high above the city. I watched a high rise being built near my building. Day after day for a little more than a year, the construction was below street level, and the amount of time that went into the foundation seemed to be as much time as went into the above ground structure. The foundation has to be solid if a building is going to reach high into the sky. 

The same can be said for almost anything in our lives. You need a strong foundation. Families, businesses, buildings, communities … on and on. Great programming needs a strong foundation. The basics provide that foundation upon which strong entertaining, informative, connected programming can be built upon. The basics are important. 

Stations begin to fail when the basics are forgotten or not seen as important. There’s a general feeling that the basics shouldn’t have to be paid attention to at the most major level, but every new season every professional athlete starts with the basics. Those who practice the arts, are musicians, the finest chefs, and famous surgeons all work on perfecting the basics of their craft. I find the same to be true of great Performers, Content Creators, and Program Directors.

We are often asked what our strategic philosophies are. It is always a difficult question to answer because you cannot really say that one size fits all. The concern in trying to apply a philosophy to all radio stations is that you must assume all things are equal. They are not. Markets do change. Every city is different. However, we do have a model that becomes the skeletal structure of a radio station, from which we start to add muscle and flesh. My style of management and consulting has been labeled by some as “Obsessive” or as being too mired in the minutia of detail. I don’t see it that way. I’m of the belief that if you analyze a market, dissect the radio stations programming, and focus on creating a strategy … the day-to-day job of programming becomes much simpler. 

In other words, create a system that gets a radio station ontrack and then keep it on-track by focusing on the basics. My personal experience is that most radio stations that fail are beaten from within their own walls. The stations that win almost always are those that have crafted a strategy, set realistic goals, focused on the details and made a religious-like commitment to stay true to that strategy. This attitude, when coupled with basics, leads to success. 

When it comes to content, be that music or spoken word, the objective is to provide INSTANT GRATIFICATION. Research the music (or the hot topics) and play people’s favorite songs (or stories) frequently. You will never run into anyone who says that you play his or her favorite song too often or repeat the hot topic too frequently. What people complain about, or become tired of, are the ones that they don’t like … over and over again. You need to know when to get on a song (topic) and when it’s over so you can get off of it. 

We believe in creating a memorable music essence on the radio station. A listener should be able to hear your station, and in any 15-minute period, the station will sound consistent with your content. Be reflective of the audience. Be consistent so that your station has its own “Sound.” Keep in mind that an important part of that sound is what you create in your imaging and production. 

We’re living in a time where information (News) has become a more important part of the listener’s life. The audience wants to know a little bit about a lot of things, and they can get their news in many locations, so we urge news anchors to present a high story count with lots of quick 2-line and 3-line stories. The first sentence should focus on the bottom-line, while the second and third sentences give the details to the story in question. 

We suggest that stations use these seven categories from which to build a newscast: 1. Heart 2. Purse 3. Health 4. Relaxation 5. Safety 6. Local 7. National/International. These stories do not have to be aired in that order. Meaning that you do not need to start every newscast with a Heart story, but when you do have that rare heart story, you should make it a high-profile story on your station. You will not have elements for each of these topics on a daily basis. 

Purse stories are very important and should be written in a personal fashion i.e. “You and I can expect to pay more at the gas pumps this weekend as the oil shortage continues…” The threat of a recession has all of our attention. Unemployment is low … but for how long? The audience has questions that should be answered. 

Health; This topic can be much broader than the pandemic, although it has been a life altering event, and its’ effects may not be fully known for years to come. Research shows that people are far more diet conscious and far more exercise conscious these days and our stories should be reflective of these facts. Audiences are interested in developments in medicine to cure diseases and new health findings. Health is important to the audience as it affects their lives. Write these stories to answer the question “What effect does it have on me.” 

These stories deal with the way people handle stress, vacations, family, and free time. The 90s found people more aware of their lifestyle and the family unit was more important to them than it had been in the 80s. The 2000’s saw people working hard, due to the economy and the War in Iraq. The 2010’s rolled out a new ME generation … and the 2020’s started with the first global pandemic in 100 years. That launched The Great Resignation. A recalibration on what’s important in our lives. 

Safety is also an important element of news content. While there are not stories that deal with safety on a daily basis, one need only open their eyes and see the crime affecting our families to know that all members of the human race are concerned about their safety and that of their family. People are enrolling in self-defense courses; cellular phone subscriptions grew as a result of protection or safety for pre-teen children. The same for travelers who are reluctant to disembark from a vehicle once it has been involved in an accident for fear that they will be robbed or attacked. 

When you come across a story (sad or happy) of an individual in an uncomfortable situation that could have been avoided by them being more careful, share that with your audience, as it will serve as an example of what to think about in regard to their personal safety. Educating the listeners is part of what we do with information. 

Local News; These stories are the most important of all to the listener. In the focus groups that we have seen, people regard local stories as the stories that are most likely to affect their lives. Those stories that impact one locally could be a national story, but if it has meaning to the local community, all the more important to air the story. 

Research shows that national and international news is of relatively minor importance to the average listener … unless it is a major event and can be related back to them. When it comes to national or global news... bring it home to the community. Answer the question for the audience “What does it mean to me?” That’s the content test for news content.

Work to keep the story count as high as possible. Most target audiences want to be aware of what is going on in their local world so that when one of their friends brings up a news story, they will know a little about it. Air a high story count, but get to the bottom-line on every story. No fluff & stuff, but you should feel comfortable that you can air a kicker story.

If you are going to use sound bites (actualities), then the audio in the news should be an actuality from the News Maker. We want to hear the President speaking rather than a journalist interpreting what was said. One example of where it would be appropriate is to have audio from a journalist on the ground at the site of news worthy location. 

If you want to be truly sophisticated … use a News Grid. The News Grid ensures that you have horizontal recycling from one newscast to another. For example, the story about work lay-offs at the largest local employer may lead the 6:30 a.m. cast. The next day, if there is an update on that story, it should also lead in the window of the previous days cast. Which means that people who hear about that situation at 6:30 a.m. on one day will get an update in the same slot on the next day. 

Personality; The most important part of what successful radio stations invest in today. We like people who are “neighbor-nextdoor” types. Be genuine, true to your morals and beliefs, sound friendly, and entertain/engage the audience. 

The morning show should be highly interactive and fun to listen to. The rest of the talent in other dayparts should be people who are warm and relatable, and able to communicate more efficiently as the attention span after morning drive is short. The exception would be during the tight two-hour afternoon drive time. You once again have the audience’s attention during that window. 

The best personalities are those that hold captive the audience, not allowing them to get out of their car when they arrive at work. They build day-to-day habitual listening. Remember to coach the air-talent and work with them on a regular basis. One can never assume that because the talent has reached your station that they are at a level where they no longer need input. Really good performers want a gauge on their performance as they’re always working to be better.

Directing talent is much like piloting a tugboat that pushes barges down the river. The tugboat is not chained to the barges. None of the four or five barges that the tug pushes are chained together. The tugboat captain pushes the barges and hopes that they go in the right direction. So, it is with directing talent. By the way, there is a need to have regular meetings with your talent, especially regarding formatic’s. Two-way communication with your personalities prevents future problems. 

Morning Drive; to win, must strike a balance between two basic elements: entertainment and information. Music, humor, features, and contesting, as entertainment elements, have to be relieved by information elements like weather, traffic, news, sports, and vice versa. Each stop-set has to be a mini-magazine of the concerns and interests of the audience. 

“The art of radio” is ideas: the more the better. And, “ideas only come from hard work: brainstorming/ideating, preparing, and polishing, then more brainstorming, more preparing, and more polishing.” Parameters need to be designed with positives, as opposed to negatives. That’s why many like to say that the PD is “coaching” the talent versus saying, “critiquing” them. The word critique is a part of the word Criticism. Coaching is a better word. It puts you both on the same side of the table. As a coach, you’re there to help improve their performance. It’s not to catch them doing something wrong. 

Show prep is an important part of any air talents day. Morning teams prepare every day, but many times the other staffers do nothing more than read what’s online. Real prep needs to take place for every talent that’s going to speak on-air. Enter the studio with more information than you can ever use, and then throw out what you don’t need. It’s better to be over prepared than not prepared at all. 

I’m a strong believer in training your talent how to talk “short” when they speak. Be efficient. Get to the point as quickly as possible, no matter how short that is. I prefer the word efficiency to brevity. Efficiency is using the words necessary to completely sell the purpose of the topic in question. If that takes 120-seconds, no problem. If it could’ve been said in 30-seconds, then you weren’t efficient.

To increase the level of entertainment, and ensure your personalities are prepared, have them prepare one item in each of the following key areas to air once per/show. One per/hour. No repeats on any one day. This is system can assist in building out your show prep system.

EMOTION — Listeners’ mood at the time of the day that they’re on the air. What is going on in their world? Relate to it. This magnifies that you’re living in the listeners world, which is important. Be relatable to be memorable. 

IMAGE — What’s the image or benefit of your radio station? Put that into your own words versus reading a liner. Sell it as if you thought of it. Once per/shift.

AREA — Something happening in your MSA. It could be the weather; the President is visiting town, local high school in the playoffs, the leaves are turning for fall … anything that is relatable to your local audience and causes talk. Once per/shift. 

ACTIVITY — What is the station involved in? Sell the benefit of what the station is involved in and what you want the audience to attend, participate in or enjoy. This can be a station appearance, an event at an advertiser, or maybe a fund-raising event for a charity.

ARTIST — Information about an artist you play. This is where you “Casey Kasem” the bit. Incorporate ONE bit in each area per show and you will have a much more entertaining program with a well-directed personality. 

PRE-PROMOTION – Another important part of your show prep. No one does a better job with the “setup” than John Tesh. Take a lesson from John and promote with incentive, so that the listener is full of anticipation awaiting the pay-off. And, the pay-off better be good. 

PROMOTION – Great promotions are like LIFE. They have three important elements to be successful. Expectation, Realization and Memory. 

Expectation = “We are going to give you a bright red Porsche 911. Imagine the ooohs and aaahh’s of your friends and neighbors as they see you in this chariot of the gods (sound effects of people oohing and aahing).” To enhance expectation is to record a listener and put them into the promotional spot. Sell them on the benefit of winning. 

Realization = this is where you tell the winner that they just won $10,000 and they say, “Oh God, Oh God, I can’t believe I won” and if the air-talent shuts up, the listener will hear silence and feel compelled to talk, and they will tell us how really good they feel about winning.  We all lost. Letting the listener speak allows us all to share in the winning experience. 

Memory = This is the element that most radio stations miss. Go back to the winner and ask them what they did with all the money they won, how they enjoyed the concert which you gave away tickets to, what was that get-away weekend in a secluded hotel like, and record them as you hand them the keys to that new red Porsche 911. This will also magnify the act of winning and that helps to make your station memorable. 

Most radio stations require listeners to come by the studios to pick up really big prizes. Drag them into the production room and capture audio from them. You can always throw out the audio if you don’t like it. Someone won. Share that fact by sharing the audio. 

When it comes to Marketing, you have to ask yourself the question “What do you want to accomplish?” and “Why?” Don’t get hung up in marketing a product without knowing what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Is it to build cume? Do you need better TSL to build your Average Share? Know the answer to these questions before you start spending money on creative and artwork. 

Most importantly; never market a product before it is ready. To do so shares with everyone exactly how bad your product is … and that then becomes an insurmountable obstacle to rating success. When do you go back to a restaurant where you got a steak with a hairball on it? Never.   

 







 

Legendary Top Programmers Sound Off

– Mike McVay

Arriving on the Radio Ink Best Program Directors in America list is a coveted accomplishment. Very few make the list. Even fewer are there year after year. When they cease to be a programmer, they’re no longer eligible for the list, but that doesn’t mean they their brains are not still engaged, that they’re not continuing to “play radio” and that they’re no longer interested in the medium. The reverse is true.

We selected four big names in the business who were once program directors recognized for their success, who today have either moved on to different roles in radio or are at a different point in their life. In every case, their perspective is one that comes from having walked a mile in those moccasins, and still showing their care for this industry. The objective is to hear from them as to radios’ challenges and its future. 

Scott Shannon, Ed Salamon, Buzz Knight, and Mike Kennedy are four individuals whose experience and successes are worthy of exploring more deeply. There is value to Time on Earth. One of the most common arguments in favor of studying history is the famous quote by George Santayana, which states " Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It means that people who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are going to repeat the same mistakes. The saying is true of both world history and personal history. It’s especially true for all things media. 

Shannon is the highly rated and highly successful morning personality on WCBS-FM/New York City. He is famous for having created the first ever Morning Zoo as he won the Tampa ratings war at Q105, launched Z100 NYC and Programmed the legendary WPLJ before moving to WCBS-FM. Scott Shannon is one of the most admired programming minds and emulated personalities in radio.

Ed Salamon, who in full disclosure is a mentor of mine, programmed WEEP/Pittsburgh, WHN/NYC, served as Corporate PD for Storer Media, before going on to hold senior level executive positions at Westwood One and United Stations Radio Network. He was the Executive Director for the Country Radio Broadcasters before moving on to education.  

Salamon began teaching Mass Communications as an Adjunct Professor at Middle Tennessee State University in 2003. Two years later, he joined Belmont University in a similar capacity. While at Belmont, he was asked to develop a course on Entertainment Leadership, which he taught in their Mike Curb School of Entertainment and Music Business.

Buzz Knight most recently served as EVP of Strategy and Innovation for Beasley Media Group which he joined in 2016 upon the closing of the company’s purchase of Greater Media. Buzz was the VP/Program Development for Greater Media. He is an accomplished major market programmer and today heads-up the consulting firm Buzz Knight Media.

Mike Kennedy is a Kansas City legend who has programmed multiple stations in that market, entertained on-air, was VP/Programming for Wilks Broadcasting and Steel City Media and most recently the OM/PD for Audacy owned 106.5 The Wolf and 99.7 The Point. Mike has been involved in every aspect of radio.

I started our round table by asking the group what they see as the biggest challenges facing radio today. and segued later into what the future of radio looks like. The responses were positive and not so positive. Their responses were real, honest and open. Sometimes, reading casually, one might think that their opinions are negative. That’s not the intention of their comments. They identify our weaknesses.

These legendary programmers echoed what’s become obvious to many in regard to what the industry needs to do to improve. They point out recognized problems. They question if anyone has the stomach to take the necessary big steps to turnaround the content and entertainment area of the business.

Ed Salamon kicked off the discussion pointing to the industry’s past and the value of on-air talent then and now. Ed and I worked together in Los Angeles in the late 70s and were a part of the Top 40 battle in LA with 10Q (KTNQ), beating the legendary KHJ. A lot has changed since WHN, New York, became the most listened to Country radio station of all time. Radio's future, however, has remained bright because of its core strengths of connectivity with its listeners and its ubiquity. 

Salamon offered up that “we won the Top 40 battle in LA with connectivity and personalities. 10Q's bigger than life local personalities included the Real Don Steele, M. G. Kelly, Jack Armstrong and, on weekends, Scott Shannon. The challenge is for today's personalities to connect with their audiences and for stations to connect in their communities even when they are not listening to the broadcast signal, through social media, events, alliances with organizations and local sports teams and in the metaverse. Each of those air-talent took responsibility for connecting with their audience, because they saw the value of it to themselves and their own careers.” 

“The Radio industry’s greatest challenge is the fact that so many companies are drowning in financial/debt thereby forcing them to operate with a defensive posture rather than an offensive posture” proclaimed Buzz Knight. He continued “Radio desperately needs to operate with an offensive mindset when it comes to areas like: Talent Development and Retention, Innovation and Revenue Generation. The industry should operate in an offensive posture when it comes to messaging within the advertising community. This is NOT the time for the industry to have an inferiority complex.”

“Given the reality of increased competition, and the inability of new launches to achieve a large audience without massive marketing is rare. Which makes it apparent to me that it’s better to invest in what you have than try to launch something new.” Knight continued “If you have big brands and you feed and nurture them, you still have a shot to have a good business. Please don’t take lightly the notion of feeding and nurturing as in today’s competitive climate it is more important than ever to stand out. Marketing is critical now more than ever. You ask your clients to market themselves but if you don’t it looks weak and leads to greater problems such as cume erosion.”

Which begs the question … and if not? “If you have mid-pack lower tier brands your business and audience retention will be challenged more and more every year. The future for those type of brands frightens me as I fear these types of stations will never dig out of their hole.”

Mike Kennedy, a longtime on-air personality and Programmer, as well as Manager, pointed to the power of the radio star. “Catching up and recreating the bond and magic with on-air talent is critical.  I say, and have said for years, that when radio loses that connection, we are done.  I think in the last couple of years the powers-that-be finally saw that eliminating the talent that created the bond with listeners was a mistake.  I could not believe what I was seeing back in the PPM implementation days when the then powers-that-be-thought it'd be a good idea to relieve their stations of the heritage talent because of the new PPM mentality.  I fought like a mad man to keep our talent because, in my opinion, that was the only way we could keep listener loyalty.”  

The legendary programmer noted something that I’ve said in the past and that is that on-air personalities are the one programming element that can’t be easily copied. Kennedy added “We all know that you can get music in many different ways, but local talent is a special asset that needs to be fought for and protected.  And all of a sudden … in the last couple of years … the industry has started to figure that out. I still think that is one of the biggest challenges - fighting for your local talent and nurturing talent.  Obviously, it's not feasible or affordable, in most markets, to have wall to wall local talent, but I sure think it's smart and feasible to have strong anchors in AMD and PMD.” 

“I am personally a music guy and love all kinds of music but when I go to "my" radio I go for the personalities.  I'm not crazy enough to think the youth of today are using radio the same way but sadly they don't know any different because radio made the decision years ago to take that important element away from them. " Can that type of relationship be created again?  I don't know but what I do know is when I listen to my local stations, they spend a hell of a lot of time directing local listeners away from their own product to "personalities" and "talent" being delivered in other forms. So, it seems like the companies believe in the power of talent just not their own in many cases.  I don't want to be perceived as making blanket statements as I know not all companies are the same.” 

Scott Shannon, one of the best-known personalities in America, and recognized for a highly successful career as a programmer, shone a light on one of our problems. That is that we’re not teaching PD’s as we once did. He said “we no longer have the minor leagues to season a program director or a talent. Because of syndication and voice-tracking, there are fewer opportunities for a talent to practice-practice-practice. Just because you are syndicated doesn’t mean that you’re good.”

He continued “That’s not to demean syndication, because a balance of local and syndication works for the ratings, but it eliminates the training ground in smaller markets. Like an athlete, practice makes perfect. We’re not teaching talent what to listen for when listening to a station or talent, ether. We’re not encouraging talent to learn from listening.”

“If you want to blame someone for the mess that radio is in today, it’s Bill Clinton. He pushed for deregulation. That led to consolidation Radio, at its best, is an artform. Little by little the artform has disappeared. That’s one of the things that’s changed because of consolidation.”

Similarly, you can see that other business were deregulated and they contracted, but still focused on customer service, maintaining key employees, and growing their business. Radio’s deregulation hasn’t played out that way.  We used to have plenty of research, which was important to understand your audience, marketing dollars were available to attract an audience. That’s not what we see universally today.

Scott added “Commercial content levels have increased at a time when we’ve never had more competition than we do now. We’re competing with other stations in the market, 100 channels on SiriusXM, Spotify, Pandora and podcasting. Our business isn’t the only business going through this. Other mature businesses are experiencing the same thing. Competition levels for our competitors is going to increase, too. That will further water down all of media as we know if today.”


“The elimination of jobs, and having many employees multitask, is a change that’s helped companies cut costs, but you can’t tell me that a PD can be as effective programming 5 stations as they were when they programmed one. Same for promotion departments. They’re understaffed and underfunded” closed out Shannon’s thoughts on radios problems as they stand today.

When it comes to the future, he noted that the operators in this current wave of ownership aren’t at fault as were the first wave of consolidators. He said “I’m not castigating the people who have bought stations from the early aggregators. They’re doing what they need to do to save an industry. The first wave of aggregators created a lot of the problems that today’s owners are dealing with. Many good people became collateral damage because they were paid a fair salary for their performance. Which someone somewhere decided was too much. For so many companies now, every programming decision becomes one where the monetary factor, is the main factor.”

When it comes to predicting the future of Radio, Mike Kennedy said “The future as we know it? My “gut feel” is that media companies better start reinvesting in their talent on a larger scale. It "feels" like the music battle, and appetite for music, is shrinking so we better think of another option. Like expanding the spoken word on those expensive FM sticks.  Yes, I still call stations sticks. This is certainly a bigger issue than I make of it but maybe it's just time to stop wasting the resources on AM stations that nobody is listening too?  We know that obsolescence happens, so sadly, why not embrace it?  If that can help stop the drain of resources maybe it's an option.  

Kennedy stated “radio companies can quit pretending that they are here to serve the "local" community and provide those "services" they were licensed to do.  We all know that's just not the honest truth.  (There is that brutally honest part). Apps are great.  I love them and use them, but let's use them as an extension of our radio station brands - not the place to go find something else that competes with you.”  

When the question was posed to Ed Salmon as to radio’s ability to ever reach the heights of the past, he pointed a finger at the level of increased competition and the weaknesses of the rating service. “Given the changes in ratings methodology since WHN/NYC became the world’s most listened to country station, it's unlikely that its record will ever be broken. There are more listening platforms available now than only the over the air signal from a broadcast tower. 

Ed said “Radio is more ubiquitous than ever; today nearly everyone constantly carries a "radio" receiver with them as a function of the apps available through multiple smart devices. In addition, "radio" is available on-demand as podcasts, streaming stations and videos. The challenge is measuring all of that listening and properly crediting it as radio.  Better measurement has always been an issue, but it is now worth fighting for more than ever so radio can be monetized as it deserves. That’s what is important for our future.” 

Kennedy added “I'm not smart enough to roll out any mind-blowing remedies for radio. I just know that we got away from what made us successful.  Whether that was greed, the need to use radio cash flow to fund the app game or just the fact of business that when you pay too much for something, you've got to find a way to pay for it, and you end up reducing your best assets.”


There is a big tech effect on on-air personnel. Companies like Apple and Amazon are adding air talent at a time when radio is eliminating them. Why? They know that great talent creates a connection with the audience. They know that it creates day-to-day listening. Radio is going the other way. Some great air talents have left radio to work for the big tech companies. Scott Shannon shared that we all should be “worried that it’s only the beginning of talent defecting.”

The most important thing that these former residents of the Best PD’s In America list agreed on is that radio is still exciting and it has a future that’s stronger than what the naysayers want us to believe. Scott Shannon shared the passion that continues to burn within his soul when he said “I still love getting up in the morning, going into a radio station, and going on the air. The only time I feel bad about still working is when I first wakeup at 3:15 in the morning. Once I’m over the initial rush of being tired, I’m wide awake and eager to get in and get on the air.”

 




 

What Is News and What Is News/Talk
- Mike McVay 


News is fact-based information. News/Talk is opinion about events, policies, and commentary about the news. One is delivered as a part of a news report. The other is presented in-program content. The lines in most listeners minds are blurred. The same could be said for some stations approach to news and news/talk. News and News/Talk, as two different radio formats, are performing oppositely. News has held its own through the pandemic and the aftermath on January 6th. News/Talk has seen erosion in many markets.


The price of gasoline, the state of the economy, a possible recession, gun laws and The United States House Select Committee hearings on the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Those are the topics trending on social media and the hot topics that you’re hearing on Talk Radio and seeing on Cable TV. These topics started as news. The message and debate they created is what we’re hearing on News/Talk radio … often presented in a loud accusatory voice.

The opinions that matter to the audience are the ones that they agree with or that provide a perspective that they’ve not thought about. The news stories that people care the most about are the ones that impact them directly. The average listener is likely more interested in hearing about road construction between work and home than they are about most national stories. They’re talking with friends about the price of gas more so than the January 6th hearings.

The messages and positions taken by national show personalities are frequently echoed by local talent. Which is not the content that local personalities should build a program around. The basis for your show, locally, should be what matters most to the people in your community. That doesn’t mean that you don’t talk about the tragic mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. It does mean that you bring the story home and connect it to your community.

If local personalities aren’t going to do more than echo national talent on topics, then why not simply carry network programs 24/7? That’s not a recommendation, although I do consult several national programs that perform quite well. I’m exaggerating a point to acknowledge that the best news/talk stations understand that their content should be locally focused whenever possible. They have a nice balance of local and national programming. The national shows focus on the bigger picture. The local shows focus on what matters to the people of the community … which is sometimes aligned with the national story.

News/Talk as a format saw a huge decline not long after the 2020 election. There was a “rating pop” around January 6th, but the format has struggled to return to where it was following that. I’m of the opinion that there are three things causing the format to struggle. One is significant burnout by the audience. We’re all tired of people yelling at each other. It happens all the time. It becomes loud and annoying. Some talents have become caricatures of themselves. It’s too easy to turn it off and silence the noise.

Two would be that there isn’t enough variety in content. The same story, over and over, becomes boring. If there’s nothing new, then one can turn off the station, and miss nothing when they turn it on several days later. News happens every day. Something is new every day. Why shouldn’t the perspective or the message be fresh daily? Even if it is an update on a story that is mature, different angles keep the audience engaged. That works for both national and local commentators.


Three is competition. Podcasting is a source of content that is a definite competitor to News/Talk radio. Some listeners went to podcasting and some to streaming aps. Those two options are where they can find an opinion that matches theirs. It’s like standing in Baskin Robbins and picking your favorite flavor of talk from the 31 flavors on the board. Many like living in an echo chamber. It’s limiting, but it has proven successful for some podcasters and many on-air talents.


People want to hear news so that they know what’s going on. They want to hear opinions that match theirs. Two different things. We’re in a world where News is what I get on my phone and opinion is what I get where my favorite personality can be found. The personality that echoes the opinion of the largest audience has the best chance to attract the biggest group of listeners. The talent who connects to their local community most directly likely have the greatest potential appeal to potential listeners.


The bottom-line; Focus on what really matters to your target listener. Understand that what matters to them is what impacts their lives. Know the difference between news and commentary. Don’t present opinion as if it is news. Stop echoing national commentators … unless it matters to your community … at which time you localize the context of the story. Deliver content with various perspectives to keep it fresh. Stop yelling. For the sake of the format, please, stop yelling.

 




 

The Lawyers Ruined Radio
– Mike McVay

Who hasn’t heard the expression “Lawyers ruined radio?” Usually, it is spoken after you’ve been turned down for a promotion that you wanted to execute, the rejection of a talent or seller you wanted to hire, or an appearance that you wanted to execute has been deemed inappropriate for the station. My joke with the corporate attorneys was always “I think that I can handle this. I watch Law & Order, LA Law, The Goodwife and Boston Legal. I got this.” A pun usually answered with a chuckle from the counselor I was meeting with at that moment. 

The legal department is there to protect everyone from themselves. Protecting the contestants, the winner, the radio company, the station employees and participating advertisers. Given the litigious nature of our business, you have to think through every possible aspect of what could go wrong and then account for it or prepare for it. 

I’ve had my share of radio mishaps over the years. WAKY/Louisville sponsored and presented the Wacky Ramblin’ Raft Race every spring. A race of homemade rafts on the Ohio River. We were surprised when someone drowned. We shouldn’t have been. People were duck taping plastic milk jugs together and using them as rafts. A morning talent at KSFM/Sacramento decided to live on a billboard until a certain pro team won a game to snap a losing streak. They fell off the billboard in the middle of the night and shattered both legs. 

Then there are “contests gone bad.” WMYI/Greenville, SC executed the tried and true “Key Song Contest” to giveaway a boat. They didn’t announce that the first key to start the boat won it. They just said “If your key starts the boat, you win it.” All of the keys were cut to start the boat. They gave away more than one boat that day. Similarly, a station that I once consulted in Atlanta gave away 6 Mazda Miata’s. We now make sure the rules say “The first key …”

“Events gone wild” is another favorite of mine. One station that I consulted threw a party to celebrate #1 ratings and #1 sales. A physical fight with punches thrown broke out between sales and programming. So much for esprit de corps. Many remember the Who concert in Cincinnati where 11 people were trampled to death. That was a concert where many stations gave away tickets to contest winners. It’s events like these where an ounce of preparation prevents a pound of problems. 

Contests have to be legal. Claims have to be real. Radio most of the way through the 90s was like the AMC Television show Madmen. Saying the word “chance” seemed to be the icing on a burnt cake and emboldened stations that giveaway chances to win while making them sound as if the prize was actually awarded. Radio stations have been fined for falsehoods around promotions and several have lost their licenses in years past. Not to mention the class action suits against major broadcast companies for presenting group contests without checking the variance in state laws. 

The first contest rules date back to the Communications act of 1934. The Federal Communications Commission “Contest Rule” still applies to television and radio broadcasters and their sponsors. The Contest Rule provides that it is illegal to “predetermine or prearrange” the outcome of a contest or to broadcast a “predetermined or prearranged” contest. That’s the easy-to-understand part. What comes after that can be challenging to follow and a real chore to explain to the audience.

Contest rules need to be detailed specifically. Should show the odds of winning. Need to be presented on-air, online, and have a copy available to the air-talent and at the front desk … if you have a bricks and mortar location.  Contests themselves cannot be a lottery. A lottery is when you have chance, consideration and prize. Consideration means that someone pays or invests a payment or expense to play and potentially win.  

The checklist for contest rules contains the following; Eligibility. Contest or sweepstakes period. How to enter. How to win aka winner selection. Verification of the potential winner. Prize/s. Entry conditions and release from claims. Publicity and the right to use the winners name, likeness and voice. Taxes. Prize awarding/pick-up of prize. General Conditions. Limitations of liability. Disputes. The contestant’s personal information. Sweepstakes results. A hold harmless release. 

Think about what can go wrong and plan for it to prevent it. Once your promotion or event is set in stone, meet with your staff and share the details with them, so that there is no confusion. Be sure that your team knows the dos and don’ts of every contest, promotion and event. Be sure that your employees know that they and their family is not eligible to play. 

The items here are just the tip of the iceberg. We need lawyers, their experience and position, to look out for us and protect us. Their conservative nature is purposeful so that something that was meant to be fun doesn’t turn into something that’s quite the opposite. Please know that I don’t profess to be an attorney. Although as stated, I watch Law & Order, LA Law, The Goodwife and Boston Legal. 

 




 
Let’s Fix Radio or At Least Fix What We Can
– Mike McVay

There is a constant harping within the industry that we need to “fix radio” and we need to do it quickly. The response is usually that “we can’t afford to make the necessary changes.” That retort brings on a discussion about the length of commercial breaks. No one has the stomach to suffer short term financial losses for long-term gains. Local and private owners have the best opportunity to take that pain. Public companies aren’t going to show any more losses than what they’re showing or diminish gains that they’re projecting. 

The most common failure that’s pointed out is that radio plays too many commercials. That’s a point that is inarguable. It’s also not a guaranteed “fix” for radio. If your content (music or spoken word) is poor, if you have weak or no air-talent, if your audio quality sounds inferior, and if your competition sounds noticeably better than your radio station, playing fewer commercials won’t save you. It just means we hear more of your weaknesses. 


Our focus needs to be on those people who use the radio the most. That’s the “low hanging fruit” for radio. Be it your research or a listener advisory panel, respondents need to be users of radio, as those are the people who will participate in a rating survey. They’ve not abandoned radio as a first choice. A radio listener can and will react to what’s on-air. To convert a non-radio listener, or bring back a listener from off, you will need to have a significantly better product than your non-radio competitors and you have to market the stations benefit or uniqueness. 

My intention going forward is to be on satisfying today’s radio listeners first. Stop the erosion. Build Time Spent Listening. Create word of mouth.  Those three objectives are where I think we need to focus our attention. My intentions for podcasters is different. The focus there has to be on attraction to specific podcast episodes in a world that is cluttered and noisy. 

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive to improve radio’s listening experience. To do that we have to play fewer commercials. We need to have better produced sounding commercials that employ high quality production is important, too. Create imaging for your station that reinforces your brand and presents a feeling of fantasy. Great imaging makes a station memorable. Pay attention to your digital stream so that it doesn’t have up-cut commercials and songs. Make sure your online automation doesn’t play the same commercials or PSA’s over and over again or back-to-back.  


Be a part of the community that you’re in. Focus on what’s important to the people in your market and mirror their causes, cares, interests and activities. Track what’s trending in your local community and make that a part of the content you curate. If being local is an advantage, then talk about neighborhoods, local sports teams that include scholastic sports, announce community festivals and own the big events in your community. Radio’s advantage over everything else is local connectivity and the frequency with which you touch your community. 


We’ve long known that if a personality can create a loyal following, it makes the station more resistant to competitors who want to out rate your station. Entertaining personalities can, and should, be considered for all dayparts. Talent who’ve built a following is the one thing that your competition, including those on other platforms like satellite and DSPs, cannot easily beat. They have to disrupt your programming to attract the attention of your followers.   Acknowledge that on-air personalities are important to sales. Endorsements move products, sell services, grow customer bases and provide a warmth or depth to an advertiser’s product that is otherwise lost without a talent embracing it. 

Answer the question; What are you known for as a radio station. Being top-of-mind is important if you want to score in the ratings, but it’s also important to win in the court of public opinion. The radio station that is most visible, providing you have great content, creates word of mouth. Word of mouth is still the #1 way that consumers learn of anything. It may have started with marketing, but when people see that marketing and tell someone about it, it spreads rapidly. Radio has a current day image that is better with listeners while tarnished beyond reality with advertisers. Being everywhere and being seen everywhere helps to overcome the image deficit of the medium. Being better on-air and motivating an audience to engage with an advertiser solves many of radio’s problems. 

If you really want to “Fix Radio” quickly … start by focusing on those who listen to the radio and super serve them. It’s a heavy lift to try to create a new audience by attracting non-radio users. That’s where you focus once the erosion of audience has been stopped. Radio won’t be fixed with that focus, but it’s a start. We have to start somewhere. 

 




 

Because It’s Summer
– Mike McVay

'Cause it's summer. Summertime is here. Yes, it's summer. My time of year. Yes, it's summer. My time of year. – Lyrics to Summer by War 1976. 

There are two approaches to summer, which I want to encourage radio to take advantage of, and to view the season as an opportunity to generate revenue and build an audience. One is using the season to introduce your radio station to new listeners. The other is to own the season as a way to engage an audience and engage advertisers. 

One; using the season to introduce your radio station to new listeners:

Summer, weekend, holidays, vacations and anytime there’s a disruption in a routine, radio stations have a chance to be discovered by listeners to the radio. During the workweek, when listening is habitual, no one has an opportunity or time to search new apps, new channels, or hit seek to find a new radio station. It’s leisure moments when radio users discover new radio stations. They stumble onto new stations when they’re not rushed and that presents an opportunity for radio and personalities. 

This won’t be a popular suggestion, but this is exactly why radio should have air-talent on-air on the weekend and holidays. Even if voice-tracked, pre-recorded or syndicated, be on-air, so that your various talents are showcased. Your station has an opportunity to attract a new listener by hearing something they may like and adopt. Discovery of a new on-air personality, or a personality that’s new to you, or a radio station that you were unaware of, is one of the ways most people find a new radio station. That and word-of-mouth. The latter often comes from discovery a station.

Segueing music without air-talent and using only production and sweepers in place of the connectivity and entertainment that attracts an audience, isn’t the way to convert a listener, and it positions your radio station poorly. Do you want to be “that station” that sounds cold and emotionless? No personality? Not connected to your market? What message does that send to a listener or advertiser?

Two; own the season as a way to engage an audience and engage advertisers:

Most communities have festivals, parades, fairs, circuses, concerts, outdoor movies, sports be they professional or amateur, rib cook-offs, beer fest, community pools open, church events, cultural events and more. The radio station that can attach itself to these events, and own them for the community, increases its chance of converting a listener to one of their own. It also enhances the stations profile in a market which is beneficial in attracting the attention of advertisers and potential advertisers. 

First and foremost, you need to know your market, as “summer” sparks negatives in places like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Tucson. I remember making the suggestion to present the 106 Days of Summer to my then Las Vegas client. They quickly pointed out how summer is not the desired season in the desert as it is in other parts of the country and the world. In their case we focused on activities indoors like big auto, home and design shows. 

The key is to be everywhere and be seen everywhere. There are stations that have branded ice cream trucks with their logos. Believe it or not … some communities still have those. Live on-site broadcasts are not only a revenue generating tactic, but they are a part of what makes a radio station memorable. That is a marketing tactic, too. Local communities have “Splash Parties” where a DJ mixes music poolside.

When a big event comes to a community, like an Air Show, be there and be seen. Do more than have a table with a banner. Big classy. Be big. Make your presence known. Give away premiums that make your station memorable., Be the logoed sunglasses, visors, T-Shirts or koozies. One of the tricks that I regularly recommend is underwriting the T-shirts for security and the workers at an event. If the event is for a non-profit … underwrite the shirt … and put your logo on the sleeve or a less high-profile location. Somewhere that it will be seen, but not larger than the events logo. 

Create fun imaging for on-air. Do things like announce your station as the official station of summer.  It’s self-proclaimed, but it’s meant as a fun liner. We need to have more fun on-air. Do it with what you write and produce. It’s always fun to be tongue-in-cheek and claim to be the station that “Rocks the Rivers, Shakes the Lakes and Parties at the Pool.” I’m confident that many of you can write much more creatively and develop something more special for your station. It’s not intended to be credible. It’s intended to be memorable and fun.

Here's to a great summer. Own it.

 




 

The Era of Self-Curation
– Mike McVay

We’re living in a world where everything is like Build a Bear. You know that store you find in strip malls and indoor malls where you can construct a stuffed animal in whatever fashion you want? If you have kids, you know it, as children can spy the store a mile away. The parts are all basically the same, but how you assemble them is what makes them look unique. How you’ll view them for as long as you have them is based on how you made them. In a lot of ways, radio is like that. 

Building your own isn’t specific to stuffed animals. There are Build Your Own salads, sundaes, pizzas, and more for food. Construction has DIY’ers for Do-It-Yourself types. Lots of Build Your Own projects exist. Log Homes, Build Your Own for Apps, Luxury Cars, Eco friendly toys … and of course … your own Information and Entertainment experience. Self-curation is where we are as an era today. People are creating their own news channels, their own sports networks and their own music services. 

Talk about build-your-own … Amazon’s new ‘live radio’ App labeled AMP, let’s you play DJ with music and call-ins. No one wants to be in “radio” except most everyone who isn’t. A part of the reason that there are so many podcasts “out there” is that so many DIY’ers are creating and posting their own podcasts. The Anchor App turns the average person’s smart phone into a studio and provides an upload link as well as becomes a distribution platform. 

Social media has always been a way to communicate, but it’s become much more attractive of late because it gives voice to everyone that’s part of a platform. The benefit of self-curation is that you don’t have to participate in anything that is uninteresting or unattractive to you. The Algorithm kicks in and the type of news you regularly search for starts to come up without searching. Talk about instant gratification. It’s customization on steroids. 

Because I personally avoid most political news, because it’s too much like work, I don’t see much in the way of “my sides right and your sides wrong” stories. I am a fan of news, and so I do see what’s trending as it is delivered to my phone. I’m not seeing the hate stuff. Because I am an NFL and MLB fan, I’m seeing the trending sports stories all day every day. Many are taking advantage of self-curation, Get the news, sports and weather when you want, how you want. The bad news is that such self-curation means that I may be missing whatever isn’t a part of my interest-set and I could be missing stories that would be of interest to me … if I knew about them. 


This points to the weakness in the strength that the Internet and social media provide in the way of news, weather and sports. News/Talk and Sport stations can take advantage of this slim opportunity by promoting and providing consistently fresh and new information at a set time where the listener can make an appointment to hear whatever it is that’s being provided. “What are you missing” should be the question you promote to an audience that is curious as to what they might have missed. 


The information service from Spectrum Cable is branded as Spectrum News. They present “Weather on the Ones” on their Spectrum News 1 channel. Being predictable, in this case, is a positive. Well known legendary News Programmer Harvey Nagler is credited with having invented the slogans “Traffic and Weather Together on the 1’s” … and the same … “on the 8’s” for 1010WINS and 880WCBS, respectively. You know what you’re going to get, when and where to get it, because you’re told where and when to find it.  Sports stations that update the hottest stories three times an hour … and tout “20/20 Updates” … build great repeat tune-in. Encourage the audience to make an appointment. 


Radio content curators, marketers and talent should focus on creating FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out is the key to increasing time spent listening for spoken word stations, and to a lesser degree, for music stations. The latter is dependent on the talent to create FOMO as there’s little that can be done musically that would surprise anyone. It’s going to have to be the personalities that perform at a high level to encourage repeat tune-in. 

Given that we cannot compete with the DSPs in regard to music quantity, and we’re not competing with them in regard to music discovery, we have to shift the paradigm of more-music-less-talk and begin to encourage every talent on every program to “put on a show” that compliments the stations culture and audience profile. Given that what’s trending on social media is open and public, you have an identified source, where you can find the hot topics to share on-air. 

If you can provide the listener with entertaining bytes and pieces of information, that they may not be getting from social media, you may be able to give the casual listener a reason to spend more time with your station. If you can create special reasons for a listener to set an appointment to listen, you may be able to convert a P3 or P2 to a P1 listener. Key word, by the way, is “may.” 

The content has to be of interest to the target audience if they’re going to invest any time with the station. Cannot phone-it-in. The talent has to be invested in knowing their market and their audience. That’s more difficult if the talents are voice-tracked or syndicated. You have to feed remote or pre-recorded talent content that’s appropriate for your market. Help them help you. “Don’t flick a switch and walk away.”


The weakness in self-curation is the predictability that comes from knowing what’s in your profile. My music tastes are extreme. All types of music are in my library. When I fly, I listen to the music I’ve loaded into my smart phone. Even though those songs are my favorites, they can be predictable and that’s boring. That’s when I search for an online feed of a radio station or I go to a DSP and click on a channel that fits my mood. When I want real variety, I go to a podcast hosted by a personality that I like. 

The point being that everyone is living in and a part of the Era of Self-Curation. Niche media satisfies that need. Mass media drives niche media. The only way niche media becomes bigger is when it uses the mass media platform. Think “Netflix” “Prime” “Apple TV.” They were an app until Smart TV’s and the Amazon Firestick came along. 


Radio doesn’t have the same luxury as an OTA product. Radio has to be smarter by becoming dependable for information, entertainment and engaging content. Never miss the news, weather, or traffic. Not a slogan. A benefit to present as a promise. Deliver on the promises you make to the audience. Invest in talent who can create FOMO for the audience. Set appointments for service elements, entertainment features and sticky content. Radio needs to capitalize on its reach. 

Make our predictability a benefit. When you turn on your favorite station, you know what to expect, but not exactly what you’ll hear. 

 




 


  
Rose Colored Glasses
– Mike McVay

Following a couple weeks of articles, from me and others, acknowledging the challenges that radio faces, it seems to me that we need to put on some “rose-colored glasses” for a moment and look at the other side of radios dilemma. Definition of rose-colored glasses; favorably disposed opinions: optimistic eyes view the world through rose-colored glasses. 


We can “gee, ain’t it bad” all day long, but that changes nothing. Many of my articles prompt responses from individuals using fabricated names who take issue with something I’ve written, and they bemoan that radio is not what it used to be, and it will never be what it was. They’re right. Many of their opinions are true, unvarnished criticisms that assess the erosion of radio. What isn’t being pointed out is the many positives of our business, the services we provide, and what vacuum would be created if radio went away.


Until someone is willing to lower their commercial load and charge more for messages, the over commercialization of radio will continue. It doesn’t appear as if anyone has the financial ability or fortitude to suffer short term losses for what could be long-term gains. Radio hasn’t bled bad enough yet, to bite the bullet, and take that step. 


We can talk about giving more accountability to local markets, providing more coaching to talent, do more in the way of research with your audience, and promote & market aggressively.  Until we stop talking about it and do it, we won’t see change. So, let’s leave that there, filed away for a future discussion when people are finally ready, and do more of what we know the audience wants from us that we can do now and that we do well.  


Radio provides localized information. Even in markets where there are voice-tracked and network/syndicated talent. If executed properly, and talent are prepped, you can be connected to your community. Informationally, social media is faster, and sometimes as accurate as radio, but the smart broadcasters aggregate social media and report on what’s trending locally.


Radio entertains. That comes from the music we play, the talk content we present, and the personalities who entertain. The march of time continues to magnify the need for engaging, entertaining, informed and memorable personalities who can attract an audience daily. In many markets, on-air talent are seen as local celebrities, and have an advantage if they are in-market can entertain and connect at a high level. 


During the pandemic, we heard of stations losing 40% of their revenue, except in many smaller markets where many stayed flat and a significant number of stations showed revenue growth. Their growth came because of local buying and because of relationships. Radio sells services, products, materials, health, wealth and hope. We move whatever the advertiser wants to move and in many ways smaller market radio has become akin to the community newspaper. Radio does that well. 

Radio has great reach. It isn’t what it once was. It never will be back at former levels. Too much competition. Radio has 85% of the USA listening every week. That’s less than in the past, but it still has reach beyond every other medium. It won’t erode quickly, but it will continue to erode. As will all media.

Radio has portability and is ubiquitous. It can be found everywhere. Over the air, online, on smart speakers, smart phones, on aggregated apps and individual station apps. Radio is mostly convenient. “Mostly convenient” are the specific words I use here as, in newer vehicles, it takes some discovery to find the radio hidden deeply in a smart dash. This, as Jacobs Media pointed out in their recent Tech Survey, is why apps have resurfaced as important for broadcasters. People with in-auto Bluetooth listen to what they want, when they want, on their phone. That includes listening to radio. If they have a radio station app, they can simply tap the app on their phone, and the station comes through their radio speakers. Forget that they could just turn on the radio. That’s not convenient enough and it isn’t a developed habit among the younger listener. 

Despite all the changes in the last decade in how Americans access music, AM/FM radio is still the most cost-effective advertising medium today. It's an inexpensive way to reach your existing and potential customers. There are three big variables you want to control when scheduling radio ads: reach, frequency, and consistency. When it comes to music discovery, albeit less important than it once was, it’s in a dead heat with the DSP’s and is the difference between a song being a hit and not. Radio remains the greater driver of creating stars and making hits. 

We cannot forget that Companionship is the #1 reason people listen to the radio. That dates back many years to when people listened to music on AM Radio. Radio provides companionship. It’s something we do well. It is something that we can capitalize on without those rose-colored glasses. 

What Radio Does Well:

Delivers local information.
Connects to a community.
Entertains, informs, and engages using personalities.
Sells products, services, materials, health, wealth, fantasy and more.
Makes hits.
Provides convenience.
Is a companion.

 

The Era of Vintage
– Mike McVay

Retro fashions are the rage. During the recent Met Gala Kim Kardashian wore the dress that Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang Happy Birthday to then President John Kennedy. Versace, Louis, and Gucci vintage dresses adorned Billie Eilish, Emma Stone, and Emily Ratajkowski, to name a few. Walk into Williams Sonoma and you’ll see replica blenders, toasters and coffee percolators reminiscent of the 1950s. Classic Cars and Scooters, an Indian Flathead Twin Motorcycle, Classic Art, Vintage Furniture, of course Vinyl and now there seems to be some excitement building for vintage VHS videos. Could radio be next?

Classic Rock welcomed more stations to the format in the past two years than anyone of other than the Contemporary Christian Music format. Classic Hits and Classic Rock have shown the most audience growth at a time when many other formats are losing audience. Go to a bar on Trivia Night and you see thirty-somethings and forty-somethings playing “name the oldie” and answering trivia questions from a time before they were born. Clubs playing 80s and 90s music attract an audience as young as college age. 

There’s something special about all things before your time that screams out that you’re genuine, worldly, deeper than others, respectful of high quality and you are refined. Maybe it’s not that at all and you like to hear your favorite songs because of memories and the most favorite periods of your life. It could be that music on those formats evoke memories or that they’re simply fun to listen to. Whatever the emotion … gold formats are surging. That includes Urban Oldies, Classic HipHop, Classic Country, Oldies Based AC and the aforementioned Classic Rock and Classic Hits.

Check the ratings in the Top-25 markets. Classic Rock or Classic Hits is near the top of the ratings in every market. Yet, many broadcasters avoid the format thinking that the audience is too old. Yet these stations carry the 25-54 age group because of the 45-54 cell. You think that’s old? Hit pause on that thought. Today’s 45-year-old isn’t their parents 45-year-old. They’re more contemporary, youthful, health conscious, have young children at home because they had them later in life, and they’re leading active lives. Then shift your focus for a moment on radio as a platform.  The use of radio by those under 35 is greatly diminished in most markets. Yet the Retro or Vintage fad has captured the interest of those as young as 25. 

Capitalize on this slice of culture by becoming engaged with concerts, club events, activities in your community that scream vintage. Tie-in to experiential events that introduce the community to music from cover bands of the classic artists. Be creative. Challenge your staff to come up with ideas that can be fun for the listener that might even generate revenue. Can you imagine a bracket for a trivia night at a club? These are the things that connect a station to a community and an audience. 

An important key to taking advantage of the classic era as it rolls out is to not sound like an oldies station. You want to sound like a Today station. You want to be contemporary. The air-talent for any station that plays non-current music needs to provide entertainment and content that reinforces that if you listen to the station, you won’t miss what’s important in the world. Radio Stars can create day to day tune-in. Think about it. If the audience doesn’t have the fear of missing out, and there are no new current music surprises, then you’ve failed to create habitual listening. 

Think about it. If we’re living in a world where people are willing to use a pencil to rewind a VHS tape, which they appear to be, then maybe radio can capitalize on the dawn of the Vintage Era. Maybe the convenience of radio can grow listening levels by playing to the audience’s desire to hear music that makes you feel good. If Vinyl Is back, could radio be back?

Five Takeaways for Classic Formatted Stations 
Don’t live in the past. Be a “Today” radio station that just happens to play songs from the past. That means personalities that present topical content that your audience is interested in and connect to the community. 

Don’t dwell on memories. Your memories are your memories. Don’t influence my memories with your stories as they may not be anywhere close to being my stories. Never say “Back in (year) as that audio note makes someone who was there feel old and isn’t relatable to the person who doesn’t have a memory from then.

Take advantage of the Vintage fad by becoming engaged with trivia nights, 80s/90s nights at clubs, concerts that feature the artists whose music you play, and be creative in developing fun events that take advantage of the feeling the music creates.

The music matters. The music you play has to be music that the audience can sing along with which serves to create an atmosphere that is stress-free. Be proud of the songs on your station. Sound proud. Embrace the artists. 

Radio Stars, on-air personalities, are needed to build day-to-day tune-in. The reason winning stations in the Classic Rock or Classic Hits formats do well is that they have personalities that put on engaging programs that transcend the music. You need more than a personality morning show. The entire station needs to sound like fun and that starts with air-talent. 
 





 
 

The Disruptors
– Mike McVay

Disruption is nothing new to radio. Once a dynamic disruptor itself, the medium has been under attack for years, mostly since the mid-90s when the Internet invaded homes on a larger scale. There were early disruptors to radio. Anything that takes away Time Spent Listening is a disruptor. 

The challenges we’ve faced have included radio attacking itself when FM first took off with Album Oriented Rock in the late 60s and early 70s, the arrival of the 8 Track Player, Cassette Tape Players, the spread of CB Radios driven by the movie “Smokey and the Bandit”, CD Players, the iPod, DAT (Digital Audio Tape) and Napster. They all came before today’s biggest disruptors, including DSP’s, social media, Smart Phones, Smart Speakers and Connected Cars.

Most newly launched product lines know that they have to be a disruptor if they’re to be successful. You have to find consumers (an audience) somewhere. It’s been a longtime since radio can claim to be a disruptor.  This is especially true for newly launched radio stations, as well as those that change radio formats, launch new radio shows and use new delivery platforms for audio that originates as an extension of the radio broadcast. Don’t get me wrong. You should be able to be heard on as many extensions as possible. You have to acknowledge reality, though. These efforts are only a disruption if they change the listening habits of your competitor’s audience. Given the world we’re competing in, it is likely that such growth would come from moving into an uncontested area.  Which should be an area where you can dominate.  There’s no value in winning something small.

We’re starting to see digital disruptors experience what radio has experienced before them. Increased competition, along with negative economic factors, is placing a premium on choice. Where do you want to spend your money? Netflix is the obvious example that everyone points to as an example of rapid loss of audience. While they have significantly more streaming competitors than in previous years, and there is a question about their content being sticky, you have to also consider that they increased the monthly rate for Netflix Premium to $19.99 on January 1st.  This at a time when traditional video media are heavily promoting their digital streams and legacy digital competitors have turned up the heat by presenting great content. Peacock Premium is $4.99 per/month. Paramount+ is $9.99 per/month. Shift to audio. Amazon Music starts at $3.99 per/month. A subscription from Spotify costs $9.99 while Pandora charges $4.99 per/month for the most basic service. 

The value proposition for radio is different. Radio is free. That’s a great advantage. Why then are we not slowing the loss of listeners, nor are we withstanding the disruption from many different pay entertainment outlets that focus on audio.  We’re losing time spent.  We don’t have the pandemic to blame. Listening levels have been showing a moderate return to pre-pandemic levels. Which, by the way, even during the pandemic … someone was number one. The answer is that we’re doing very little different in regard to what content we create and in how we deliver it. It’s hard to understand why anyone would expect a different outcome when they do nothing different.

That’s not to say that there aren’t exceptions. We’re seeing the significant growth of multi-person afternoon programs joining long-running shows like The Men’s Room on KISW/Seattle. Q99-7/Atlanta has Jade & Moe in the afternoon and Elliot & Nina at night. KLOS/Los Angeles has Kevin & Sluggo in the afternoon. Two-person afternoon shows aren’t new, but they’re becoming more common. That shows the acknowledgment of the strength that personalities bring to the table. Some stations are repeating an hour or two of their morning show in the afternoon to capture the second shift worker or that listener who missed the morning show. Most morning shows are also on-demand, but it’s not as convenient as turning on the radio and searching out the on-demand program. Convenience counts.

The low hanging fruit seems to be to attack radio competitors and take audience from them. We’re not trying to grow an audience from “Off” and we’re doing very little to attract an audience younger than 35. Most stations have added digital distribution that enables a listener to hear their content online, on smart speakers, on apps and on multiple audio platforms. Unless we improve the listening experience, unless the product is improved, unless we tell the community about our product, there’s no reason to believe greater distribution will deliver more audience. We need to try a new approach.

Caution; just because something is new does not guarantee that it will be successful, but you have to be prepared for failure, as it is a part of experimentation. I’ve tried some heady things in the past and been ridiculed for them. I’ve also enjoyed success in working with really talented people and turning what they do into a winner. My experience is that anything new scares people, and that brings ridicule, unless it shows signs of success. In that case everyone steals the idea. The lemmings start running for the cliff.

Be connected to the market and keep your audience informed about what’s going on in the community. Stand out in the crowd by being unique within your market. Entertain and/or inform at a high level. If you’re a music station, you have to do more than play music. If you’re a News/Talk station, drive time shows need to tell the audience a little bit about a lot of things. If you’re non-drive, then drill down and get to the crux of the hottest topics, and be memorable in doing it. 

Try something new. Be thoughtful about it, but think about it, and do something that has the potential to attract an audience. Like multiple-talent programs outside of morning drive. Can you afford to eliminate all commercials from the stream of your show and cover the stop-sets with another song or different content. That is, use your stream as Disney uses Disney+. It’s that “something extra.” Admittedly it costs you Total Line Reporting status, so you need to determine if its elimination lowers your ratings. When it comes to podcasting, do more than copy your show and post it. Add content to the podcast that isn’t on-air and that makes the podcast premium. 

Not everything will show success. Smell-O-Vision was a system that released odor in movie theatres during the projection of a film so that the viewer could "smell" what was happening in the movie. The technique was created by Hans Laube and made its only appearance in the 1960 film Scent of Mystery, produced by Mike Todd Jr., son of film producer Mike Todd. That’s an idea that I wouldn’t try again. Although those amusement rides that splash water on your face always catch me by surprise. 

Radio’s only hope for a real and true regrowth of audience is to improve its programming by trying new approaches to entertainment and information while taking advantage of all of the distribution platforms that are available. Be everywhere. Be heard everywhere. Be seen everywhere. Radio, regardless of where you hear it, has to be ubiquitous. Breakout of maintenance mode. Get engaged with the audience. Stand for something. Mean something to your audience and your community.

A day will come when some broadcaster will stop competing on the same level as everyone else and raise the bar by becoming a disruptor to more than just radio. They’ll experiment with lower commercial loads and higher rates. Talent that entertains and puts on a “show.” Radio stars in all dayparts that know how to deliver engaging content. Production and imaging that’s appropriate for today’s audience in a creative way that doesn’t sound like “the same old radio stuff.” Promotions that are fun to play along with and prizes that are experiential. Music, if you’re a music station and content if you’re a talk station, that’s been researched to satisfy the target audience. That becomes your foundation on which to build, but it cannot end there. You can’t play the same songs over and over or make your talk show a repeat of the show from the day before and the day before that and expect to keep an audience.


A day will come. Sooner or later … 





 

 
Continuing Education
– Mike McVay

“If you want to learn … you learn.” It’s appropriate that as we approach Mother’s Day, I quote my mother, who said that to me on many an evening when I sat at the kitchen table doing my homework. It is that upbringing that led to me attending every conference I can and to listen to others as a student. It’s true that I speak or participate in sessions at many of them, but my passion is to hear what others think. In our industry there are many opportunities to learn. Radio Ink Forecast, Country Radio Seminar, The All Access Audio Summit, Morning Show Bootcamp, Talkers and the big one … the NAB. 

This most recent NAB, the first in-person for the group since fall 2019, reinforced how good it feels to be together in-person and to have the ability to stop in hallways and reconnect, as well as visit exhibits and see what new developments were designed and released since we were last together in the grand hall. It also presented a cornucopia of lessons to learn … if you want to learn.

My Takeaways:

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel believes strongly in the power of local radio. What qualifies as local radio is arguable these days with more and more stations eliminating local talent in favor of voice tracking and/or syndication. That means, as I’ve written in the past, you need to make a conscious effort to localize your content and service elements, if you’re using syndication. Syndicated talent should be delivering not only imaging lines for you to use on air, but reenforcing your promotions, sharing content of concern to your community and serve the local community.
Veritone shared with attendees Voice-to-Voice, which enables a personality to clone their voice, which will allow talent to do exactly what I noted above. By creating a voice twin, personalities at the national syndication/network level can be as localized as any affiliate wants, and stations can have major talent update content daily.
Entertainer, syndicated radio personality & TV host and media maven Nick Cannon shared little known stories about the talent that he’s found along the way. He refused to use the word discovered and instead said he was “lucky enough to meet and get to know” … of which the names included a 15-year-old Pete Davidson. He shared similar stories of others, but only when asked. Two takeaways there are that we should always be open to talking to everyone as we never know where the next star is coming from and we don’t discover someone. We were lucky to meet them. Memorable from Cannon was the quote “Definition of ‘Entrepreneur:’ Someone who jumps out of the window and on the way down figures out how to land.”
Jacobs Media’s Fred and Paul Jacobs participated in one of three panels discussing the Connected Car. The need to keep radio on the center stack, and to be a part of the “Screenification” of the car is critical to remain among the choices the audience has available to them. Key words here, which are mine, is to remain among the choices. We’re losing dominance as more choices are introduced into Smart Cars. Position in the center stack is important, having people use your radio station is dependent on having attractive content, or where you are won’t matter. It isn’t radios’ birthright to have an audience. It has to be earned.  
Interviewing All Access Founder and Owner, Joel Denver shared that he believes radio needs to look at how it has allowed other medium to take audience, because we’re not investing in the product and not focusing on providing the audience with variety. We’re not spending enough time on our product to know what the audience shows that they want. Invest in product. 
The Alliance for Women in Media breakfast had several strong and poignant takeaways. Proud to be on the Board of the Directors for the Foundation of the organization, I found this panel was one of the most interesting that I viewed, and had the most diversity of opinions. The conversation centered on Maintaining Media Relevance. Panelists included Premiere’s President Julie Talbott, Audacy SVP Digital Tim Clarke, Marian Pittman EVP of Content, Production & Innovation at Cox Media Group, and Jayne Bussman-Wise, Creator Acquisition & Growth at AMP, which is owned by Amazon. It was clear that while some broadcasters are embracing social media and digital technology, others are approaching it cautiously. One comment that resonated with me came from Bussman-Wise, who as a pureplay digital executive said that “just because you’re good on TikTok doesn’t mean that you’re going to be good on the radio.” 
The Broadcast Foundation of America Breakfast is always a “must attend” as it not only acknowledges and awards the best of the business, it is a fund-raising event for the foundation which helps broadcasters in need. The takeaway for me from this particular event? That Bryon Allen, media mogul who owns Entertainment Studios which includes among other businesses The Weather Channel, may be the most dynamic and entertaining CEO in media. 


The NAB focused specifically on many areas for radio, including the future. There was little or no sugarcoating. Radio has many competitors. Continuing to do what we’ve been doing, in a business that is seeing erosion of audience and revenue, requires strength and a commitment to super serve the audience and advertiser. There was much to be learned.


 

Embracing The Rich New Media Environment
– Mike McVay

We are living in a media rich environment. We have been for decades. Becoming richer every year as time goes on. Technological advances change how we entertain and inform ourselves. Those mediums that employ more senses create a greater experience for the listener or viewer. The noise level increases each year with more competition. That’s been a constant since electronic media first launched more than 100 years ago. It stands to reason that entertainment and information platforms will go through the lifecycle of all products.  Introduction, Trial, Adoption, Growth, Maturation and … without evolution … decline.  Where radio is today warrants, maybe even requires, evolution. 

If you’ve been around for a while, you start to see a repetitive cycle of change come into view. One that shifts where an industry is and that prompts evolution. If not, it results in extinction. Every couple year’s we hear of the impending death of radio. I was on a plane thirty years ago when the person beside me asked what I was going to do in ten years when radio was dead. This person was a fan of AOL and excited about the infancy of the internet. That’s the same kind of person on a different flight who claimed to me that the CD would end radio as we know it. The iPod was next, Satellite Radio, Apple Music, DSP’s, Smart Speakers, Podcasts, TikTok, Clubhouse, and Amazon recently launched AMP, which is sure to be a disruptor. Looking around the corner is something called The Metaverse. 

The list of threats to radio is long. It stands to reason that the list will continue to grow as more new inventions, developments, programs and competitors for the audiences’ time mounts up. These threats are not unique to radio. They’re threatening all forms of media. The more competitors in a category, the shorter the lifecycle for the product once it hits maturity. The ever-increasing speed of the lifecycle is why we just saw CNN+ launch and end before many of us had a chance to login to the app store. 

Netflix, for the first time, showed a backslide on subscribers. The analysts are suggesting that one of Netflix’s issues, which is nowhere near going out of business, is that family members are sharing usernames and passwords with individuals outside the family, people are going back to work post-pandemic, and daily habits are changing. I’m sure that the causes they point to are true. What they’re not bellowing about, but one would think aware of, is increased competition and content that isn’t competition proof. The world is reopening and we’re starting to see time poverty reenter our lives. 

All of the major Television networks have subscriptions services. The same for the major movie studios. Many of them also own television networks, cable companies, internet companies and mobile phone companies.  There is a significant number of independent providers who vie for our time, too. Think about how your lives have changed now that many employers have revoked “Work from Home” in favor of bricks and mortar business. A return to work is a benefit to radio and we’re starting to see that in the ratings. 

Then comes the cost of competition to the consumer. Not everyone can afford 5 or 10 subs at $4.99 to $9.99 a month. That’s where content really matters. If I’m going to pay for it, the content better be good. When Ozark is split into two shorter series versus running them together as one longer series, it prompts cancellations, and then renewing when the show comes back. NBC has been brilliant in how they’re handling This Is Us in its final season with 18 episodes. Yellowstone had 10 episodes. It left me wanting more, but I don’t know when I’ll be back to Paramount.  If it’s good, it’s worth more. The radio example being those stations that repurpose the morning show, or parts of the morning show, into afternoons or evenings. 

All of this leads back to where radio is today warranting, maybe even requiring, evolution. We have to stop living in the past. We have to stop complaining about things not being as good as they once were. Times have changed. Times are always changing. Our radio stations need to be fluid and we as operators, managers, revenue generators, marketers, engineers, promotors and talent need to be fluid. 

AQH will continue to erode as there are more and more competitors for the audience’s time. That is unless your station can be so dynamic and so attractive that you take audience off the table of your competitor. Your content has to be the absolute best it can be, whether it’s live and local, syndicated, time shifted or voice-tracked. Stop-sets are too long. They should be less than half as long as they are now. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. All the more reason your content needs to be dynamic and attractive. We should be measured against enriched entertainment that is taking our audience away.

We need to embrace the environment in which our stations are heard. Smart Speakers, Amazon Echo and Google Home, brought radio back into the home and the workplace. Enhance each occasion of listening on a smart speaker with a gateway welcome and farewell message. Making your radio the source of entertainment and information on-demand, be it via podcast, the stations website or an app, allows the listener to time-shift your station. We are living in an on-demand world. Embrace it and take advantage of it. Be on as many apps as you can be on, unless you can own a dominant app, which then allows you to be exclusive.

Entertain where the audience uses radio the most. That means in-car. Jacobs Media has done a spectacular job as advocates for the industry in working with radio, the NAB and auto manufacturers in the battle to keep radio in the center stack. They’ve shown through their research that the connected car is the battlefield. Radio has to employ more than the sense of sound if we’re to have any advantage over the flood of content that is on the listeners smart phone … which in many cars connects automatically via Bluetooth when you enter your vehicle. 

We cannot take an ostrich-like approach to in-car competition. A recent article targeting management in radio suggested the elimination of all messaging on the RDS display on the car radio, except for the station’s name/call-letters and frequency. The reasoning was that it is a distraction to the driver and it makes it difficult to remember and retain the station that’s being heard.  Admittedly, if you’re in an older vehicle that has an RDS that looks like a news ticker in Times Square, then you should avoid clutter and make your message short.  It is also true that frequency is important as 85% of rating diary entries include the frequency. It’s also true that 100% of all radios have the frequency prominently displayed on them.   

For everyone else, recognize that we’re living in a world where one can put their text messages on the entertainment screen in their car, play music videos that accompany digital entertainment, play from the phone, view constant GPS to get to their destination while seeing what eateries are nearby. These can be distractions to the driver, but they can also be lifesavers, a connection to the people and places we love.

Quu is a new digital company that’s combining audio and visual to enhance the in-car radio experience for advertisers and listeners. This provides a way to enrich the listening experience in your car, enable greater connectivity with a station and a community, provide additional value for an advertiser and enable radio to use more than one sense. You can expect that the metaverse will be an even greater distraction for the audience. Don’t fight it. Fix what we have and be ready to embrace what’s next. 


 

Connectivity
– Mike McVay

Building audience loyalty because of your connection to a market, is the difference between weathering an attack by a competitor, or losing because the listener feels they’ll miss nothing if they listen elsewhere. That connectivity to a market, and to those things that an audience cares about, provides and advantage over out-of-market shows that haven’t customized their content for a local market. It provides an element of information that a DSP cannot deliver. That connection is at the root of why someone turns away from their self-curated digital music library and return to OTA Radio, even if for a short period of time. 

When I programmed back in the day in Los Angeles, which admittedly was a long time ago, I was initially convinced that you couldn’t be hyper local. That is because I wrongly assumed that a city as big as LA is too large to relate to the audience in a meaningful way as you would in a smaller market. What changed my thinking was hearing KIIS Morning Stars Rick Dees and Ellen K talking about someone who was selling furniture at a gas station on a corner on La Cienega. That one break shifted my thinking. I realized that the point of the connection is about it being relatable and imaginable. If it’s something that most people have experienced, then it’s relatable, and that makes it imaginable. 

There is a significant number of air-talent who voice-track programs from out-of-market. Some do it really well while others handle it as if it’s a chore. Check-off-the-boxes. Done. Next. Done. The latter are those that are poor performers. The successful are those that do research on a market, visit websites for information about what’s happening in a community, and visit the stations website. They put time into show prep to deliver more than national or universal stories.  There are local on-air personalities that put in less show prep time than some voice tracked talents for the markets that their heard on. Which is a sad statement to write. 

One of my biggest complaints, as a former corporate programmer, was the occasional sabotage by a local program director who didn’t want to see a syndicated or network show succeed. They would “flip a switch” and walk away. No localized content voiced by the network personality, no cross-promotion into other dayparts, no promotion of the network show on their station. All things that many syndicated and network talent will do for a station. Just ask. Sidenote; the sabotage by some corporate programmers on local stations is a topic being worked on for a future article. 

The majority of network programs, including those with some of the biggest talent, regularly record content for local stations and deliver it to them for their on-air use. Syndicated personalities will record content that promotes your local promotions. They’ll talk about other dayparts and shows on your station. Many will also read sponsor endorsements, if that’s been negotiated into the agreement you have with their program. You should customize your promotional content and send scripts to the syndicator for the talent. Receive it back and use it. Freshening it regularly.

Show prep, that goes beyond national content, should be required of all talent, in-market or out-of-market, before they ever walk into the studio. What’s trending on social media for your community? What’s been in the news locally that everyone is talking about? What things are locally universal that warrants mentioning on-air? What is of interest that’s closest to home for your audience? That could be spring break, a high school championship, a new shopping center being constructed, the closure of a gas station or the approval of a new housing development to be built. People care most about what impacts their lives.

Local connectivity can be programmed into your station. Inform local and voice-track talent of the same station events, activities and promotions. Assign to your talent various categories of events and information to research and gather information on, which will be shared within your cluster. Meaning, one talent is responsible for local news, one for sports, one for entertainment events, one that covers the schools, and so on. All of that information goes into a Google Doc weekly. All talent then has one place to find information that helps them connect to the community … in addition to the prep they do on their own. Internal collaboration for collecting and delivering content aids in managing connectivity.

I know that the station is winning when I hear a show calling out a local gas station that’s gouging, or another that’s lowered their prices, a discussion of a new Amazon distribution center coming to town, and talk about a pedestrian bridge being built across the highway.  The on-air personality who can mention new graffiti that’s been painted on a water tower … is one who is connected to their community.

The shows that put in the extra time to be locally connected to a community, to focus on entertaining, informing and engaging with an audience, seem to do better than those who are only marginally connected or disconnected. The best part about encouraging connectivity as part of your matrix for success is that it’s inexpensive. It does however require a religious-like commitment. 


 

Podcast: Radio Flyer


Mike joins Freddy Rivera's "Radio Flyer" podcast to share some wisdom and his outlook on today's radio and talent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Letterman on Entertaining
– Mike McVay

Late Night on NBC, now hosted by Seth Meyers, recently celebrated its’ 40th Anniversary by inviting back the original host of the program, David Letterman. I made sure to record the program as I felt sure that there would be valuable lessons to share with on-air personalities and with content creators. I wasn’t disappointed. Letterman shared stories, showed his vulnerabilities and fears when he first launched the program, and talked about how the program grew and evolved during his years from its inception on NBC in 1982 to his departure to CBS in 1993.  

The episode was an immediate lesson in show biz. Letterman walked out, faced the audience and acknowledged them, waved to the band, to the stage crew, embraced Meyers, and then … without ever turning his back to the audience … went up the steps to the desk and chairs and found his seat. Doubtful that many noticed it, but he approached the stage forward facing, and immediately owned the set. The man was ever conscious of the audience. 

Letterman shared that he’d flopped the year before Late Night started. He had hosted a daytime 90-minute talk show, which failed because it wasn’t right for that time of day. He sat out for a little more than a year before NBC pitched him the Late Night concept. He focused on what he felt he’d done well, which was to live on the edge, and play fun & games like morning radio shows played. Letterman clearly took much from radio. Including the regular conversations that he had with his mother. He shared that he started because he was once driving to work and heard Howard Stern talking to his mother on the radio. Proving once again the famous line “Amateurs borrow and professionals steal.”

The former host of the program shared how the show started, how it evolved and that ultimately how his departure helped the show to grow. He was an appreciative guest of Meyers. He complimented Seth and showed his respect for the host of the program. Letterman acknowledged the band and how great it was to be around live music. All while staying in character. 

Letterman is a good story teller. He shared a story about his son, Harry, and how as a now 18-year-old he not only doesn’t watch his father’s old programs, he barely wants to be around his father. Which is a window into the lives of most parents who have 18-year-olds. Letterman was prepared and armed with a variety of stories that he could use, if needed, as needed. 

Dave’s approach to the interview was a lesson in being understated as he delivered subtle humorous lines that had great comedic meaning. When talking about his new YouTube channel, he subtly added “and we have vaccine misinformation.” When he shifted into a story about how Jack Hannah from the Columbus Zoo would visit his old show, he slipped in that Hannah would bring “wild exotic, rare and unregistered animals.” All in jest, of course. His timing, and the delivery of the lines, showcased the high level of his skills.  His story telling was descriptive, but efficient and to the point. 

The lessons to take away from David Letterman’s appearance on the 40th Anniversary of Late Night;

Always be audience facing when you create content or perform. Facing the audience means consciously entertaining, informing and communicating with them. This approach is often lost in daily operation of many media companies. Somewhere along the way they forget that big audiences can lead to bigger revenue and that successful programming attracts such audiences.
Be prepared for any appearance. Be it on-air, an in-person presentation, a remote appearance, or at a promotion or event.  Arm yourself with stories to share, more than needed, so you’re ready to share when the opportunity occurs. The same can be said for any program. Be well prepared by knowing as much as you can about all things topical. 
Be self-deprecating. Humility, providing it is genuine, is attractive. It is endearing. It’s a deposit into the bank of public opinion for a future withdrawal. 
A good idea is a good idea. Amateurs borrow. Professional’s steal. Can you take a strong idea and make it your own? Can you make it better?
Communicate in stories that are descriptive and to the point. 
Everything has to evolve if it is to continue to grow. The key is to know when evolution has to happen in order to continue growth. 
All things end. Know when it’s time to move on. 
 

 


 


You Can’t Ignore the Elephants on Main Street
– Mike McVay

A longtime ago, in an alternate universe, I was a Program Director and Morning Talent on a radio station in a medium market. I did those things that morning talent do when in smaller markets and there are limited marketing resources. That means appearing in public at promotions & events, and participating in stunts, as a part of your every week work life. Including remote broadcasts wearing only a lampshade, from a bathtub in a store window and camping out on a billboard. 

I’ve ridden donkey’s while playing donkey basketball, played wheelchair basketball, played in charity softball games and charity basketball games against athletes, raced on an ostrich, flown in stunt planes and F/A18 Hornets during air shows, gone up in hot air balloons, bungie jumped and tandem-parachuted off of a mountain. I’ve ridden an elephant multiple times in my career. The first time I road an elephant it included me wearing green silk pants, slippers with curled toes, a turban and … I was shirtless. Not necessarily something that I was proud of, but I’ll do almost anything to attract an audience. 

It was during one of those early parts of my career when a market manager told me that I couldn’t talk about the circus that was opening in town. They’d not bought advertising with us. We would ignore them. If they’re not going to spend money with us, then we’re not going to mention them. We hurt ourselves and not them. Because our audience heard about the circus elsewhere, and they listened elsewhere to win tickets, and get information. 

The damage we did to ourselves was underscored when listeners called to complain that we’d missed the elephants on Mainstreet. Traffic was at a standstill. We ignored the circus parade. In a small town, it is a big deal, and it sends a message that your station is unaware of what’s happening in your community. 

The same can be said for the similar situation when a superstar artist of a format comes to town and your competitor gets the ad buy for the concert, the tickets to giveaway, and a direct connection to the station. You can ignore the concert, and avoid the artist, but that move heightens awareness of your competition and their connectivity to the artists music. 

Don’t misunderstand my point. I was a Market Manager. I owned radio stations. I “get it.” If you’re known for promoting events and concerts without an ad buy, then why would anyone every buy your station? The smart approach would be to face the situation from one of two different directions. One being to wait until a week before the event to acknowledge it, which misses advance sales benefit to the sponsor, but acknowledges that your station didn’t simply miss the event. 

The other approach is to engage with and support your formats artists by buying tickets and giving them away on the air. You don’t need to buy a lot of concert tickets. Having enough to show your involvement is the key. Don’t make the audience go elsewhere to win a ticket to a performer who is a star on your format. 

Not even when there were fewer radio stations, fewer television stations and no internet, did it make sense to ignore anything of magnitude in a local community. Today, with many audio sources, video sources, streaming, smart speakers, and phones whose communication capabilities dwarf computers that once filled entire rooms, it is impossible to ignore anything of significance. Yet, some stations do. I’m not sure that the word shortsightedness is strong enough to characterize this mistake.  

 
 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   




 

Fit, Fun, and Frazzled


Mike joined an episode of the Fit, Fun, and Frazzled podcast to talk about where radio and music are now, as well as podcasting - how to start, market, and distribute. The discussion also includes information on leadership, specifically from a recent blog Mike wrote, "Leaders Lead from the Front"

Some key takeaways: 

Leaders make the workplace safe. A culture of safety is one where team members are free to speak-up, make suggestions and give feedback, ask for help or ask questions without fear of it reflecting poorly on them.
Leaders must be willing to listen to and consider accepting feedback.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ICYMI, below is the full article:

Leaders Lead from the Front

– Mike McVay

The title of this article, “Leaders Lead from the Front," is attributed to several brilliant military leaders having said it. What it means is that you’re where the battle is taking place, or in the case of business, where business begins. In our industry, it means being immersed in Radio or Audio, whatever you prefer to call it. In war in means that you’re not watching from a hill out of danger, but rather you’re in the trenches. In business, successful leaders are aware of how their operation operates, what’s important to their consumers, or in our case, listeners and advertisers. They understand the need to be able to motivate and lead to be able to accomplish the company’s goals. They’re in the trenches.

 If you've been lucky enough to work for a great leader, you know what I’m talking about. They likely made you feel good about the job that you’re doing. They were encouraging, motivating, interested, understanding, on the same side of the table with you versus being adversarial, and they made you feel good about yourself. That in turn made you want to work for them, succeed for them, and in many cases emulate them. True leadership is a matter of commitment, conviction and the heart.  I write this article from my own experiences having worked with and for some great leaders and having worked for some not-so-great leaders. 

Great Leaders Message One Goal; what is the goal or objective of your business? Great leaders can communicate that goal succinctly, and explain how the goal will be accomplished, noting the markers along the way to arrive at success. One leader that I worked for talked of the point of departure and the point of arrival. 

Great leaders are strategic; clearly defining and presenting the strategy to accomplish the goal. They tell you where you’re going, how you’ll get there and why the journey is taking place. They’re not hesitant to share the strategy with you. I’ve worked with those that have kept the strategy away from key members of their leadership team, almost in a passive aggressive way, which is not helpful.

To that end, communication is a required skill; the leader who can communicate clearly can lead to success more quickly. The successful former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chuck Noll, once said “Pressure is what you feel when you don’t know what’s going on.” Keeping your team informed, and communicating with them frequently, engages your team more fully. 

Great leaders have a bias for action and they understand how to direct a team to execute a plan. While not every situation calls for the leader to be deeply immersed in the details, successful leaders understand what’s being executed by their team and why. 

Motivation; that little nudge, push or excitement that you get from a positive leader can be exhilarating. Working for someone who you want to please, is a blessing to be cherished. The very best leaders motivate with recognition and reward. They also reprimand cautiously. This is where the Golden Rule comes into play. 

Tough Decisions; leaders will face conflict in managing their business. The truly great leaders operate in a parental-like fashion. There is a fairness and an equality in how team members are treated, but there’s also a recognition of the reality that some children deserve love and some children need love.

Leaders with a high degree of integrity make it a top priority to get to know their people in order to grow their people. They spend time pouring into the lives of others through mentoring and by giving them additional responsibilities that will help them grow and develop. Leaders who cannot satisfy their commitments to helping their team members expand their horizons will likely fail at creating strong relationships with their employees. If you say it, do it. Honesty is a trait to be applied to everything.

Every leader's role should be about growing your business. If that’s about building an audience, be clear about that. If it’s about building a revenue stream, be clear about that. Great leaders are closest to the advertiser or listener experience. Everything they do is about improving that experience. A product driven leader is reflected in the performance of the product. 

Leaders make the workplace safe. A culture of safety is one where team members are free to speak-up, make suggestions and give feedback, ask for help or ask questions without fear of it reflecting poorly on them. This approach often leads to an extension of tenure for employees. Fear of speaking up is detrimental to achieving a company’s full potential. 

Leaders must be willing to listen to and consider accepting feedback. Many leaders don't want to listen to suggestions, ideas, opinions, and are reluctant to accept constructive feedback about their performance. One of the best leaders that I ever worked with concluded an employee review, where I was being reviewed, by asking me “what can I do better as a leader?’ That doesn’t happen often. 

It’s okay for a leader to show their vulnerability. I know that in this era, some may see that as a weakness, but showing that you’re human and vulnerable, makes it easier for a member of your team to relate to you. It also reinforces that they need not fear showing their vulnerabilities. It makes a leader likeable and relatable.  Being vulnerable shows trust. Who doesn’t want to work for someone you can identify with and trust? 

Leaders must act with the expression of respect, interest and care. That’s not advice to be interpreted as “touchy feely” but rather that if you respect those who work for you, they’ll respect you.  If you are clear about your goals and objectives, and you communicate to your team the “why” of every strategy, the opportunity to achieve the objective becomes significantly greater.

 


 


When War Happens
– Mike McVay

The war in Ukraine is terrifying on so many levels. There’s the humanitarian side of the story. The unbelievable loss of life. So needlessly. People that dress like we Westerners do, carrying children wrapped in blankets, fleeing their homes, seeing their possessions and homes destroyed and gone forever. The likelihood is very slim for the refugees from Ukraine to ever again have the life that they once knew. Their jobs and careers are a distant memory.

We’ve seen this before. Depending on where you live in North America, it’s highly likely that you know someone whose family fled Poland, Czechoslovakia, Croatia, Syria, Hungry or other nations that were once a part of the Soviet Union. Living where I live, in Northeast Ohio, there are many who have their roots, and still have family, in Eastern Europe. One of my neighbors, from Czechoslovakia, was a surgeon in his homeland. Today he’s a dentist. He had to start over when he arrived in America. His story is much better than most people who find themselves displaced.

The tragedy that we’re all watching unfold on a global media stage cannot be ignored. The approach you take to telling the story will depend on your stations brand, your format and the credibility of your talent. Covering the story, and its’ updates in your news reporting is an obvious, but do you have on-air talent whose connection to the community can credibly share the human side of the conflict. If so, then you’ll want to encourage them to be the face of your charity efforts. 

While it may be uncomfortable to discuss and describe the continuing story of war, especially on a music station, it is a story that you cannot ignore. To say nothing would show that your station is clearly absent of a view of news and not dependable as a source for critical information. Admittedly, sharing breaking news can drive some listeners to leave your station in search of more information and details. To say nothing sends a signal that you’re not a listening location when any major news story is active. I’m not suggesting that you should interrupt songs with a hard news approach. I am saying that you cannot ignore a war. 

The audience wants to hear the heart stories. The stories of heroes. The stories of everyday normal people. They also want to know of the tragedies. They will try to grasp the unimaginable. Parents are faced with explaining to their children what war means. It’s difficult to explain the unexplainable. Great communicators can tell these stories.  The audience wants to hear them, but not to the exclusion of stories that are closer to home. 

When Desert Storm, the first Gulf War hit on August 2, 1990, McVay Media received flak from some national news outlets because we encouraged radio stations to show support for our Men and Women of the Armed Forces by playing The National Anthem. We suggested they play it at either 6:00am or 12:00pm daily. It’s a position that we didn’t backoff from as to do so would have been disrespectful to those who were making sacrifices by serving our country. 

You cannot say that playing the National Anthem isn’t a political statement. It is, but it is so because it is about the nation and not a political party.  Your approach to this war, unless you’re a News/Talk station, should not be political. If you are a News/Talk station, then of course most things you discuss have a political overtone. Not so on music stations. Sports stations fall into the one format that should stay away from polarizing topics that aren’t about sports. The sports fan is there for sports and guy talk. Not politics. 

When war happens, be prepared to air updates, share stories, support a credible charity and look for the stories of hope, encouragement and recovery. Look for that song that will connect with the audience and reinforce hope. There are at least two songs that have been recorded to generate donations to charity and there will be more. “Tears for Ukraine” was written and sung by Billy Craig. It was co-written by B. Eric Rhoads, CEO, Streamline Publishing and Matt Jacobs. The Lost Trailers f/Chandler Flint, have released “Let Freedom Sing.” Written by award winning songwriter/producers Desmond Child and Stokes Nielson. Nielson fronts The Lost Trailers. The song is a charity project benefiting the International Red Cross for Ukraine.

 

 

 

Good Enough
– Mike McVay

Good enough is never really good enough. 

It should be acknowledged that lots of “good enough” stations, and shows, do well in the ratings … until a better option becomes available. There are those that have a mindset of acceptance. “You only have to be good enough to soundly beat the competition.” Many managers accept that approach versus the approach which should be that you’re always striving to do better. Not just when your performance in the ratings is poor. When you think that you’re performing at peak performance, turn it up a notch, because the best never accepts good enough. 

When taking the aforementioned approach, it’s imperative that you do not move beyond your brands purpose or benefit without careful thought, as you may move beyond the logical point of conclusion. What I mean by that is best explained using an restaurant analogy. If you’re the number one fast-food chain in America, you don’t grow by changing the benefit of your restaurant by adding waiters, waitresses and a host requiring reservations. That’s not why people eat at a fast-food restaurant. The same goes for radio/audio. What’s the benefit of listening?

What’s your purpose? What’s the benefit to your audience? What’s made your station Top-rated? How do you stay ahead of the competition? What does your audience want and expect from your station? Are you satisfying them? What do they think of your competition? The answers to these questions require research. Anecdotal information is simply that. Research gauges reality. Not perception. 

Being up year over year means nothing if you’re not ranked high enough to be a “Must Buy.” Being down means little if you’re still highly ranked … and consistently highly ranked month to month. That’s where sales skills come into play. I’ve seen stations celebrate an up-rating sweep, when they’re still out of the “Must Buy” position. If it’s a step in the right direction, great. But it requires more steps before you can celebrate victory. 

Conversely, I’ve seen stations that remain highly ranked make significant changes when they see a year-over-year decrease, despite that they remain in the same dominant rank position as before. Regardless of what the rating company may say, there are wobbles, and ratings are an inaccurate science. Work to be the best you can be, but remember that any move that changes a brand can bring months and even years, of failure.


Accepting your position doesn’t mean that you’re accepting good enough. One of my most disappointing moments was a few years ago when my prediction of impending failure became reality. My client had risen from way down in rank to #3 Adults 25-54 over the course of 12-months. We held that position sweep after sweep for several years after reaching Top-3. We couldn’t get to #1 in the target demo. The market make-up was such that Top-3 was it for us. It was frustrating for all of us, but we also knew that the sales department was generating significantly more revenue than in the past, due to the ratings growth we’d experienced. 


The Market Manager said “What good is #3 if we can’t get to #1?” Dramatic changes were discussed. None of which I would endorse. I remember my words … “#3 doesn’t look good … unless you’re one of the 15 stations behind us in the ratings.” 

What that former client should have done is focus on how to continue to the growth of their audience, in cume and time spent listening, without changing their brand or interrupting the benefit that they were providing to the market. Shortsightedness is always a problem. Allowing frustration to drive you, which is easy to let happen, clouds your vision. Mistakes are made. 


Remember this; it is not your birthright to be highly rated. You have to put in the work and make the investment in human and financial resources to gain success and to retain success. Good enough is never good enough. Not for long-term success. 

 

  


 




 
 

Why Not Deregulate
– Mike McVay

Radio has faced many different forms of competition over the years. In our more than 100 years of existence, we’ve seen FM listening overwhelm AM listening. Physical music collections from 8-track to cassette to CD. HD variations, that offer more choices are available on most new in-auto systems. Satellite radio, WIFI allowing in-home or in-car streaming, Bluetooth allowing one to listen to their personal phone through the car or home system, smart speakers making audio convenient and podcasting, are all competing for a share of listening. 

It's very possible that the biggest competition exists from DSP’s, with Podcasting, Video and social media close behind. None of those competitors are regulated by the United States Government and they’re not saddled with what they can or cannot deliver to a potential audience. I’m not suggesting that deregulation alone will reverse radios degradation of the product and the continual, albeit slow, erosion of audience listening levels. I am saying that it’s time for the FCC to loosen the reins on what radio can and cannot do and allow the legacy medium to compete. Why are broadcasters regulated and our competitors are not?

Please note that I’m not suggesting we eliminate the Federal Communications Commission. The debacle of 5G and its possible interference with airplane altimeters is reason enough to continue to support the FCC. Same for the need for the Emergency Activation System. Alerts regarding weather emergencies, Amber Alerts, and the potential for a need to alert Americans of an impending attack support the need to keep the EAS. Although, thankfully, we’ve not had a real need for such alerts since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 60s.  

It’s not that I would expect owners & operators to air fewer commercials, hire more local air-talent, or be more committed to furthering local charities. Which is, by the way, what they should do. What I do expect is that companies can then own their licenses and not simply have the use of a government granted license for a limited number of years. Increasing ownership limits in a market would allow those who are financially strapped to exit a market and others to grow their footprint, which should increase revenue, overall. 

Think for a moment about the legalization of Marijuana in some states? Because radio and television stations are licensed federally, there is a fear to air such local advertising messages, regardless of it being legal in the state. Until it becomes federally legal, or the FCC acknowledges local law has precedence, most broadcasters will remain hesitant to take this advertising. 

Eliminating some of the FCC rules would allow broadcasters to be more aggressive in what can be said when enabling the “Safe Harbor” hours to be less “safe.” The community, and the audience, will decide what’s appropriate or not to be said on a program. It may mean that manufacturers would add Parental Controls to radios, bit how is that different than what you can do on other devices? 

Equal time would no longer be required when it comes to political candidates. Charging the lowest rate to a political candidate would not be the set fee that you must charge a politician. Endorsing a candidate wouldn’t bring special disclosures with it. It wouldn’t be necessary to say “Sponsored by …” when airing purchased airtime, especially when the wording of the disclosure is required to be so specific, that broadcasters are frequently fined for what appears to be a nuisance. 

You wouldn’t be required to air station identification at the top of the hour. Why do we even have call-letters when most stations use a brand name? Some years ago, while visiting with consulting clients of mine in New Zealand, I asked the Market Manager of the station I was consulting (which used a station name/frequency) what their call letters were. The manager responded “I don’t know. We have some, but there’s no rule to use them, so I don’t remember them.” 

The concept that I’m putting forward is not to suggest that we, as broadcasters, should be less responsible, less aware of the audience and those around them, nor am I suggesting that we stop serving our communities. We have an obligation to sponsors that we need to continue to honor. We sell what they want us to sell. We don’t sell air-time. We sell services, products, beverages, food, lifestyle and a sense of purpose. Emergency broadcasting remains important, as do the alerts that accompany EAS, and those services should not go away.

What I am suggesting is that many of the rules that we abide by were created in a time when Over-The-Air radio and Over-The-Air television were all that there was, besides newspapers, to receive daily news and to receive communication from the government. Electronic media is diverse and readily available today. It’s on-demand. The options available are numerous, and competition will grow every year, with choices multiplying every year. It stands to reason that time spent listening is going to continue to erode. It also stands to reason that no modern-day medium will have the reach that radio once had, because of those many choices. 

The government, as reported several weeks ago by Radio Ink, is making technical changes that include the removal of the maximum rated transmitter power limit for AM stations, updating the section regarding signal strength contour overlap requirements and amending the definition of “AM fill-in area.” Improving the OTA signal of AM stations is welcome, but we’re entering an era where more and more audio listening is online, and it is imaginable that the day isn’t far off when we’ll no longer need transmitters and towers to be heard. Which then raises the question “do we just wait for that to happen?”

The government has already eliminated the Main Studio Rule, relaxed the need for public files and community ascertainment and it’s been decades since someone actually took a transmitter reading. Loosening the grip of the Federal Communications Commission regarding ownership, content rules, license renewal, equal time, political rates, simulcasting and sponsorship identification won’t give radio a large advantage. It will help to level the playing field … a little bit.

 




 


 

My Takeaway’s from the 2022 Country Radio Seminar
– Mike McVay

First and foremost, everyone appeared to be happy to be back together again in-person. In full disclosure, I serve on the Board of Directors for the Country Radio Broadcasters AKA CRB. It is that organization that puts together this conference, as well as participates in the development and presentation of the Country Radio Hall of Fame each year. The CRB provides scholarships, Humanitarian Awards and presents the annual New Faces concert at the conclusion of each year’s event.

It’s unusual to have a media conference where everyone is focused on “all things” for any music or content type/category. That’s what the Country Radio Seminar is all about. Its’ title may include “Country Radio” but, it’s so much more. It’s about Country music, country artists, country labels, artist managers, writers, musical performers, publishers, podcasters, Over the Air (OTA) Radio, DSP’s and Satellite Radio. This is a learning conference. 

This conference is always one of my favorites because of the myriad of sessions, the access to decision-makers on both the radio and label side of the business, the opportunity for networking, ideation groups and access to the hitmakers and those who perform the hits. It’s also always an opportunity to see a research presentation that provides insight into the consumers interest in country music.

Nuvoodoo conducted this year’s research project and presented it on Day #1 of the seminar with a follow-up discussion that included some of the brightest minds in the business. One of the takeaway’s was that a younger audience is coming to the format, but they’re coming for older more familiar songs. They may stick around for new music, but it’s the familiar (Gold) songs that are attractive to them. That’s not to say that radio shouldn’t play current music, but rather that a mix of hits from today and yesterday, provides the variety of sound that this research project identified as a “want” by the audience.

Also noted; few of the respondents have an actual radio anywhere in their homes. If they have one, it is likely in their car, but they do listen to “radio” on their smart phones, smart speakers, online and capture some content on their favorite social media platforms. They also listen to radio on-demand (podcasting) when they want and on whatever device they want. Chartmetric’s Founder & CEO, Sung Cho, validated the need for radio to be ubiquitous when he spoke in the opening session of CRS. Be heard on every device, and in every way, that you can be heard. Educate your audience in that regard.

This year’s conference featured six Heads of State discussions. On the radio side they included Bob Pittman (CEO iHeart Media). David Field (CEO Audacy), Caroline Beasley (CEO Beasley Media), Ginny Morris (CEO Hubbard), Bill Wilson (CEO, Townsquare) and Bob Proffitt (CEO Alpha Media).  On the label; side we heard from Scott Borchetta (President/CEO, BMLG), Mike Dungan (Chairman/CEO, UMG), John Esposito (Chairman/CEO, WMN), Randy Goodman (Chairman/CEO, Sony), and Jon Loba (President, BMG). I was honored to be one of the interviewers who moderated two of the sessions. I was joined by industry veterans Joel Denver (All Access Media Group), Erica Farber (RAB), and Lon Helton (Country Aircheck/Country Countdown USA) as we each interviewed on CEO from radio and one CEO from a label. 

The radio executives noted the need to monetize their audiences, expressed excitement about the return of touring and that listening habits are returning to normal. Label executives expressed concern over the logjam of songs at the bottom of the chart and the slowness of the music cycle. 

Hearing from these radio and label executives was a unique and rare opportunity. It underscored that they’re all looking to continue to grow the audience for their media platforms and to return the country format to its’ halcyon days. The growth of the DSP’s is a positive for music executives, although it is impossible to ignore that their growth in part is due to radios inability or reluctance, to improve the listening experience. 

If anything concerned me in regard to these discussions, it was the uniformity of positives, more so than looking for solutions to the decline that country radio has been experiencing for the last four years. Some radio executives pointed to Nielsen’s inability to accurately capture listening, which I believe most will agree with, including me. Especially in regard to the need to have larger sample sizes, better screening for respondents, and a listening device that’s more appropriate than carrying something akin to a pager. What wasn’t acknowledged or considered is the four-year decline in country radio ratings, making it the second lowest listened to format in rated markets, despite having more radio outlets than any other format. 

Country radio programmers need to walk a tightrope between playing familiar music, songs from yesterday, mixed with songs that are fresh from today. The core of country radio’s audience is 35+. The older the audience, the more desirous they are of music they know and sing along with when they hear it on the radio. Music they can relate to and that is about their lives. That doesn’t mean that a station shouldn’t play fresh new music. It means that you have to be more than all new music. You need to provide variety to hold an audience. That’s not a new unproven theory. 

Stations need to be more than a music machine. You’re not going to be able to play as much uninterrupted music as Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music. Personalities, that can entertain and provide meaningful information or content, make a station sticky and attractive. When Apple Music added personalities to several of their channels, my immediate question to OTA Radio was “What do they know that you don’t?” That is that on-air talent can be the difference as much as the music you play.

The two radio CEO’s that I interviewed, Caroline Beasley of Beasley Media Group, and Bill Wilson of Townsquare, spoke at length about the importance of connecting to one’s community. Being a part of the community in which you live is one way to build an audience by creating dependency, but it’s also a way to fortify your programming against an attack from a competitor, while satisfying an advertiser who is invested in your community.

The two CEOs on the label side, John Esposito (Warner Music Group) and Mike Dungan (UMG) both embraced the relationship their businesses have with radio, while acknowledging that times are changing, competition is greater than ever and will continue to grow, and that an inflection point is needed for country to stop the erosion of audience that it is experiencing. 

The questions raised by that comment is “what is that inflection point and where will it come from?” The quest has begun.




 

 

The Country Radio Seminar Is Coming
– Mike McVay

A welcome site takes place in Nashville this Wednesday-Friday as the Country Radio Seminar (CRS) begins in Nashville, in-person this year, after being presented virtually in 2021. The seminar, organized and presented by the non-profit Country Radio Broadcasters organization, is taking precautions and will be asking all in-person attendees to show proof of vaccination, while also offering daily rapid Covid testing. Socially distancing and masking is a part of the planned safety steps. 

CRS is unlike any other conference you’ll ever attend. I remember attending my first CRS and being amazed at how an entire conference was put together for one format with a common cause to further the growth of the radio stations that play country music and the labels whose business advances from that growth. Labels and radio working in tandem discussing the advancement of the country music as a genre, that of country artists in regard to their releases, touring and brand building. The urban format is the only other format that has the same community that benefits the format fully.

This year’s CRS brings the leaders of Radio, and the leaders of Records, close to the attendees by featuring a series titled “Heads of State” at which I am honored to participate as one of the hosts. I’ll be interviewing Bill Wilson, CEO of Townsquare Media, Caroline Beasley CEO of Beasley Broadcasting, UMG Nashville CEO Mike Dungan and Warner Nashville Chairman/CEO John Esposito. 

Additional interviews feature Joel Denver of All Access interviewing iHeart Media CEO Bob Pittman. Lon Helton of Country Aircheck interviewing Alpha Media President/CEO Bob Proffitt and Jon Loba, President BBR Music Group/BMG Nashville. Erica Farber, the President and CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau is interviewing Ginny Morris Chair and CEO of Hubbard Radio and Scott Borchetta, Founder and CEO of the Big Machine Label Group. Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association will interview Randy Goodman, Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Nashville and David Field Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Audacy. 

A chance to recognize the format’s best as Radio Ink will once again present the 2022 Class of Top Country Program Directors at the front of Bob Kingsley’s Acoustic Alley, to be hosted by Fitz of “Country Top 40.” This year’s performers include songwriters Rhett Akins, Kassi Ashton, Barry Dean, Emily Landis, Luke Laird, Victoria Shaw, Allison Veltz, and Parker Welling.

This year’s CRS Research Study was conducted, and will be presented by, Nuvoodoo. This year’s study will show how radio is viewed in light of the competitive world we’re now living in, which includes DSP’s, Podcasting and entertainment overall. You’ll learn the behaviors, trends and tastes of country music consumers spanning multiple generations. Personally, I’ve always found this session to be one of the most valuable of not the most valuable session. 

If you’re planning to attend CRS in-person, come prepared to learn, network, be entertained, visit the sponsor booths and participate. Given that there are 22 sessions, 6 Heads of States interviews featuring 11 leaders of industry, 8 live performance programs with multiple artists, a superstar interview with Blake Shelton, The New Faces Show and CRS After Hours … which is every night … you need to be well rested. Don’t go for the party alone. If you do, you’ll miss out on career changing growth opportunities. 

Looking forward to seeing you there. 





 

Making the Best Commercials
– Mike McVay

The Super Bowl is always known mostly for the game, but the Halftime Show and the Commercials are often second only to the game as to what’s talked about as a big part of the sporting event. This past weekend’s game was no exception. Great world-class players, in a game with more timeouts than games during the season, and a halftime that’s double the duration of a normal game. So many more breaks … all designed to be filled with commercials and entertainment.

My favorite was the Lay’s commercial featuring Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd. Seth married a ghoul. Scarlett Johansen and husband Colin Jost were in a commercial for Amazon where their Alexa Echo began reading their minds and responding out loud with what they were thinking. General Motors rolled out a new commercial promoting their All-Electric vehicles coming in the future. Entertaining and memorable. That’s what you want from a commercial. 

We also saw a commercial titled Land of Loud Flavors which sold Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda. The commercial was eye catching, attention grabbing, but not memorable for anything specific. Forget that it’s confusing enough to me that Bud Light has a Seltzer Hard Soda. Talk about an oxymoron. I’m sure that they did a lot of research to arrive at the product, and that many taste tests show that it is a special drink that youthful drinkers enjoy and want, and then someone at Budweiser insisted it be labeled with the parent company name. Bud means Budweiser and Budweiser means beer. 

There were so many messages from crypto currency companies selling their services that some writers referred to this Super Bowl as The Crypto Bowl. In that regard, this game was somewhat reminiscent of the game in January 2000. The game had commercials from 14 different Dot.Com companies. They paid an average of $2.2m per/message. One can only hope, for the sake of media where we sell commercials, that there won’t be a Crypto Crash as there was a Dot.Com Crash.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, radio stations had copy writers. There were people who worked side-by-side with production directors in writing and producing commercials for their advertisers. Today, many stations require the sales person to write the commercials purchased by clients, unless it’s a commercial coming from an ad agency. 

The elimination of copy writers and commercial producers is another area leading to the list of self-inflicted wounds we heap on our industry. Why would anyone save money when it comes to that area of the station where the entire objective is to make money? Not to mention how poorly written and poorly produced commercials damage the stations ratings and further accelerate audience erosion. 

There are those sellers who have exceptional writing skills, but those people would be in the minority, as their most desired skill set is selling advertising. The creative writer’s skill set is selling products, goods, services, and experiences. That’s our purpose in radio, online, digital on-demand and in podcasts. 

There are companies today that enable broadcasters to outsource their copywriting and production to high quality and highly skilled companies. That might be the best investment any company that’s dependent on selling advertising can make. 

Entrepreneur Magazine ran an article a few years back, written by Craig Simpson of Simpson Direct, that presented Tips for Writing for Direct Mail. The tips, in my opinion, are easily adaptable to a medium that uses sound to sell products, services and goods. I used his suggestions and adjusted them for audio.

Get The Prospect into the Promotion; You have to get the listeners attention. What’s the benefit of the listener using, buying, sharing the item that is being advertised? Why does anyone want it? What does it do for the consumer? Sell the benefit of the product and why this one is the best.
Tell a story that gives people what they want. Storytelling is a great way to communicate. Whether it’s fantasy, fun, a spoof, serious or simply a list of benefits, putting it into a story can move a prospect into that point of imagining the product satisfying a need of theirs. 
Build a memorable picture. A huge advantage of using audio for marketing is that it is so very cost effective. The sound of an elephant trumpeting is less expensive than parading a real elephant through an open parking lot. This is where sound effects, then use of appropriate music and the voice actors can imbed a story in the listener’s mind.
Every kind of commercial message must include a call to action. A CTA creates a sense of urgency. If people don’t react quickly, they may not react at all. It’s difficult to make a CTA memorable long-term. How often have you watched a cute commercial on TV and couldn’t remember the product that it was for? In audio, that means we have to be clear in what the benefit is to the consumer, and the CTA should connect to that benefit. 
Know what you want to accomplish with your commercial message before you begin writing. What are you selling? What’s going to engage the listener and grab their attention? Speak to satisfying that need, or want, and you’ll hear from those who need what you’re offering. 


Jack Trout & Al Ries became famous for their books on both Positioning and in regard to Marketing. Great advertising positions the product with a strong statement. The best positioning statements have three things. They are Credible, Based in a Benefit and Memorable. Apple; iPhone Can Do What? Chipotle; Food with Integrity. Starbucks; the Best Coffee. Coca-Cola; Taste the Feeling. Amazon; One Stop Shopping Online. 

Remember this; when your client gets what they want, you’ll get what you want. 

 





 

 

Now People Are Cancelling Themselves
– Mike McVay

It’s been in the news for the last few weeks. Neil Young cancelled himself from Spotify because he doesn’t like that they have Joe Rogan’s podcast on their platform. The Los Angeles Times headline screamed “Veteran singer-songwriter Neil Young recently urged “other artists and record companies” to “move off the SPOTIFY platform and stop supporting SPOTIFY’s deadly misinformation about COVID.” 

If you’re among the many that agree, and the few that understand the difference between misinformation and information, then you likely applaud Neil’s stance. If you are a Joe Rogan fan, then regardless of your stance on this specific topic, you probably could care less. Young has been followed by Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash and the entirety of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young … so far … with more artists rumored to be joining the boycott. 

This isn’t the first time this legendary singer-songwriter has protested. Neil Young has been an amazing voice for my generation. Protesting the Vietnam War, singing about the Kent State killings in Ohio, feeding the hungry and using his high-profile platform for good. Despite the jokes on social media asking if anyone under 50 knows who he is, his message is getting through. He’s a man of action and stood by his words. Whether you agree with his opinion or not, he is to be admired as his move hurts him more than anyone else and he did it anyway. 

The moment for pause, though, should be the realization that most platforms, including OTA radio, have content with multiple views and unique takes on topics that are controversial. Young departs Spotify and SiriusXM launches the Neil Young Channel, that will feature only Neil Young’s music, through February. It’s a really smart marketing tactic and it garnered a great deal of publicity. 

What isn’t mentioned is that SiriusXM delivers the Patriot Channel and Patriot Plus. That’s two conservative talk channels with hosts that likely share opinions that are controversial and polarizing. I’m not signaling out SiriusXM. Apple, Amazon, Google, Pandora … and so on … all have podcasts similar to the aforementioned conservative programs mentioned. Each of the three major broadcast companies have conservative talk shows that also feature polarizing hosts. Young can’t boycott them all. 

The question isn’t should these platforms have conservative talk, or liberal talk, but rather that we should all have responsible talk. It’s getting harder and harder to note the difference between fact and opinion delivered by some hosts and on-air talent. I’m absolutely fine with talent voicing their opinion. They should do that as that’s what the audience listens to them for, but they should remind listeners that what they’re hearing is their opinion. It’s as simple as saying “I think.” When you quote facts, source them. When you jump off to a discussion of the facts, do so in a way that the audience knows you’re sharing your opinion from/about those facts. Your opinion matters. It’s an opinion. Say so. 

Graham Nash, in his press release to the industry announcing that he too is leaving Spotify, magnified Neil Young’s plea to stop misinformation. He said “there is a difference between misinformation, in which one is unaware that what is being said is false, versus disinformation which is knowingly false and intended to mislead and sway public opinion.” Think about that for a moment. Why would there ever be a question of whether or not the information we disseminate would be factual or not? Doesn’t it seem like that should be standard operating procedure?

 





 

Coaching Talent; Why It’s Important
– Mike McVay

A recent conversation with a Program Director, not a client, set my head a spinning. This individual and I were discussing the ratings struggle of their once highly rated morning show. The PD opined “this show just isn’t that good.” That comment really hit me the wrong way on so many levels. The first of which is that the show had been highly rated as recently as a year before. The other that the ego of this programmer was such that they distanced themselves from the rating result that their station received.

Drilling down further into the thinking behind the discussion, it became clear that this programmer had diminishing respect for the talent, their accomplishments or the history of the show. The programmer was also under intense pressure to turnaround the stations ratings. That ignited a scavenger hunt looking for those to blame. This programmer placed it squarely on the morning show. No acknowledgment that an important part of their job is to coach the talent, be on the same side of the fight as the team, and to engage them in a collaborative discussion looking for the source of their problems. 

Among the many mistakes this programmer was making, was a failure to evaluate what changed in the show, station and market, since the high ratings days. The PD had stopped coaching the on-air personalities. They’re communication time with the talent had diminished. In the words of this programmer “life happened.” That is not an acceptable response. It is a programmer job to coach, encourage, assist, enable and positively lead their talent.

Coach them to continually improve their performance and be the best that they can be. Encourage them to perform at a high level. Assist your talent by providing them with the tools they need to be successful. Enable your talent,          

with encouragement, to be able to execute and perform at their best. Positively lead means never defining the shows parameters with negatives. If you continually tell your talent what not to do, at some point, it’s easier for them to do nothing than to do something and get in trouble. 

Coaching talent can make a big and immediate difference in a station’s ratings. Unfortunately, too many Program Directors either spend too little time coaching an on-air personality or they overcoach and attempt to control every element of a show. You’re not directing a movie. You’re guiding a personality as they work extemporaneously.  Focus on the forest and not the trees. When a PD is too far into basics and bits/features, the talent feels as if they’ve lost control of the shows content, and they stop being genuine and become contrived or manufactured. 

The show has to be about more than the basics. The basics are important, but no one listens for the basics. They listen to be entertained and to be put into a good mood. The audience wants to start their day feeling alive and energized.  Don’t handcuff your talent and prevent them from doing what they’re good at doing. 

Focus on the content of the show. Is it fun, funny, interesting, emotion evoking and targeted properly to the station’s specific audience? Is it obvious that your talents are prepared? Do they sound natural … or at least natural for who their on-air persona is … and are the believably genuine? “Real” is important today. Real is relatable. Allow your personalities to be real. We’re in an era of “genuine.” 

When I start to coach a show, or specific talent, I begin by understanding who they are, who the audience is, what the objective is for the station and who is the competition. I never focus on the basics in the first few sessions. It’s like coaching a baseball pitcher. If they can throw fast, you work on that, then later you teach them control. Encourage entertainment first. The basics are easy to teach. 

The best morning shows are fun, funny, connected to the community, have a strong link to the listeners lifestyle, thinks like the audience thinks, is continually doing show prep and is anchored by an intelligent person. I’ve never seen a successful morning show that wasn’t anchored by someone smart.

The best on-air personalities can be difficult to coach. They can be difficult to keep focused. Some have issues that go far beyond anything in most programmer’s scope of expertise. However, the very best air talents are intelligent, committed to excellence, have a strong work ethic, a keen sense of right versus wrong when it comes to their audience and they often hear a “party” in their head that no one else was invited to attend. 

Always remember this; don’t fix what isn’t broken. Ignore the advice of author Robert Kriegel who wrote “If It Ain’t Broke … Break It.” He was writing about tangible products and not an ethereal product that is highly dependent on branding and image. Evolve and grow your talent, and programming, before a ratings decline takes place, but don’t make dramatic changes without being prepared to run the risk of a significant loss of audience. I can put up with a lot of “stuff” to be number one. 

If your station had been highly rated for a period of time, and now it isn’t, don’t look for who to blame. Look for what’s changed. What did your competitors do differently? Any change in the in-studio dynamics? Have there been any changes in the talent’s relationship with one another, their personal lives, or any distractions that have changed their focus away from their program? 

Most importantly; park your ego outside. Acknowledge the value that your air talents bring to your station. Work with them and not against them. When they’re successful … you’re successful. Apply the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”




 

All Access Audio Summit 2022: Mike McVay Will Share Things To Trigger Your Thirst For Learning
From AllAccess.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we stop learning, we are really doomed. The ability to learn and grow is what keeps you relevant. That’s why talented decision makers participate as speakers, content providers, and those in the audience to continue to evolve. Sign up now to be a learner at ALL ACCESS AUDIO SUMMIT 2022 set for APRIL 20th & 21st – a virtual event – presented on the NUVUOODOO CONFERENCE CLOUD. 

McVAY MEDIA President MIKE McVAY is ready to share, learn and be inspired at ALL ACCESS AUDIO SUMMIT 2022 with what he learns, too.

Arguably, one of radio’s most successful radio company executives and consultants, McVAY MEDIA President MIKE McVAY, is all about what ALL ACCESS AUDIO SUMMIT 2022 means for the industry:

“The ALL ACCESS AUDIO SUMMIT 2022 is the opportunity to hear a new generation of thought igniters and the leaders in the audio industry discussing trends, challenges, opportunities and sharing research & experiences. What always attracts me is a chance to hear from new, fresh voices, and to be inspired by those with different perspectives. I’ll be there.” 

You’ll want to hear what MIKE McVAY has to tell you about his winning vision for radio in the next five years.

Sign up now to see this important virtual ALL ACCESS AUDIO SUMMIT 2022 presentation. 

See the full article, and other guest speakers, on allaccess.com. 


We Get Letters - "Leaders Lead from the Front"


Dear Mike:
 
Loved your column in today's Radio Ink about leaders and the desire to work for them. It's curious that in my last ministry school in October 2019, (yes. I've been an ordained minister since the age of 17), one of the things mentioned was that those who wish to lead a spiritual community are SHEPHERDS, not COWBOYS. The difference? One leads the flock from the front, the other drives the herd from the back. Though seemingly not analogous, the fervor with which we love the radio and all audio is very much like having faith in the power of helping others and depending on collaborators with a common purpose. 
Always enjoying your insights,


Richard Santiago




 


Leaders Lead from the Front
– Mike McVay

The title of this article, “Leaders Lead from the Front," is attributed to several brilliant military leaders having said it. What it means is that you’re where the battle is taking place, or in the case of business, where business begins. In our industry, it means being immersed in Radio or Audio, whatever you prefer to call it. In war in means that you’re not watching from a hill out of danger, but rather you’re in the trenches. In business, successful leaders are aware of how their operation operates, what’s important to their consumers, or in our case, listeners and advertisers. They understand the need to be able to motivate and lead to be able to accomplish the company’s goals. They’re in the trenches.

 If you've been lucky enough to work for a great leader, you know what I’m talking about. They likely made you feel good about the job that you’re doing. They were encouraging, motivating, interested, understanding, on the same side of the table with you versus being adversarial, and they made you feel good about yourself. That in turn made you want to work for them, succeed for them, and in many cases emulate them. True leadership is a matter of commitment, conviction and the heart.  I write this article from my own experiences having worked with and for some great leaders and having worked for some not-so-great leaders. 

Great Leaders Message One Goal; what is the goal or objective of your business? Great leaders can communicate that goal succinctly, and explain how the goal will be accomplished, noting the markers along the way to arrive at success. One leader that I worked for talked of the point of departure and the point of arrival. 

Great leaders are strategic; clearly defining and presenting the strategy to accomplish the goal. They tell you where you’re going, how you’ll get there and why the journey is taking place. They’re not hesitant to share the strategy with you. I’ve worked with those that have kept the strategy away from key members of their leadership team, almost in a passive aggressive way, which is not helpful.

To that end, communication is a required skill; the leader who can communicate clearly can lead to success more quickly. The successful former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chuck Noll, once said “Pressure is what you feel when you don’t know what’s going on.” Keeping your team informed, and communicating with them frequently, engages your team more fully. 

Great leaders have a bias for action and they understand how to direct a team to execute a plan. While not every situation calls for the leader to be deeply immersed in the details, successful leaders understand what’s being executed by their team and why. 

Motivation; that little nudge, push or excitement that you get from a positive leader can be exhilarating. Working for someone who you want to please, is a blessing to be cherished. The very best leaders motivate with recognition and reward. They also reprimand cautiously. This is where the Golden Rule comes into play. 

Tough Decisions; leaders will face conflict in managing their business. The truly great leaders operate in a parental-like fashion. There is a fairness and an equality in how team members are treated, but there’s also a recognition of the reality that some children deserve love and some children need love.

Leaders with a high degree of integrity make it a top priority to get to know their people in order to grow their people. They spend time pouring into the lives of others through mentoring and by giving them additional responsibilities that will help them grow and develop. Leaders who cannot satisfy their commitments to helping their team members expand their horizons will likely fail at creating strong relationships with their employees. If you say it, do it. Honesty is a trait to be applied to everything.

Every leader's role should be about growing your business. If that’s about building an audience, be clear about that. If it’s about building a revenue stream, be clear about that. Great leaders are closest to the advertiser or listener experience. Everything they do is about improving that experience. A product driven leader is reflected in the performance of the product. 

Leaders make the workplace safe. A culture of safety is one where team members are free to speak-up, make suggestions and give feedback, ask for help or ask questions without fear of it reflecting poorly on them. This approach often leads to an extension of tenure for employees. Fear of speaking up is detrimental to achieving a company’s full potential. 

Leaders must be willing to listen to and consider accepting feedback. Many leaders don't want to listen to suggestions, ideas, opinions, and are reluctant to accept constructive feedback about their performance. One of the best leaders that I ever worked with concluded an employee review, where I was being reviewed, by asking me “what can I do better as a leader?’ That doesn’t happen often. 

It’s okay for a leader to show their vulnerability. I know that in this era, some may see that as a weakness, but showing that you’re human and vulnerable, makes it easier for a member of your team to relate to you. It also reinforces that they need not fear showing their vulnerabilities. It makes a leader likeable and relatable.  Being vulnerable shows trust. Who doesn’t want to work for someone you can identify with and trust? 

Leaders must act with the expression of respect, interest and care. That’s not advice to be interpreted as “touchy feely” but rather that if you respect those who work for you, they’ll respect you.  If you are clear about your goals and objectives, and you communicate to your team the “why” of every strategy, the opportunity to achieve the objective becomes significantly greater.

 




 

A Strategy to Win With
– Mike McVay

To program a great radio station, you must have many different components working together harmoniously. The following are the components that I most strongly believe in. I believe in this formula given my experience as a major market Program Director and Air-Talent, my 30 years of consulting around the world and my recent experiences working for 9 years inside one of the big three major USA broadcast companies.

MUSIC: Music is the most important part of a music driven radio station. Music selected for the station should be made with the sound and brand of your station in mind. Your music choices should be based on local callout (if you have it), the National Research that comes from Media Monitors, Airplay Intel, tracking on-line exposure and trends as well as using BDS or Mediabase for the monitoring of stations similar to your station. Music should be on-point and should be scheduled so that each quarter hour is representative of the format. Apply the theory of instant gratification. That is playing peoples favorite songs frequently. No one ever complains that you’re playing their favorite song too much. They complain about the songs that they do not like.

The radio is still a point for music discovery. Less so than in the past, but research shows that the passive listener hears new music first on the radio. When you play new music, identify the artist and mention the song title, as well as note on-air that the song or the artist are new. Be credible. You cannot tout “Best new music first” if it isn’t true. Radio has made a satire of itself by making claims that aren’t believable.

I’ve always been a fan of using a tactic called “box-car” when you segue two songs together. That is that you speak over the intro of the next song, and not over the outro of the last song and the intro of the next. Talk over an outro when you are going into a commercial break. That’s how the audience has been trained for years. When a listener hears an air-talent speak over an outro, it means “commercials are coming” and they may punch-out. Speaking over the intro only, is an unspoken message to the audience, that you’re not stopping down for commercials.

Music Specials are aired for two reasons; to either move an audience to a specific time/day or to remind the audience that you’re still on-air in the fringe timeslots. You may not believe that it is worthy to promote a special or a weekend show by using valuable promo time, but great radio stations do exactly that. It makes them multidimensional. The station may be one that targets At-Work listening Monday-Friday. All the more reason to promote what happens during the weekend.

Music Quantity is important. Long music sweeps. Fewer Stop-Sets. The objective is to build time spent listening but being known for long music sweeps can build you cume numbers, too. If a listener knows that you play the most music day-in-and-day-out, they’ll come back more frequently. We know that TSL (Time Spent Listening) is built by repeat tune-in. Sidenote: stopping to air 6 minutes of commercials and 12 units, does nothing to support a “More Music” claim. Be believable.

Where and when to schedule a long music sweep should be based on when you have the most listeners. If you are in a diary market, then research shows us that the first and third quarter hours have the most diary entries. That’s a function of the methodology used by the diary rating system. People start their activities at :00 and :30. In a diary market, the best place for a commercial break to start is :18 and :38. That ensures that you receive five (5) continuous minutes in a quarter hour. You want to cover the biggest two quarter-hours with music.

PPM markets are treated a little differently. You need only to have five (5) individual minutes of listening inside of a quarter hour in a PPM market. That’s why we stop across the quarter hour in PPM markets. Preferably :12-18 and :42-48. Although one can argue that being “the other guy” and moving across the top of the hour has value. PPM Markets have tools to search which hours have the most meters in use.

ON-AIR PERSONALITIES: Every radio station needs a Star. Who is that one personality that your audience will think of when they hear your stations name? What radio station will your audience think of when they hear the name of your star radio personality? You can’t win without a radio star. Smart companies know this and they invest in personalities.

Developing an emotional connection between your on-air personalities and listeners (without increasing the amount of talk) is an effective way of ingraining the station’s brand into the listener’s memory. On-air personalities need to be disciplined hosts who are providing relatable content to the target audience while keeping the music (or News/Talk – Sports/Talk conversation) moving. The more real you are, the better connection you’ll have with your audience. You’ll want to have on-air personalities that the listener can identify with, or be greatly entertained by, when they listen.

The very best talents are efficient in how much they talk. Efficiency is an important word. Efficiency is different than brevity. Brevity is “Weather today … Nice.” It doesn’t tell the listener anything. Efficiency isn’t about saying nothing. It’s about using only the number of words necessary to completely explain the thought in question. Encourage your air-talent to be efficient. If it takes me 60-seconds to tell a story, and it couldn’t be done any more quickly, then I was efficient. However, if I could’ve told that story in 30-seconds, then I wasn’t efficient. Encourage your air-talent to be efficient.

The very best talent are amazing story tellers. They tell strong descriptive stories using visual words as they paint a picture. They look for common experiences that they and their listeners have had, which makes them relatable, and should engage the listeners’ interest. To tell a story in an efficient fashion, the talent needs to understand where they’re going to go with their story and how does it end? Meaning, before you start the journey, you need to plug-into your GPS the destination. If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will take you there. I’m not suggesting that you write out your story. I am suggesting that you have to think about it before you open your microphone.

I like to use a show prep system that is referred to with the acronym E/I/A/A/A. The letters stand for Emotion, Image, Area, Activity and Artist. Emotion is what’s going on in the listeners world. Image is about the image of the radio station. Area is for what’s happening in your listening area. Activity is about the station’s activities. Artists is an element of artist information. For spoken word stations that element is about a news maker.

PROMOTIONS: Great promotions are like life. Expectation, Realization and Memory. Tell the audience what you are giving away. Paint-a-picture. Give the prize away and let us all share in the winning experience. Remind the audience what you gave away and allow the winner to share their experience. When it comes to events … it’s all about signage. I shouldn’t be able to look in any direction without seeing your stations presence. I should hear it on the air. You absolutely must own every event you do.

Promotions are one of the most important parts of station awareness. A station needs to be highly visible around town in order to be as successful as possible. When it is time for listeners to fill out their Nielsen diary, they won’t go to the radio and see what station is on, they will recall it from memory.

If you’re in a PPM market, then you want to develop contests and content that create repeat tune-in. This is why I feel it is so important to always be on the streets, be everywhere and be seen everywhere. Yes, the pandemic slowed us all down, and some stations eliminated their promotion departments. You need to be mobilized. Do things in your community that makes you a talked about radio station. That is what keeps a good radio station top of the mind for the listener.

Promote where and how one can find your radio station. On-Line, On Smart Speakers, On the Station App, On the Audio Aggregators (like iHeart, Audacy and TuneIn) on social media & You Tube and on the radio at FREQUENCY. Wherever a listener can find Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, etc. That’s where your radio station should be, too.

You will need more than on-air promotions and contesting, though, if you plan to grow your cume. You will need external marketing to do that. You have to interfere with the audiences’ habits and that doesn’t happen by airing promos on your own streams and OTA. That means on-line marketing via website ads, social media, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as well as the more traditional platform of transit and billboards.

I’m not a big fan of TV for marketing as it isn’t cost effective. If you can advertise on Cable or one of the Digital TV platforms, then maybe, but as far as local TV … Local TV News is the only thing worth investing in and that’s best for marketing of spoken word stations or those that target an older audience. Targeted marketing is the most cost-effective form of marketing that there is available to us today.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Getting a station with organizations like St. Jude Children’s Hospital or Children’s Miracle Network, Salvation Army, The United Way, local food banks, and Toys for Tots are great ways to tug at the emotions of listeners, and it makes the on-air personalities “human” and clearly local. A station who takes every opportunity to celebrate the community in which they live will accomplish much more than a station that is syndicated or voiced tracked. If you are using syndicated programming, network programming or are voice-tracked, then work hard to be local sounding and really focus on what is important to your market.

SPORTS/TALK: Great sports talk stations have on-air talent that understand that they are really Men Talk stations, without alienating women, and the focus is on sports. The collegial atmosphere of friends, men and women, sitting in a bar. Talking sports, making fun of and teasing each other. Stay away from politics. Don’t focus on heavy news stories. You cannot ignore the world, or your local market, but the listeners who come to Sports/Talk stations are there for an escape.

NEWS/TALK: This format, when executed properly, treats news stories as if they’re the biggest current hits on a Top-40 Station. Play the biggest hits as frequently as possible. View the aforementioned paragraph on Music and think of using the theory of Instant Gratification on the topics that are hot and perishable for the day. What’s the audience talking about? What are the newsmakers doing daily? What are the opinions of your commentators/personalities?

This format is struggling and is in a down cycle, that should recover as we approach the midterm elections, but there’s no guarantee. Sever damage was done to the format following the most recent presidential election and the insurrection of January 6th. Make no mistake that the personalities on a news/talk station are commentators and are offering their opinions. It isn’t news. It is commentary. There is a big difference between news and what a commentator offers as commentary.

NEWS/INFORMATION: This content here is News. News on a News/Talk station or News in targeted dayparts on Music stations, should be news and not commentary. Content, in no particular order should focus on Heart, Purse, Health, Relaxation, Safety, Local and National stories. Heart stories pull on your heartstrings. They’re the stories that move you emotionally. Purse is all about the pocketbook. What’s happening to prices as we see inflation rising? Health stories tell us about new illnesses that are hitting us, how to stay healthy, how to be in better shape and what you should avoid as it may be harmful.

Obviously, the pandemic is a part of the topic of Health, but generally Covid-19 stories are in the meat of the newscast. Relaxation stories tell me where to go with my free time, how to manage the stress in my life and plays to the fantasy of wishful thinking. Safety is the most important thing to us all. Safety for us and safety for our families. Tell me how to remain safe and how to avoid being in danger. That may be avoiding an area of town where there is a protest, a crimewave in a nearby neighborhood, or health issues.

Local and National stories should be rewritten to answer the question “What does it mean to me?” Explain that and then the story will connect with me and I will connect with the story. News anchors and reporters NEVER speculate or offer an opinion. Be credible.

SYNDICATION: The biggest problem that I see with syndication and voice-tracked programming … Lazy or passive aggressive Program Directors. They don’t want the show on their station, or they’re too lazy to focus on the show, and they plug-it-in and ignore it. Do NOT “flip the switch and walk away.” The number one reason that a network or syndicated program loses the rating game is that the local broadcast programmer doesn’t update the liners and promos for the show, they don’t request how to localize the show, they never reach out to the talent, or the show’s producer and they never inform the national talent what’s going on locally.

This weakness is magnified where PD’s take a “Brown Bag” version of a show. A Brown Bag show is one that is delivered as voice-tracks and the station adds in their own music. If you’re going to take a brown bag version of a show, then run all the tracks and in the order, that they are scheduled to run. I have heard tracks air out of order or not at all. Example: I have heard a break that promotes an interview is “coming up next.” Then the interview never airs. I have heard an interview air and the wrong song air out of the interview. I have heard local air talent voice promos within a syndicated show, where the promo should have been voiced by the national air talent.

IMAGING: This is where and how you create a stations personality. Known by some as Stationality. This is where you create fantasy, develop a “station sound”, make the image of your station bigger than life and at the same time connect to the community and to an individual listener. The best messaging is benefit based. “What’s in it for me?”

The best imaging can create an aspirational feeling. “If I listen, I’ll know what’s happening in my area.” The best imaging catches one’s attention. The best imaging is direct and to the point. It’s easy to understand. It paints a picture that an announcer speaking is incapable of painting. If the air-talent can say it and paint the picture without sound effects and music imaging, then you should have the air-talent say it. Imaging should take advantage of the sense of hearing and paint a visualization that employs the brains eyes for the sense of sight.

IMAGING AS AN IDENTIFIER: One of the things that I have noticed, many times over the years, is that whenever a new program director arrives at a radio station, they sometimes want to change the Voice-Over imaging voice of the station. If you are changing the stations format, updating or changing its programming, or have a rating failure that needs a reboot … then change your voice talent. If you’re not failing … then think long and hard before changing the VO talent. The VO talent is another identifier for your station in a cluttered and over marketed world.

One of the reasons your station could be successful is consistency. A station that has a successful rating track record should view its imaging as a part of how listeners identify your station and how they remember it. Instead, coach the VO talent to update their sound, without changing the dynamics of the fantasy that their voice creates. Coach the audio producer to match the mood that you’re trying to create. Keep your imaging fresh, but the sound consistent, to serve as an audio mnemonic.

LISTENERS AND THE ADVERTISERS: If you can keep harmony with both, then the reward is increased ratings and increased revenue. When your station is truly entertaining, it should be the one that listeners and advertisers say is their favorite radio station. This is because it not only satisfies their radio listening needs, but also properly reflects the community. It meets their needs as a person searching for audio. One of my all-time favorite books is The One Minute Sales Manager by Spencer Johnson. There’s a line in the book; “When I give my client what they want, I get what I want.” It’s one to operate by.

THE STAFF: A program director needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of every one of their staff members and use them accordingly. The program director must see to it that the air staff has the coaching and direction it needs to be the best in town. All too often I talk to talent who have NEVER been coached. Successful talents want to improve and perfect their craft. By working with and knowing the goals, personalities and skills of each on-air personality, you will send the message that you not only care about the product but most importantly that you care about their individuals’ careers.

COACHING: When coaching talent … make them a priority. Turn-off your phone, no texting, don’t look at your E-mail, and be prompt. Don’t cancel your talent meetings. Pay attention. Be sure to listen to what your talent is saying to you. The objective is to have a conversation with the talent. Explain to them why you want them to do certain things. Understand why they want to do what they want to do on the air. Define the parameters for their show with positives and not negatives. Telling them what you like and what you want the talent to do is better than telling them what they cannot do. Do not define parameters with negatives. That leads talent to being afraid to try anything for fear of being reprimanded.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT: Maybe the biggest and most important thing for a Program Director to do is to keep it fun to work at the station! Without fun, morale slips and on-air personalities move on. If you’re having fun, it is reflected on the air. Never forget … a radio stations “personality” is that of the Program Director. Show me a FUN program director and I’ll show you a station that sounds fun to listen to. Show me a PD that’s no fun … and you’ll hear a radio station that’s not fun to listen to.

Admittedly, it’s become somewhat difficult to maintain esprit de corps when some of your team is Working from Home, but we’ve learned from Zoom that we can stay in touch remotely. It isn’t impossible to motivate your team, especially when you can send Uber Eats to everyone’s home to host a virtual lunch meeting, while you’re in separate locations. Although many have returned to the workplace, it is prudent for few to meet together in close proximity at any one time. No one wants to lose an entire airstaff, sales team or admin due to quarantining.

 

We Get Letters


As we have discussed before  - couldn’t agree more with your latest about spot sets...

it’s running away listeners in droves!

 

Another topic – EVEN WITH voicetracking, there is NO reason each break cannot feature bonafide CONTENT....

locally specific, information or entertainment oriented and most importantly – worthy.

 

Most stations are only doing 3-4 breaks per hours these days and that makes that point even more important.

 

I think it all goes back to years ago when markets had 1 or 2 stations that owned the market and the best defense was to be something they weren’t.  Some consultants and programmers suggested you are never going to beat them at their game so don’t try.  Settle for number 2 and make money.  They did that by being music intensive and everything the BIG station competition wasn’t.  The problem was ‘some’ of those defensive strategy stations did increase ratings and revenue by being ‘less’... It was then that the strategy was initiated on stations that were the BIG station in hopes it would sustain or improve them.  It hardly ever worked, but that programming philosophy of being “less is more” became the standard – and now, you have markets with nothing but “less is more” stations of any/all formats that are BORING, INSIGNIFICANT and DYING.

 

It’s time to put “less is more” away and get back to entertaining and informing and being BIG again.

 

my 2 cents.

Steve Eberhart

Eberhart Broadcasting

 

 

 

 

 


Competition on the Horizon
– Mike McVay


It’s the start of another New Year. We’re certainly blessed to be here to see it as we’re almost at the second anniversary of the start of the Worldwide Pandemic known forevermore as Covid. It will be years before we know the psychological impact, the economic impact and the familial impact of the pandemic. We do know that, because of the alteration of lifestyles created by a worldwide lockdown and quarantining, use of media has changed. 

There are many that believe the changes that were likely going to occur with evolution, occurred faster than normal, because of the way people are using media. It’s logical, but I don’t know that any of us really knew what would happen, except that change was bound to happen. Change is constant. Nothing stays the same. Everything changes. How we react to those changes is what determines success or failure.

Competition is increasing at a faster pace than in the past and will continue to do so. Over-the-air (OTA) media (Radio & Television) require a license from the Federal Communications Commission. The internet, mainly streaming, has not such restrictions on it. Digital Streaming Processors, known as DSP’s, are OTA radio’s biggest competitor for ears. Social media, YouTube, TikTok, Clubhouse, Gaming and Virtual Reality are all competitors for time. 

Satellite Radio falls into the DSP category, but depending on the channel, their content is either mass or niche. They offer a smorgasbord of content from the sky. While subscription radio was thought to be a negative and an attack that OTA radio use to compete, consumers are not hesitant to pay for an app that delivers the entertainment they want, so why wouldn’t they pay for SiriusXM? 

Spotify is moving beyond music and working toward becoming the Instagram and TikTok of audio. Pandora continues to add commercial-free stations … keeping in mind that they’re now owned by SiriusXM. Amazon Prime enables you to listen to thousands of songs and almost limitless channels on Amazon Music. Apple Music is showing continued growth with their Apple Radio channels slowly adding audience. Owned by Google, YouTube is showing growth in the music streaming arena, but the fastest growing category for the video service is Sports content. 

iHeart, Audacy and TuneIn are just three of the companies that have developed nice digital platforms that enable an audience to stream their favorite radio stations, podcasts or custom audio channels. Many love the rewind option and the on-demand option. These are all competitors to OTA Radio. It raises the question; will we see a time when we no longer need a transmitter and antenna to broadcast? The bigger question is, will it matter? If all radio does is use their digital streams to provide another outlet for current OTA content, without improving the listening experience, it won’t matter. 

The approach, if I could craft one for radio, would be to run two tracks at once. One would be to develop podcasts. Developing them as an On-Demand content provider as well as creating unique podcast content. The other would be to focus on how to create compelling content for OTA radio (also streamed online) that’s delivered by entertaining personalities. Connect to your community. Be a part of your community.

Master the technical aspect of streaming or Total Line Report by airing a 100% simulcast of the OTA and online product. There’s no reason for upcuts and interruptions that are all too common on radio’s digital streams. There’s no reason to load every hour with such long commercial breaks. There’s no reason to sound as if you have no, or little, connection to the market. Manage the commercial load to play fewer commercials. View the stations overall product as a part of the brand by being creative with your imaging and production elements. It’s showbiz. Sound like it.  

It isn’t your birthright to be high rated. The competition for your radio station is coming from more than radio. The audience wants something more and better. Some national and local advertisers are abandoning the platform. Radio hasn’t been “cool” for more than a decade, yet it can deliver for advertisers and it can still grow an audience, but not without change. 

The changes, beyond addressing radio’s high commercial load, need not be painful. They are possible. Someone has to decide to do it, though. A decision has to be made. Show success and the lemmings will follow. 

NY’s Resolutions for Radio
– Mike McVay

It’s the last Monday of the year. Normally, as one-year ends, we’re excited for the next. “Next” and “New” sounds hopeful, fresh, exciting and fosters hope. We make New Year’s Resolutions, which are often broken or forgotten by mid-January, but we make them. My resolution last year was to create a better work/life balance for myself and my family. I need to work on that.

When 2020 was wrapping up, we were all excited because we’d lived through something that none of us had ever faced. The global pandemic, the first in over 100 years, brought death, the fear of death, the loss of jobs, economic crisis, never-before-poor families waiting in food lines, businesses closing, home schooling, work from home and political and social unrest.

Despite all of that, having spent 9 months in some form of quarantine, there was excitement, as there were rumors of a vaccine, children were back in-class in some communities, much of the lifestyle we were used to was starting to return. We were able to get haircuts, doctor appointments, dine outdoor and cautiously see friends … distanced by six feet … wearing masks. We were hopeful about 2021.

You would be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t thrilled that 2021 is about to be behind us. The words “Happy New Year” mean more to many of us this year as we move beyond the continuation of nearly two years of loss. Just as the skies started to brighten with the vaccine, the Delta variant arrived. It wanes and Omicron arrives. We can only hope and pray that 2022 will see the end of the pandemic, but no expert (medical or scientific) is brave enough to say.

Beyond the personal losses, there is the loss of audience and the loss of the time that the audience previously spent listening to the radio. It’s always easier to keep the audience you have than to attract an audience that you do not have. Despite seeing time spent listening increase, overall listening remains lower than pre-pandemic.

Traffic on the roads is critical to radio use. An active and mobile audience is important. Traffic will increase as more people return to the workplace, and the number of employees who WFH (Work from Home) decreases, but it’s highly unlikely that all businesses will bring employees back to the workplace. Radio needs to be everywhere and heard everywhere. On-Air, Online, Smart Speakers, on-demand via podcasts and social media.

We’re hearing of businesses, beyond radio, where sales teams are encouraged to work remotely. Beyond being in-house for a once-a-week sales meeting, allowing sellers to start their work day direct to prospects, is more efficient. It also allows for a reimagination of the space needed for workspace and building leases.

It’s arguable that all listening is being captured by the rating and research companies, given the multiple platforms where one can now hear a radio station, and its ignorance to think that increased competition from all forms of medium isn’t impacting the ability of all platforms to reach dominance. Time spent listening isn’t going to grow dramatically unless dramatic changes take place to improve the listening experience.

What we also know is that radio needs to take a print or digital media type approach to measuring one’s audience. The comparison of those two entities is extreme from one another. You have “old media” which is print. You have “new media” which is digital. They both measure by circulation or impressions. When you read a newspaper, even on-line, it’s unknown how much time you spend reading the articles. It’s not known how many ads you see unless you click on one. The same with digital. Radio needs to move to an impressions model akin to how SiriusXM sells advertising or sponsorships. They never share their ratings. Only overall subscriptions.

Pricing has already begun to take that approach. Circulation, or website traffic, decreases. Ad prices maintain or even increase. It’s about the real estate. The three L’s; location-location-location. It’s always been about results. Radio, audio if you will, moves an audience. We sell products, services, generate leads and market products while building brands. We create positive results. We sell results. We need to scream those results from the rooftops.

New Year’s Resolutions for Radio:

Spend less time worrying about whether you call it radio or audio. More time on entertaining and informing an audience.
Strive to improve the listening experience for the audience.
Acknowledge that the level of competition is great and will become even greater.
Strategize how to shift to an impression-based model for measurement.
Reprice the product using a results-oriented metric versus a CPM.
Have Fun! It seems as if we’ve forgotten that being involved in and around media is so much better than what many of our parents did for a living. Make a resolution to enjoy what you do … or do something else that is fun. We all deserve that and more.


Happy New Year to You and Yours!

 


 

THE TOP PREDICTIONS FOR 2021; THE REPORT CARD
– Mike McVay

Looking back to this time, one year ago, I predicted what I believed we would see and what we could expect in 2021. Checking my report card, I would give myself a B-. Better than average, but not worthy of a “pizza night” reward. The pandemic extended longer than most of us expected it to, and the world hasn’t unified in the way that was expected, to shorten the timeline on its eradication.

I predicted that the pandemic would force all of us to change how we operate. In some cases,
it has accelerated the timeline for what would have been eventual changes. Starting with "Audio" becoming the key word to describe the medium versus "Radio" which is simply a receiver for over-the-air (OTA) content. That receiver isn't the only place one can hear Audio Programming. Audio is the better name in that it describes what’s delivered to many platforms, including digital.

Many have debated whether or not we’re doing a disservice to the medium by calling Radio by the name Audio. My experience this past year working with a highly respected and widely successful advertising agency, known for branding, is that Radio is seen as a diminishing medium. Radio is, unfortunately, seen as “old” media. However, the word “Audio,” is seen as a part of “new” media. I couldn’t have predicted that the pandemic and the loss of commuters would so negatively impact our image. Listening, yes. Image, no.

December last year I predicted that smart programmers would adapt to the changes the audience had made in regard to the hours when the most radios were in use. Working from home led to a shift in when individuals started their day. Some highly successful morning talent continued their shows later in the day. That showed no significant growth. It was akin to sticking one’s finger in the dike to stop the leak. Using 20/20 hindsight, there was little that could be done to stop the audience erosion created by the pandemic. In many cases, performance failures continue to be blamed on the pandemic. Wrongly.

My prediction was that talent would continue to perform from locations other than in the station’s city of license. Meaning more remote talent, some of which would never go back to the studio, and others who would temporarily be displaced. That was true and remains true. Unfortunately, what this realization led to was fewer talent doing more shows for multiple markets.

To that end, I predicted accurately that those that perform at a high level and are successful based on ratings & revenue, will be in greater demand. Unfortunately for on-air personalities, more stations moved to voice-tracking, or to the use syndicated programming, in non-drivetime hours.

Among my predictions for 2021 was the elimination of promotion departments, or severe disassembly to one person handling it all. Promotions and their value were reevaluated, as was the size of promotion teams. Largely due to no on-air contesting, fewer in-person events, few live concerts, and the inability to generate pre-pandemic revenue from events. Promotion departments, starting in the summer of 2020, were largely eliminated. The return of that department started this past summer.

I also predicted that research companies would see a resurgence in business as the shift in the audiences "wants" and "desires" could not be taken for granted or assumed to be what they were pre-pandemic in 2019. The use of research has started to rebound in 2021, but it’s still not where it should be. We continue to make assumptions that the world we’re living in today is the same as the one we lived in before March 2020. That’s an assumption that shouldn’t be made.

Checklist for Employers and Job Searchers
– Mike McVay

During my business life, having been a Program Director or in an executive position since I was 19 years old, I’ve interviewed and “hired” or “passed” on more than 100 people. Maybe more than 200 people. Because I never thought about that benchmark, I’ve not kept track of the number, but it’s safe to say that it’s a lot. There are many things that I’ve learned in the process. Some of which comes from finding myself in-search of employment early in my career.

If you’re the employer, looking to hire someone for a specific position, then know exactly what it is your hiring for and have it defined to share with potential candidates and your team. What skills do you need the potential hire to possess? How will you judge their success or failure? Do they know how they will be judged?

Be clear in what you need from the potential employee. What is your expectation? What is their expectation? If there are differences of opinion in regard to your philosophy or strategy for success, with their strategy for their personal success, find it out in the interview process. Ask about performance. What have they learned from their successes and more importantly, from their failures? Be granular in your ascertainment. Be respectful.

It is not unusual to ask for a background check. Visit the potential hires social media accounts. Do you see anything that seems incongruous with the image that you desire for your business or team? Gauge their personality. What are their hobbies or past time? Not because you’re looking for a friend, but because you should want to know how well rounded the candidate is, but also if they have other interests that can contribute nicely to the project.

People who change jobs frequently usually have issues somewhere. Changing geography doesn’t change the problem. What’s the real story? Why has this particular candidate moved so many times in their career. There was a time when Program Directors and Talent moved many times in their careers. It was not only about making more money, but about advancement. It’s not quite the same today. People move less frequently, do in large part to so many fewer jobs today, but also because many now have families. Given that, look for stability, or obvious reasons that the candidate was a frequent mover.

The big three before hiring:

Think long and hard before you hire someone, because if it doesn’t work out, it’s your failure and their crisis. My advice to my employees, who have hiring and firing power, is to hire wisely so that they never have to fire the candidate.
Remember that when you fire someone, you fire them, their life partner, their children and negatively impact their dependents. People have to move. Kids have to change schools. Hire to not have to fire.
Assume the candidate is performing at their peak level and can be no better.  Then, when they exceed your expectation, reward them. It’s a win-win. Never hire someone with the belief that you can make them better. That’s a high standard for an applicant to achieve.

Flipping the situation; you’re looking for a better or different job. You want to make a change, or worse, you find that the decision was made for you, and your position has been eliminated or you were terminated. Begin the search for the new position quickly.

Essential Items for Any Job Searcher:

An easy-to-read resume (Not too fancy … Accurate, Complete and Honest).
Audio Demo; Representative of Your Show (A, Audio Sizzle Reel + Actual Show).
Video should be shared, if you have it, to show your multiplatform skills.
Same for any podcasts that you may have produced and posted. Share the link.
Share examples of your social media output and share your metrics.
Do a scan of your social media. Is there anything on there that’s not representative of who you are now … or who you want to be seen as in the eyes of a potential employer.
If you have access to ratings … share them. If not, then look for a metric to share that shows success. Be that the reputation of the station or memos that share accolades you’ve received.
If you have letters from clients whose products or services you have endorsed, share those, too.
Do Your Research on the Potential Employer; know who they are.o   Check Station Website
o   Listen on-line

o   Check the stations history.

o   Learn as much as you can about the company and the decision-maker.

o   Contact anyone you know who can shed light on the job and potential employer

Don’t lie. I’ve interviewed individuals before who said that they listened to my station, the podcast, watched YouTube for the product, and their responses failed reality.
Stay in Contact; but don’t “bug” the potential employer. Everyone’s busy. No one likes a pest.
Be patient. Allow the interviewer time to conduct their search. It’s okay to ask “When may I contact you again?” “What’s your target date to have hired someone by?”
Don’t take any negative response or rejection personally. They’re looking for someone to do the job. They want to find someone who can fill the role, because then they can move on.
Leave a good impression. Even if you don’t get the job this time, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be thought of for future opportunities.
Say “Thank you” for the interview and for the consideration.  
 

Radio VS Digital
– Mike McVay

The November 2021 print issue of Radio Ink carried an article that I authored whereby I interviewed some leading content strategists, radio programmers, managers, owners, consultants and audio insight experts. The article featured some great insights as to what radio can do to compete with the digital giants (DSP’s) and what benefits over-the-air radio can take advantage of to overcome this new level of disruption. This column continues that discussion with those experts and shares additional insights and new comments from our participants.

The ever-present inferiority complex that radio suffers from allows the companies who have digital delivery to play on the perception that they’re dominant. There is a true superiority over radio that the DSP’s have in regard to quality, a better listening environment and a value proposition that paying for a monthly subscription is less expensive than paying for downloading individual songs.  Given Video subscriptions, subscribing to a DSP is not the leap that it once was, and Car Play makes it convenient.

What DSP’s lack, more than anything else, is distribution at the level of over the air (OTA) radio. That will change with time, unless radio focuses on the expansion of OTA to Digital with cross-platform promotion, and unless radio makes a true and real concerted effort to improve the listening environment and level of content for the audience.

Many of the offerings that the DSP’s present are mostly music driven. That is to say music without personalities. One can make the comparison that those channels are today’s version of a record department in a big box store. Maybe a better comparison is having an iPod on shuffle. Thus, the assertion that music-heavy DSPs compete with music downloads more so than radio.

There are DSP channels that offer personalities. Those are more closely compared to OTA Radio and are more competitive. Subscribing to the commercial free stream provides a significantly better listening experience. Fortunately for OTA Radio there are fewer personality enhanced stations on DSPs, as of today, and their national platforms make it difficult to connect to a local market. That will most assuredly change with time. Including the customization of content for a market.

Lee Abrams, credited with the creation of Album Oriented Rock and what became the modern era Rock Radio, is also known as a futurist. Abrams followed his variation of rock with a hard rock format known as Z-Rock, Disney Radio and was the Chief Programming Officer when XM Radio was born. His list of accomplishments is long … and not yet finished.

Abrams notes that “at the end of the day, devices are not as important as their output. Brilliant programming will prevail wherever its located. Sadly, the brilliant programming of today isn’t necessarily on FM.  One day, the “Apple” type companies of the world may figure out the radio experience for this century and take streaming services to a new level, which could happen while FM has its’ eye off of programming.”

One of the things that I always harp on, to those who are critical of the business, is to offer a solution and not leave us hanging on the words of criticism. Abrams came through suggesting that radio “focus on what listeners experience. The sound of a station. The excitement, the newness, being a part of now rather than an audio relic of the past.” Abrams challenges the C-level of the business by declaring that OTA Radio is running on creative fumes and completely out of sync with, as he calls it, “this new Wild West.” There needs to be an investment in content development to create something new.

Jacobs Media Strategies President, Fred Jacobs, noted that “while radio has the best distribution platform (a one-button solution, no buffering, no data fees), makes the mission to meet the audience where they are.” Jacobs agrees that “broadcasters must continue to promote their terrestrial locations, but given the diminishing number of “regular radios” in home and workplaces, (and even some cars), accessibility on smartphones, laptops/desktops, smart speakers, as well as on in-car platforms like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto … is an imperative.” Jacobs Media Strategies is known for their work on in-auto entertainment, and keeping radio on the center stack in a vehicle, which is imperative.

Ken Benson, Co-Founder and Partner at P1 Media Group, has a pragmatic approach to how radio can compete with the digital giants. He said that the audience “may come for the music, but they stay for the hosts.” iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman believes radio’s niche is companionship. Benson adds “Radio must focus less on the music and more on what it does between the songs. Listen to 102.3 Now Radio in Edmonton, Canada. It’s been the market leading station in ratings and revenue since its inception over a decade ago. Yes, they play music, yet it is the personalities … in all dayparts … that attract Now Radio’s massive audience. The streaming giants can deliver more music, more variety, and fewer commercials than any radio station.  Radio can deliver a contextualized, in the moment, one to one experience with human beings better than anyone. Invest in your talent.”

Futuri CEO Daniel Anstandig weighed-in saying that “The biggest thing radio can do to better compete with DSPs is to give audiences more opportunity to control the content and the experience with the brand.” Erin Callaghan, also from Futuri, supported that by adding that “we can also be less mysterious about the music. I don’t turn on the TV and hope my favorite show is going to be on soon.  I tune in for certain shows at certain times. Telling the audience exactly when their favorite song is going to play, inviting them to participate in choosing the music they want to hear, providing a platform to create lists and favorites – this puts radio on stronger footing versus subscription services.”

National Account Manager for Futuri, Jim Roberts, chimed-in with encouragement for broadcasters to “Create a truly omni-channel experience for your audience.” He asked “Does Facebook only exist on their social media app?  No.  Facebook has podcasts, YouTube videos, even a Twitter account.”  Your audience is everywhere, and your content also needs to be everywhere. We need to tell the audience where they can find us and how to listen to us.

If you really want to know what it’s like competing with digital, then you have to get into the trenches with Market Managers and Programmers. The Program Director of 95.5 KLOS/Los Angeles, Keith Cunningham says “It starts with hiring dynamic talent that will stand-out and transcend the appeal of a typical song or format. Talent truly is radio’s secret sauce … more sauce, please.”

 

Cunningham’s approach, to have high profile personalities in all dayparts, is not new. It is showing results and I expect that we’ll see more stations utilize high-profile talent in at least the high-profile dayparts. Keith suggests that “Radio can utilize the trust listeners have with the medium to help reinvent and evolve its strong relationship with advertisers, and move to integration being the lead for the main frame, as well as create real podcast strategies and side-channel subscription opportunities for listeners and clients.”

 

Commonwealth Broadcasting partner and Bowling Green Market Manager, Dale Thornhill acknowledges that radio has been “admittedly slow to focus on Audio more than Radio.  We are trying to capture and package unique content as part of podcasts or social posts.  It’s a slow process.”

 

Lee Tobin, SVP of Sarkes Tarzian, and President & General Manager for their Fort Wayne cluster, feels that radio needs to be “more interactive in real time.” He asks “How long does it take for your station to reply to a listener?” Tobin adds “Having personalities to build that bond, not just reading liners and playing music, is important. Personalities enhance the listening experience and can relate locally to a community. DSPs cannot.”

 

Brad Holtz, WTTS & WGCL/Indianapolis President/General Manager shared his belief that there are things that radio can do better to improve the listening experience for the audience. “What are those things? Maintain a respectful spot load. An eleven-minute break with 20 units is simply not fair to a listener OR to the advertiser who’s stuck in the middle of the pod. Focus on relevance. While many corporate clusters are focused on transactional and programmatic buying, this oftentimes leads to messages that are completely misaligned. So much listening is done online, yet for many stations the online listening experience is an afterthought. Hence, dead air, an endless stream of the same PSAs, from stations that cover spots online. There is a great opportunity to create attention-getting content that could not only keep listeners through a break, but strengthen brand identity.” My interpretation of his suggestion is “never miss a chance to entertain or inform.” Respect the listener.

 

Bob Lawrence: VP/Market Manager for New South Communications in Jackson, MS noted that “it’s sad that a larger percentage of our terrestrial product is not being utilized through smart speakers. We need to cut through whatever barriers keep those numbers from being much higher. This is an education issue, not just for listeners but for the industry as a whole.” I support what Bob said. When we first hear of the Amazon Echo and Google Home, and before we knew them as Smart Speakers, I was excited. Smart Speakers put radio back into the home and the workplace.

Lawrence noted “We all need to keep in mind that we now communicate with more than just a microphone and a transmitter. We must focus on building heightened listener experiences, especially while they are streaming on our websites. Radio needs to create compelling content on our sites that include games and contests; only available online, or special offers they can find online, or locally driven blogs, and material from our on-air personalities. Just telling listeners to listen on your website is no longer enticing enough. Creating synergies with advertisers that do more than just advertise.  We cannot use the same strategies we have used for terrestrial radio. Digital Advertising and Digital Streaming Experiences must be unique.”

“Make sure you’re always relating to your audience.  There is no room for throw-away breaks.  Content matters and so does being authentic.” Kathy Eagle of Futuri added. She suggests showing “your personality but make sure you have your finger on the pulse of what matters most to your listeners.” Futuri has used technology to make it more efficient for stations to be on multiple platforms.  Teams aren’t growing.  realizes that and makes it possible to do more with less.  Futuri also invests in research to ensure stations put technology to use in the right areas and in the right ways. 

Ken Benson added this closing thought in regard to how we can survive, or at worst co-exist, with content digitally delivered from DSP competitors … “Innovation is critically important. I was delighted to see Audacy launch a new format tailored for New York City, as 94.7 the Block. Win or lose, this new Classic Hip Hop format creates interest and excitement for radio.  Our industry’s “risk aversion” and “over commercialization” is killing the golden goose. It’s about to be 2022, and many of the programming strategies and tactics from the past aren’t working as well today. One thing that hasn’t changed is consumers will flock to great content … whether Ted Lasso, Yellowstone, or the Squid Games. Give them great content!”

 


Conducting an Interview
– Mike McVay

The folks at Beasley Media Group, Benztown, and McVay Media have been working with the Library of American Broadcast Foundation to teach a class on podcasting to Clark Howard University in Atlanta. During our teaching sessions, one of the things that came to light is, that based on the listening experience of our students, very few people know how to conduct an interview. The students, parroting back what they’ve heard on the radio or on podcasts, indicates that many on-air talents fail to be great at interviewing a guest and that makes them a poor example for modeling.

This is most particularly true for personalities on music radio. I’ve heard interviewers talk more about themselves than the guest, sound uninformed in regard as to the “why” that a guest is a guest, fail to listen to the guests answers and not be prepared to adlib a follow-up question. This could be because few hosts regularly have on-air guests. It may be because modern era talent believes an interview is what they see on Talk TV. Not true. That’s commentary.

Start by doing the research. What’s the topic that you’re presenting and how does the guest fit into that topic? What’s the purpose of the interview? This is a two-fold question as there is the reason that the guest is on the show and the reason as to why you have them on your show. They may be there to promote a movie, a book, a new song. You should want them there to ask the questions that your audience wants to know the answers to, while they’re there to further their brand or project.

Craft questions that get to the answers that you’re after. To do that, you have to know a lot about your guest. Put in the time to know who they are, long before they join your show. Think about what’s unique about your guest or their reason for being a guest, and ask questions that explore the “why” of them being a guest. If you have time, solicit questions from your audience in advance, and look for that one question that surfaces repeatedly.

Larry King was lauded as an amazing interviewer, which is an opinion that I can appreciate, and he certainly interviewed everyone who was anyone. Although, it used to make me crazy when he’d interview someone about their book, and he’d say “I’ve not read the book. What’s it about?” I always felt that if Larry had at least skimmed the book, his questions might have chummed up some answers no one expected.

Don’t make your questions about you. We’ve all heard the on-air personality who will say “your story was relatable to me because …” And then we hear something from the on-air host that may or may not be interesting to the audience. I mean, think about it, as the host has all of the time when there isn’t a guest to talk about themselves. Why do it when you have a guest in the studio?

Allow your guest to speak. Listen closely to what they say. You may have your questions written, and numbered as to the order you want to ask them, but be prepared to throw them out the window. If the guest says something that warrants a follow-up question, ask it. If they say something unexpected, think on your feet and satisfy your audiences curiosity by asking a follow-up question.

Every interview should have a conclusion. Don’t suddenly wrap-up an interview, because you back-timed poorly, or you’re “up against it.”  Bring your interview to a logical conclusion. What’s the guest’s message? In a movie or book, you’d refer to it as the author’s message. Interviews that are memorable conclude with the guests, or the hosts, message in regard to the topic discussed.

Ten Quick Tips for Conducting an Interview:

1.      What’s the Topic? Do your research on the topic.

2.      Why this Guest? Do your research on the guest.

3.      What’s the Purpose of your Interview?

4.      What’s the “takeaway” for the audience?

5.      Craft questions that get to the answers that you’re after … that your audience wants to know.

6.      Listen closely to what the answers are from your guest.

7.      Be prepared to throw away your questions and be responsive to unexpected answers.

8.      Allow the guest to speak. Don’t make the interview about you.

9.      There should be a conclusion to your interview. That conclusion could be the Authors Message.

10.   When you edit the interview (If you edit the interview for replay) be sure that what remains answers the most important question that the audience wants an answer to.

 




 

A view into the future; 2030
Mike McVay

A short eight years from now, we’ll be approaching 2030. What will Radio look like? What will media look like? Given the impending winddown of this year, it’s a good time to think about the near future, and to play the “Imagine Game.” The acceleration of time is picking up speed as entertainment, information and communication continue to morph into what’s become a world of handheld connectivity. The future changes rapidly. Our response to those changes is sometimes ponderous. Change is hard. It’s scary. It’s often uncomfortable.

Digital Audio Broadcasting will continue to grow and dominate all audio delivery. Much like Europe and the Commonwealth countries seeing its’ continued growth … and we’ll eventually see that here in North America. There will be more digital streaming platforms, additional voice driven conveniences that make today’s smart speakers look archaic and the rollout of almost everything being on-demand. Some over-the-air radio stations will eliminate their over-the-air transmission in favor of becoming a streamed radio station. All digital. We’re seeing some experimentation with that now.

A friend of mine is an owner of an advertising agency. He’s a former radio programmer, music producer, marketing specialist and now among the many that prefer digitally targeted marketing over mass media to advertise his clients’ products, services and brands. He and I have a standing conversation every Friday morning where we talk about the news of the week, what’s happening in media and what changes are taking place in the world that could impact media. It forces me to think outside the box. It pushes me to be outside of my comfort zone. I sometimes find myself defending radio

We’re both aligned that all media, including what one may call new media, will continue to become more diverse, available, niche and diminished as more competition is introduced to users of media for entertainment and information. Even the new kid, DSP’s, will see erosion.  It makes sense. It’s a statement of increased noise in the marketplace more so than an indication of relevancy slippage. It stands to reason. There are 330 million people in America. The acceleration of competition is faster than the birthrate. 

Podcasting, which is today’s version of Audio Books, is growing revenue at a rapid pace. Much of which is driven by a few “whales” and not by the many “minnows” that are available to all listeners. It is a long tail. Podcasting is niche media. Mass media is needed to drive niche media. Making it an advantage for audio companies that own radio stations to be heavily invested in podcasts. Mainly because of the ability to promote them on-air.

Podcast Radio is already a “thing.” It will continue to grow and what’s already established in the United Kingdom will spill into North America. The USA and Canadian radio groups have at least one station, in many markets, that is a continual underperforming station. That’s a prime candidate to experiment and consider something like a North American version of Podcast Radio UK.

TV Networks are already competing with their affiliates. That is that there is Peacock, Paramount, ABC All Access and the Apps that are now streaming as if they were over the air.  Radio Ink Forecast 2022 was this past week at The Harvard Club in NYC. One of the television executives noted that they believe OTA television will continue to morph into mostly digital. Who needs a tower?

 

An associate who supplies content to television networks shared with me that he believes local television could be relegated to all local news, reruns, sports or unique syndication, within the next 8-10 years. That was echoed by a network representative on stage at Forecast. The fact is, I don’t need to watch local TV to see my favorite network shows. We can get them directly from the network now.  Listening to radio with an app is the same for many radio broadcasters. Why li it yourself.

All of these coming changes will continue to encourage citizen creators to create their own content and distribute it and the cost of entry will be low as will the quality of what most create. Be conscious that it is competition. The need to provide high quality content will be magnified by those companies whose revenue model is driven by advertisers or subscribers. Podcasting will bifurcate into a stream that’s high quality and of mass appeal … with another stream becoming the social media version of podcasting. This approach can be short term and very targeted.

A recent episode of Sixty Minutes showed voice and video creations that duplicated the voice and appearance of humans. This artificial intelligence enables TikTok users to duplicate movie studio quality. We’ll see this expand and develop over the next two or three years. You can expect that this will necessitate that in addition to talent owning their name, likeness and voice, they’ll own the recreation of their voice and appearance.

How does radio compete in the future? The distribution is there. Expansion onto other digital platforms is there. Awareness is there. What continues to be there inconsistently is the presentation of a good listening environment, a commitment to researching the wants of an audience and the need to satisfying those wants by applying what was learned from the research. The lack of interest by radio executives in enticing a younger audience to radio should be concerning to all of us who are invested in audio. An apparent avoidance of marketing, or lack thereof, is financially damaging to brands. These things are all salvageable and controllable. One would think that the return on investment (ROI) would be large enough to make this a priority.

All of the unique creation we may want to ideate and pontificate about for radio will not show success if there isn’t an effort to improve the product and the listening experience. Radio has many opportunities. We have over-the-air distribution. Expand that to digital, meaning on-line, on smart speakers, on-demand via podcasting, and repurposing your radio show as a podcast. That is always a good idea. Using excerpts from your show for short audio bytes, ala mini-podcasts, is an even better idea. Be sure that your podcast and audio bytes are encoded for Nielsen. Create a unique podcast that is not repurposed audio from your show, but advertise your show and your station in that podcast.

Why not capitalize on the fragmentation that’s plaguing our biggest non-radio competitors. Your content has to be superior. Your connectivity to the community is imperative. High level entertaining personalities create habitual listening when they connect with an audience. Radio has a future in the future, but how bright depends on how willing we are to acknowledge that today’s status quo isn’t good enough for tomorrow.

Why wait for the future?

 




 

Forecast 2022
Mike McVay

There was no session that I missed this year. It was one of the absolute best Radio Ink Forecast sessions that I’ve seen to date. They continue to get better every year. I say that as someone who has moderated sessions in the past, but not this year. Television joined the event this year, and while I consider myself an audio person, there was much to learn from the video side of the business. I enjoyed the different perspectives that were shared, by leaders of the industry, and those who spend huge sums of money as advertisers and marketers.

Debra O’Connell, President of Networks for Disney Media & Entertainment and Bill Wilson, CEO of Townsquare Media, kicked off Forecast as they were led by President/Publisher of Radio Ink and Radio & Television Business Report Deborah Parenti.  They spoke about what the future would look like. Disney, and all of its’ many media & entertainment tentacles is greater than anything we know on the radio side. Townsquare is unique in that it is a digital company that happens to own a radio group.

Ms. O’Connell shared how Television is changing rapidly with greater digital distribution.  All of the major networks launched apps several years ago, in an effort to compete with Netflix, Apple TV, and so on.  Meaning that you no longer need over-the-air, cable or satellite TV to watch your favorite network shows.  While it wasn’t said, it does raise the question, aren’t you competing with your own affiliates?

What was asked, which was really poignant, was “what becomes of local TV?” Debra was brilliantly candid and insightful as she responded “local news, local sports and local events.” That comment coupled nicely with an afternoon session that addressed the value and growth of local radio. Led by Larry Patrick of Patrick Communications and Legend Communications, local broadcast owners Bud Walter (Cromwell), John Caracciolo (JVC), Brian Lilly (Lilly and SJL), and Dujuan McCoy (Circle City). 

These broadcasters shared how they refused to allow the pandemic to interrupt their service to advertisers and how they served their communities. The session clearly showed that, in the case of these panelists, local talent with local content has real value. One of the panelists referred to their market as “Local Radio” and noted that calling in “small market” was an unfair characterization.

FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington, the luncheon keynote, raised eyebrows as during his speech he mentioned that he doesn’t expect to be retained as an FCC Commissioner. That honesty, from an appointed official, was refreshing. As were his answers to some tough questions that came from some in the crowd.

My favorite panel was the one that featured Deborah Wahl, Global Chief Marketing Officer of General Motors, and Doug Ray, who serves as Chief Product Officer, Americas and Chief Product Officer, Global Media for Dentsu International.  They were interviewed by American Urban Radio Networks CEO Chesley Maddox-Dorsey. How often to do you to meet the former CMO of McDonalds, PulteGroup, Chrysler, Cadillac and Lexus? All before joining GM as CMO.

It was eye opening to hear Ms. Wahl speak about how GM is committed to an all-electric future and noted their recent entry Cadillac Escalade and the new All Electric Hummer that is about to rollout. While I am concerned as to the strain on the power grid, and whether or not I can drive the eight-hours it takes to get from Cleveland to Nashville to visit our children and grandson, Deborah did excite me about the attention being spent on in-auto entertainment and radios part in the car.

If anyone was concerned about current NAB CEO Gordon Smith’s departure, their concerns should be lessened, as we heard from both the Senator and incoming CEO Curtis LeGeyt. The two have worked together for most of Gordon’s time at the NAB. The youthful LeGeyt proved knowledgeable and concerned about those things that we’ve all been concerned of lately. I liked what he had to say about where the NAB is going, what the organization should mean to us, and how it will grow in the near and far future.

Forecast 2022 concluded, as it has in the past, with the Executive Super Session. This panel always features the leaders of the medium, which this year included Television, and generally has a strong moderator who asks the tough questions. Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates served in that role this year. Panelists were Brian Lawlor, President/Local Media, The E.W. Scripps Company, a repeat appearance by Deborah O’Connell, President of Networks for Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution. Bill Wilson, CEO of Townsquare Media, and Caroline Beasley, CEO Beasley Media Group, who was surprised with an impromptu singing of Happy 60th Birthday to Beasley Media Group.

The session provided a variety of perspectives on the future of media, and of advertising, and certain uncertainty as to why media evolved so rapidly during the pandemic of 2020. The general consensus is that the listening and viewing habits of the audience, and their use of a variety of entertainment platforms, accelerated at least five years faster than they would have otherwise. What’s unknown is whether or not this new, faster pace of discovery and adoption, will slow or accelerate in the post-pandemic era.

A special SHOUT OUT to Juliet Huddy, Podcaster and a talent on WABC Radio, who served as the Host of Forecast 2022. She kept the agenda on time and did as good a job as I’ve seen of hushing a large crowd of media-types who were seeing each other for the first time, in-person and not on Zoom, in nearly two years.

 

Competing with the Digital Giants
Mike McVay

A week doesn’t go by when someone, usually a former broadcaster, tells me how radio is dead and that the DSP’s (Apple Music Radio, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, and more) are bringing about the industries death. My response varies dependent upon what I perceive as the intelligence and experience level of the soothsayer. The reality of the situation is that radio, for the most part, has suffered some serious self-inflicted wounds. Coming at a most inopportune time as the level of competition from other media is increasing.

Radio has done a lot to degrade the listening experience. That includes increasing the commercial load, lowering production standards for those same commercials, diminishing the value of personalities, degradation of the quality of audio, less marketing & promotion to offset natural cume erosion and less investment in research which leads to a lack of a focus on what the audience wants. There are a lot of reasons that this situation exists. It is mostly as a financial necessity. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Radio has a distribution platform that’s far beyond that of the DSPs. A level of distribution that the DSP’s will openly admit they wish to match. Yet these digital giants generate real buzz and benefit from a certain sexiness. Which raises the question “What can Radio do to better compete in 2022?” I took this question to several thought leaders in our industry and to Market Managers and Program Directors of varying sizes of markets.

Well-known and highly respected media consultant Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media Responded that “while radio has the best distribution platform (a one-button solution, no buffering, no data fees), making the mission in 2021 the need to meet the audience where they are. Yes, broadcasters must continue to promote their terrestrial locations, but given the diminishing number of “regular radios” in home and workplaces, (and even some cars), accessibility on smartphones, laptops/desktops, smart speakers, as well as on in-car platforms like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is an imperative. 

Jacobs added that “It’s is no longer about what is good for radio broadcasters – it is about the user (listener).  Making sure they can find and access your content is key.” This speaks to the need for ubiquity within the radio industry.

Legendary programmer and innovator Lee Abrams added “The digital world is an exciting place. Electric with innovations and new ideas. Terrestrial radio, on the other hand, is an old technology magnified by an incredible lack of imagination and conceptual reimagining. Terrestrial radio is a utility rather than a Fan Magnet. We are in an era of remarkable cultural change and terrestrial radio is fighting the flow out of harmony with these times of the emerging new American mainstream.”

 

Well known researcher and programmer, Ken Benson of p1 Media Group added “Great radio stations used to be “Predictably Unpredictable.” Today, most stations are “predictably boring.” In today’s golden age of audio, streaming and subscriptions, consumers are platform agnostic and will find the best content regardless of the platform, whether it’s Joe Rogan’s podcast on Spotify, Howard Stern on SiriusXM, or the late Rush Limbaugh on the radio.

 

We also asked the same question of Futuri CEO Daniel Anstandig who said “The biggest thing radio can do to better compete with DSPs is to give audiences more opportunity to control the content and the experience with the brand.”

Erin Callaghan, also of Futuri, added “When our talents are relatable – both in authenticity and in topics that matter to the audience – we can foster a deep, personal connection with listeners.  But beyond that, our local talents have the opportunity to personally interact with audiences and clients.  When they show up at an event, see a client in person (just because!), engage with a listener in public. . .these things can perpetuate loyalty and inspire those fans not just to listen more, but to find and follow them on social, and then share their content with others.

In shifting to in-market, Dale Thornhill, Vice President of Commonwealth Broadcasting and Market Manager for the companies’ stations in Bowling Green and Glasgow, KY, believes that “We need to figure out how to leverage The Brand almost as an individual. Multiple separate frequencies, apps and websites will continue to get lost in the crowd.  If WXXX, or whatever you call your station, has a strong enough brand to be a household name in a market … it can retain or retake the lead.  Similar to “Did you see what Drake, Fox News or Kelly Ripa did/said/posted?  Whether it’s a selfie, a tweet, snapchat, or a mini-series it needs to be from The Brand.  The FM signal is still a great way to market “The Brand.” Don’t simply play 10-in-a-row. Be something special.

 

SVP of Sarkes Tarzian, and President & General Manager for their Fort Wayne cluster, Lee Tobin, suggests that stations can compete with the DSP’s if they are “wherever the listener (or potential listener) listens. Meet them on every platform.” He continued “Back in the day, stations tried to be at every event in town, getting the logo out there to make impressions, meeting listeners and potential listeners day-in and day-out. Now, we still have to meet those listeners, not just locally in-person, but wherever they are. On their phones, smart speakers, on-line, watching video, listening to audio. That’s where we need to meet people today. That’s how we can better compete. It takes a tireless effort to be everywhere that the audience makes a decision.”

WTTS & WGCL/Indianapolis President/General Manager Brad Holtz added “Focus on the things that can’t be replicated. First, the talent. You can hear the new Ed Sheeran song 4 dozen different ways. But the right talent draws in an audience and sets a radio brand apart. Second, experiences. Whether it’s a private concert with an up-and-coming band or a philanthropic event that rallies the community together, we need to double down on creating, promoting, and celebrating the experiences that cannot be replicated by the DSPs.

 

Bob Lawrence, the GM/Market Manager for New South Radio in Jackson, MS chimed in with “We certainly need to understand the relevance of this New World.  Too often I see websites that don’t offer the audience a “reason” and a better user experience. The sites become bogged down with too many ads versus creating a platform with a new dimension to our audio/radio products.  Radio station websites should offer more than just a live stream and ads. They are platforms that maximize brand extension opportunities, yet they often have a tendency to go unnoticed and underutilized. The industry has come to use the same “spot mentality” on our streams and websites.”

I think that we all acknowledge that there are things that radio can do better to improve the listening experience for the audience. The question is what are those things and are we willing to recommend them? I’ve been quoted before as saying that I don’t believe that radio has bled badly enough, yet, to make the painful changes that are necessary to compete. Although I also believe that our future is salvageable and need not be as bleak as it appears to be at present. However, we can’t wait much longer before addressing radios weaknesses.

Fred Jacobs advises “Analyze every distribution outlet you promote for accessibility, functionality, and ease of use.  You might even want to initiate a web survey (email database) to assess their knowledge/awareness of these outlets.  If they don’t know, your P2s/P3s will be clueless. Set aside time each week to monitor your station via each key outlet.  How is the experience?  Is everything working properly?  As it relates to the stream, the commercial breaks have long been a vulnerability.  How do yours sound, and if the answer is “clunky” or “repetitive,” address and solve these problems.”

Holtz suggests “Focus on relevance. While many corporate clusters are focused on transactional and programmatic buying, this oftentimes leads to messages that are completely misaligned. I’ve heard John Deere tractor ads running on major market alternative stations geared at 18-34s. Be relevant.”

“We need to focus on how we look & sound 24/7,” said Thornhill. “Twenty years ago, GMs and PDs were focused primarily on the sound coming out of the speakers.  While still critical, I would argue that we need to expand from “Listening Experience” to simply Experience or Engagement.  How does the app/website look and sound?  How does the stream look and sound?  How does the RDS display in cars look & sound?”

“Rethink everything. Get in the fight. Be prepared to make changes” offered Lee Abrams as a challenge. Adding “Listen to a station from 30 years ago and listen now. Other than heavier spot-loads today, you won’t hear any noticeable difference. Radio needs to be on creative steroids considering the increasing competition from newer listening technologies. This means rethinking everything from the function of the DJ to your format architecture, to sonics and beyond. Even successful stations need to think this way as the road will not be any easier in years ahead.”

Keith Cunningham, who describes himself as the Program Director and Master of Mayhem at 95.5 KLOS/Los Angeles, shared his belief that “Radio continues to have the ability to compete at the highest level, create buzz and stronger consumer connections than DSPs. Outside of being free, Radio’s core strengths are talent, localism, tech capabilities, trust in the medium, and solid infrastructure and resources (staffing, studios, sales, etc.). As the medium moves forward and continues to compete with DSPs, it’s those core strengths will keep radio relevant and competitive.

Looking into the future; what does (or should) be the path for radio to take to better compete with the Digital Giants? Can radio compete with them? Most importantly, are we prepared to do what we need to do to compete with this juggernaut that is showing rapid growth.

Fred Jacobs offered “That’s more of a content question.  And the answer – or at least a starting point – is to conduct a S.W.O.T. analysis.  What are your station’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as it relates to competitors like Spotify, Pandora, podcasts, SiriusXM, etc.?  What does your station do (local coverage, personality, event marketing) that your audience cannot get anywhere else? 

It’s easy to agree with Lee Abrams as he suggests that radio “focus on what the listeners experience. The sound of the station. Excitement, newness, being a part of The Now rather than an audio relic of the past, which in my opinion is what radio generally sounds like.” Abrams feels that radio is “running on creative fumes and completely out of sync with this new wild west.”

 

 

One of my personal fears is that we’re allowing radio to devolve into the electronic equivalent of the local weekly newspaper. There was a time when you wanted to receive that paper as it contained information that you couldn’t get anywhere else. It had coupons, which were for local merchants. Today it’s litter on my driveway. We have to change to compete with the DSP’s or become audio litter.

 

Keith Cunningham believes that “Programmers need to break the music rules each day and super-serve local listeners. Radio’s streaming and app experience needs more investment and is critical for the future. It’s likely that in a few short years, consumers will prefer listening to radio brands via an app in their smart cars vs. the car radio.” That means that we need to work diligently to create brand loyalty.

Ken Benson said somewhat similarly that what radio needs is “Innovation!” He added that he was delighted to see Audacy launch a new format tailored for New York City, 94.7/The Block. He said “Win or lose, this new Classic Hip Hop format creates interest and excitement for radio.  Our industry’s risk aversion, and over commercialization, is killing the golden goose. As Lee Abrams say’s “throw out the playbook.” It’s 2021, and many of the programming strategies and tactics from the past aren’t working as well today. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that consumers will flock to great content whether it’s Ted Lasso, Yellowstone, or the Squid Games. Give them great content!”

Bob Lawrence, providing a perspective from someone operating a cluster of stations in a smaller market, said “For those who cannot afford to buy digital audio and streaming platforms, we must rebrand radio and make it relevant again. Since virtually no one carries a radio, and this is the first generation to grow up without a bedside radio, we must make our content and our digital platforms relevant. The actual radio, as a receiver, maybe a dinosaur but our content has to matter. Thinking the same way as we’ve always done keeps our train moving at 100 mph toward a brick wall. With every passing year the wall gets closer.” I might add that the longer we wait, the impact will be greater and more deadly.

Sharing a perspective from a similar size market, Dale Thornhill suggests that “If were competing against the cluster across town or network/local TV stations, it’s still about audience and moving them to a product.  As for competing against the Digital Giants, the ground game is 2 minutes at a time.  It’s a video, a snap, a post or a short conversation.  The radio station needs to play Luke Combs in heavy rotation, but “The Brand” needs to tailgate at the concert, take selfies backstage or post a 2-minute interview.  It’s a battle for 2-minute attention spans.” Quick content is necessary to match-up with the audiences ever shortening attention span. We have too little time and too many distractions.

Brad Holtz offers “Get back to what made radio great in the first place! Local should be the future. There are several issues at play. First, we are not going to grow advertising revenue with fewer sellers. “Local” is supposed to be radio’s strength. But we are not going to capture local ad dollars by having 4 sellers covering 6 stations. We must invest in local sales staffs. Second, every market is different. The “hub-and-spoke” model for nationalized formats is a band-aid, not a long-term investment in radio. There will be some hard choices to be made but radio must make investments in local products and sales teams to have a shot at future growth.”

“Create a truly omni-channel experience for your audience” is the take of Futuri’s Jim Roberts. “Does Facebook only exist on their social media app?  No.  Facebook has podcasts, YouTube has videos, even a Twitter account.  Yes, even Facebook has a Twitter account!  Your audience is everywhere, and your content also needs to be everywhere.”

 

Futuri Media’s Kathy Eagle supports that position by saying “Don’t be afraid that you’re going to sacrifice your ratings by being active on social and digital.  Today’s stations have to be omni-channel to maintain and grow your audiences.  Look at your demo today and your “next” audience and ensure that your content is posted consistently on those platforms.  Use content that grabs attention - podcasts (both time-shifted and original) and video.  Use images that relate to your audio content.  Mix it up.  Let your talent experiment, both with types of posts and where it’s being posted.  For example, are you a CHR?  If so, are you posting on TikTok?  Is your talent encouraged to showcase their personalities?  You can gain so much more traction with your current listeners, and attract new listeners, by being where they are … which allows you to recycle them back to your terrestrial signal.”

 

Among the solutions offered, Lee Tobin added “Fixing the length of commercial breaks. It’s important to the audience and the advertiser. Be more interactive in real time. How long does it take for your station to reply to a listener? Having local personalities to build a bond with the audience, and do more than read liners and play music. Feature personalities who enhance the listening experience. Stress things that are local. DSPs cannot do that.”

Cunningham offered encouragement for the medium by saying “Radio can utilize the trust listeners have with the medium to help reinvent and evolve its strong relationship with advertisers, and move to integration being the lead for the main frame, as well as create real podcast strategies and side-channel subscription opportunities for listeners and clients.”

 

If as some critic’s claim, that radio is a diminishing business, then we need to take action and focus on three critical opportunities that can stop audience erosion and regrow listenership while building revenue.

 

1)      Improve the listening experience on-air, online and on demand.

2)      Invest in personalities and/or content creation that’s compelling.

3)      Ask the target audience what they want to hear … and give it to them.

 

The biggest advantage radio has is that it’s mass media. The DSPs, Podcasting and OnDemand are, at this point, niche media. Mass media is needed to drive niche media. Don’t wave the white flag of surrender.

 


When Talent Behave Badly
Mike McVay

Companies spend money building shows. Talent are their own brands. The magnitude of their success comes from their hard work and the level of investment made in them.  We’ve seen exceptional talent fail when there’s little or no support for them. We’ve seen exceptional talent hit exceptional highs when they have great support. However, when talent behave badly and they lose support, no one wins. It has the potential to derail a career, cost a company money and destroy a culture.

There have been times in my career when I’ve been hired as a part of crisis control team. Several times to work with artists and their management. Several times by radio companies to advise them on how to handle a situation. Not everything is an HR issue. Those are the easy problems to solve as there are usually pretty clear rules detailed in clauses in agreements to address those issues. The need for crisis control comes when something happens that impacts revenue or damages an image that may have a long-lasting negative impact.

When things go wrong, shutdown all comments temporarily, hit “pause” and give yourself time to examine the facts and weigh your options. Learn from history. How have others successfully handled unfortunate situations? What did they do well? What wasn’t done well? How did the consumer or listener react? When do you do nothing and when do you do something? If you don’t control the narrative, the narrative will control you.

The first and most important approach is to tell the truth. History has shown us that more individuals have had long-term problems in the aftermath of a crisis, because of the coverup, and not because of the actual incident. President Bill Clinton comes to mind. He wasn’t impeached because he stepped outside of the bounds of his marriage. It was because he lied under oath. If you studied the Watergate Coverup in school, you know that what tarnished Richard Nixon’s presidency was the coverup.

Sometimes it’s smart to simply apologize and disappear for a while. John Lennon said that The Beatles were “More popular than Jesus" and that quote, taken out of context, could have ended their acceptance in North America. It was part of a remark made in a March 1966 interview, in which he argued that the public were more infatuated with the band than with Jesus, and that the Christian faith was declining to the extent that it might be outlasted by rock music. The band finished their last show in August 1966 and retreated to the United Kingdom. The Beatles never toured again.

Lead singer of The Dixie Chicks (now known as The Chicks), Natalie Maines, made the mistake of criticizing then President George W. Bush from a stage in London. She said that she and the band were embarrassed to be from the same state as the President and that they did not support the war in Iraq. Ignoring that history has shown that they may have been right to criticize the President and the war, the mistake they made was that the comment seemed unsupportive of the US Military instead of the war.

This one didn’t end as well as the Beatles situation, although The Chicks continue to perform and remain amazing musicians and performers, today. Countless country radio stations boycotted their music. A move that I’ve never understood. Why would anyone punish their listeners? If the audience is upset, they’ll stop buying their music. Shouldn’t consumption drive your decision?

When the banning of The Dixie Chicks began, I was quoted in the radio trades as saying “We’ll take them at AC.” They had their cover of Landslide on the radio then. That comment garnered me a chance to work with them as a part of a reclamation project. That song still plays on many AC stations today.

The band never returned to the heights that they had previous to the incident, largely because Maines dug in her heels and fueled the fire of discord by continuing to voice her position. Which, of course, is her right. The crescendo was reached when in 2003 she performed at the ACM Awards wearing a shirt with FUTK across the front. The acronym was in response to Toby Keith who had been performing on stage with a photo of Saddam Hussein posted next to one of Natalie Maines.

What you do next matters. In 1996, then Baltimore Orioles All Star player, Roberto Alomar, got into an argument with Major League Baseball umpire John Hirschbeck over a called third strike. He spit in the umpire’s face. In a postgame interview he referenced Hirschbeck being an angry man since the death of his eight-year-old son. The two continued their feud through that season, but by October of that year they had publicly made-up and Alomar apologized to Hirschbeck.

That’s not where the story ends, though. Alomar joined with Hirschbeck in donating money to look for a cure for the disease that claimed the umpire’s infant son. The two joined forces and created a foundation and continue to focus on stamping out adrenoleukodystrophy.

Charlotte Jones Anderson, is the Dallas Cowboys' Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer, in addition to being the daughter of the owner of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones. Ms. Anderson spoke at the 2019 Radio Show, produced by the NAB and RAB, in Dallas. She spoke of a problem that arose when Hall of Fame player Michael Irvin, early in his time with the Cowboys, was arrested for drugs and prostitution. Irvin had tarnished the Cowboys name.

Jones shared that she decided that the team needed to enlist Irvin, and other Cowboy players, in helping raise money for the Salvation Army. The Cowboys had to show that they were worthy of the title “America’s Team.” It was her initiative and marketing savvy that took the spotlight off of bad behavior and shone it on their good behavior. The first time the familiar red Salvation Army kettle was in an end zone at an NFL game was during a Thanksgiving Day Cowboys game. You’ll see it there again this Thanksgiving Day.

She was appointed Chairman of the Salvation Army’s National Advisory Board in 2010 and is the first woman to ever serve in that role. Her accomplishment, while admirable, isn’t the point. The point is that she found the good inside of Irvin and engaged him in helping a national charity. That move put the good in Michael Irvin on display. It put the shine back on the star on the side of the Cowboy’s helmet.

Consider these actions:

1.      Shut down all comments … until you have a chance to analyze the situation.

2.      Hit Pause; Pull everyone together and understand what happened.

3.      Answer the question; what’s the negative impact of the situation? Address that.

4.      Search for the truth. Demand the truth.

5.      No Cover-ups. Own it. Whatever “It” is or was … own it.

6.      Does the situation warrant an apology? If you offer one, it has to be sincere.

7.      Does the talent disappear for a while? This is important if some form of rehabilitation is warranted.

8.      Can you engage with community service or a charity to show that, at the root, the talent is a good person and the company/station are good people?

Actions, as the saying goes, speak louder than words.

 

Mike McVay Guests on the Tony Doe Podcast
 
 

 

 

 

 


 

 

The Synergy of Winning Managers and Program Directors
– Mike McVay

One of my longtime friends in Programming once told me that he always wanted to be a Market Manager. Given that I was one of those that came up through programming, and went on to be a Market Manager, I asked “Why?” His response was that all he’d ever wanted to do was truly Program a Radio station and the only way to do what he wanted to do in programming was to become a market manager. A sad statement, but for this person it was true. I am sure that there are others who find themselves in that position. Fortunately, I always found myself working as a partner with the Market Managers who I worked under.

Much like the lyrics from the song “The End” by the Beatles … "And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make..." In this case substitute the word Love with the word Respect. The respect you give your manager, the respect you’ll receive as the Program Director.  If you don’t respect the person who is the manager, then at least respect the position and the job they have to execute.

Market Managers are saddled with generating revenue, often to accomplish budget goals that they didn’t set, managing expenses that they didn’t occur, working with programming to grow ratings to be able to grow revenue, interfacing with engineering to ensure the audience can hear the station on multiple platforms, and building esprit de corps.

Program Directors are often saddled with the same budget constraints as the Market Manager, magnified by being put in a position to multi-task in regard to their duties, and as such they seldom have time to engage the creative side of their brain. The performance of the PD, and talent, is measured by a rating system that is inconsistent and often influenced by insufficient sample sizes. Not always, but sometimes. That’s enough to give anyone in programming more than a few reasons to lay awake at night waiting for that nightmare to invade their dreams. Because of this sampling issue, bigger is always better, so that your cume is large enough to overcome occasional rating wobbles.

Respect is a two-way street. You as a Market Manager need to give your Program Director respect, as well as the tools they need to do their job, and encouragement to work collaboratively with the Sales, Engineering, Promotion and Marketing departments. Respect builds confidence. Programming remains a mix of Art & Science. If every move is questioned, and the PD loses the ability to trust in their art, then your station becomes dependent upon the performance of your competitors and not your own.

Communication is at the core of managing up and down successfully. No surprises from either side. There is absolutely no reason to have secrets from one another. Having been a General Manager, I hated surprises, because I never wanted to surprise those who I reported to. My style, as a PD, was to copy my market manager on all important memos. My experience as a PD is that when I communicated my challenges with my Market Manager, we collectively arrived at solutions to address the challenges that we faced.

Communicate the objective that is to be accomplished. That communication has to be clear so that there’s no confusion. Discuss the history of the station and the situation. What are your stations strengths and weaknesses? What are those of your primary competitors? How much audience do you share, in what dayparts, and what’s the location of your audience? How do they use your station versus your competitors? What’s the market manager’s ability to provide programming with the tools that they need?

If you are the program director, you need to understand the Market Managers objective for you to accomplish. What is their goal for your performance short-term and long-term? Is the goal to be accomplished one that is obtainable? If the goal is unrealistic, then you have to collaborate on designing a goal that is possible to accomplish, or you have to be given tools to achieve the goal. None of it “just happens.”

If you are the Market Manager, what about the program director’s objectives? Are the objectives of both positions aligned? What’s does the accomplishment of your objectives look like. You have to know what success looks like to accomplish it. If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will take you there, but you’ll never know when you arrive.

Designing the strategy as to how you’re going to accomplish your objective should be an all-hands-on-deck discussion. Because most programmers come from the on-air side of the business and most managers come from the sales side of the business, it will sometimes put you at cross purposes. You will want to identify who on the overall team can help in accomplishing the objective, and they then become a part of your strategic discussion. I’m not saying that you should make a decision by committee, but rather that a committee can help you pull together many resources, which comes from a variety of perspectives.

The decision as to the approach you take to implementing the strategy is driven by leadership. Take on all of the input you can, but the decision comes down to the one made by the Market Manager and the Program Director, and the team is then charged with implementing it.  

If you want to motivate your team, never ask them to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. If you want to encourage others to follow you, then make sure that they know that you’re willing to put in the time and energy to accomplish the objectives for the station and you expect them to do likewise. We don’t have jobs. We have careers. Lead by example.

The synergy of the Market Manager and the Program Director should be rooted in trust. You have to know that you have each other’s backs. That comes with time. You have to really know each other to be able to trust in each other, but that trait of Trust will bond the two of you, and that bond will increase your odds of achieving success.

Reward success. Acknowledge your accomplishments. A radio station that I consulted went from nowhere to #1 and stayed at #1 for several years. The market manager never liked to celebrate by throwing a #1 party. The thinking of the manager was that it’s the team’s job to be #1 and that by celebrating it, it would encourage the staff to “take their foot off of the gas pedal.” Sometime after they were not #1 regularly, the manager confided in me that they wished we would have celebrated every #1. It’s not your birthright to be #1. When you reach that pinnacle, enjoy it, and acknowledge that it’s harder to stay #1 than to grow to #1.

Ten Steps for Manager-Programmer Synergy:

1.      Recognize and understand the duties of each other’s’ jobs.

2.      Respect each other and respect your team.

3.      Understand the objective that is to be accomplished.

4.      Strategize collaboratively and develop a plan to accomplish the objective.

5.      Communicate to each other and your team/s the goal and the strategic plan to achieve the goal.

6.      Implement the plan.

7.      Lead by example. Leaders lead from the front.

8.      Trust each other and trust the plan.

9.      Acknowledge the accomplishments of your team. Rewarding good behavior encourages more good behavior.

10.   Celebrate your victories.

Working as a team, collaboratively, always increases your chances for success.

 

 




 

The Succession Plan
– Mike McVay

The reality of life is that all things end. Jobs end, careers end, life ends. The question is what happens after the end. The question here isn’t posed for those who face the end, but rather for those who don’t. The business has to continue. The show has to continue. Programming has to continue. Sales has to continue. More than anything else … leadership has to continue.

The recent white paper, written by Futuri CEO Daniel Anstandig that utilized research from Smith Geiger, showed many challenges facing media. Opinions from executives in media, and the audience who use media for information and entertainment, were researched in this project. The study raised the need for a succession plan when noting that many in America are facing retirement, and significant numbers of others are planning to change careers or work fewer hours, magnified by a worldwide pandemic that has prompted many to assess their work/life balance.

A large percentage of their sample, 45% to be exact, plan to retire within the next 10 years. That number includes 8% within the next three years and 18% between the next four to seven years. The bulk of the other half, or 41%, plan to retire in 11 years. According to the study 14% are undecided as to when they’ll retire. The headline, again, is that almost half of the sample plan to retire within ten years. That’s a lot of departures in media and something to be concerned about, and for leadership to begin planning for such departures now, as we all know that time accelerates as we age.

Not surprisingly, when one believes they will retire in the next few years, their focus is on keeping current clients. When they’re not thinking about an imminent retirement, they are focused on building new business. The same finding could be applied to those who are responsible for growing audience. We know that it’s easier to keep the audience that you have versus attracting a new audience, but Prato’s rule applies. That is that 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes. The application for programmers would be that 80% of your listening comes from 20% of the audience.

During my time as a Program Director, as a General Manager, as a consultant and as a Corporate EVP, I’ve been faced with developing a succession plan due to the loss of great talent, great programmers and great managers. You never want to be “that person” who is afraid to take a vacation because their understudy could take their role.

I was involved in replacing myself by working with my superiors when it came to the succession plan for my own departure from the EVP/Programming tole that I once held. I wish that I could say that succession plans always work. I can say that, in my opinion, the succession plan for my departure from my corporate role has been successful. To me, you should want the companies you’ve worked for to do well, as that validates that you must have been good at what you do in your job.

Replacing Don Imus at WABC/NY, following his retirement, wasn’t easy. It has been, by most opinions, successful. Especially given that it’s on an AM station. Although it’s fair to say that even though Mr. Imus’s ratings weren’t what they once were by the time he departed, he was still attractive to a large audience and advertisers were still very much in love with him. He was one of the all-time best on-air personalities, ever. His successors, Bernie & Sid, were already a part of the I-Man’s show. That familiarized the audience with them.

 

John Lanigan’s departure from WMJI/Cleveland was successfully succeeded. Due in part to the succeeding talent being added to his show well before his departure. That allowed the audience an opportunity to become familiar with them. John Lanigan, welcoming them to his show, and by embracing them on-air, validated his on-air partners as a “part of the family.” Lanigan is another, like Imus, that was still very much in demand when he departed his morning program.

A part of every succession plan should allow for time to initiate the successor into the role and, if it’s not a termination, the individual who plans to depart can be a great help to that person who follows them. You never want to lose a leader or a talent. Unfortunately, you will. What’s the plan to replace them? Who on your staff can take their place? Change, while scary, is also an opportunity to grow and improve.

Remember this; everything ends.

The complete whitepaper from Futuri-Smith Geiger is available here: https://futurimedia.com/study21

 

 

 




 

 

The Creative Environment
– Mike McVay

Everything changed in late March and early April 2020. Suddenly people were working from home. Makeshift studios were assembled in clothes closets and spare bedrooms. Kitchen tables became desks. Commercials were produced without flair and few were more than voice-over-music. Sellers worked the phones to keep clients. Engineers were heroes as they figured out how to enable remote scheduling of traffic logs, remote music scheduling, and the use of digital programs to share commercial and promo copy. Program Directors worked to keep their talent engaged and brainstormed ways for multi-talent shows to sound as good as they do when in the studio.

Fast forward to today and some shows, but not all, have returned to the studio while most other roles remain working in a remote world. During that time most have mastered working remotely. There are a very few companies who never worked fully remotely, but in those cases, some used plexiglass screens, mandatory masking and in some cases, (once vaccines became available), mandatory vaccination. Interview five different people in a radio cluster and you may get five different opinions as to how successful remote broadcasting has been.

There will be a time when this pandemic ends. No one knows when that will be, how many variants will come and go before we hit herd immunity, or how we’ll eliminate this virus globally given the way citizens of the Earth travel today. The Spanish Flu, starting in 1918, lasted for a little more than two years. People didn’t have the modes of expedient travel that we have today, so it was easier to contain globally. We will reach herd immunity because sooner or later we’ll have enough people who get sick and have the antibodies or people will get vaccinated. The Spanish Flu took the lives of 500 million worldwide. Estimates of those who died in the United States was 675,000.  We’ve topped that number as of this writing with more than 700,000 dead in the USA. The point being that we will eventually hit herd immunity.

Coronavirus stats are not what this article is about. It’s about the cause and effect. The Coronavirus forced us to work from home. There are some positives in regard to productivity. However, one of the things that we’ve lost by working remotely is the creative environment that exists when creative people are together in one place. What we’ve lost by working remotely is experiencing a culture, teamwork, feeding off of each other’s enthusiasm, and esprit de corps.  We’ve lost the ability to mentor, train, improve and positively impact one another. By not being together we’ve lost the ability to have spontaneous ideation. Our personal lives may be better, but our work output may not be as good.

Talking to clients and friends, they’re faced with talent who want to work from home, promotion people who prefer to start their day from wherever they live, and programmers who have moved significant distances from where they work. Some moved to faraway states. Some moved down the street. The point is that the opportunity to work remotely was akin to kicking an anthill. The ants scattered. Now, a new wrinkle has been added for whenever companies/stations ask their employees to come back to the studio.

It’s true that voice-tracking from remote locations is on the rise. It’s also true that many stations are also using syndicated/network programming to bolster their ratings. If you have a voice-tracked show on your station, you have to treat that remote talent as if they are a member of your staff and keep them informed. If you have a network show, you have to work to localize the show. You cannot flip a switch.

It’s not impossible to build a culture remotely, but it is difficult to build a long-lasting culture and encourage on-going enthusiastic performance when working from anywhere other than the studio. You have to purposely connect, communicate and direct the talent in order for them to have specific clarity on what’s expected of them. If your talent is not coming back to the studio, then you need a plan to create a virtual culture that can make-up for not being together in-person.

I’m sure that my opinion will not be popular with many readers. We’ve become used to working from home in sweats and no socks, avoiding rush hour traffic and the cost of parking & fuel. Enjoying the luxury of being able to tend to children and other family members. To literally feel less pressure because no one is looking over your shoulder. Personally, I enjoy having a home office, but I miss the creative synergy that comes from being with other creatives in one location. Thank goodness for travel.

In some administrative cases, working remotely even leads to being more efficient and effective. The administrative role is very different than the role of talent.  It’s not the same for talent. There’s something special about being able to meet with others, hear what’s going on in their lives, ideate on the hot topics and use that information as fodder for show prep. Other people’s lives become content.

There’s a reason that Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and local news broadcasts have their teams and talent back in the studio. There’s a reason that the talent on College Game Day and the NFL Pre/Post-Game shows are together in-person. Same for the MLB as baseball enters the playoffs. There’s a reason that the morning TV shows are together in-person. Their performances are better when together. That starts with being together to prepare, rehearse and take advantage of the creative environment that only comes from being together in the studio.

It's time to go back to work.

 




 

 

The Future of …                                               
By Mike McVay

It’s not surprising that a company named Futuri would commission a research study to acquire insight into where media is going both from an audience and revenue viewpoint. The study from Futuri and research firm Smith Geiger Group offers a blueprint on how Radio can remain one of the receivers on which we hear Audio, despite all audio being referred to by the respondents as Radio, regardless of the platform.

The study includes responses from nearly 200 executives in radio, television, and digital publishing in regard to how their businesses have been impacted by the Coronavirus. It includes responses from 2,000 nationwide media users between the ages of 16-74. The study also included focus groups with more than 100 media users in America. The sample was balanced by age, gender, education, employment and income. I was impressed with the clarity of the study’s findings and concerned at the prospect of what broadcast media and digital publishers are faced with to show growth.

The white paper notes that “A substantial investment of time and resources will be required to claim the potential rewards.” Which validates what I’ve written previously that the “fix” won’t be easy for legacy media, but it’s necessary. Recently, I opined in one article that “we’ve not bled enough yet to take the painful steps necessary to improve our product and our service to clients.” It appears to me that many media outlets are focused on abdication versus focusing on a resurrection. The distribution that radio has is great, but it won’t be that way forever, unless we stem the erosion of the audience.

Looking at the study in two parts, the responses of those in media and the responses of those using media, provides an almost unanimous vote that something has to change. This is where the large sample size provides certain validity to the findings.

Media executives are concerned. Those responsible for revenue are concerned that they do not have the data-driven sales research and marketing pitches to position the uniqueness of their brands. They lack what they need to keep up with digital-first competitors. Content leaders are struggling with cost cutting that’s eliminating talent which erodes quality and market connectivity and the loss of quality due to over commercialization.  Everyone is worried with their ability to keep up with emerging technologies. In the meantime, content remains in demand by a hungry audience.

The key takeaways, identified by Futuri CEO and Founder Daniel Anstandig, validates what most of us believe. Which is that the audience’s perception of media is changing and our perceptions don’t necessarily align with theirs. Social media is the greatest opportunity for content, audience and revenue growth. Investment in social media is the greatest opportunity for content, audience and revenue growth.

The research shows that Radio is the name used for all pureplay audio. It’s a term that’s applied to all audio. Meaning that regardless of hearing audio content over-the-air, streaming, satellite, on a smart speaker or any digitally delivered audio, and even if it’s not radio audio, but from a streaming service, people refer to it as Radio. Which screams that we shouldn’t be so focused as to what we call it, but focus on the content that’s being delivered. 

 

Talent is a positive differentiator when it comes to audio channels. The focus has to be omnichannel. The talent has to be authentic. The content has to be well targeted. This study showed, from the focus groups, that the audience has high standards. They don’t want to hear rambling conversations that are of no interest to them. That makes sense. Listeners compare local talent to national talent. To the audience it’s a flat world. The concern is that at a time when talent is incredibly important, the industry is eliminating or devaluing them in some situations. Personalities are the one thing that a competitor cannot easily copy.  

To that end, local content is key, which may seem like a “no brainer”, but it’s not unusual to hear personalities who are in a market focusing on national content and topics that may have little interest among the locals in the market. Talent need not be based in a market, but they need to relate to and connect to the market where the audience listens to them. The greater the connectivity, providing the content is interesting and well-focused, the greater the opportunity for success.

Social media, as a part of a show, has great value to the listener in regard to entertainment, information and the aforementioned connection to the market. This is particularly true in regard to the morning show. Posting interesting content, that was mentioned on your show, can serve as an igniter leading to a potential listener making a choice to start their day by listening to your station.

Our biggest competitor for share of attention, and in regard to usage, is social media. Especially Facebook. People get their news, weather, traffic, hear about new music, and are entertained with videos and pictures on social media. Social media is providing sought after content and creating an emotional lift for users. Content that is most sought after falls into the categories of Funny and Happy. 

A finding that shouldn’t be surprising, but will catch some off-guard, is that there is a general decline of trust in large institutions. Major TV Networks are not excepted. Not one of the major networks (Fox, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, PDS, and Newsmax) commanded trust from half of the respondents. Not one. Younger Americans are the least trusting of the information that they receive from Major networks. Interestingly, this study notes that local Radio, local Television and local Newspapers are consider the most trustworthy of the media outlets. Radio, ranked as the highest, was still only trusted by 45% of the respondents. Facebook is used for news more than any other social or digital outlet.

When radio and television executives were asked about the Top-5 most important challenges that they’re facing today, they responded with 1) Keeping the advertisers you have, 2) Breaking through to new buyers/advertisers, 3) Keeping the audience that you have, 4) Keeping up with the pace of change and 5) Attracting and retaining younger audiences.  

While the study points out, in some cases the obvious and in some cases surprises, it does conclude with the optimism that a far-sighted view of the media situation could lead to realization of the issues that plague us and curative actions could lead to a reversal of audience erosion and success. However, the world and media usage has changed, and with that change comes the need for changing to meet the audience where they are and satisfy them in a way that creates excitement and enthusiasm. Such enthusiasm needs to come from advertisers as well as listeners and it needs to start with action.

As I often comment to those naysay when a solution is offered, “what’s your solution?” We know that radio isn’t going to return to its glory days when there was little competition, but we also know that it’s a good business and that by becoming omnipresent on multiple platforms, we can attract an audience. We also know that to do so we have to improve the listening experience and we have to return to a sales strategy that sells product, services, merchandise and experiences instead of “spots and dots” if we’re to compete with other more targeted media.

The report from Futuri and Smith Geiger concludes by asking nine cognitive questions that could be, and should be, the fodder for a discussion in radio and television conference rooms across North America.

1)      How do you create content for so many different channels?

2)      Where do you distribute your content?

3)      How can you address the audiences desire for control and personalization?

4)      How do you leverage talent as a differentiator, focusing on authenticity and personal connection?

5)      How do you expand the news brand to multiple channels without compromising quality or credibility?

6)      How do you leverage the trust your audience has in you as a strength across all channels?

7)      How do you take advantage of the growth of sports, eSports and betting as content, audience and revenue growth opportunities?

8)      How do you use data-driven marketing and sales research as an opportunity?

9)      What’s the best way for your brand to leverage consumers growing willingness to pay for quality content?

I will add a 10th question that needs to be asked; 10) How can you lower your commercial load, without fear of massive revenue loss, in an effort to improve the listening experience?

You can register for the white paper from Futuri/Smith Geiger, as well as for the October 12th formal web presentation by Futuri’s Daniel Anstandig, at https://futurimedia.com/study21.

 

 

Try Something New
– Mike McVay

Why is everyone always afraid to try something new? Obviously, the risk/reward analysis has to be done before taking any risk, otherwise you’re relying on luck, which isn’t very reliable. It doesn’t matter how big the risk or how big the reward, there is a certain personality type that never wants to roll the dice, and another personality type who thrives on rolling the dice. The most correct answer, if there is such a thing, comes down to having a solid plan to execute a well thought out strategy. That and ice water in your veins to see the strategy through.

The newest and biggest media buzz, as of this moment, is what ESPN2 is airing during Monday Night Football. The Manning Brothers, Peyton and Eli, are watching the MNF game on ESPN, and commenting on the game, as it plays out. It’s what people who watch games, in a room with friends, do during a game. Except it’s on steroids as the two Super Bowl Winning Quarterbacks offer insightful commentary, invite famous guests to join in, and have fun being disrespectful and ragging on each other as only siblings can do in a good-natured way. The critics seem to like it, and more importantly, football fans are checking it out. Kudos to ESPN.

What’s brilliant about this tactic is that ESPN wasn’t afraid to detract an audience from the mothership, they took advantage of an under-viewed situation given that ESPN2 usually runs something that doesn’t compete with football opposite of MNF, and they are milking the tactic for publicity which is earned marketing. They’re promoting it on social media, through the press, and using their own on-line and broadcast platforms to build an audience for ESPN2. This is a smart way to make the once wise-cracking-collegial-style of reporting, that they were once known for, new again and it makes the ESPN brand fresh. Let’s face it … in a world where many people get their sports news on their phone or via YouTube … this is a brilliant way to reignite a product?

Unknown to many is that there is a similar program that takes place in the United Kingdom, Germany and in other European nations. During the European version of Football (known as Soccer here) they have several former footballers who will sit and discuss the match. The difference there versus here is that ESPN owns the rights to Monday Night Football. Which makes it all the more significant in that they’ve attacked themselves. It also legitimizes the longtime practice of stealing what works and making it your own.

When one of my clients was about to lose an NFL team to a competitor, we discussed doing something similar, but for radio only. What the client station did do has been effective, so far in this young season, by continuing their Pre-Game and Post-Game broadcasts using experts as the hosts. It’s a smart tactic because those who have video available to them will watch the game and those who are at the game are likely not listening to radio during the game. Thus, capturing an audience into and out of the sports arena is a real opportunity.

There was another time in the not too recent past where the radio property I was working for, based on research, decided that we couldn’t easily beat the morning show across the street. Their rock show was dominant and showed few weaknesses. Ideation led us to wave the white flag on mornings and create a midday team show that was as entertaining as a morning show, but airing 10:00am-2:00pm. Thus “Wake & Bake” was born. A show designed for those who wake-up late and … well … get baked. 

 

We’ve tried two-person afternoon shows, naming an air-talent “Heaven” versus a show titled “Radio from Hell”, launched a liberal talk show targeted at millennials which was hosted by Clay Aiken and named TBH (To Be Honest), and there was Classic Hip Hop that dominated for a short while as a wide sweeping format. Some of these ideas worked. Some did not.

I’m consulting a nationally syndicated morning talk show that features a male anchor with three female co-hosts. The programs’ unique approach is to show all sides of those topics that are in the news and people are talking about. Be they controversial or entertainment based on what’s trending. It’s not about whose side is right and whose side is wrong.

Jimmy Failla on Fox News Radio is different as is the Gutfeld Show on the Fox News Channel. Greg Beharrell is an actor and radio personality who is presenting a different kind of entertainment on nighttime radio as is the show Steve Gorman Rocks. DeDe McGuire is a woman of color leading a morning show that’s nationally syndicated. The list goes on as experimentation takes place, but there is much more room for trial and error.

Almost every cluster has at least one station in a market where “something” can be tried. Podcasting and HD2 gives you a canvas on which to trial a program or a format. We know this; if you try something new, you will be ridiculed, until it’s successful. Then you’ll be copied and the running of the lemmings will begin.

 

 

Fiddling While Rome Burns
– Mike McVay

Last week news broke that, according to a study by the research firm MoffetNathanson, radio revenues will rebound in 2021 by 12%. That is truly a positive sign, and significantly better than seeing the 25% loss in radio revenues from 2019-2020, driven by the pandemic. It isn’t the significant rebound that many of us expected or hoped to see. Up is up and down is down, and given the devastation to the global economy because of the pandemic, anything that stops the bleeding is a positive. 

Overall ad revenue, for media, will be up 24.7% 2021 vs 2019. That number is buoyed by a huge 59.6% increase for Digital advertising. Radio will be down 16% 2021 vs 2019. We’re in the same space as outdoor, magazines and newspapers. What should concern us even more is that the study shows radio on a continual revenue slide in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025, which is as far forward as they projected.  Losing 5% in 2022, 3% in 2023, 3% 2024 and 3% 2025. The losses are estimated. Meaning they could be greater or lesser.

These numbers should serve as a wake-up call. The revenue erosion that’s predicted for radio doesn’t have to be fait accompli. We can stop the erosion of revenue, but we have to do is soon, and we have to realize that a turnaround won’t happen quickly. Changing habits is hard enough. Failing someone’s expectations and bringing them back as regular consumers is even harder.

My advocacy is multifold. Our focus should be to run several streams at once.

Improve the listening experience; Content, Commercial load, Production and Technical.
Deliver content on every platform that is used for entertainment by your target audience.
Connect to the community that you serve and be visible in the community that you serve.
Sale your advertisers product/service/experience and stop selling “spots.” When you get results for your advertisers, you’ll get results for yourself.
One of the most important steps is to do research with your current and potential audience base and research with your current and potential advertiser base.
Entertain the audience at a higher level.
Inform the audience credibly and at a higher level.
Market and promote the product; once the product is ready to be promoted.
Have patience.
Radio, that word that describes audio no matter where you hear an over-the-air station, has amazingly large distribution. We’ve spent slightly more than 100 years making radio a part of everyday life. Only to allow it to begin a slow audience decline and a rapid revenue decline. We need to improve the content that we deliver.

We need to do a better job of satisfying advertisers. We need to promote the benefits of radio to the advertiser and the audience. Radio still moves product, makes music a hit, is the “turn-to” that you can depend on in a crisis … for now. It isn’t our birthright to have an audience or advertisers. It’s hard work to attract them. Apparently, it’s even harder to keep them.

This is still a good business. I believe in the power of radio and the audio we deliver to multiple platforms. We don’t have to accept that radio is an eroding business, but we have to take action, before we can stem the erosion that we’re seeing. How far do we have to fall before we make the painful decisions necessary to stop our audience and revenue losses? We can stop this … but it means change.

 

 

 

The Next Crisis
– Mike McVay

The 20th Anniversary of 9-11 took place over the weekend and it was impossible to avoiding hearing, seeing or thinking about it. Many media outlets shared memories, aired tribute vignettes, replayed old news reports from that eventful day that changed how we lived before 9-11. On-air personalities spoke about where they were when the terrorist attack took place. Some broadcasters were prepared for any type of crisis, but most weren’t prepared for an attack on US soil.

Twenty years ago, no one had really thought of signing with a news network for Crisis Coverage. I don’t even know if such a service existed on 2001. Stations who were without a news network plugged their audio into a TV and broadcast CNN or other channels, without permission. Some stole what news they could get from the internet, which also wasn’t as smart then as it is today. Cell phones weren’t as smart then as they are now. The 9-11 attack on America was three years before Facebook. 

In the months that followed, many broadcast organizations held seminars that included sessions on what to do in case of another such attack, or a weather crisis, or an act of God that takes lives. We were all on high alert. America stood as one. There was a unity, out of necessity, that was palpable. The feeling of togetherness faded with time, as did the belief that we needed to have an action memo handy so that Program Directors, air-talent, engineers, sellers, traffic and management would know what to do. Watching the coverage of this past weekend rekindle in me that feeling that we should always be prepared for times of crisis, regardless of the type of crisis.

You’re at a music, sports or any kind of non-news station when a crisis of 9-11 magnitude happens, or a life-threatening weather event like Hurricane Ida or natural disaster like an Earth Quake takes place, which should bring a response from your management to change the stations programming to 100% news. It may be from your own news department or crisis coverage from a network, but you have to have a source to be able to provide the audience with information. It is understandable that if a listener has access to a video source, they may go to that upon hearing the news from your station, but what you’ve done with that announcement is provide your audience with the comfort that they can depend on you as a source for important or urgent information.

You’re at an All News or News/Talk station. This is your Super Bowl. Go wall-to-wall coverage and provide your community with the survival information that they need. If you’re far from the epicenter of the action, focus on the incidents impact on your community. For instance, gasoline prices went up since Hurricane Ida. When 9-11 happened, all communities found themselves applying new security measures, and travel as we knew it prior to 2001, changed dramatically.

Before your audience can depend on you, you must be ready to react, and that means being prepared and having rehearsed for a crisis. Create a CRISIS File on your computer and on your devices, but print it out as a back-up, in case of a power failure.

The CRISIS FILE is a quick reference of how to respond to a variety of emergencies. Each page lists the order of contact for each event. Thus, removing “what should we do” time wasting guessing when minutes count. Make the printed version easily accessible and in an identified area. Put it on-line at your company Intranet. Memo your team where to find this information.

 

CLUSTER CONTACTS … First, know how to react as a cluster. Talk about what you want your audience to walk away with from listening. Page one should contain the office extension, home phone, cell phone, email info, and probable vacation contacts; especially if not in the same building for the MM, ND, PD, Sales Manager. Call-In Staff, Cluster Personnel, News Network Contacts, Chief Engineer, Other corporate executives in the event your situation involves other markets. Include the Studio direct numbers, just in case. What’s the Hotline number? Do all of your primary team members know that number? Prepare response guidelines for on-air, intercompany communication and for the press so that your words during an emotional period do not come back to haunt you.

LOCAL CONTACTS, ALL DISTRICTS … Police, Fire, County Health Departments, Center for Disease Control, Hospital Emergency Rooms, EMS, Schools, Government, Prosecutors, Roads & Highways cross referenced, Transit, Taxi, Delivery Services, and FedEx. GOVERNMENT CONTACTS … City, County, State/Regional and Federal. UTILITIES … all contacts for Gas, Water, Sewer and Electric.

CRISIS FILES … Think-out-of-the-box as you prepare the contents of each of the categories. Pull-in your team for ideation. For example, for an airline crash, include the airport fire tower, control tower, fire stations near airport, airport EMS, rental car service desks, FAA, major airlines, general aviation spokesman ...for all airports in your region. Bring depth and detail to each category.

WHENEVER-WHATEVER … Airline Crash, Commercial, Airline Crash, Private, Amber Alert, Amusement Park Accident, Arrest, Company Personnel, Assignation/Death, World, Assassination/Death, Local, Assassination/Death, National. Beach Emergency, Bioterrorism, Blizzard, Bomb Threat, Bridge Collapse, Building Takeover, Public, Building Takeover, School. Drowning, Earthquake, Economic disaster, Epidemic, Evacuation Plans, Explosion, Fires in a Hotel, Public Building, School, Forest Fires, Floods, High Speed Chase, Hostage Situation, Hurricane, Kidnapping, Nuclear Accident, Pandemic, Mass Power Outage, Mass Road Closure, School Emergency, Space Emergency, Spills; Chemical, Oil Tanker, Toxic Waste, Terrorist Attack-Local, Terrorist Attack-National, Terrorist Attack-World, Tornado, Major Traffic Accident, Major Train Wreck, Tsunami, Volcanic Eruptions, War - Declared or Not Declared, Water/Sewage Problems, Weather/Drought, Weather/Extreme Cold, Weather/Extreme Heat, Weather/Severe Warnings.

What can you add to this list that’s right for your market and stations? Precious minutes during breaking news of crisis magnitude is not the time to decide how to respond, but rather to react.

 


 




 

Mike McVay joins Episode 16 of the Trailblazers Podcast
 
Episode 16: Mike McVay Trailblazers: A Megatrax Podcast for Sound Media Professionals:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Why Storytelling is Important for All Podcasters - Mike McVay | Audry talks Audio


When you can identify with a story when you can visualize a story, you can tell that story. In this episode of Audry talks Audio, our co-founder Niklas Hildebrand talks to Mike McVay, president of McVay Media.

Mike was most recently the Executive Vice President of Content and Programming for Cumulus Media and Westwood One. He's an expert in storytelling and how to engage listeners' audiences. He's also a consultant to Benztown and has recently spoken at Podcast Movement in Nashville about storytelling and how it's done right.

In 30 minutes, Mike and Niklas talk about why every podcaster should have some knowledge about storytelling and why it's so important.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Mike McVay to be Inducted into West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame!
- Press Release

West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame Announces 2021 Inductees. Proud to join this group at the October 16 ceremony at Museum of Radio and Technology in Huntington, W.Va.

(Huntington, W. Va., August 23, 2021)—Four radio and TV professionals will be inducted into the West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame on October 16 at the Museum of Radio and Technology in Huntington, W. Va. The ceremony will be broadcast live at 6:00pm over many radio stations across the state. Limited seating is available at the Museum, which is on Florence Avenue in the Harveytown district.

Tom Resler, the Museum’s Hall of Fame committee chairman, said that the selection committee had a talented field of individuals from which to choose. “They have demonstrated excellence in the field of broadcasting—in front of the cameras, on the mic or behind the scenes—many of them as lifelong careers,” he said.

2021 Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductees:

Mike McVay. President of McVay Media, McVay is a 40-year programmer with national and local consulting, management, ownership, sales, programming and on-air experience, starting in Moundsville, W.Va. as Program Director/Morning Personality of WEIF in 1974. He then shifted to PD/Morning Personality at WNEU/Wheeling. From there, he went to PD/Morning Personality at WCHS, Charleston, W.Va.

Steve Cotton. Cotton is in his 24th season as the radio voice of the Herd and his 27th year overall as a member of the Marshall broadcast crew. In August of 1996, Marshall handed Cotton its play-by-play microphone. Cotton is entrenched as “the Voice of the Herd,” a job he held more than twice as long as anyone else in that school’s history

Chris Lawrence. The morning voice of the Morning News on MetroNews has been associated with West Virginia Radio Corporation for more than two decades. The native of Big Stone Gap, Virginia joined the company as an anchor at WAJR in Morgantown in 1990.

Rod Jackson. Jackson is an alumnus of Washington State University, where he studied journalism. His career in news took him across the country and all over the world. Jackson was the News Director at WOWK-TV, which was his pride and joy. Jackson was News Director at WBRE in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania before accepting the job as News Director at WOWK, bringing more than 40 years of experience with him to the Charleston-Huntington market.

 




 

The Total Radio Station
– Mike McVay

The golden rule of programming is to provide the listener with Instant Gratification. If you’re programming a music station, then play the biggest hits the most frequently, so that every time they click on your station, they hear a favorite song. If yours is a News/Talk station, then you have to talk about the hot topics and “play the hits” as if you are a music station. Sports stations that are successful do the same thing, in a conversational manner, all the while avoiding “X’s & O’s.”

Your music/story rotations will vary by format, but running an OES (Optimum efficiency Scheduling) analysis, can give you the answer to how many times a song/story needs to repeat in a week to be heard by the audience 3.5 or more times. I’ve always liked to look at the national average of Time Spent Listening (TSL) for a format and then either speed-up or slow-down content turnover based on getting the audience to listen longer.

There is a common thought that if your ratings are down and you have a shorter than average TSL, a small library or frequent exposure of songs hurts your TSL. The reverse is true, if you’re play the right songs. Want to build TSL … tighten the library and increase how often you play the hits … music or stories. When you see your TSL grow, then start to slow your rotation. All of this is dependent on presenting what you know are the hit songs/stories.

Information on radio has changed dramatically over the last few years. Most people hear breaking news first on their phone, signaled by an alert, that calls attention to a social media app, news/sports app or a station app. They come to your radio station for more details, or opinions, if they don’t have video easily available to them. I’m not demeaning the value of news on the radio. It’s an important asset, and you cannot ignore the news, but you have to be aware that radio is not the warning system that it once was. Which is why all stations should have an app and offer it to their audience.

Content falls into these categories; Heart, Purse, Health, Safety, Relaxation, Local and National stories. Heart stories touch the heartstrings. The story of those impacted by Hurricane Ida. The winners of the Paralympics and their stories, a good deed done by a community leader, or honoring those whose lives were lost during the evacuation from Afghanistan. Those are examples of Heart stories.

Purse stories touch on anything that impacts our pocketbooks. Gasoline prices are skyrocketing. The average American struggles to payoff college loans. The PPP Loans of many have been forgiven. Be it good or bad, anything that impacts what you make or how you live is important to your audience.

Health stories have been important for years, but never more so than during a pandemic. The population of the USA is top heavy with Post War Baby Boomers. That means that their aging issues will put pressure on the health system and saddle the next two generations with caring for their parents and grandparents. Selfcare falls into this category.

Safety stories are on the top of everyone’s mind. Safety for themselves and for their families. Tell the audience how to stay safe during a social disturbance by sharing what areas to avoid. Safety might be family focused, like announcing a recall for a specific car seat, or making the listener aware of a food recall.

Relaxation stories are about the management of stress in our lives, where to go with your free time, how best to enjoy time away from work, and how to entertain or connect with one’s family.

Local and National stories, whatever the content, need to be tied to the community that the stations serving, but even more important is that the stories are those that the local market is interested in and that meaning to them. Don’t deliver a national or local story just because it exists. What’s it’s connection to the target audience? Answer that question. 

The stories don’t necessarily air in this order, but whenever you have content that can fill one of those buckets, it’s a bonus as it enables you to present sticky content. These stories can air inside the newscast or be delivered by a personality outside of a newscast. Their value is at the same level regardless.

The most consistently highly rated radio stations have great entertaining personalities who build loyalty among their audience. The mark of success for an air talent is when their core audience feels that if they miss a show, they’ll miss something. That’s what builds daily tune-in and that’s what overcomes the occasional wobbles of audience measurement.

It should be obvious that personalities who generate great ratings are extremely valuable, hard to come by, and are a greater key to success than promotion and marketing. Investing in the right talent can be a better use of your funds than marketing. That’s not to say that Promotion and Marketing are not important. They’re definitely important, but if you promote a bad product, you simply accelerate its demise. Building your station around great personalities leads to longer lasting success.

Great promotion is like Life. Expectation, Realization and Memory. Tell the audience what they can win and hype the benefit of winning the prize. Don’t get bogged down in the details of the prize. Talk about how winning the prize will make the winner feel. When the prize is given away, tell the winner that they won, and then be quiet and let them speak. The silence will be a signal that they should speak. That’s when you will hear their story. Their telling of their story allows all of us to share in that winning experience. The piece that’s often missed is Memory. That’s where we not only hear who won the prize, but you create promos from the audio of when you present the winner with their prize. It’s a great way to extend the magic of winning.

Marketing today is exceptionally difficult. There’s so much noise in the marketplace. Messages are everywhere. TV, Video, streaming, in podcasts, outdoor, transit, social media, direct marketing, print and on your own airwaves. The most effective is ALL OF IT at once. No one can afford that today. That leads me to suggest targeted marketing as the most effective for messaging and the most cost-effective way to reach an audience and convert potential listeners. I like outdoor because it is “point of purchase.” Although using direct marketing and social media together, provides the best opportunity, and has the least financial waste to a marketing plan.

The final piece of the construction of The Total Radio Station is Culture. You hear that word bantered about in regard to sports teams, but it holds true for every business, and especially one that depends on creative individuals to perform. Can you create a culture where your talent want to perform, are excited to perform and know that you have their backs in providing them with the tools and guidance to be successful? You can feel the winning spirit the minute you walk in the door of a station with great culture. You can heart it on the air. That’s where it matters the most.  What comes out of the speakers is a reflection of the culture of the station.

 

 

The Next Time the World Locks Down
– Mike McVay

Save this article. Make a digital copy of it. Print it. Keep it handy for the next time the world locks down.

Many of us have now lived through earthquakes, forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, scorching dry spells and terrorist attacks. Add to that the latest … a Global Pandemic. We hope that what happened in March 2020 never happens again. We’re not out of the woods yet, so it could. If it does, one would hope that those of us who lived through it last time are better prepared for it the next time and that we’ve learned from our experience.

The biggest heroes, in regard to being able to stay on the air during a lockdown, came from the Engineering and Technical departments. Within days they put air-talent into their homes to broadcast their shows and to produce/voice commercials. They enabled Program Directors/Music Directors to be able to schedule music from remote locations. Traffic departments were set-up to work remotely. Promotions were able to deliver prizes to listeners before businesses were closed down.

We learned some very important things during the initial months of the pandemic. Radio is significantly dependent on in-auto commuters. Moving Dayparts to fit new listening habits, for the most part, was not beneficial and didn’t show rating growth. If we have a lockdown again, be aware that listeners want to listen to radio audio when they want and where they want.

Listeners depended on radio for information on where to find food, how to supplement their income by applying for PPP Loans and unemployment, where to be tested for Coronavirus and later in time how to … and where to … get vaccinated. It became important to provide survival information to those who continued to work outside of their home and to cater to those working from home.

Making your audience a community was beneficial. Being info-centric helped satisfy the needs of those who depend on radio for information. Share with your listeners how to help those in need, by providing for the homeless, saluting healthcare workers and frontline heroes, pointing your audience to foodbanks, and things as simple as where to get masks. Be encouraging to your audience. Interview on-air healthcare specialists, psychologists who can provide information and suggestions on coping, and do what radio has always been meant to do … serve your community.

We saw meteoric spikes of listeners using their smart speakers to listen to the radio, discover DSPs, and explore the world of podcasting for targeted content that they could listen to on-demand. This alone should’ve been reason enough for all stations to simulcast their over-the-air stream on all of their digital platforms and TLR to Nielsen. That suggestion is because of the change that occurred in regard to Listening Locations. That also underscores why radio should promote all of the different ways that someone can listen to your programming. On-Air, On-Line, On Smart Speakers and On-Demand.

The next time we’re faced with a similar crisis, create and encourage distractions. Share what video shows are trending that are ripe for binging. Develop and present unique listening experiences in the way of programs that air at night and on the weekend. Some stations played Christmas music at night, even in July. Harken back to the past to create new thing for the future. That could be playing full album sides, airing mystery theatre and old classic radio shows at night. You don’t have to be a spoken word station to air spoken word entertainment outside of primetime. Why not create Zoom symphonies with members of the audience who play instruments? The bottom-line; make your station a destination for the audience. A reason to search out the station.

One more thing that we learned from this crisis … don’t make major programming changes during a Pandemic … and if you do … be prepared to reintroduce those changes when the world reopens. If you make changes when the audience is away, they’ll be confused when they return to listen to your content.  You may find that the audience you turned away from was bigger than the audience you hope to attract during a topsy turvy time period.

 




 

Radio Beyond the Pandemic
– Mike McVay

 

During last week’s Morning Show Bootcamp in Chicago, I was honored to moderate a panel that included several of the heads of programming from four of the major broadcast companies. Our conversation covered a wide range of topics. It was apparent that while all of the companies have similarities in their approach to radio today, there were also differences in what talent should do an how Program Directors should program. What was clear is that all of these leaders are engaged and positive about radio today.

 

Joining me were Jon Zellner, President of Programming Operations at iHeart Media, Greg Strassell, Executive Vice President Programming for Hubbard Radio, Tony Coles – Division President/Metro Markets and President/Black Information Network, John Reynolds – John Reynolds, Beasley VP of Music and Entertainment and Operations Manager for Beasley Charlotte - Beasley Media Group and Pat Paxton – who most recently served as Chief Programming Officer at Audacy.

 

The discussion, in front of several hundred attendees that included mostly talent and some programmers, focused on what air-talent need to know about radio in this post-pandemic era. What’s changed in the business, what’s expected of personalities, how are we doing at adapting to the change we’ve undergone and what needs to happen for further adoption of the seismic shift accelerated because of Covid-19?

 

The approach to companies plans for returning to the studio and offices varied somewhat. Most approached the “return to work” question with agreement that personalities should be in the studio, but those who are more comfortable with voice-tracking, were more open to the talent working remotely as it’s been the direction in which their company has been evolving. The date by which employees return to in-studio/in-office seems to be fluid while we wait for the Delta variant of COVID to run its course.

 

The same goes for whether or not proof of vaccination will be required. The panel was somewhat cautious as to how they addressed that polarizing subject. The concern for the safety of their employees was universal. The date when Return to Work will occur was not consistent from company to company.

 

The level of competition is greater than ever. It’s logical that competition will continue to increase, as it’s done for radio since the digital age began. Our panel of Corporate Programmers, when asked “what radio needs to do to continue to compete?” and “What’s expected of personalities post-pandemic?” responded with a focus on personalities performing at a high level on-air, but doing so much more beyond their show. Working with sales and promotion, assisting in securing endorsements, partnering with promotions to make appearances and become involved in events.   

I believe that all who were on that stage respect Talent and believe in the value of Talent. That wasn’t clear to all who were in that room, based on an answer that Pat Paxton responded with to a question from the audience. He shared that the role and value of talent has changed since the pandemic. Those talents that endear themselves to the audience and show that their performance on and off the air adds to revenue, are those personalities who will be most secure in their jobs. That comment left some wondering if they can ever satisfy their employers despite performing at a high level and attracting a large audience. That was disheartening to hear from those that I spoke to after the session.  It’s obviously disappointing to hear that building an audience is no longer enough.

There have been several very positive approaches for media to come from the Pandemic and from the Social Unrest that we saw in the summer a year ago. One being that iHeart launched the BIN/Black Information Network. Tony Coles, President of BIN, shared how the network evolved and grew quickly. That underscored the benefit of radio being mobile, fluid and easy to adapt quickly.

 

If you read the national papers, in a spin on the Buggles song title Video Killed the Radio Star, one would think that Digital and Podcasting have driven a stake in the heart of Radio. Yet, if you have an honest discussion with executives at any of the DSP’s you hear that they wish they had the reach of radio. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said that “The honest truth today is radio is still a massive part of how people consume music and audio widely.”  Yet we have a huge inferiority complex in our business. This is a focus of our panelists. Acknowledge our strengths and don’t buy into the naysayers.

 

The same can be said for podcasting, which is an ever-growing audio arena, but pales in comparison to mass media. It’s safe to say that audio on-demand will grow. Podcasting requires Mass Media to drive it as its Niche Media. During Podcast Movement, in a session with Amplifi Media’s Steve Goldstein, iHeart Media Digital Audio Group CEO Conal Byrne said “I’ve been surprised at the power of broadcast radio to market to podcast listeners, and a lot of them are new podcast listeners. When you can level 150 GRP at a new podcast for multiple weeks in a row, that’s a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign that would have otherwise had to try to get there through word-of-mouth.”

 

Fox News is leading in the Cable TV News Ratings. Television journalists are screaming about it from the rooftops of media. What’s lost on these journalists is that their overall ratings are lower than they were a year ago. And no one acknowledges that the Top-5 radio stations in NYC, all have more listeners individually than what Fox News TV has in the way of national viewers during prime time. Our panelists acknowledged our strength versus the video medium, but they also acknowledge that there’s much we can do to connect to the markets they’re in, and they see personalities … be they local or imported … as important to that improvement.

 




 


Storytelling as an Art
– Mike McVay

Podcast Movement took place in Nashville earlier this month. I had the honor of speaking and addressing Story Telling as an Art.  The focus was on podcasters, but the tips and structure of the presentation is applicable to air talent, podcasters and anyone who does public speaking. The roots of my presentation, like most media things that I’m involved with, are based in radio.

Why do some speakers create the urge to binge every episode of a podcast in one setting and others lose a listener halfway through the story? It starts with the way you tell that story, your delivery, and most importantly, that you know where’re you’re going when you start your story journey. It’s about using descriptive words, the pace with which you tell the story, and it’s about you as the story teller understanding the message at its core. It’s about much more than simply reading letters on a page.

Bruce Springsteen is one of the greatest story tellers of all time. His songs are all stories. If they weren’t accompanied by music, you’d consider them to be a poem or a short story. Take for example Springsteen’s song “Thunder Road.” We dissected the first part of this hit from the album “Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ”

The screen door slams, Mary's dress sways
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone again
Don't run back inside, darling you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
Oh, and that's alright with me.

Using visualization of the words to paint a picture in the mind of the attendees, every line was examined and a picture painted, in the mind of the listeners.

The Screen Door Slams – You immediately see an old wooden screen door. The screen is torn and curled up in one of the lower corners. If it’s an old door, when it slammed, it didn’t close all the way. The door is slightly ajar. It’s an old wooden door, so that means there’s an old wooden porch. The porch has to have a pair of old muddy boots sitting on it. That leads me to envision a farmhouse with acreage somewhere within view from the swing on the porch. We’re looking out at a field. No other houses in sight.

Mary’s Dress Sways. Like a Vision She Dances Across the Porch as the Radio Plays – In the eyes of my mind I can see a woman in a soft light blue shift dress, yellow flowers on it, and it sways back and forth as she spins and dances across the porch. Roy Orbison’s song “Only the Lonely” is playing on the radio. The radio has to be an older plastic model that’s plugged into an outdoor socket.

And so, it goes. Dissecting the description from the rest of this hit song. Depicting a warm summers’ night when an older man and woman interact as they meet on the front porch of this old country house. He pleads with her to allow him back into her life. To end his loneliness. To resume a romance that had gone awry. At least that’s the picture that engulfed me as I heard the song and read the lyrics.

Here’s what we know;

·        Stories, when told powerfully and descriptively, are most captivating, memorable, and easy to share with others as you repeat them.

·        The best stories are those that you can visualize. If you can visualize it, you can tell it visually.

·        If you’re delivering a scripted story, then start with understanding the words on the page. Don’t read aloud the caricatures and letters on a page. Read the words and think about them, before you turn on the microphone. Think about the story and what it means and then tell me that story.

·        If you are not working from a script, but you’re telling a story from notes, then think about how you want your story to end. If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will take you there. Remember … the purpose of this exercise is to engage your listener and keep them throughout the entire story.

·        People communicate in stories. Luckily, storytelling is something we almost all do naturally, starting at a very young age. But there’s a difference between good storytelling and great storytelling. It isn’t about the number of words. It’s about the delivery and choice of words used.

·        Sometimes, telling the story quickly and without embellishment, makes it a better story. One time an air talent asked me how they could tell a story quickly by giving me a three-sentence example of what the story was about. They asked “How do I tell a story about finding a raccoon living in the engine of my truck, which kept it from starting, and when I opened the hood to see what was wrong, the raccoon jumped at me. I don’t know who was more scared. The raccoon or me?” I replied “You just did.” Don’t overthink your story.

·        There is a science behind how we hear stories.  The left side of the brain helps us to think logically. The right side of the brain helps us recall memories and experience emotion. Both sides are linked together by the Neocortex. When we tell stories, both sides of the brain are stimulated and work together. We see the whole picture. We connect to the person telling the stories.

·        Storytelling is the key to communication in media. Be it on-the-air, on a podcast, during a newscast, a sportscast, a YouTube Video, from the stage during your musical performance … whatever the platform and where ever you are.

·        When you tell a story … be efficient. Not Brief. Be efficient. Think of it as Hallway Talk for efficiency … Communicate as you would if you were passing someone in the hallway at work or at school. We’d face each other as we start talking, stand sideways and face each other as we pass one another, and then walk backwards facing each other as we finish the story.

·        “Never mention anything if it’s not referenced later in your story.” Interestingly this is also a cardinal rule for screenplays— wasted words can lead to what’s called “false foreshadowing”: The audience is forced to note and remember a detail which ultimately doesn’t figure in the story resolution. No one has that kind of an attention span. Don’t waste words.

·        If you think about how people talk when they tell a story, their inflection starts the story and that sets the stage, and then you build the story to a finale. The tone and pace with which you tell a story is important in how the audience hears a story. Faster for excitement. Slower to emphasize tension. Pause for attention. Match your delivery to the emotion that you want to evoke in the audience.

Great stories are universal; Great storytelling is about taking a piece of the human condition (so things like birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict) and conveying it in a unique situation. What you’re trying to do, when you tell a story, is to write about an event in your life that made you feel some particular way. And what you’re trying to do, when you tell a story, is to get the audience to have that same feeling.

Great stories have a clear structure and purpose. What is the emotion that you want the listener to feel when they hear your story? Why must you tell this particular story? What’s burning within your soul that your story feeds off of? What greater purpose does the story serve? What lesson does it teach? How do you want the listener to feel?

Great stories have a character you can cheer for, or loath, or admire, or dislike. Great characters create an emotion. Your story telling, because of your inflection, supports that view of the character. Your inflection influences how the listener thinks of the story. Examples; Let’s eat, grandma. Let’s eat grandma.

Great stories appeal to our deepest emotions; anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Great stories are surprising and unexpected. What makes a story compelling is when our perceptions of our reality are challenged and forces us to question ourselves and our perspective. Great stories are simple and focused. We know a good story when we hear one. They have the right amount of information, they aren’t over-the-top in description, and they are … that word I wrote earlier … efficient.

Don’t read me a story. Tell me a story.

 

 




 


10 Ways a PD Should Manage Their Manager to Succeed in Radio
Radio Ink August 2021 Print Issue – Mike McVay

(This appeared in the August print issue of Radio Ink)

During my career, I’ve been lucky enough to do just about everything inside of a radio station, including being a General Manager and a Program Director. It seems appropriate in this issue, The Best Managers issue, that we share those things that Program Directors should do in managing their Market Managers in order to succeed.

1.      Respect – It starts with respect. If you don’t respect the person, then at least respect the position. If you don’t respect your market manager, and they don’t respect you, then you will never be able to satisfy them. They will never be satisfied with you. You will surely fail. I’ve seen situations where a PD had no respect for their Market Manager, often it’s not the one that hired them, and it often ends with them being terminated as the Program Director. I’ve counseled some that have found themselves in this situation, and the decision they have to make is to find common ground where they can find respect for one another or start planning their departure.

2.      The Objective – Understand the Market Managers objective for you to accomplish. What is their goal for your performance short-term and long-term? Share with them your personal and professional objectives. You and your market manager have to have clarity as to the objective. What is it you want to accomplish? You have to know what success looks like to get there.

3.      The Strategy – The way in which you will accomplish your objective is driven by a strategy. Because most programmers come from the on-air side of the business and most managers come from the sales side of the business, it will sometimes put you at cross purposes. You will want to work with the Market Manager, and whatever outside resources you have, in helping to develop the stations content strategy.

4.      Communication – First and foremost; No Surprises. Having been in the role of PD, I always wanted to make sure that my Market Manager was aware of what my team was doing. Having been a General Manager, I hated surprises, because I never wanted to surprise my superior. My style, as a PD, was to copy my manager on all important memos. We met weekly in a formal setting, but saw each other daily.

5.      Be Culture Conscious – Every company has a culture and every radio station has a culture. Sometimes they aren’t the same, even though they should be. The stations culture is set by the Market Manager. Be conscious of the positive aspects of your stations culture and magnify them by your performance.

6.      Amiability – Regardless of your approach, and short of needing a personality transplant, be likeable. I worked hard at becoming friends with every market manager I worked with because a) it made work more fun and b) gave me insight into how to sell my boss on what I wanted to accomplish.

7.      Work Ethic – If you want to impress your team, never ask them to do something that you wouldn’t do. If you want to impress your manager, make sure that they know that you’re willing to put in the time and energy to accomplish the objectives for the stations. We don’t have jobs. We have careers.

8.      Strengthen their Weakness – We all have them. What’s your blind spot? What’s your market managers blind spot? Without overstepping, and providing you have a strength where they have a weakness, offer to provide strength where needed.

9.      Collaborate – The PD has to work well with the other department heads within a station cluster. The frustration that many programmers (creatives) have, and it’s one that I still wrestle with, is that almost everyone has an opinion on what you (the PD) should do.  Collaborate with you manager. Don’t hesitate to ask for their opinion, advice, direction. Collaborate with other department heads within your cluster. Your collaboration makes the managers job easier, and that makes your job easier.

10.   Trust – Perhaps the most important tip of all when it comes to managing your manager. If they can’t trust you, they won’t. That’s a dead end for everyone. Never lie. Never allow the manager to be surprised. Be open and honest with them about everything. Everything. Never give your senior manager a reason to not trust you. Never.





 

I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Gonna Take This Anymore
– Mike McVay

Enough News/Talk radio stations are seeing erosion in the ratings that Managers and Programmers need to question the message that they’re delivering to the audience. They also have to question how the audience is using their stations. When there’s no new message … when the drum beat is the same everyday … is there reason to listen to see if you missed anything? It’s this that causes the famous “audience burnout” that we’ve all heard about in our careers.

When reality is more absurd than what the movie Network displayed, it’s time to reassess where we are, and ask ourselves “when do we arrive at doing what’s right?” Isn’t that more important long-term than increasing profits short-term? I’m not questioning making a profit. Most radio stations are “For Profit” businesses. We are mercenaries. I’m questioning why some News/Talk stations continue to pound a message over-and-over when the audience is listening less.

If you’ve never watched the movie “Network” … then you need to find it online and watch it. The 1976 movie by Director Sidney Lumet and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was said by some to be a satire, but the two gentlemen insisted it was what they believed was a reflection of what was happening and what would happen. They were so very accurate.

It’s a movie about a TV news anchor who is managed by a female show developer. Much of what you’ll see in the film, like having a film crew behind the police lines interviewing a kidnapper in the middle of a bank robbery, was laughable in those days. Now it’s reality. The same for having an astrologer on the news sharing horoscope readings. They had loud production elements and flashing colors during the newscast. Today that “spoof” is a reality. You see it on TV and hear it on the Radio. This is magnified by Citizen Journalists. Everyone who has a cell phone, has a camera and a recorder, in their hand.

 

You have likely heard Beale’s famous urging for people to shout out their windows “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” Many people, who are familiar with that quote, were unfamiliar of the origin of the phrase. The phrase is better known than the movie.

 

There’s a great line in that movie where the old-line newsman Howard Beale (Academy Award winner Peter Finch) is told by the head of programming Diana Christensen (Academy Award Winner Faye Dunaway) to “articulate the popular rage.” Now this movie, written by Pulitzer-prize winner Paddy Chayefsky, premiered at a time in the mid-late 70s when “rage” was at the nations core.

 

Many are starting to “feel” the rage of humanity again. A large number of us are feeling as if we’re about to repeat the shutdown of 2020. Some have never bought into the seriousness of the Coronavirus. There are many social issues being batted back and forth. The thought of ‘articulating the rage’ is valid—although I would modify that and suggest that talk personalities view it as “Articulating the Popular Emotion.” Rage is only one emotion, and you don’t want to be just another angry voice on the radio.

 

The idea is to be the voice of what your listener is thinking. Not what you’re thinking. What are they thinking? Be that joy, sadness, grief, silliness, disbelief, patriotism, being supportive of one another during this health crisis, skepticism, being thankful—all these (and more) – make up the palate from which you can verbally “paint” the Content of a show. You should use all of the colors in that palate. If you lock-in on one color (one topic) it leads to being boring and predictable. That leads to less listening versus repeat listening.

 

THE COACHES OF PROGRAMMING with Tracy Johnson
– by Mike McVay

 

This past Tuesday, I guested in a worldwide webinar with well-known Talent Coach Tracy Johnson, in regard to how PDs should approach coaching talent. I’ve done a number of these sessions over the last couple years, but this one was unique in that Tracy and I have both been On-Air, Program Directors, Market Managers and are Consultants whose services include coaching talent. We’ve both had major talent working with us during our time as PDs and continue to do so as consultants.

 

The conversation, for the most part, went like this:

Johnson: How important is it for PDs to coach their talent?

McVay: Talent are very important, and every station that isn’t a music machine, needs a Radio Star. If you want your station to be successful, then you have to help your talent to be successful.

 

Johnson: What are some of the biggest mistakes programmers and managers make with talent?

McVay: There are several. 1) Thinking that they’re better than the talent.  2) Defining parameters with negatives. 3) Not giving a reason “why” they want the talent to do something special. 4) Failure to make the talent a priority when they work with them.

 

Johnson: Aside from a shortage of time, why are personalities under-coached today? 

McVay: Too many PDs are “King/Queen DJ’s and not true PD’s.” Some are afraid of the talent. Some fail to be a filter and they share directly criticism that comes from people who’ve never done the job before. At the risk of getting some programmers into trouble, you don’t need to share every complaint that comes from the Market Manager. Share the one’s that directly impact their performance, and advertiser or the ratings.

 

Johnson: What is the difference between coaching and managing? 

McVay: It’s a Push Versus a Pull situation. Managing is the Push …directing, guiding and hoping (Tug Boat Captain). Coaching is encouraging, listening and understanding. It’s collaborative. It’s a Pull versus a push. It’s like, before it was called a “Coaching Session” it was a “Critique Session.” Being critiqued is negative.

 

Johnson: What are the most essential skills a coach needs to successfully get the most from talent?

McVay: In my opinion, they are

1) Knowledge – Understand ratings, what makes some talent great and others not, and learn from that. 2) Experience – Don’t practice on a superstar. Training wheels. Learn from experience. I was blessed at 25 to be a PD at a Top-40 station in Los Angeles. The air-staff were all more seasoned than me. They taught me how to be a good programmer.

3) Great Communication Skills – Be clear. Be precise. Explain properly and fully.

4)Great Listening Skills – Make the talent a priority. Hear what they’re saying. Pay attention.  

5) A Global Perspective – A worldly view is helpful.  

6) Patience – I learned patience from my parents. You have to give people time to make changes.

7)  Hesitate to say NO. There’s always time to say no. Can I accomplish what the talent wants, and satisfy what I want, without damaging the product? If not, then NO is the answer.

 

Johnson: Agree or disagree: Few great coaches were great “players” and why is that?

McVay: Well … in my case, it was about the money. If I was a great morning talent, I would have preferred to stay on-the-air, be a great talent and be paid greatly. In my case, I was a good talent, and had good ratings where I did mornings, but I wasn’t #1. Top-3, yes, but not #1. It just turned out that I could make more money as a Program Director. I agree that few great players become great coaches … but I think a part of it is also how they apply themselves. Great players are mono-focused on their performance. It’s the same way with great talent. There are exceptions, but they’re few.

 

Johnson: How can broadcasters develop or acquire these skills? 

McVay: A programmer who allows his ego to be bigger than the stations, and larger than the personalities, will never be truly successful. I’ve always tried to think about the audience. Everything is for the audience. Hire talent who want to entertain, who think about the audience 24/7, and who will do almost anything to win.  Some of what we’re talking about can be learned, but some of it is in a person’s DNA. The education part is reading everything you can get your hands on. The trades, management books, YouTube videos of Ted Talks, follow media’s thought leaders & innovators on social media, cruise through Clubhouse and look for rooms to visit and learn.

 

Johnson: How can programmers avoid “familiarity bias”, which skews their perception of the performance of a personality based on their personal feelings about them (good or bad) on and off the air? 

McVay: That’s a tough one. I’ve worked with talent I like and it becomes easy to like everything they do. Same with working with talent I disliked and it’s too easy to dislike everything they do. My stance has been that all that matters is the ratings. If the talents rating performance is poor, you have to be objective and work with them to improve their performance. If the talent’s ratings are great, you have to be objective and help them get the tools they need to succeed. I can tolerate a lot of “stuff” to be number one. If that means that I am a mercenary, then so be it.

 

Johnson: A key part of working with talent is building toward a goal…what are examples of effective goals a coach/PD could set? 

McVay: It depends on what you want to accomplish. I love the Kenneth Blanchard book “The One Minute Manager.” The three aspects are One Minute Reprimand, One Minute Praising and One Minute Goal Setting. I don’t believe that any talent wakes-up in the morning with an objective to ruin the PDs day that day.

 

Johnson: What is your recipe of success for working with talent? 

McVay: I always start with trying to understand who they are, what they stand for, what they believe the shows objectives & goals are. What do they think they do well and what do they think they could do better? You have to trust the talent and they have to trust you. Respect is a two-way street that’s important, too.

 

I’ll ask who they grew up listening to on the radio, and how did that influence them in their style and performance. What jobs did they have that they loved and what jobs did they have that they didn’t love … and WHY for both.  You have to know who the talent is, and what they want to do, before you can start offering suggestions.

 

Then I look for what they do well and explain why I think it’s what they do well … followed by what I think they could do better and why I feel that way. I look for stories, examples, parables, and audio-visual tools, to help me explain what needs to be explained.

You can hear the entire interview by visiting Tracy Johnson Media Group at ww.tjohnsonmediagroup.com.





 

Surviving the Pandemic
- Mike McVay

The work world has been slowly returning to normal, and despite many businesses continuing to Work from Home, we’re seeing listening levels start to improve. The uncertainty of the Delta Variant, and other mutations of the Coronavirus, has slowed some businesses from returning to a full five/six day on-location workweek. That directly impacts radio, regardless of on what device you listen, as our medium does the best when the audience is listening in habitual patterns.

 
Listening levels are showing growth, but there’s still a way to go as Persons Using Measured Media (PUMM) levels are lagging behind share levels. People are listening longer than in recent months, but the number of individual people listening continues to be behind pre-pandemic levels. Radio still owns listening in the car, and is dependent on that listening location, to drive overall radio use.

Stations will likely find that they need to market aggressively to better compete. Research shows that a significant number of listeners have shifted to listening on their smart speakers, on a computer or on their phone. This is particularly true during non-drivetime. That should encourage stations to seriously consider Total Line Reporting with Nielsen. In most cases, the increased revenue from overall rating growth will overshadow the revenue loss of eliminating streaming commercials.

Commute habits returning to normal are dependent on state rules, and many states are going backwards in regard to their Covid case numbers. That’s leading to a return of mask rules, and in some cases, lockdown. That alone should be reason enough for everyone to focus on messaging their audiences to take action to prevent the spread of COVID. Radio needs commuters, in-auto, to be able to fully return listening shares to pre-pandemic levels.

The competition for the ear continues to become more intense. It is reasonable to believe that many listeners have expanded what they listen to, where and when. That means that the level of competition is greater as we emerge from the pandemic versus before. The audience has been exposed to many other entertainment and information options. Radio appears to have surrendered Music Discovery to the DSP’s (Digital Signal Processors). News has been mostly replaced with Commentary. To some that is a positive. To others, those two changes will deepen some listeners dissatisfaction with our entertainment and information products.

To some listeners, who return to radio after having been away, the change they notice could feel extreme. Mainly because some air-talents have been eliminated and replaced with a Voice-Tracked personality. Some stations have extended shifts in order for the station to have a smaller airstaff. This disruption requires messaging that introduces the new talent. It would be a terrible assumption to make if you believe that your audience is aware of your new programming lineup.

Things have changed. Account for those changes and adapt to the audiences’ new habits and listening patterns. Consider how your audience uses your content and play to that benefit. Highlight what you do well, that shows demand for it from the audience, and do more of it. Improve the listening experience by managing/reducing your commercial load while playing fewer units. Move to Total Line Reporting and simulcast what’s over the air with what’s on-line.

If you’re a music station, and you play current music, realize that Music Discovery is important if you plan to compete with the DSP’s. The songs you expose to your audience have to be the type and sound of the music they want to hear, and if showcased properly, you can create a well-traveled path between your station and your audiences favorite DSP. We still lead the world over Digital Signal Processors, and they all wish that they had radios distribution, but radio has to make changes to survive long-term. That object you see in your review mirror is a DSP.

 





 

 

Show Prep
- Mike McVay

Today’s technology, and services available to allow for a talent to prepare for a show, is significantly better and more abundant than at any time in our past.

Earlier in my career, I hosted several different Morning shows in several different markets. I was acutely aware of the need to spend time daily preparing for my next show. There was no internet, no apps, no opportunity to record a video or TV show and only two show prep services that I can remember. They were monthly. The newspaper was printed and not on-line. TV Guide was how you found out what was on TV. Magazines delivered elements of pop culture once a month.

Whoever refers to such times as “the good old days” is a person who doesn’t want to know what was going on and doesn’t have an insatiable appetite to create content and entertain, inform and engage an audience. Maybe it’s the high level of competition for the audience that scares them, but someone who believes it was better before has taken an ostrich-like approach to reality.

Today’s talent has so many resources from which to choose and use. Daily prep services, audio resources, social media where you can see what’s trending in real time, programs that capture video audio, voice actors, writers on-demand and content aggregators that enable a show to see what’s happening across many platforms at once be it local, national or international. There is no excuse to be unprepared for your show, and yet despite all of these resources, some talents continue to be unprepared sounding.

There are those that think that being surprised by seeing prep content for the first time is the right approach. To me it’s always felt wrong. Why wouldn’t you want to enter the studio with more content than you need, knowing all the content you have to choose from, and throw out or save what wasn’t used? This increases the odds of having a show that creates day-to-day tune-in.

Those personalities who are the most successful for the longest period of time, are those that have the ability and talent to be extemporaneous, and yet they continue to do show prep daily because they know it makes them even better.

My belief is that high content morning shows, and those other daypart shows that have a high content count, perform best when they create content that goes into specific containers. That enables you, the talent, to more easily prepare content for each daily show. When you know what you need, it’s easy to find it.

Systems and programs exist to research what you’re doing that the audience likes and what they dislike. That comes from Nielsen and it also comes from all of the national media research companies that have the ability to capture the responses of listeners, noting what makes them tune-out and what makes them want to tune-in. Knowing their likes makes the show prep process much easier. Give them what they want and you’ll build an audience that will give your show a try daily.

My recommendation to stations has always been to build Hot Sets and Cold Sets. Hot Sets are those breaks that are the most topical and perishable. Cold Sets are those sets that are non-perishable. Perishable content has to be used today-tomorrow or it’s outdated. Non-Perishable content can be used today, tomorrow or a week from now and it’s still valuable. Some non-perishable content includes a benchmark, a contest or another feature that airs daily.

Construct your content/format clock to air your Hot Sets in the first and third quarter hour. The cold sets go in the second and fourth quarter hours. That’s because most people wake-up at the top or bottom of the hour. You want you audience to hear what’s hot when they first start listening. If what’s hot is really hot, then you bump your Cold sets so all of your sets are Hot for that day.

The bottom-line; Read or watch everything that you can get your hands on, considering the value of each piece of content, so that what’s used is of the most value for your audience. What you put into your show is what your audience will get out of listening to it. That’s how you win. Be overprepared.





 

Listen … Really Listen
– Mike McVay

When is the last time you really listened to your own radio station? I mean, you awoke thirty minutes before your morning show began and listened until 1:00am, and took notes as you listened? That’s what listening is all about. Really listening, that is. Looking at the program and music (or content) log as you listened. Hearing what the air talent says, how they say it and when they say it.  Where are the commercials placed? How does the commercial production sound? What about the promotional messages? Are they well produced, easy to understand, and they’re selling a benefit to the audience?

There was a time when I would encourage Program Directors to take a break every three months, work from home or drive around town, and listen to their own station. That’s become more difficult as many PDs oversee more than one radio station. They’re scheduling music (music stations) and writing promos, setting talent schedules, coaching talent, interacting with other department heads, responding to daily crisis as well as daily chores, and striving to satisfy their market managers while growing an audience, for multiple stations.

None of those tasks changes the fact that someone, preferably the PD, should be listening to their station once a quarter. I’m not talking about using the skimmer, but rather you should listen over the air and listen on-line. Unless you are Total Line Reporting, the two are not necessarily the same. When I was a Corporate Program Director, I asked all PDs to spend a minimum of two hours per/week listening on-line. Mainly, because the on-line listening experience could be dramatically substandard, and if you only listen over-the-air, you would never know. Many people listen to the “radio” on their phone, on their smart speaker or maybe on their computer.

The audio quality of the station also comes into play when you monitor it over-the-air and on-line. If you’re targeting a specific gender, do you know how many highs they can take before the audio irritates them? If you’re targeting a specific demographic, do you know how much compression they can take before they tune-out, for a reason that they can never describe to you. They’ll say “it just bothered me.”  Do you have a signal issue? Are there atmospheric harmonics that are interfering with the audience’s reception of your signal over-the-air? Is the on-line audio interfacing without upcuts and dropouts?

There are many digital tools today, all valuable and wise to use, that track music, spot loads, spot placement, the placement of promotional messages, talk content/quantity, and you can see the same for your competition. However, if you don’t listen to your station, you won’t hear it as a listener hears it. Chefs eat what they cook. Musicians listen to the songs they write and play. Auto designers drive the cars they design. You’re the Program Director. You have to listen to your station to really hear it as a listener does. Make the time and do it … uninterrupted.





 


The Care and Feeding of The Radio Star
- Mike McVay

The article that I authored in Last week’s Radio Ink was titled “Why On-Air Talent Matter.” We received quite a few positive responses to the article. Including a very strong supportive missive written by Fred Jacobs for the Jacobs Media Jacoblog. Which prompted me to follow-up on last weeks article by focusing this week on The Care and Feeding of The Radio Star.

Know your talent.  Who are they?  What do they believe in?  What is their reason for being? What do they like and what do they dislike?  What is it that they are hoping to accomplish with their show? If they’re successful, they’re smart. Treat them with respect. I’ve never met a winning air-talent that wasn’t intelligent.

What do they stand for? I’ve written about this before. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Bull Durham” … there is a scene where Kevin Costner’s character tells Susan Sarandon’s character exactly what he believes in. That’s how it is with great talent. They have a sense of purpose. What is your Radio Stars reason for being?


When you meet with your talent, make the talent the number one priority of your meeting.  Turn off the phone.  Don’t check e-mails.  No texting. Do not allow interruptions.  Listen to what’s being said and make eye contact as you communicate.


Listen to the talent, and hear their side of every story. Pay attention.
When you offer suggestions, which may be in the form of coaching, be specific and have a dialogue.

Not a monologue. Give examples. 

Don’t define parameters for your talent with only negatives. If you only present negatives, then it’s safer for them to do nothing, than try something and be successful.


Tell talent what you like. It is my experience that air talent will remember something you liked and try and do more of that which leads to doing less of what you dislike.

Use analogies in getting your point across to the talent.  Storytellers, and most great air talent can tell great stories, listen better when they’re being told a story. Use stories to “coach” your talent. Tell a radio star a memorable story and that will make it easier for them, as a talent, to execute your strategy.

Explain the benefit to the talent. Answer their question “What’s in it for me?” Be specific. If you tell them to do something without explaining the benefit … then why would they want to do it … other than they were ordered? Enlist support by explaining your reasons. Have open and honest discussion.

All on-air personalities desire to be appreciated and respected.  Most talents want your coaching and desire your attention. They want to be successful. More than anything, they want to be allowed to do their job. Encourage them to do it and celebrate their victories with them.
 





 

Why On-Air Talent Matter
– Mike McVay

 

The elimination of on-air talent, which is happening in some markets, is a huge mistake. It’s happening at the absolute wrong time. The value of and the need for good and strong programming content has not changed.  The only thing that has changed is the level of competition from your radio competitors along with streaming services, video, podcasts, digital and many more places for advertisers to place their ad buys and your audience to find entertainment or information.


There are many distractions in the lives of the audience. Radio isn’t as important to them as it once was. Those factors alone are reason for stations to invest in talent. What should really get the attention of radio is that several of the streaming services are adding air talent to their streams. Personalities who create a connection with their listeners build loyalty. Loyalty creates repeat tune-in. Repeat tune-in builds ratings.

In some cases, we’ve given away our audiences because we’re no longer creating the dependency that listeners once had for our stations. You can get the weather, the time, news stories, Amber Alerts, EAS and social media on your phone. There have to be on-air personalities to deliver that information. If you’re voice-tracked or automated, then what’s your plan to deliver crisis coverage? Services are available. Systems exist. Unfortunately, there are some stations that have no plan for extreme situations.

 

It is arguably more important than ever that air talent be show-ready to put on a show. They are well prepared before they arrive at the station.  So much so that when they turn on the microphone, they snag the audience in the first seconds of a break.  It takes about that long for a listener to make a decision as to “do I listen or do I reach over and push the button on my radio?”  You have to be well prepared, regardless of the shift you’re hosting, because today’s audience is less patient and far less tolerant than in previous years. You have to do a Show and not a “shift.”

 

Instant gratification is important to our busy audiences. If you’re on a music station, play the hits frequently. If you’re on a spoken word station, then the hot topics are your hits. Talk about those topics frequently. The personalities, who can create entertainment over song intros, entertain and build a connection with the audience, will be successful. Personalities who can present content that is compelling and brief are the individuals that will perform best in the ratings.

 

If yours is a critical radio station, meaning that it is critical that your station perform well in a cluster of stations, then you need at least one radio star on your station. That star, and your station being the place to hear that star, makes your station a destination. If you don’t have a star, you’re not a destination, and you’re not going to be consistently high rated. Radio stars build loyalty. They create day-to-day tune-in. That’s the secret weapon. Get a star. If you have a star. Keep them. That’s easier than trying to find a new star.

 





 

Management Lessons Learned from Children
– Mike McVay

Fathers’ Day was this past weekend. It gave me a moment to reflect on the lessons I have learned from my parents, but also the lessons I have learned from my children. It also gave me a moment to reflect on parenting versus managing.

Many will agree with me that managing is often like parenting. Make no mistake about it … I’m not holding myself up for a “Parent of the Year” Award. Our children’s mother would deserve that award so much more than me. Although I have managed many on-air personalities who, at times, felt as if they were my children. I mean that in a positive mentoring way.  The way to manage a team of employees is similar to parenting, but perhaps without the same vested interest in the outcome of the employee or the child.

One of the things that you know, or learn rather quickly as a parent, is that you have to be consistent in your responses. You can’t respond to one situation one way and then a similar situation another way. You need to be consistent as to how you communicate so that it is always clear to your employees (or children) what your objectives are and what you need from them to accomplish those objectives.

A rule is a rule. If someone breaks a rule, you then need to explain why that rule existed and the consequence for breaking that rule. If there is a time when it is permissible to break a rule, then explain why this time was different, and why that rule could be broken. Just like children, employees are more responsive if you give them the answer to the question “why.”

The other thing that’s important is for you to never show favoritism to one employee over another. This is particularly true when multiple employees do the same job. While you want to reward those who perform exceptionally well, or go beyond what was asked of them, you cannot play favorites. Although you can reward exceptional behavior and use that employee or their accomplishment as an encouraging example.

Keep in mind when it comes to reprimanding, the way in which you reprimand comes into play when working with your employees. It should never be personal. It should always be professional. You should be clear as to what took place, that shouldn’t have, or why they are being reprimanded. Explain what the potential fallout is from the situation. Follow the reprimand with goalsetting and a discussion of how you keep from making the same situation occur in the future. Lastly, praising. That doesn’t mean that you buy the employee (or the child) an ice cream cone and tell them that you’re sorry. Acknowledge what they’re doing well and what they’re best at in their job.

Tips on Parenting Your Employees:

Invest in one-on-one time with your key employees daily. Make time for them and be available to them.
Focus on routines.
Be collaborative whenever possible. Everyone pitches in.
Encourage your team to be a problem-solvers. Give them guidance, but ask them how they would/should solve a situation.
Simplify your rules and be clear in your direction.
Focus on training. Ask “what can we do differently next time?”
Don’t just say NO. Explain why something is not proper to do at this time. What’s the reason behind your “No?”
Think about how your employees might describe you to other possible employees. People that you may want to get in your company someday will ask about you. What will your team members say about the culture that you create for those who work for you?
No one wakes up in the morning and wants to ruin your day. When a person does ruin your day, ask yourself “why is this person acting out?” Try to uncover the root cause of the situation. Don’t take it personally and don’t make it personal.
Think yourself into your employee’s position. How would you want to be treated? How would your supervisor expect you to react in a similar situation? This is where the Golden Rule comes into play. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Managing, like parenting, is often trial and error. People respond differently to a different set of instructions, and differently at different times. This is why it’s so important that you learn as you go and that you remember what you’ve learned.

 




 


 
Paul Harvey Style Selling
– Mike McVay

One of the really cool things about my job is being able to interview people that I normally would never have an opportunity to meet. That’s exactly what happened during the NAB/RAB radio show in Nashville, Tennessee late 2016. Jesse James Dupree, the lead singer from the band Jackyl, and Michael Brandvold, a well-known music expert and marketing specialist, joined me on stage for a discussion about radio and marketing. We focused on content, personalities, commercials, and Radio‘s relationship with music and the artists who make the music.

Michael is a freelance music industry consultant based in Northern California. Having launched Michael Brandvold Marketing to leverage his years of experience to provide direction to large and small clients in the areas of online & social marketing as well as e-commerce and customer acquisition and retention. He is a pioneer in using social media to develop brands.

Gene Simmons of KISS first tapped Michael’s skills as a pioneering online marketing strategist to launch and manage all aspects of Kissonline.com, which has grown into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, including their ground-breaking VIP ticket program. Michael has also managed the online efforts for Motley Crüe, Rod Stewart, Madonna, Ozzy Osbourne, Madonna and Britney Spears to name only a few.

Jesse, in addition to being the lead singer and driving force behind his band, is a businessman who has leveraged his celebrity to launch Jesse James America’s Outlaw Bourbon and a line of beers. He built and operates The Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, billed as the World’s Biggest Biker Bar. He and his partner turned the Full Throttle Saloon into a reality TV show, too. 

These two gentlemen are absolutely brilliant marketers in their own style and way. Michaels worked with many other artist and bands over the years and not only helping them develop new and additional ways to sell tickets, but how to turn the concert into an actual experience that far outlives the music that someone heard during the show. Michael lives in San Francisco, and living there certainly influenced his impressions of Radio. Jesse is a salesman, every step of the way.

During our discussion from the stage, we spoke about their experiences in marketing and where they saw the music industry and radio going. It was almost an afterthought when I said to both of them, as the session wound down, “if you were the Kings of Radio, what would you rule that Radio needs to do to survive today in this highly competitive world?” The response from the gentleman surprised me. not only in that their responses were unique, but that they responded so quickly with what they felt would be a curative to the ailments that radio suffers.

Brandvold offered that he still listens to the radio as he drives to and from work in his car. For him the connection with the radio wasn’t so much the music as it was the personalities, the information they’re going to share about what’s going on in the community, and particularly in the morning what he missed overnight, and on the ride home hearing what he missed during the day while he was at work. Michael’s feeling is that he can get music anywhere, without commercials, and can hear the specific songs he wants to hear when he wants to hear them. What he can only get on a radio, is a connection to his community. What’s happening in his world is important to him. I would echo that it’s important to many radio listeners.

Based on what he said, it really does shine a spotlight on the value of personalities and what they bring to music stations. The role personalities play on spoken word stations, be they news/talk or sports, is equally important. Connecting to the community is something that not only brings your radio station closer to the audience, it pulls the audience closer to the radio station. It’s an important way to fortify your station against the competition. 

Jesse’s response to the same question was almost surreal, and yet was what I would say was brilliant, and is what radio should do. I want you to imagine Jesse James Dupree sitting on the stage with his long-hair, tattoos on his arms and neck, and a visual gruffness about him that screams “Biker.” He looked at the audience and asked “how many of you know who Paul Harvey is?” He continued by explaining how Paul Harvey did a 15-minute newscast every day, with the commercials read live, and embedded in the content.

Jesse reenacted how Mr. Harvey would complete a news story and then suddenly share about how he and his wife, Angel, had trouble sleeping at night. “I toss and turn and wake her up, and then she tosses and turns and wakes me up. It goes on like that all night long. Until we both decided to get a new Sealy Posturepedic mattress.” Jesse made the point in sharing the story in that he believes announcers when they read a live commercial in a convincing fashion. He promoted that those advertisers, would benefit if more of the commercials were read live.

Dupree made it clear that if radio wants to “fix itself” it should air fewer commercials, with more of them being read live, and he’d charge a lot for those live reads. He added “I would tell my announcers that they have to be able to sell products when they talk on the air or they can’t work here.”  

The other thing that he said with the same kind of certainty was in regard to the compelling nature that On-Air talent would have to possess to work for him. Jesse James Dupree said “I would hand an envelope to the afternoon air personality and say to him there’s $1000 in the envelope. You need to go on the air and describe the envelope, but you cannot describe what’s inside the envelope. Instead tease and encourage the audience to be outside at 5:00pm when one person will win what’s in the envelope. If that on-air personality can’t excite the audience to have 500 people outside when it’s time to give the envelope away … They are fired.”

Ignore for a moment the scenario that I just painted. Focus on the talent and skills of two marketing minds who are 100% invested in entertainment and the experience that’s created from amazing entertainment. Then add to that the filter that we radio people have whereby we worry about losing listeners, not having enough advertisers, and in-general a fear of failure. The message I get from these two gentlemen is that there is a lot that we can do to improve the listening experience. We can lower our spot load, and air more live commercials, that are sold at a premium.  It should be a criterion for Air talent to be entertaining, compelling, possessing the ability to sell anything and to be able to motivate an audience.

If they can’t do that … In the words of Jesse James Dupree … they are fired!

 





 

The Care and Feeding of Program Directors
– Mike McVay

One of the many things that I realized in the early part of my career as a Program Director is that almost everyone who works at a radio station believes that they can program a station. Many air-talent believe that they can program a radio station. Some market managers, sales managers, sellers and engineers also feel that “if they just do what I’m suggesting, we’ll win.” Most program directors have been on the air somewhere at some time in their career. They’ve had wins and losses. The successful PD’s learn from those lessons of success and failure.

There are certainly cases where someone who's never been on the air has risen to the ranks of Program Director, and they’ve been successful. I can call out several off the top of my head. Those individuals usually come from research, promotion or production. They’ve been around the show part of show business and they understand what an audience wants. They learn execution along the way. Trial and error are an important part of the process when it comes to training as a Program Director.

What is clear to me is that the very best managers of Program Directors understand that creatives often hear a party in their head that others haven’t been invited to. Be they on-air, production, or as a PD, successful market managers understand that these talented people have high highs and low lows. The very best have mercurial mood swings. We don’t always communicate well why we’re frustrated about something, but we do communicate well that we are frustrated. Sometimes too well.

It’s important to understand what a program director is dealing with in executing their daily job. Their entire focus is on growing and maintaining an audience. That means that they need to be focused on motivating and encouraging talent, on the sound of their station, and be committed to every detail of every part of what comes out of the speakers. When they’re approached with anything that may jeopardize the ratings, you’re going to get a negative reaction, which should be understandable to the individual making that approach.

Today’s PD is also aware that they need to help sales and the promotion departments. Generating revenue is an “all hands-on deck” scenario. Digital has become an important part of the platform that is today’s radio and that requires a programmer’s attention and collaboration. Music PD’s also deal with the time consumption required to meet with label reps and listen to music. All of this while protecting the product.

My style was always to try to satisfy the person who made an approach to me, but it might be that my response was to offer an alternative to their idea, as a way to satisfy my goal to protect the product and still accomplish their goal. It’s tough to not say “No” immediately when approached by someone with an idea that could cost the station audience. That’s why an approach to a PD should be with the germ of an idea whereby a collective concept can be created. You should never expect a positive response from the PD if you start the conversation with “this has already been sold.”

These are my five suggestions for The Care and Feeding of Your Program Director:

1.      The Market Manager (or Operations Manager) and PD relationship is critical to the success of the station. Work together versus being at cross purposes. You have to be a team and have faith and trust in each other. Start with acknowledging that you know where the PD’s heart is and share your goals and objectives as a destination to arrive at when your journey begins.

2.      When faced with multiple NO responses from the PD, ask “why.” If it’s to protect the product, and not put the ratings at-risk, then explain your purpose for the request and explore options that provide the same result without damaging the stations content or driving away listeners.

3.      You can always overrule the PD, but what’s the tradeoff, and is the move worth the risk? One of my major market clients was not in a position to match a competitors lower commercial load, but they were able to provide a bigger prize to fuel a major contest that put the station in a more competitive position.

4.      Give the PD the benefit of the doubt. No reputable experienced Program Director awakes in the morning with a plan to foil the market managers plans for the station. The PD wants nothing more than to rank high in the ratings. It’s our job. It’s how we’re wired. We are programmed to put points on the board.

5.      You cannot hold your PD responsible for ratings decline or audience erosion if you eliminate their ability to possess tools that can buoy the ratings. The same goes for saving money by degrading the product or listener experience, overselling the station, cluttering the programming with too many messages, accepting an inferior audio sound or allowing your stations technical plant or tower to decay to where it negatively impacts your signal. It’s my experience that if they can’t hear your station, they can’t listen.

 




 

Launching a New Show
– Mike McVay

This past week several new talk radio programs launched or were announced to be launched soon. Which made me reflect on the best practices I’ve observed or utilized over the years in launching new shows, as well as failures due to poor execution of those practices. There are some very specific things that one should consider when preparing to launch a program.

None are guaranteed to make for a successful launch, as the success of a personality show comes down to the personality. If you don’t have the right talent, no matter how much marketing and prize money you throw at it, how much research or how many strategic meetings you have, you will fail. If there’s no magic when the microphone is turned-on, there is no hope for success. Hire the right talent.

Start by determining if there is an opportunity, a need or a hole for the new program you’re planning to launch. Many a great idea has failed because there wasn’t a need to be satisfied. You also have to evaluate the strength of the leader in the category. Is there a weakness to attack within the strength of the leader? What’s the level of loyalty the audience has for the leader? Your audience has to come from somewhere, so if not from the leader’s audience, from where?

Decide what will be unique about your program that makes someone want to listen to your show versus another. Answer the question “why” when it comes to changing a listener’s habit. Why will they want to listen to your show. What’s going to happen regularly on this new program that will create word of mouth? How is it different, or better, than the competition?

Is there a way to make your show memorable? A sonic sound that immediately identifies your program. A specific theme song that opens the show, a style or type of music bed that sets-up stop-sets, a branding statement that sells a credible benefit. These are all tools that can be used to enhance a program and be woven into the fabric of a show.

Examine the competition. Be fair and honest in your assessment. What’s their clock structure? How will you structure your clock? What containers (blocks) will you have to be filled with content (topics) within the format clock? Will you have benchmark bits used within the show on select days/times. Is there an opportunity to counter-program the competition to take advantage of the nomads in their audience? Those are the people that punch buttons and change stations.

What’s your show prep process going to be and who participates in working with the talent to prepare for each show? What’s the role of the producer? Does the board operator have a clearly mapped run of show for each program? Does the show play into a strategy for a podcast? What will the weekly schedule be and does it include a review/coaching session with the talent at the end of each week?

Prepare to practice the program pre-launch, in real time for the length of the show, daily for two weeks at a minimum. My preference has always been to practice for a full four weeks. I know that there are those groaning as they read this, but it’s important to practice in a repetitive fashion so that the show becomes second nature to the team. The reason for that much practice is that it allows the team to experience almost everything that they will experience in real time during the first month when they are live. A first impression is a lasting impression.

What’s the plan for vacation time or unplanned absences? Many shows have an “understudy” who can step-in and act as the substitute host at a moment’s notice. Some shows produce an evergreen program that they can use in case of emergency or if a technical glitch interrupts the feed of the program.

If you’re dealing with a local show, your sales team will want a demo that they can share with potential advertisers. If it’s a network show that you’re launching, affiliation will want the same type of demo to use in clearing stations as well as for national advertisers. Local and National programs will both require the development of digital and analog assets. Logo, unique website, social media accounts, secure program names and addresses for on-line, are all important.

Once you launch your show, be prepared for the long-haul, and manage the expectations of your management, talent and affiliates. It takes time to disrupt an audience’s old habits and create new habits. It’s been a longtime since an over-the-air launch of a new show saw an immediate ratings impact. There are so many options for entertainment and information today that steady growth, albeit slow, is positive growth.

Be sure to remind the talent daily that every time they turn on the microphone … someone is hearing them for the first time. Welcome new listeners for as long as it takes to hit a critical mass. It takes years before the majority of the audience knows who you are and what you stand for. Key word … majority. Introduce and reintroduce yourself, and the purpose of the show, until that message is repeated back to you in research. Only then can you assume that your message is cutting through.

 




 

Radio War Stories, hosted by Dave Jagger and Don Nelson with guest Mike McVay.


Part 1

Episode 39 - Radio War Stories

 

Part 2

Episode 40 - Radio War Stories





 

Where Have the Listeners Gone
– Mike McVay

The work world has been slowly returning to normal, and despite many businesses continuing to Work from Home, we’re seeing listening levels start to improve. There’s still a way to go as Persons Using Measured Media (PUMM) levels are lagging behind share levels.  Those stations who altered daypart times have mostly reverted to the schedule of traditional dayparts.

The more society reopens, the more individuals will return to pre-pandemic habits, but that doesn’t mean that radio listening levels, or cume levels, will rebound on their own. We won’t get the casual listener back without a focus on improving the listening experience, marketing to bring that audience back, improving the quality of our content (including commercials) and providing better content with fewer interruptions.

Many listeners have expanded what they listen to, where and when. That means that the level of competition is greater as we emerge from the pandemic versus before. Many stations will find that they need to market aggressively to better compete for this diminished available audience. Research shows that a significant number of listeners have shifted to listening to the radio on their smart speakers, on a computer or on their phone. That should encourage stations to seriously consider Total Line Reporting. If you’re not TLR, you receive no credit from Nielsen. In most cases where a station Total Line Reports, the increased revenue from rating growth will overshadow the revenue loss of eliminating streaming commercials.

Here are 7 Steps to Take to Bring Back the Audience:

1.      Improve the listening experience on-line. The easy solution is Total Line Reporting. Simulcast what’s on-air onto your digital stream. What one hears on-air then is what is heard on-line. Update your SIP with Nielsen to get 100% credit for your content everywhere the station can be heard. Does your Smart Speaker pull-up your station when you ask for it with how it is identified on-the-air? Those two things need to match. Teach your audience how to activate such a skill.

2.      Improve the writing and quality of the produced commercials that you air. Too few stations have the team to produce good quality commercials and even fewer have copywriters on staff to create great commercials. You can outsource this service. There are several companies to both write and produce commercials. The same goes for imaging. Outsource this to the experts.

3.      Manage the heavy commercial load that many stations air by looking for those highest listened hours to air fewer messages. I’d ask that we all lower our spot-loads, as it would be valuable to advertisers to do so, but I’m not counting on anyone making that move. So, play fewer messages in your most listened to hours.

4.      Return dayparts to standard Nielsen dayparts. This is when the audience expects to hear your shows. Meet that expectation. Morning shows no longer need to extend beyond 10:00am as the nation’s workforce seems to be returning to normal workhours.

5.      Invest in personalities. If you’re a music station, music is important, but listener loyalty is developed when the audience has a relationship with the on-air talent.  This is obviously true for News/Talk and Sports/Talk stations. We’re seeing more stations develop two-person afternoon shows, too. The DPS’ are adding personalities to their music streams. We have to ask ourselves what they know that we in radio don’t know … or have forgotten.

6.      Market your product. If you don’t have the budget to mass market, then use direct marketing and social media marketing. The audience you once had has been exposed to a lot of different entertainment and information programs over the last year. Reintroduce your station to the audience that you are targeting. Sell a benefit. “WHY” should anyone listen to your station? It’s not enough to simply be on the air.

7.      Serve your community and connect to your community. If you’re local and live, sound like it. Do what a national show cannot do and that is design your content to speak to the local neighborhoods within your market. If you’re using a network or syndicated program, ask that network talent to assist you to localize their show to your market. You cannot “flip a switch” on a network show and walkaway.

 





 
Radio Returns to the Workplace
– Mike McVay

Suddenly the question of “Have you had your vaccine,” being asked of me by some of my clients, has changed to “will we ever return to the studio?” The follow-up question is “will radio ever return to how if was pre-pandemic?” Those are two tough questions that require deep thought. Two questions that are situational and have several possible answers to them. There is much you need to think about.

Many companies are starting to have their employees return to their offices and studios in phases. It varies by company, but the dates I am hearing for most companies is July, August or at latest early September. On-Air personalities and Program Directors appear to be the first to come back. Air staff is next. In many cases the Engineers never fully left. I know of a couple companies that have maintained a nearly 100% staffed operation from the start of the pandemic, but they are in the minority.

There is more multi-market, multi-format, voice-tracking talent today than at any time in our past. There’s good and bad to that scenario. A talent who lives in one market can work remotely to be on-air in another market. A personality that you may have thought would never move to your market, is now suddenly available, if you’re willing to have them work from a city that isn’t in your home market.  That’s the good part of the equation if you’re an on-air personality who doesn’t want to live in a dozen cities during their career.

The danger inside of that scenario is that most talent who voice-track are not paid as much as a talent who is live and local, living in the market, and being present to multitask. Insistence on your part that you need not be in the market likely comes with a lower price tag for your services. “Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.”

The question that management will ask of themselves is “do I believe that this talent is critical to my station or not?” If they are critical to the station’s success, those personalities may be able to negotiate that opportunity into a new agreement. If they are not, those talent may be faced with having to decide if they’re willing to take less money to continue to do their show remotely or are they ready to return to the studio. That is, of course, if the decision is elective.

Sellers are once again offering live on-site broadcasts and live appearances, albeit with social distance in mind, and that’s another reason why many stations will want their talent to live in the market where they broadcast. Appearances, meeting advertisers, knowing a city first hand is important to local radio.

Promotion teams have been eliminated or mostly decimated. Those departments may take a long time to return to pre-pandemic levels. This department should not be eliminated. They generate revenue as well as help to build an audience. It might be a while before we see the return of street teams. Although face masks have become this eras logoed T-Shirt. Same with station logos on bottles of hand sanitizer.

Some offices will be without a receptionist. We’re hearing of markets who are building out regionalized operations, meaning many regional stations combined in one location. A decision that’s much easier to make now that there is no longer a rule that insists you have a presence in your city of license. That means that the Engineers have a greater area to cover, PD’s have more stations to program, Personalities more stations on which to appear. Promotion managers have more properties to focus on when developing promotions. Marketing will be to a greater area within which you will need to spread your resources.  More multi-tasking for all.

Sales teams will likely not be required to be in-house more than one or two days a week. Those meetings will be motivation, training, guidance and camaraderie. Some companies will allow, even encourage, a seller to begin the workday from their home versus a studio location as it makes them more efficient. More than any other department, you can tell if a sales rep is working effectively or not, because they are selling advertising. That can be tracked. The numbers don’t lie.

The traffic department, admin and accounting/finance may continue to work from home. Those positions have existed primarily on-line, for years before the Coronavirus, and are the easiest to allow to continue to work from home without negative impact. Same with copy writers, if that position still exists locally, and likewise for the digital team.

One thing we miss by not being together is esprit de corp. That feeling of togetherness, all working toward the same goal, is important to maintain belief in an institution or goal. That’s particularly true when you’re facing tough opposition. Being part of a team, feeling that you are part of a team, collectively striving to succeed, is something that also extends the tenure of employees. We all want to work somewhere fun. Working somewhere that is positive to work at is a great benefit. It’s harder to be an engaged employee when you WFH. You have to be self-motivated and disciplined in how you work.

Another negative that comes from a decision to not return to work is that it also eliminates mentoring and being mentored. Training can be set as a curriculum, but learning by observing has real value, and it is difficult to do that on a video call. Think about those that have mentored you, or those that you mentor, and you realize how valuable it is to learn by doing. I expect that we will see some companies develop formal mentoring programs as a way to compensate for the lack of an in-person work environment.

Many of us have been spoiled by being able to “work on-demand.”  Performing our duties when we wanted to perform them has been a luxury. One that I certainly know that I enjoyed. What we need to do now is think about those positive things we learned while Working from Home, and ask ourselves how we can incorporate them into working in a workplace. Wearing “Hello Kitty” jammies will not be one of them.

 




 

The Personality Brand
– Mike McVay

One of my favorite management books was released in the late 90s. It is The Brand You 50 by Tom Peters. I find myself recommending it to young media talent, to music artists and to those I mentor. It’s a book that gave me a blueprint to figuring out my own brand and applying it to who I am and how I am perceived.

We know what a brand is, right? Starbucks, Coke, Nike, Apple are all brands. There are people who are brands like Martha Stewart, Michael Jordan and Oprah. There are radio stations who are brands like KIIS/Los Angeles, WCBS-FM/NYC and The Ticket in Dallas. There are Air-talent who are brands like Delilah, Ryan Seacrest, John Tesh, Stephen A. Smith, Mancow and Mark Levin.

You don’t have to be a personality to be a brand. You have to excel at what you do and be remembered for what you accomplish to be a brand. People have to know immediately what you stand for to be a brand. You have to be faithful to your brand and not become something that misrepresents your brand. All of this is easier said than done, but not impossible. It requires a total commitment to your values and your performance.

There is no better comparison for air-talent than being compared to professional athletes. Athletes come and go. They may play for multiple teams during their career. They are very focused on their individual performance because they know that to stay in the game, they must perform at a high level. Great air-talent view their performance in the same fashion. They know that they have to win their daypart if they’re to have job security. Today, more than ever, performance includes more than what comes out of the speakers. They need to make themselves available to sales for appearances and ride-along’s. They need to make themselves available to the promotion department to participate in events and concerts.

Talent should want to build themselves into a brand for two simple reasons. Advancement and preservation. A winning performance increases the odds of longevity and greater value for your services.  Unfortunately, like the job of an athlete, there is an end to everything.  All jobs end. Either by your choice or the choice of your employer. It’s tougher to eliminate a brand personality. Not impossible, but such an elimination requires at most more strategic thinking and at least a discussion.

The tricky part about becoming a brand is to do so without turning your back on the team and without being blatantly self-centered. The Brand You doesn’t mean that others don’t matter. It doesn’t permit you to survive as a loner in a business where there needs to be collaboration. It means that you are among those thought of in a certain way that reinforces your value and puts you in-demand.

These are the people who become brands; The Programmer who has a successful track record of dominating the ratings in several markets. The Air-Talent who knows how to build an audience and keep them in the face of several challengers over multiple years. The talent that’s known for winning in the ratings because the audience loves them and what they do on-air. A Promotion Director who always finds a way to “own” an event. A Director of Sales who outperforms the ratings with revenue. An Engineer who is famous for making their station sound the best. A podcaster whose content is shared among likeminded individuals leading to a rapid increase in downloads.

It takes years of repetition to become a brand. Even when you reach brand status, the job isn’t finished.

Becoming a personal brand, the Brand You, can be summarized in 10 points:

1.      Understand who you are and what you believe in.

2.      Be true to that persona.

3.      Know what you stand for and do not stray from that stance. If what you stand for could cost you your job, then either the job is wrong or what you stand for is wrong.

4.      Excel in the area of your expertise.

5.      Never stop learning.

6.      Work hard to perfect your craft as an on-going project realizing that evolution is important.

7.      Be known for something easily identifiable audibly.

8.      Be known for something easily identifiable visually.

9.      Be everywhere and be seen everywhere to build a high profile.

10.   Be memorable. All big brands are known for something and remembered for that something.

Think about those 10 points when you think about any high profile, highly successful, person in our business. That person … is a brand.

 





 

Social Media; Mistakes Talent Make
- Mike McVay

“Words are like bullets. You can’t take them back.” That’s a quote that’s attributed to a number of brilliant authors, business leaders and politicians. I don’t know who first said it to me, but it was said in regard to what’s said on-the-air. When I first heard it, there was no social media. Today, it definitely applies to social media, in-person, on-air and everywhere. We are what we post.


So many of us including myself, filter everything we do as to whether it works on social media or not. A friend and I once had a lunch, and didn’t take a picture of ourselves dining together, leading him to later post on-line “if you have a lunch and there’s no picture for social media … did you even see each other?”


What is concerning to me is that all too often a personality believes that who they are on-air isn’t who they are on social media. There is a belief that if you write in your bio “Opinions expressed are my own” it provides you with special dispensation to write anything you want. Which it doesn’t. The audience that follows you on social media likely listens to you on-air, on-stream or on a podcast. There’s a connection between the two.


You shouldn’t post on your socials in a way that’s distinctly different from who you are on-air. To do so is a signal that your “fake” and not genuine on one versus the other. Obviously, you can use language on social media that you cannot use on-air, but it does reveal something about yourself be it good or bad. The same goes for what social media you share from someone else. If you’re sharing it, you are endorsing it, and that too unveils a part of who you are when the microphone is off.


The other thing to remember is that once you post something, even if it’s for a moment and you delete it, odds are in favor of someone having taken a screen shot of it which they will in turn post and attribute it to you. That’s why you should pause for a moment before hitting “send.” Same goes for posting inappropriate pictures of yourself. People like me checkout job candidate’s social media when they’re under consideration. Once it’s out there … it’s out there.


There’s an adage in spoken word radio that “whoever controls the microphone has the last word.” That’s not true in social media. If someone feels that they can pull you into a social war, they will pepper you with negative or contrary comments, just to get a reaction out of you. Don’t take the bait from these trolls, unless you feel that to be non-responsive is an affirmation of what someone wrote about you. Social media trolls come out from under the bridge in the form of disgruntled people whose soul intent is to upset you. They want to provoke you into a fight and upset you or those who follow you.

 




 

The Live Action Broadcast
– Mike McVay

The world is starting to open its doors, and the humans who ride on her back are peeking through the slightly ajar opening, preparing to head back to what we all hope will eventually be the lives we knew pre-pandemic. Perhaps the world will be even better. Different, yes. Possibly better.

A part of that return to a non-quarantined world will be the on-site appearance by personalities. The appearance may be to welcome an audience that has assembled to see a band or solo artist on stage for a performance, maybe an appearance at a sports event, visiting a school for Safety Patrol or on-site for a charity. The most likely return to public appearances will be for remote broadcasts.

The mere mention of a remote broadcast makes the hair on the back of one’s neck bristle. We immediately think of a folding table, with a folding chair, and a tablecloth that might have the stations logo and frequency on it. Maybe there’s a PA system that’s blaring the station or maybe you have a roulette wheel nearby where attendees can spin-and-win a prize and who hasn’t had the Golf Putt-Putt set-up at a remote?

Almost all of us have experienced a remote broadcast at one time of another. There are those that see it as an opportunity to generate revenue. There are those that despise them as they view the remote as a nuisance or potentially damaging to one’s ratings. In reality remotes generally generate revenue and yet, if executed poorly, they will definitely hurt your ratings.

If executed at the level that is professional and respectful, the remote can generate both revenue and ratings. The live sixty-second cutaways need to be sixty seconds in length. Should be entertaining. Need to be more than an interview with an advertiser. Need to contain an incentive for a listener to stop-by and are most successful when there is an element of entertainment to the message.

I view the remote as a form of marketing and I see it as a positive way to attract an audience. We know from research that those radio stations that are most visible, are seen everywhere and are in fact truly everywhere, have a higher level of top-of-mind-awareness that reinforces listening and repeat tune-in. Remotes should not come back as they’ve been executed in the past, though. They need to change.

The first step is to get rid of the name “Remote.” One of my radio clients changed the name of these paid appearances to “Live Action Broadcasts.” That name immediately upgrades the image in your head. Do away with the folding card table. Replace it with a folding Counter Top, Purchase a Step-and-Repeat, good looking speakers on risers, and equipment that is free of duct tape.

There are companies that specialize in selling on-site performance spaces. I’m sure you remember the Giant Boombox. The rolling radio studio pulled-up to an appearance and the show was ON. The cash box where money floated in the air and you grabbed as much as you could during an allotted period of time. The Secret Safe with a combination that one had to figure out to win the prize inside of the safe. Don’t forget about Insured Contests. Those have always been crowd-attractions.

The point being that you need to have activity on-site that involves more than a radio personality sitting behind a table. To that end, the talent should not be sitting there, doing nothing, but rather meeting the folks that show-up at the broadcast. Thank them for coming. Engage with them. Represent the station. You want the visitors to walk away thinking “She or he was really nice.” Think about the marketing aspect of the meet and greet. The more people you meet, the more likely it is you convert them.

Several of my clients, in large and small markets, present their version of the Live Action Broadcast as three different packages for sales. The Live Action Broadcast consists of the on-site set-up, the air talent, two cut-in messages per/hour and an activity on-site that engages the audience with the personality. The Broadcast Fair is an upgrade from that package that has the cut-in messages and all that was mentioned previously, a popcorn machine or hotdogs and pizza, along with games of chance where prizes can be won. The Grand Opening Package is all of that an a live performance from a format appropriate band to perform.

The price increases with each package. The number of promotional messages need to be managed so they’re not decreasing the audiences time spent listening. The length of commercials delivered by the talent, during the Live Action Broadcast, need to be sixty-seconds maximum, and they all need to count as a part of your hourly commercial load. The listeners hear them as commercials. You’re being paid for them. They’re commercials.

My favorite strategy for maximizing the effectiveness of an appearance campaign is that they all point back to a charity as the reason for being. We Know that you’re at a car dealership for the purpose of helping them sell cars, but you could also be collecting donations for a charity and/or collecting new stuffed Teddy Bears for a charity like The Teddy Bear Patrol. Using the charity as an “umbrella” for every on-site appearance across the year, gives you a reason in the mind of the listener for being at the sponsors location, in addition to spreading the message that the advertiser has a great product or service for potential customers.

One more thing. Remember that we’re in show business. Put on a show. Be memorable.

 




 

Radio Heroes
– Mike McVay

It’s been a little over a year since the world acknowledged that the Coronavirus had reached pandemic status. Many Americans faced challenges that they’d never been faced with before. The image of the long line of SUV’s and cars, in line at a San Antonio food bank, hit me square between my eyes. People who had never had to wait in line for food were, for the first time in their lives and the lives of their children, waiting to receive donations of food. It was a time when radio activated it’s messaging and many in media harnessed their distribution platforms to help those in need.

The Independent Broadcasters of America, along with several of the larger radio companies, launched last years Radio Cares; Feeding America Radiothon and repeated the effort with their second annual radiothon this past week. They raised enough money to provide five million meals. Those donations will be distributed to more than 600 foodbanks and more than 2,000 food pantries in the United States.

There are many radio heroes who have stepped forward in years past, when their efforts to raise money for those in need, were already considered to be admirable. Continuing through a pandemic has been difficult, and the efforts of radio stepping up to continue to help, are herculean. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network have long relied on radio to assist them in raising money for their causes.

St. Jude is known to have harnessed the strength of Country radio, with their Country Cares program, started thirty-years ago when the front-man for the country band Alabama, Randy Owen, stood in front of an audience of industry members at the annual Country Radio Seminar and asked his friends and colleagues for their help. Owen launched the Country Cares campaign to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and he hoped that the country music industry would join him in rallying behind the cause. That they did.

Since then, St. Jude has added additional formats, focusing on radio stations that attract Black Hispanic audiences and those that draw in Rock/Classic Rock audiences. The many stations that support St. Jude are among the heroes of radio.

Marie Osmond, John Schneider, Mick Shannon and Joseph G. Lake are the founders of what is known today as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. They did that in 1983 by organizing a telethon that raised nearly $4.8 million for 22 children’s hospitals. Today, CMN Hospitals helps 10 million sick and injured kids who are treated at 170 member hospitals across North America. Radio supports them in everyone of those markets with radiothons, on-site events (virtual at the moment), and they enlist sponsors and advertisers to help them. Their focus is on locally raised money staying local.

There are a significant number of charities & programs that companies and local stations present. Syndicated radio programs are at the front of the line. Bert’s Big Adventure is the brainchild of Bert Weiss, host of The Bert Show from Westwood One, and originating locally at WWWQ/Atlanta. Established in 2002, Bert’s Big Adventure is a nonprofit organization that provides a magical, all-expenses-paid, five-day journey to Walt Disney World® for children with chronic and terminal illnesses and their families.

 

Kidd’s Kids, founded by Kidd Kraddick in 1991, with a dream to make a difference in the lives of children and their families who were dealing with life-altering or life-threatening conditions. Initially, the program began as a bus ride to Sea World in San Antonio, Texas. Thanks to the volunteer efforts from their partners, donors, and medical professionals, along with the Kidd Kraddick Morning Show listeners’ willingness to embrace the mission, Kidd’s Kids has grown at an exponential rate. Since 1991, the charity has sent over 1000 kids and their families on a trip of a lifetime to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The Kidd Kraddick Show, keeping its name as a tribute to Kidd who passed away in 2013, hosts a radiothon yearly. The yearly trip is hosted by show members Kellie Rasberry, Big Al Mack and Jose “J-Si” Chavez.  

Another network show is Ace & TJ. Their Grin Kids was Established in 2000. Grin Kids is a nonprofit providing a magical, all-expense paid, 5-day experience at Walt Disney World for children between the ages of 5-12 who are terminally ill or chronically disabled and their immediate family.

Audacy is in the midst of their DEI work with Clark Atlanta University, launching fellowship programs later this year. Their markets are paired with local Urban League affiliates in executing local programs. Their commitment to Children’s Health has raised more than $11.5m for Children’s health inn the past year. Their participation in the Jimmy Fund children’s health fundraiser has helped more than $60m over the past twenty years.

Since the earliest days of the pandemic iHeart has focused on helping its communities and audiences celebrate virtually the occasions they could no longer celebrate in person. Over the last several months, the company has taken a leadership role in creating a slate of popular and widely-recognized virtual events that have reached and entertained millions of Americans; these have been so successful that iHeart plans to continue hosting virtual events post-pandemic. In fact, iHeartMedia, in partnership with Fox, was the first media company to create and broadcast a COVID-19 benefit special: “The iHeart Living Room Concert for America,” which paid tribute to the medical professionals and local heroes working on the many aspects of the pandemic while also raising over $15 million for hunger relief organizations.

Cumulus Media and VolunteerMatch have combined forces for Project Shine. Given that in the wake of Covid-19, America’s non-profits need financial support and volunteers. The campaign encourages individuals to donate their time and energy to help others by helping volunteer organizations through VolunteerMatch. Project Shine believes that everyone should have the chance to make a difference. That’s why Cumulus’ focus is to make it easy for good people and good causes to connect.

Local stations in smaller markets have also excelled. One example; WVVR/Clarksville, TN is a country station owned by Saga Communications. Every year they host an annual 2-day Radiothon to raise funds for Camp Rainbow in Clarksville. It’s a weeklong summer camp for kids with disabilities or severe-terminal health issues who can’t go to regular summer camp. They have teams of doctors and nurses on staff and one counselor per camper with some special needs children having two counselors.

Veterans Matter is a charity that I’ve been closely involved with since early 2019. They’re a non-profit organization that houses homeless veterans by raising money through radio station radiothons and community events. This past year they worked with stations in Washington, DC, Detroit, Indianapolis, Toledo and more. Hubbard Radio’s WUBE/B105 Cincinnati also focuses on veterans. The Big Dave Show presents One Pet; One Vet whereby they train a dog for a wounded veteran.

Broadcasters of America serve those of us in our own industry who are in need of help. I am personally aware of their assistance to broadcasters who lost their homes in the wake of hurricanes, lost their homes in forest fires, and who have suffered due to traumatic devastating events.

The mission of the Broadcasters Foundation of America is to improve the quality of life and maintain the personal dignity of men and women in the radio and television broadcast profession who find themselves in acute financial need due to a critical illness, accident, advanced age or other serious misfortune.

It is nearly impossible to track all of the good that radio companies, and their audiences, contributed during this extremely difficult in the recent past. I’m sure that I’ve missed many great efforts here. That oversight is only because of the abundance of good that radio is doing. These stations and companies are radio heroes. Most of radio has risen to the challenge to help their local communities.

The message that I want to deliver, to the world, is that radio has never shied away from helping those in need of help. Be it raising money for families left homeless from fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards. During the pandemic, helping those who need food, clothing and shelter. Serving the local community is a part of the requirement for one to hold a broadcast license. We may no longer have a need for completing an ascertainment report, but serving the community is what is expected of us. It’s why we’ve been given a license to begin with and why we’re supposed to be here.

 




 

Radio Ink – What Every PD Needs to Know About Sales
– Mike McVay

The question is … What’s more important? A great radio product that delivers great ratings or a great sales department that generates more than their fair share of revenue based on the ratings. That “Chicken or the Egg” question is one that has been heard in the hallways of radio stations for decades.

The answer is Sales. I’ve seen great sales departments generate bigger revenue than a station’s ratings deserved. I’ve seen highly rated radio stations fail because a sales department couldn’t sell advertising on the station. We are in a for-profit business. You cannot succeed if you don’t have more income than expense. That’s a pretty basic formula and it shouldn’t surprise anyone, but yet it does.

If I could crawl into a time machine and go back to the early days of my career, I would immediately introduce myself to the Sales Manager, and ask if I could sit-in on at-least one sale’s meeting every week. I started doing that about eight years into my career, when I was a Program Director in Louisville, KY. Not only did I learn about what my coworkers were focused on in their jobs, but it helped me learn about sales. That experience paid-off for me as a Program director, and especially when I became a General Manager, as well as when I became a radio station owner. It also paid big dividends during my time as a Corporate Program Director and continues today as a Media Consultant. 

Radio sellers do not sell advertising. They sell products, services, merchandise, hard goods, health, hope, the future, and fantasy. They sell cars, homes, air conditioners, medical services, health care, clothing, jewelry, meals, vacations and whatever else an advertiser wants to sell. The advertising message isn’t the end result for the seller. They have to move product for the advertiser, or the advertiser will not return to do more business with the radio station, and so “getting the order” is only part of the process.

The most successful sales people, regardless of the business, understand that sometimes they have to hear a lot of NO’s to get to Yes. Being told no is always an acceptable answer, but it doesn’t have to be the final answer. Imagine how hard it is to hear a string of NO’s, get to a YES and you have the “buy,” only to return to the station and be told NO by the Program Director. There is a way around that. Communicate with sales regularly, encourage them to communicate with you, and be in agreement before an advertiser is pitched on a concept or a promotion. I’ve always looked for ways to say yes, but if that meant creating damage to the product, then I looked for an alternative solution.  Be collaborative.

Many companies have a training program for their sales people. They learn about the benefit of advertising, what types of advertising opportunities there are, bundling over-the-air with digital, combining direct marketing with mass marketing and the type of selling preferred by their company. Many sales people make themselves a project and work continually to learn how to sell more effectively. Listening to podcasts about sales, audio books and reading books are a part of the habit of the majority of sales people. We should all make ourselves our own improvement project.

Some sellers do what is called Benefit Selling. That’s where you show the benefit of advertising on a station whose audience is aligned with the target of the advertiser, showing results for similar products, and working with the advertiser to craft a campaign that will get them results. There are other companies that execute what is known as the Consultant Sell. That is that you assume the role of a marketing consultant, ascertain the client’s objectives and create a plan to help them reach their target customer. This type of selling sometimes requires using additional marketing outlets to increase the reach of the radio message.

There are different levels to the sales side of our business. National Advertising, Network Advertising, Agency Ad Sales, and Local & Direct advertising. National advertising is mostly segregated to the biggest markets where the largest population resides. National advertising agencies have clients like T-Mobile, Progressive Insurance, Home Depot, Lowes, McDonalds and many more. They buy based on the AQH Rating and they’re looking for an affordable cost per point. The stations format needs to align with their customers, and the stations ratings are directly connected to how much they will pay the station.

Regional and Local advertisers often buy through an advertising agency, too, using a similar concept as national advertisers, but often the overall total of the ad buy is lower and more targeted. The advertising agency takes 15% of the buy total.

Local direct is where many medium and smaller markets live and sell advertising. We’ve seen that during the pandemic, local direct business has withstood the impact of the pandemic better than the largest markets, mainly because the local direct seller has a relationship with the merchant themselves, can show specific performance, and has more options to engage and activate an audience locally.

Sales people, particularly in those markets where the business is local direct, have to write copy and have it produced locally. That means they’re making sales calls, having client meetings, writing copy, having it produced, clearing the finished commercials with the client, servicing the client, and often having to handle collections for the station to be paid and for them to earn their commission.  

Knowing all of this, should bring every On-Air Talent and every Program Director to the question of “How can I help a salesperson sell advertising?” Maybe it’s in going on a ride-along to help excite a client about advertising, ideating with the sales rep and the client on how to create a campaign, or maybe it’s as easy as becoming friends with the advertiser.

We are all sellers of one thing or another. Be it selling an advertiser on advertising with your station or selling your General Manager on why you need their approval for a promotion, and event or a programming change that you’d like to make.  We’re always selling, and we will always sell. We are all sellers.

 




 

The Reason for Callers; The Listener
– Mike McVay

The reason to talk to a listener on the air is for the listener. It’s not for that specific caller. It’s to present an opinion that is contrary to yours or that of another guest, or it is to air a call that supports your opinion, while providing an additional or different perspective. Including calls on a show enables you to hit many opinions quickly, adds additional personality to your program, and it makes the host (and the station) feel approachable.

Many stations today prefer to read a message that they received on social media, and that has real value, because it creates a connection with an audience. What it doesn’t do is give you credibility. There’s always a question of credibility with airing a caller, however it isn’t always possible. For those times, social media has to do the trick. Be sure the audience will find the message on your social media feed, if you’re reading it on the air. Be credible.

Caller’s on-air gives most shows more energy and more depth. It makes a show feel lively and dynamic. It can make you sound more local and definitely makes your show sound more connected to the community. People enjoy eavesdropping on conversations, which is especially true, when the conversation allows us, the audience, to be voyeurs.

While the host may want to create a welcoming feeling to a caller, no one needs to hear the normal chit-chat that happens when you’re talking to a friend, as it elongates the call and distracts the listener. We also don’t need to hear the words “Goodbye” or “Thanks for calling.” Some will disagree and believe it makes the host sound cold. It doesn’t have to sound that way. If the host is consistent, the listeners “get it" and understand the process.

If the call screener prepared the individual calling-in they will know that they need to get to the point, and the host may not say goodbye to them as they’re trying to move through calls quickly. The person calling into the show will understand. They know that they’re a part of the program. It’s an honor to make it onto the air. The majority of your audience will never call into a show. Those that do should be treated courteously … before they speak to the host.

If you’re a host who takes calls, be it that you are on a music show or a spoken word show, you have to establish that callers are treated with respect. You want the audience to feel that it’s safe for them to participate. They need to feel that they’ll be treated respectfully without fear of humiliation. That doesn’t mean that you will never disagree or argue with a caller. It means that you won’t attack them in a mean or hurtful fashion.

When you have a caller that sounds engaging, then engage them, and ask them questions. Pay attention to what’s being said so you never miss a great comment that you can playoff of, and never sound as if you’re waiting for them to pause for you to speak, unless what they’re saying is uninteresting, wrong or argumentative. Then, that breath is your moment to spring in with your views, and it serves as a “Set-up” for your reaction.

Never be dismissive when it is unwarranted. Always remember that the question you’re asking them is for the audience that will never call a radio station. Object strongly when the caller’s opinion is immoral, uneducated, clearly wrong or socially repulsive. The objection in those cases prevents your station or your character from being tainted. Silence is an endorsement of what’s been said.

Listen for that “something” you hear in a caller’s voice that lets you know they are entertaining or interesting. Be fast in knowing when to end a call and move on. If you’re recording your calls in advance, you can edit out the pleasantries and produce the call to get to the point quickly. If you’re calls are preproduced, then the audience should never hear a boring or pointless call.

When you’re soliciting for calls, if it’s a poll question, personalize it for yourself or for your listeners. You do that by using the word “You” or you give an example that places you or a friend, maybe a family member, in the situation that prompted the poll. Polls that are the most successful are either fun, relatable or they’re about a lightening bolt topic that is trending.

Generating calls comes not only from airing a lot of calls, which is like chum to sharks, but by saying the phone number repeatedly. I know … it’s obvious. Unfortunately, it happens infrequently on most shows and stations. Produce the number and air that if the host feels uncomfortable saying the number frequently.

Most importantly … listen to the caller. There’s no reason to engage a caller on-the-air if you’re not going to be engaged yourself.

 




 

The Role of the Producer
– Mike McVay

Great Producers protect their talent. They do it by being uber prepared so that no “Big Event” story is missed. It is by executing the strategy that the station has and the vision that the host of the show has for the program. It is by being the filter, or voice of reason, for those that are free-wheeling and by assisting in managing the members of the team for an ensemble show.

Great producers are hard to find. Many are “grown” and trained versus being “hired from elsewhere.” I’m always impressed to learn about great show hosts who started as a producer, for another great show, and went on to become some of the most successful air talent performing today.

The very best producers understand who the audience is that their show is targeting and they focus on capturing information from all sources that are frequented by that audience. The anchor, (or co-hosts if the show has a team approach to the anchor position), should be confident that their producer will be prepared for their arrival in the morning. This means creating content and having the hot topics prepared to share, audio available to use and an idea of how social media with be used to engage the audience during the show. All before the host/co-hosts walk into the studio.

The producer follows the Road Map for the program as each days’ show is prepared. Knowing how many “Hot Sets” you have and how many “Cold Sets” have to be prepared for the show enables you to approach the days show prep process with a specific number of items needed. Some topics are so big that they consume the majority of a show, but days like that tend to be less frequent than what one might consider to be a normal day.  

The producer should be aware of their specific audience’s time spent listening so that they know how many times their audience will turnover during a show. It is a mistake to assume that a topic that’s been presented earlier in the show should not be brought back later in the same program. Think about your life away from radio. Your family and friends talk about the hot topics repeatedly.

Show prep is an important part of the interaction that the producer has with the talent on the show. If the show is an ensemble program, then the various members of the show should know their role and their on-air character, and prepare to submit content that supports the show. There are two phases to the producers’ prep process. Phase one is what the team puts together as individuals in the late afternoon and early evening for tomorrows show. Phase two is what the producer captures from those suggestions and adds to them with relevant items that became newsworthy overnight. That information is shared before the program in a review of the run down for the day.

A program producers’ job doesn’t end at the close of a program. Immediately after the show, meet with the talent and talk about what worked and what didn’t work for that day’s show. What could have been better executed. What are you happy with and want to bring back in the future? A short meeting following the daily show is the best time to review everyone’s performance for the day. Learn from the good and bad of the show. Then … you move on. Yesterday is gone.

Protecting the talent is a difficult task, but a necessary one, in that it’s easy for the talents’ time to be diverted to things that have no impact on a show. That doesn’t mean that a talent shouldn’t work with sales to generate revenue. It doesn’t mean that a talent shouldn’t meet with an advertiser who has requested to meet the personality that will endorse their product or service. It certainly doesn’t mean that you shield a personality from their favorite charities or those charities that the station has embraced.  Moderation is called for here.

In general, your tasks will include sourcing potential contributors and guests to be interviewed. Managing the logistics of getting people, resources and equipment together at the right place at the right time, as needed. You may be saddled with checking that copyrights are cleared for on-air and on-line. You should have the skills to convert text, graphics, video and audio files into other formats. Finding audio that has been archived or from other sources on-line, where you have permission to use them. Many producers are also responsible for responding to audience feedback, referring them to other departments and possibly to management at your station. Many show producers also participate in promotion meetings.

Being the voice of reason, if necessary, is a skill that the more experienced producer may employ. That producer, who is also on-air as part of a show, can be used to protect the freewheeling discussions that sometimes erupt during a show. Know when to interrupt, to enhance, to earmark audio to be used for a promo. That isn’t to say that the producer should be a filter, but one would hope that they have credibility to where the anchor/s of the show would listen to them and respect their opinions in regard to what content is used and isn’t used.

A thick skin must accompany your pride of authorship. The anchor/s have the last word. You should be willing to focus on the team’s direction for the show, and accept that focus as the direction in which the show will move forward, even if it means your suggestion has been rejected. Be heard, but be prepared to adapt and adjust, if you’re overruled.

The longer you work with the talent, the greater your credibility will be with them. That will lead to their dependence on you and your value increasing as does that dependence.

 




 

Meet You in the Clubhouse
– Mike McVay

The latest social media craze is not TikTok. It’s Clubhouse. It’s not at TikTok’s level, but this social media platform is adding thousands, of users every day. The allure of Clubhouse is that almost every room you enter is like attending a breakout session at a conference, a family reunion, a party with friends and just about every other gathering of people that you can envision. My enjoyment of the app has been to use it as if I am participating in a conference session.

Imagine that you’re walking through a room full of tables with multiple laptop computers open and engaged on every table. On each computer is a Zoom meeting, with the camera off, and you can stop and participate in any meeting that you want. Many different topics are available. You can explore through active rooms of many topics, or you can stick to those topics that you have been alerted to, because you noted your interests when you signed-up.

I joined Clubhouse on January 20th, so I’m very new to it. My first session that I hosted was titled “Lori Lewis teaches Mike McVay Clubhouse.” Lori, the highly respected and greatly recognized social media consultant, led the room. We had a fairly large group of radio people who either wanted to learn clubhouse, or to watch me be embarrassed, as Lori taught me Clubhouse. There are many times when I feel as if I am a speedbump on the Information Highway. Imagine my joy when I realized that Clubhouse was not intimidating and it was easy to learn and navigate. I almost immediately started thinking about how it can be applied to what we do in media.

My use of Clubhouse is multi-layered at this point. I want to learn from others by hearing their perspectives, learning how people feel about specific topics, and seeing what’s trending. Professionally, it is a form of marketing for me, if I am in a room with a lot of others, I’m being heard and my icon is being seen. If I’m leading a room, that combines marketing with learning from others.

Imagine if you want to test new music with Program and Music Directors. Post the notice. Bring in those people whose opinions you want, but lots of others in the public will be able to hear what’s being discussed. It’s a great way to trial new product or preview new concepts. It’s a fabulous way to market new music and introduce new artists. Introduce new air talent or entertainers. Imagine having a gathering of your listeners or fans and being able to meet them and talk to them. It works for podcasting exposure, too.

Imagine the uses for Clubhouse during winddown of this pandemic when an event or a concert is cancelled. The word would spread like wildfire if any of the big-name artists were guests in a room where fans could join in. Imagine someone like me, a consultant, a talent coach, a marketing consultant, hosting a room where they can share knowledge and answer questions.

The educational opportunities within Clubhouse don’t have to end with our own business. I sat in on a room where Eli Manning, the retired Quarterback from the New York Giants, was talking with several other NFL players and several agents. The discussion was the business of football. I heard several things that are applicable to radio as well as other audio platforms. A more recent room included the author Simon Sinek. He spoke about his recent book, a recent Ted Talk that he spoke at and he offered thoughts on where and how leadership goes off-track. He added how to rectify such situations. He answered the question of WHY which comes from one of his Ted Talks. A priceless experience for free.

Marketing, done in a subtle way, is the obvious opportunity. That’s valid for the introduction of personalities and the station. It gives the audience a direct line to the talent. It’s the old-fashioned request line on steroids. It’s like being at a station appearance or at a remote broadcast. The audience has access to you and you have access to them. This platform should enable you to have greater connectivity with your audience.  I’ve strolled through multiple radio rooms, music rooms, marketing rooms and several Clubhouse Town Hall’s. None have failed my expectations.

We don’t really know where and how big this platform will grow. My father used to always answer questions like this one by saying “Water finds its own level.” Meaning that Clubhouse is going to go wherever it goes, but my belief is that where it’s going is to be a place where individuals can create unique rooms to eaves drop on what others think of their music, their station, products, services and what’s worth investing in and what isn’t worth investing in. It gives independent artists an opportunity to expose their brands. It gives radio stations a chance to have spur of the moment focus groups. It can be educational or simply recreational.

I don’t know that I can see direct monetization of the Clubhouse experience, but the same type of businesses that do advertorials can use Clubhouse for grassroots marketing. You can be that somewhere there is someone who is figuring out how to use Clubhouse for direct marketing.  Is Clubhouse here to stay? It’s too soon to tell. Many of us were excited about Tumblr when it started. Jimmy Fallon tried to connect Tumblr to his show. Unfortunately, that platform is ranked 36th among all social platforms. Many of us were ecstatic about Periscope. It was the first live streaming app. Truly a pioneer. It’s going dark on March 31. If Clubhouse remains welcoming, easy to navigate, and provides its users with a remarkable experience, it will succeed.

How will you harness the positives of this new tool and put it to work for you?                      

 




 

CREATING FOMO; The Fear of Missing Out
– Mike McVay

FOMO; Fear of Missing Out. We all strive to create day-to-day listening. The way to build such habitual listening is by creating the fear that you will miss something if you don’t listen. The benefit is that daily tune-in builds ratings and develops listener loyalty. The concept is another that is easier said than done. It becomes more difficult if the talent has few windows within a show to create and deliver such content. Although it isn’t impossible regardless of the origination of the show being local or not, live or not.

It starts with finding unique content and material that is specifically interesting to your audience. That means that the personalities understanding of who their audience is, what the audience expects from the show, and what the show stands for, is to be known and never forgotten. Much like the scene from the movie Bull Durham, where Kevin Costner’s character delivers the “I believe” speech to characters played by Susan Sarandon and Timothy Robbins. Costner, in the role of Crash Davis, professes his deep beliefs in a passionate speech to the two. That belief didn’t start with Costner’s character sitting down with his show prep sheet the night before. It began with an acknowledgment of what’s important to him and his audience and how it interfaces with those around him.

Admittedly, he had Hollywood script writers.  If you know what your credo is, and you have the ability to be genuine, you then have the launching pad to be topical and entertaining. You are set-up to take the hottest topics and present them uniquely.

Identify what the hottest story is for the day. Consider how your audience feels about that story. Then think about what your take might be. If you can hit a chord with your audience, they will talk to their friends and associates about what they heard on your show, and that word of mouth creates the fear of missing out. There is a hot story every day. Your take on these stories is what develops daily tune-in.

It might be a hot story, like the one that popped up a couple days ago, with your talent developing it into a political Cage Match. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are at odds. President Biden referred to Putin as a “killer.” Putin fired back with rhetoric that smacked of a child on a playground and he challenged Biden to a debate. What twist can your show put on that story? How can you make it even more interesting or entertaining? Do you address it as a produced skit, a conversation between you and your show team members, or you present a monologue about the incident in your own style? There are many directions this particular content can go, and the payoff to the break, is where your air talent’s personality will come through.

Creating FOMO regularly can make your show a destination. A place that you visit because of the expectations you have of the show. The minute I heard that story I made a calendar note to watch Saturday Night Live to hear their spin on that news. I knew that either Colin Jost or Michael Che would present the story on SNL News, or the cast would create a skit about the incident, maybe both. I was excited to catch their take on the topic.

Then I found out that SNL isn’t returning live until the next weekend.

 


 




 
10 Little Known and Seldom Practiced Tips to Grow Your Ratings
– Mike McVay

There are some mysteries as to why some radio stations, playing the same music as other radio stations in the same market, outperform their competitors. It’s not obvious. The music point of differentiation is not apparent between the two. Neither of the two competitors have a clear advantage over the other when it comes to on-air talent. You don’t hear a big cash contest on-air, you aren’t seeing billboards or television ads, no bus sides or bus shelters bearing the name and frequency of their station, and you’re not sure if there’s a stealth marketing or direct messaging campaign underway. The only thing that you’re sure of is that one station always seems to win and the other always seems to lose.

The expression that fits the best, as an explanation, may be “The devil is in the details” … meaning that the details of a matter are its most problematic aspect. Never did I think that in my life I would be quoting Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, but that’s who is credited with the expression. Attention paid to small things has big rewards.

Here are 10 little known and seldom practiced tips that could lead to ratings growth:

1.    Stop-set placement; as simple as it may seem to many, taking advantage of Nielsen methodology and maximizing time spent listening by placing your stop-sets appropriately is not something that’s done uniformly.

 

PPM criteria requires 5 minutes of listening that could be individual minutes that are accumulated within a quarter hour. Meaning a minute here and a minute there … back and forth … as long as they add up to 5 minutes within the quarter hour. Therefore, in a PPM market you want to play your commercials across the quarter hours so as much of each quarter hour as possible is filled with music.  That could mean stopping from 12 after to 18 after the hour. It could mean stopping 56 to 04 after the hour. Whether you’re playing commercials across the :15 and :45 or across :00 and :30 … you are enabling the meter holder to hear mostly music in those quarter hours.

 

In Diary markets the criteria requires 5 continues minutes within a quarter hour. That’s why in those markets a station stops in the middle of a quarter hour. They may stop at 20 past the hour for five minutes of commercials, as they are trying to cover from 25 past the hour to 35 after with a music sweep. That gets you two quarter hours listening and you get credit.

 

2.    Filling the stop-sets; because you should want to play long sets of music as frequently as possible, you should prepare for times when your station is not sold-out by filling one stop-set at a time. Many stations fill their commercial breaks evenly. That’s the opposite of what you should do. Analyze which quarter hour has the fewest listeners listening and fill-up the stop-set in that quarter-hour before starting to fill other breaks.

 

3.    Longest commercials air before shorter commercials; this one is tricky as not all traffic systems can accommodate this tactic. Despite the urban myth that shorter commercials are better than longer commercials, which is only true if there are fewer overall commercials. Listeners count units and not minutes. Four sixty-second commercials make a break seem shorter than eight thirty-second commercials in a break. We’re talking about illusions. Playing the longest commercials first in the break creates the illusion that the stop-set is shorter than reality.

 

4.    Commercials that sound the most like music should air first in a stop-set; there are fewer music commercials today given that the concert business has ground to a near halt during the pandemic, and few businesses use jingles in their commercials any more, but when you have a commercial that embraces music … that commercial should be first in the break. It will hold an audience longer.

 

5.    Don’t telegraph your stop-sets; not only does it sound antiquated to use phrases like “We’ll be right back” and “up next” it signals to your audience that commercials are coming and they should tune-away. It’s also a missed opportunity if you don’t tease ahead, by mentioning compelling content, to encourage a listener to sit through the break.

 

6.    Be aware of the phenomena known as “Accumulated Listening”; realize that a daily listener may be hearing you more than they hear their partner at home. If all of your talk-sets are long, then the accumulation of talk can be overwhelming and the audience will search for an escape. You don’t have to share everything in your head in one show. You have shows daily and as such you can balance your content through the days and weeks.

 

7.     Radio On-Demand audio should be after your CBET or Voltair unit (PPM Markets); meaning that if you’re in a PPM market, and your on-air shows turn their programs into podcasts or on-demand audio, use the streamed source that includes encoding from your CBET or Voltair unit. That way, providing you air the show in its entirety including commercials, within 24 hours of broadcast, you’ll receive Nielsen credit. The PPM meter will capture it.

 

8.    Two days matter; Thursday is usually the most important day in Diary markets.  Monday is generally the most important day in PPM markets. It may vary in your market, but do the research to see which day you’re receiving the most reported listening (Diary markets) and captured listening (PPM markets) to giveaway the biggest prizes, award the most money, announce concerts, music releases and share magnetic content that has value to an audience, on those days.

 

9.    Silence is Golden; this one always brings guffaws and chuckles from some of my colleagues, but nothing is more attention-grabbing than silence. Want to capture the listeners attention before a major announcement? Pause for 2 or 3 seconds of silence and then begin the announcement. Just as a listener reaches for the controls of their radio, or as they stare at their smart speaker, your message begins to play. Note; I’m not suggesting so much silence that your silence sensor activates.

 

10.   Set Appointments; the quickest way to grow your time spent listening is to encourage the audience to return to listen several times a day. We know that repeat tune in drives AQH Share. “Check back with us at nine, two and five for your chance to win” or “be listening at 3:10pm when we have the premiere of Taylor Swifts new song.” Being specific and asking the audience to do something as an appointment, has to have a genuine payoff, to be effective.

The question; Why do some radio stations win rating sweep after rating sweep? The answer; They make a religious-like commitment to the details that others overlook. That’s the secret.

  




 

Radio Ink – What Every PD Needs to Know About Sales
– Mike McVay

The question is … What’s more important? A great radio product that delivers great ratings or a great sales department that generates more than their fair share of revenue based on the ratings. That “Chicken or the Egg” question is one that has been heard in the hallways of radio stations for decades.

The answer is Sales. I’ve seen great sales departments generate bigger revenue than a station’s ratings deserved. I’ve seen highly rated radio stations fail because a sales department couldn’t sell advertising on the station. We are in a for-profit business. You cannot succeed if you don’t have more income than expense. That’s a pretty basic formula and it shouldn’t surprise anyone, but yet it does.

If I could crawl into a time machine and go back to the early days of my career, I would immediately introduce myself to the Sales Manager, and ask if I could sit-in on at-least one sale’s meeting every week. I started doing that about eight years into my career, when I was a Program Director in Louisville, KY. Not only did I learn about what my coworkers were focused on in their jobs, but it helped me learn about sales. That experience paid-off for me as a Program director, and especially when I became a General Manager, as well as when I became a radio station owner. It also paid big dividends during my time as a Corporate Program Director and continues today as a Media Consultant. 

Radio sellers do not sell advertising. They sell products, services, merchandise, hard goods, health, hope, the future, and fantasy. They sell cars, homes, air conditioners, medical services, health care, clothing, jewelry, meals, vacations and whatever else an advertiser wants to sell. The advertising message isn’t the end result for the seller. They have to move product for the advertiser, or the advertiser will not return to do more business with the radio station, and so “getting the order” is only part of the process.

The most successful sales people, regardless of the business, understand that sometimes they have to hear a lot of NO’s to get to Yes. Being told no is always an acceptable answer, but it doesn’t have to be the final answer. Imagine how hard it is to hear a string of NO’s, get to a YES and you have the “buy,” only to return to the station and be told NO by the Program Director. There is a way around that. Communicate with sales regularly, encourage them to communicate with you, and be in agreement before an advertiser is pitched on a concept or a promotion. I’ve always looked for ways to say yes, but if that meant creating damage to the product, then I looked for an alternative solution.  Be collaborative.

Many companies have a training program for their sales people. They learn about the benefit of advertising, what types of advertising opportunities there are, bundling over-the-air with digital, combining direct marketing with mass marketing and the type of selling preferred by their company. Many sales people make themselves a project and work continually to learn how to sell more effectively. Listening to podcasts about sales, audio books and reading books are a part of the habit of the majority of sales people. We should all make ourselves our own improvement project.

Some sellers do what is called Benefit Selling. That’s where you show the benefit of advertising on a station whose audience is aligned with the target of the advertiser, showing results for similar products, and working with the advertiser to craft a campaign that will get them results. There are other companies that execute what is known as the Consultant Sell. That is that you assume the role of a marketing consultant, ascertain the client’s objectives and create a plan to help them reach their target customer. This type of selling sometimes requires using additional marketing outlets to increase the reach of the radio message.

There are different levels to the sales side of our business. National Advertising, Network Advertising, Agency Ad Sales, and Local & Direct advertising. National advertising is mostly segregated to the biggest markets where the largest population resides. National advertising agencies have clients like T-Mobile, Progressive Insurance, Home Depot, Lowes, McDonalds and many more. They buy based on the AQH Rating and they’re looking for an affordable cost per point. The stations format needs to align with their customers, and the stations ratings are directly connected to how much they will pay the station.

Regional and Local advertisers often buy through an advertising agency, too, using a similar concept as national advertisers, but often the overall total of the ad buy is lower and more targeted. The advertising agency takes 15% of the buy total.

Local direct is where many medium and smaller markets live and sell advertising. We’ve seen that during the pandemic, local direct business has withstood the impact of the pandemic better than the largest markets, mainly because the local direct seller has a relationship with the merchant themselves, can show specific performance, and has more options to engage and activate an audience locally.

Sales people, particularly in those markets where the business is local direct, have to write copy and have it produced locally. That means they’re making sales calls, having client meetings, writing copy, having it produced, clearing the finished commercials with the client, servicing the client, and often having to handle collections for the station to be paid and for them to earn their commission.  

Knowing all of this, should bring every On-Air Talent and every Program Director to the question of “How can I help a salesperson sell advertising?” Maybe it’s in going on a ride-along to help excite a client about advertising, ideating with the sales rep and the client on how to create a campaign, or maybe it’s as easy as becoming friends with the advertiser.

We are all sellers of one thing or another. Be it selling an advertiser on advertising with your station or selling your General Manager on why you need their approval for a promotion, and event or a programming change that you’d like to make.  We’re always selling, and we will always sell. We are all sellers.

 




 

The Anniversary of the Pandemic
– Mike McVay

March 11th is the one-year anniversary of the day that the World Health Organization announced that the Coronavirus was officially a pandemic. March 13th marks one-year since America shutdown. Since then, we’ve learned that we should stand six feet apart, wear a mask in public, and continually use hand sanitizer. Not all of us apply those rules to everyday life, but we should. Most of us started working from home, broadcasting from closets, making sales calls via video, and spending time calling advertisers to reassure them that we’d support them if they’d support us and continue to advertise.

We’ve learned to “do radio” while home schooling children, visiting with our elderly relatives on-line, and trying to quiet our pets during the most important of our virtual meetings. Bedrooms became offices, hair styles went out of style, and getting dressed up for work meant wearing what was previously referred to as business casual or “going out” clothes.

These two dates, March 11th and 13th are worthy of noting on the air. It’s a time for reflection. There are many who have lost loved ones, who have been separated from family and friends for over a year, and some have lost their jobs.  For many their lives will never be the same.

The total number of deaths in the USA is now over 500,000. Let that sink in for a moment. More than half a million Americans have died because of the Coronavirus. The daily average at this moment had declined to approximately 1,750 a day. To many these are simply numbers. To some these numbers represent names.

It’s difficult to know if the lives lost will be remembered annually, at some future point with a government acknowledged holiday, or if it will be like 9-11 when many remember the details of the terrorist attack that took place on American soil on September 11, 2001. It is safe to think that there will be an annual remembrance of some sort, at least until none of those alive today, will be alive in the future.

How will your radio station mark this date? Will you pause on-air for a moment silence?  Will you produce a memorial or tribute to play on the air? Will you acknowledge those who your audience may know because they were a part of your station or well known to your listeners? Will you list names on your station website? Will your air-talent tell stories of those who have been lost? Will you take calls and give your audience the opportunity to share their feelings on March 11th?

This is a moment when our purpose becomes clear. It is to serve our communities and to make a difference.

 




 

Ten Mistakes For Air Talent To Avoid
- Mike McVay

Those of us who have been on the air know that there is nothing scarier than noticing that your microphone was left on … when it should be off. That’s only one of the many mistakes that I’ve made during my career as an air-talent and as a Program Director. Through the research that I’ve seen, listening to thousands of hours of audio, having spent hundreds of hours coaching talent, and through my own experiences, I’ve seen a pattern of mistakes that many on-air performers make. Not the majority, but many. Mistakes that I doubt that they would make if made aware of these errors in their actions or performance.

1.      Failure to Identify the Station/Brand – We know that in Diary Markets, where listeners have to recall what station they listened to and write it down, reminding the audience to what station they’re listening is very important. In PPM Markets it is important to remind the audience who they are listening to, and where you are on the dial or who to ask for on a Smart Speaker, is important so the audience knows how and where to return to the station.

 

2.      Failure to sell a benefit to listen – It is easy to understand that a talent is focused more on their show and its’ content, than the benefits of the station. The two should not be at cross purposes. Explain to the listener why listening to your show is a benefit to them, and why listening to the station is a benefit to them. Of course, this only works if the Program Director can explain to you that benefit, so you can believably explain it to the audience.

 

3.      Teasing without an incentive to listen – All too often an air-talent will promote what’s upcoming by reading something that’s akin to a grocery list. Think about “Why” someone would want to stick around for what’s next, and then write a tease that tickles their interest and creates intrigue, so that they remain engaged.

 

4.      Narcissism – Some talent believes that what’s important to them, is important to their audience, and their show becomes the ME Show instead of the YOU Show. Those stories that you share about yourself should be relatable to the listener, and should be entertaining to the audience.

 

5.      Knowing your target – Who does your station talk to and who does your show want as listeners? Learn as much as you can about the target. Where do they live, where to they work, what’s the lifestyle of the majority of your audience, what is the average age and the gender lean of your listeners.

 

6.      Living in the Listeners World – In my career I have talked with talent who proudly told me that they don’t watch TV or they aren’t on Social Media. They may have no activity that their audience would find to be relatable to them. They may even look down their nose at their audience and its life. You need to live in the listeners world. Do what they do, go where they go, watch what they watch, listen to what they listen to. Fakers are found out quickly.

 

7.       Being Prepared – It doesn’t matter how many Billboards your station has promoting your show, how heavy of a Television schedule you’re airing, how involved you are in Social Media, and how much money the stations gives away on the air. No amount of marketing and no prize is big enough to provide a long term coverup for your lack of preparedness. If you’re not ready when you turn on the microphone, you’re turning off your audience. I’ve always felt that every hour on-air that I was to perform, required an equal amount of time off air preparing.

 

8.      A belief that the station goes off-the-air when they go off-the-air – You’ve heard these shows before. The On-Air personality never promotes the talent that’s on-air after them. These are the shows that say “Goodbye” and you might as well turn off the station after their show. I’ve always encouraged personalities to think of the station as one long show with multiple acts. Their show is one of the acts in the continuum of multiple shows. By the way … it’s not a “shift.” It’s a “Show.”

 

9.      Failure to Realize that they are part of a Team – During my time as a Program Director, I encountered several superstar talents who initially refused to participate in meetings that included the rest of the on-air talent and the programming staff. Their reason likely had more to do with the time of day that these meetings occurred, than their dislike for the others, and as such I changed Air-Staff dinner meetings into lunches. The superstars on your staff should attend team meetings. To do otherwise sends a bad message to your coworkers.

 

10.   Forgetting that we are in the business of Entertainment – Most talent that I have encountered never forget that we’re in the Entertainment business. Unfortunately, there are a minority of personalities who grumble about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making a station and a show successful. There are those that want to do the bare minimum and get by with doing as little as possible. There are talents that begin looking for their next job the minute they get a new job. Realize that in this era, when many shows are imported using Voice Tracked Talent, or air syndicated/network programming, being on-the-air as a personality is a privilege that should not be taken lightly.

 





 

 

The Weight of Your Words
– Mike McVay

“The weight of your words … are heavier than ever and the ripples that they create … are greater than ever.” That was something that one of my former employers said to me following an error in judgement by a member of my team. No one died from the error in judgement. No one lost their job. It created a moment requiring intense focus to sooth those who had been offended. The employee was reprimanded, but not terminated. The experience stuck with me and that statement is one that I’ve used with others. It was a powerful learning moment.

The weight of our words is something to be remembered by those of us whose words are listened to on large platforms. It’s something to be remembered by those of us who are responsible for content creation. We have seen and heard such evidence on many news platforms across North America.

It is a fine line between Freedom of Speech and crossing the line to be in violation of the First Amendment. It may surprise some that there are exceptions to having the right to free speech. Free speech does not mean that anyone can say anything they want in any and every situation.

Categories of speech that are given lesser or no protection by the First Amendment (and therefore may be restricted) include obscenity, fraud, child pornography, speech integral to illegal conduct, speech that incites imminent lawless action, speech that violates intellectual property law, true threats, and commercial speech such as in advertising.

Along with communicative restrictions, less protection is afforded for uninhibited speech when the government acts as subsidizer or speaker, is an employer, controls education, or regulates the mail, airwaves, legal bar, military, prisons, and immigration.

It should be obvious that this article was prompted by what we’ve been seeing and hearing in the news since January 6th.  Including another impeachment. My intention is not to take sides politically. It isn’t to chastise anyone. I’m not furthering a liberal or a conservative agenda. I’m not, as some news outlets or organizations have done, blaming media for recent violent events. My purpose is to remind the voices of our industry that they need to be responsible in what they say and how they say it. Censorship, though, is never acceptable. Asking someone to be responsible, accurate and truthful is not censorship.

The question that some talent will then ask is “How do I perform my show and avoid getting in trouble without losing my audience.” That’s a question that several well-known personalities have actually asked me. My response to them is “Don’t do something stupid. Don’t say or do anything that will get someone hurt. Be credible. Be truthful.” One would think that those words go without saying, but there is a lot of confusion among talk hosts, and so it has to be said.

I don’t think that anyone is asking any talk talent to avoid questioning our politicians, asking questions of our community leaders, or talking about what the audience cares about. If the President’s signing of 31 Executive Orders since he’s been in office is a hot topic, you have to talk about it. Local talents need to talk about local things. Listeners in your community are concerned about things that matter to them personally. The home schooling of children, where they can get their Covid-19 Vaccination and an impending layoff of Law Enforcement in their town. A bridge being out is more important to a listener than most national stories.

 

The bottom-line; We need to be responsible. That’s all that I’m saying. Fanning the flames of dissent can be dangerous. If you’ve never watched the movie The Fisher King, starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges, watch it.  If you’ve never seen the movie Talk Radio, based on the life and death of KOA/Denver personality Alan Berg, watch it, too.  They’re both stories with strong messages, one fictional and one based on a true story, that emphasize what can happen if we’re not responsible.

I am not attempting to act as the spokesperson for our medium. I’m not worthy of that position. I’m certainly not holier than thou. I’m a guy that learned that the weight of our words is heavier than ever, and the ripples they create are greater than ever. A responsibility that I believe we should all take seriously.


 




 

The Bifurcation of Country
- Mike McVay

Country, as a radio format, has been eroding for several years.

One may point to the erosion of the audience on Radio stations, but the distribution of the medium remains greater than any other audio medium. Country is seeing an audience rating slide that’s greater than that of other mass music formats. If the format’s problems are not addressed, those problems will not only continue, they will accelerate with the increased presence of the DSP’s and the growth of Satellite Radio.

The formats ratings have been falling for several years. It’s unfair to look solely at 2020 numbers as all of radio lost AQH and Cume during the pandemic. However, the erosion that the format is seeing, has been going on for some time. Country radio saw its AQH drop 5.9% from 2018 to 2019. That’s in addition to the 5.1% decrease from 2017-2018. Even before the negative impact of the pandemic, almost every country station in the Top-50 markets lost cume. The combined ratings of country stations in markets with more than one is also showing lower year-over-year ratings.

I believe that the extreme differences in the types of music that air on country stations are a large part of the rating problem that we’re facing. The country format plays music that is coded with a variety of types such as Country, Contemporary, AC, Pop, Traditional, Bros, Group and Female. There are too many types of country music on any one country radio station. This may have worked in “olden times” when there were fewer choices where to find your favorite music. Today, there are many places to find the particular flavor of country one desires, and you don’t have to sit through songs you dislike, to get to the ones that you do like.

It's time for the format to split into various colorations of country. The issue that I’m putting forth here is one that’s been talked about, acknowledged and addressed in the past. The solutions to the issue have never been successful in the past. Country for years has fought against splitting the format. In the past, it was the absolute right thing to avoid doing, as there were not enough types of music to divide the format. Efforts like “Countrypolitan” failed miserably. That’s not what I’m suggesting.

Listeners program their own radio stations by pushing the buttons on their radios, or by asking for different types of music on their smart speakers, and in doing so they avoid the songs that they dislike. They eliminate the songs that don’t “fit.” By bifurcating the format, you have an opportunity to expand time spent listening and regenerate an audience for the format.

It would definitely open the format to more female artists and that by itself would expand the audience. It would be the elimination of the extremes on one side or the other of the format that would be how you define your station. Will you be the country station that leans more country and less pop or the one that leans more pop and less country … with both remaining country stations that play country artists who make-up the center of the format.

This also means that the format would become song based and not artist based. Meaning that the sound and style of a song becomes the deciding factor. All artists have the ability to be on both versions of the country format. Which flavor of country station is solely dependent on the sound of the song?

The bottom-line is that no matter how many people want to say that country works best as a broad format, like Top-40, it doesn’t. It isn’t. Not even the Top-40 format works like it once worked as a broad format. The format needs to bifurcate with one branch of it being truer to the sound of mainstream country, and the other branch being truer to the pop side of country.

If you’re not the leading country station in your market, then why not create a different lane for the format, and attack your competition in a way that they cannot easily respond to stop?

 




 

Hiring a PD; The Interview Process
– Mike McVay

There is a lot to consider when interviewing to hire a PD. There are those things that are tangible and those that are intangible. My experience is that many Market Managers, not all, interview for a Program Director as if they’re interviewing for a Director of Sales. Therein starts the issue of why some stations in some markets have continual turnover in that programming position. The skill set required to be a DOS and those skills required to be a PD are very different. The consideration and evaluation of a candidate for the Program Director position should be based on several key factors that are universal.

Experience; This is more than what’s on a resume. A resume is a chronological list of jobs you’ve had. It’s more important to have the candidate take you through their career. Explore each job, discuss the situation, and probe the candidate in regard to their rating results. Ask them for their analysis of the talent they managed and how did they collaborate with others that they worked with or reported to in the execution of their job. Did they accomplish what they wanted to in those previous jobs and if not then why not?

Training; Who mentored and/or trained you to be a Program Director? That’s a great question, especially for those PD’s who are early in their career. Good habits are picked up as easily as bad habits. Much like the “NFL or College Football Coaching Tree” that we hear so much about, there are many examples of successful Program Directors who came from the same mentor.

Knowledge; That is knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to competing for ratings. Does the candidate understand, and can they explain, why they won in certain situations and lost in others? Do they have a format area of expertise? What’s the difference between how you compete in one format versus another format? How about computer skills, operating systems used in control rooms, music scheduling, do they understand how to use the tools of Nielsen. Do they understand what the ratings mean?

Rating Track Record; Most candidates want to talk about their victories and not their failures. They want to “pump up their rating successes” as wins while hiding their losses. Ask specifically about the losses. If you’ve programmed long enough, you’ve had losses, as it is impossible to be up every rating sweep. No on has a 100 share unless they’re the only station in a market. Rating research is an inaccurate science. Talking about a rating failure is more important than talking about a win, as from that discussion you will learn if the programming candidate learned from the situation, if they understood why they didn’t win, and if there was something that they would have done differently.

Managing Talent; Ask about talent that have worked at this candidates’ previous stations. How did they manage their talent as individuals and how did they manage them as a team? Who did they get along well with and who was a difficult person to manage? Specific examples will give you great insight into how they work with others. Ask them what their talent would say about them if you called and spoke to them. Not every talent loves every PD, and that doesn’t make the PD a bad candidate. What you’re looking for is a pattern that indicates they’re good or bad in the area of managing and coaching personalities.

Managing Upward; One of the greatest things I ever learned from my mentor was to manage upward. Once I understood what was important to my superior, I was able to satisfy him or her and that put me on an upward trajectory. Ask the candidate how they like to be managed and how they manage upward.

Managing Sideways; The same can be said for working with the other department heads. The PD candidate will need to be able to work collaboratively with the DOS, Chief Engineer, News Director, Promotion Director Traffic Manager, Legal, the Business Manager and other PD’s in the cluster. Does this person work well with others?

Ability to Work with Sales; The very best Program Directors understand the need to have a good relationship with sales. They understand the need to be available to meet with clients, to see to it that commercials are produced and make it onto the air, and they understand the struggles of selling anything to a prospect. Ask for specific situations where it worked well and where the relationship between sales and programming was challenging.

Promotion; Depending on the size of the market, the Program Directors job may include also being the Promotion Director. Even if it doesn’t for the current position, most of us have started in a small market where promotion was an important part of the job.  Ask why, when and how they would execute a promotion. How do they build cume? How do they build AQH Share? What are some examples of successful sales promotions that they’ve executed? Same for audience generating promotions. Do they have a basic understanding of the legal element of contests, what constitutes a lottery and how to execute appearances and remote broadcasts?

Leadership Skills; Doing an in-depth conversation, such as this interview process, you should start to see the characteristic of this individual as a leader. To be specific, though, ask them what leaders they have admired and/or enjoyed working with and how they’d like to be remembered as a leader. How do they motivate a staff? How do they communicate with their staff and how will they communicate with you. Share your style of leadership with the candidate and make them aware of your expectations.

Work Ethic; This one is important. It’s not about the hours that someone puts into their job, but rather their accomplishments. What is their level of dedication to the job and to winning the battle for the audience? The objective isn’t to find someone who will cheat, break the rules, be a taskmaster, but rather to find someone who is dedicated to accomplishing the tasks to reach the goals of the station.

Personal Life; You can ask about hobbies, family, their guilty pleasures and about movies they’ve seen, books they’ve read, their education, if there is a person or persons that they admire within their family. What area did they enjoy living in the most? Does the candidate they have a pet? These questions aren’t designed to meet a criterion that you have for the position, but to better understand who the candidate is and will she or he be happy in the environment of your radio cluster.

Personality Alignment; Do you like this person? I know … right? It’s an important thing to determine. You need to be closely aligned with your program director and you need to communicate with them regularly. Do you think that you’ll like working with them and spending time together? It’s not about friendship, but it is about aligning your personality with theirs so that you can feel confident that the two of you can work well together and accomplish your goals.

 





 

COACHING TALENT; The Outline to Design a Successful Show
– Mike McVay

 

The turmoil of this past year has led to a number of shows changing out their talent as well as other stations making a significant number of adjustments to their programming. I crafted an outline that is designed to be used when adjusting or redesigning a morning show. It can be applied to any daypart that is personality driven.

 

The design begins with the sharing of the goal and the objectives to accomplish in order to achieve your goal. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. The basics are the skeleton of building out this radio human. The basics are important because if you don’t get credit for the listening that your station attracts, then it never happened.

 

Goals and Objectives

-        What is your goal

-        What are the objectives to accomplish to reach your goal?

-        What does “Success” look like?

-        Who is your target?

The Skeleton; the Basics

-        Service Elements

-        Imaging

-        Positioning

-        Cross Promotion

-        Recycling; Repeat Tune-In

-        Occasions of Tune-In

-        Don’t telegraph commercials

The Muscle; Organs & Tissue

-        Who are you?

-        What do you stand for?

-        Why do we listen to you?

-        Where are we used? (Listening Locations)

-        When do people listen?

-        How do listeners use you?

Breathing Life into the Body

-        Great talent are great storytellers

-        They are relevant and relatable

-         They get to the point; efficient

-        Content that is Perishable

-        Content that is Non-perishable

-        Post-show prep; Plan for the next show

 

The level of competition today is at such a high level that one cannot enter a studio without being prepared. They cannot turn on the microphone without knowing what they’re going to say. You have to know who your audience is or you’re sure to have a difficult time reaching the masses.  Attention to detail is the difference between winning and losing the ratings game.

 




 

Disney’s Rules of Management for Radio
– Mike McVay

More than a decade ago, the fine people at Disney offered the business community an opportunity to attend Disney University, which I took advantage of myself. Several of my friends in media have also taken the course. Those who’ve been an employee of ABC also attend Disney University, even if remotely. I suspect that they all agree with me that the Teachings of Disney are directly applicable to the entertainment world. I’ve successfully applied these rules to radio for years.

When we arrived on “campus” we were told that Disney University would start with Traditions. This is where we were taught the history of Walt Disney and his brother Roy. We were told about the first mouse that was drawn, named Mortimer Mouse, before he later became Mickey. Decades of history are shared. They do that so that those who will work at the park understand the principles and objectives of the Disney family. How often do we spend time teaching a new employee about a station, its legacy and its purpose? Wouldn’t it be great to take a new employee through a power point to provide that person with a better understanding of where they fit in and what will be expected of them. You’re joining a team.

They have no employees. They have Cast Members. We were cast into roles. As a cast member, one’s role might be as a ride operator, a character, maybe you’re selling candy, or maybe you’re cast into the role of being a street sweeper. It’s a big difference between being a street sweeper and being an actor playing one. Why would we not cast our talent into roles?

The actors and actresses stay in character. Mickey puts on his head first. Because the minute the head goes on, you’re now the character. Heaven forbids someone should see any character without their head. Same goes for personalities. When you’re out in public, and members of your community see you, stay in character. We’ve all heard the stories of a person driving a station vehicle making an obscene gesture at a driver that cut them off.

The park is a Stage Area … and nothing should ever be out of place on-stage. If you’re standing behind a ride, you might see a door that opens into the park, with a sign on it that says “Stage Area.” Nothing should be out of place on stage. For instance, everyone picks-up trash. Nothing should be out of place. The studio is our stage. No visitors. No personal calls. No social media that doesn’t have something to do with your show or the station. Stay in the studio.

Cast Members Know Everything. They’re never allowed to say “I don’t know.” If the cast member is asked a question that they don’t know the answer to they’re instructed to call a park operator and find the answer for the guest. Radio should be the same way. We’re supposed to know the answers. It makes me crazy when I hear an on-air personality ask the audience for information that can be searched on-line. This also points to preparation. The better prepared you are the better you will sound on-air and the greater your connection will be with the audience.

Low Ride Out is a concept that I have frequently applied to morning shows. When they add a ride to one of the Disney parks, the ride lowest on the list of “attendance” goes away. That’s so that the park is never cluttered. That’s why, unlike other parks where the line from one ride intersects with the line from another, you can move through a Disney park without hesitation. Same for a show. You want to add a new Benchmark bit or a feature to your show? What goes away? Keep from cluttering the station.

They Don’t Sell Beer at Disneyworld or Disneyland. They do sell it in Epcot Center, but not inside of the amusement park where there are mostly families with children. Who wants a bunch of intoxicated adults, yelling at their children, as they drag them through the park? The application for radio is that you don’t offend your audience with inappropriate advertisers or promotions that are unsuitable for your target audience. Can you imagine how much more money Disney would make if they did sell beer inside the park? It would ruin the atmosphere. Same goes for your station.

The final lesson that we learned was that the goal isn’t to meet the guest’s expectations. It’s to exceed them. We were told a story of how one of the transportation boats, trying to dock and unload guests, broke free of the mooring with a handful of visitors falling into the water. They pulled them all out safely, gave them Disney branded clothes to wear while they cleaned and dried their clothes, provided them all with new cameras and cell phones, or whatever other electronics they lost, and replaced expensive purses, even if they recovered what was soaked. They didn’t have to do that much for each person, but they wanted to do it so that the guests would tell the story of how they were cared for by Disney. Caring this significantly for our audiences, and our sponsors, should be the norm.

 





 


The Commonalities of Great Morning Shows and Great Morning Talent
– Mike McVay

There are obvious similarities that are found as a part of the very best morning shows, or those high-profile non-morning shows, that are what everyone searching for a morning show should look for when interviewing and hiring.

The anchor or co-hosts of the most successful shows are intelligent, topical, understanding of their audience’s lifestyle and connected to the community in which they broadcast. I’ve never met a successful on-air talent, in a competitive market, that wasn’t also intelligent. They have a leadership style that encourages camaraderie, participation, contributions and rewards accomplishment. They manage the show prep system for the show and they encourage collaboration in the creative process.

 

Great talent stands for “something” and they’re true to that “something.” Think of the scene from Bull Durham when Kevin Costner’s character explains what he believes to Susan Sarandon and Tim Robins’ characters. He was true to those beliefs. Great talent remains true to their beliefs. Great talent stay in character.

 

The best performing morning shows are fun, funny, positive, encouraging and are overall entertaining. The shows are fast paced and provide audio adrenaline to the audience. They are well produced. They are memorable. They create day-to-day tune-in. If you miss a day, you miss something that you wish that you’d heard.

 

They are continually doing show prep. They encourage the members of their team to participate in doing show prep. Everything that they see and/or hear comes back to an evaluation of “Does this fit with what we do on the air and should we do it?” They see the forest for the trees. Meaning that they aren’t so close to the trees that all they see are the trees. They have a greater larger view.

 

The show is MAPPED. That is there are buckets which the talent drops into them the content of the show. These buckets contain Hot Topics and Cold Topics. Hot Topics are perishable. Cold Topics are non-perishable. Hot has to be used today or its old news. Cold can be used anytime today or in the future.

They use various Camera views - change the view on regularly mentioned items. Example; anything that will be repeated throughout a show is presented differently each time.

 

They use social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and digital tools like TopicPulse to stay on top of what’s trending locally and nationally. They visit their local community’s social media sites. The available tools for show prep are many today versus what was available in the past.

 

The leaders of successful shows understand that the basics and formatic’s are important to getting rating credit, but they don’t focus on that at the expense of the shows content. The same for promoting what else is important to the station. They respect the music, but they don’t let it stop them from being a personality.

 

The big shows never take a side, unless the show is on a Talk Station that has a particular bent or lean, or the topic is one that the majority of the audience supports. Always remember that politics and religion can cost you half of your audience. A positive cause helps you increase your audience. The very best show knows the difference.

 




 

Mike's Return to Consulting Business
- An Interview with Fred Deane (DMS Cover Story)

A deeper look at Mike's return to consulting with McVay Media, working with and transitioning out of Cumulus, the biggest challenges for radio and more.

Read the full article HERE.

Escapism; Providing an Escape
–Mike McVay

The year 2020 is one that so many “wished away.” We all wanted to get past December 31st and look forward to starting a new year. The start of 2021 makes many of us think about rejecting the “free 7-day trial of 2021” and return it. The noise level was already loud leading through a year of COVID-19 and a contentious political season.

This past week the noise became even louder.  All of this could very well lead to information overload for the audience, a burnout of sorts, and should benefit those stations that focus on nostalgia. Playing mostly, or all hits from yesterday, providing an escape from today. The audience was already responding positively to the opportunity to escape from the stress of life in 2020.  That stress has been magnified to even higher levels because of today’s current events.  Who doesn’t want to escape?

My belief is that the growth we’ve seen since mid-last year for stations that lean gold will continue through all of this year. The formats Classic Hits, Classic Rock, Classic Hip Hop, Oldies Based Urban AC, Oldies Based AC and 60s & 70s Oldies all have the ability to overshadow stations of all formats that are playing newer music. Music from the past generally creates a positive feeling. Older music is feel-good music or comfort-food for the ears.

The greatest success that we’ve seen for stations that focus on nostalgia comes from those stations that sound very much like today, but just happen to play music from yesterday. The content delivered by the talent, the imaging of the station, the use of listeners on the air, and the type of prizes the station gives away should all be for today’s audience.  The air-talent should not share memories from yesterday, as that dates the station, and it distracts the listener from their own memories. The only way that would be acceptable is if the talent shares a memory that is universally shared.

The biggest opportunity for audience growth comes from providing an escape and a safe haven to listen. That doesn’t mean that you won’t present news updates during the morning show, but it does mean that the benefit one receives when they turn on your station is that what flows out of the speakers feels positive and provides an escape … even if momentary.  

Your imaging should reflect that feeling and you should do it in a contemporary fashion. The way the station makes the listener feel should be a large part of your on-air branding or positioning. Focus on ‘Good Times” … “Fun” … “Feel Good” and focus on the positive feeling that is generated from listening to music from the past.

Be prepared to take advantage of the backlash that is sure to come from the overload of negativity permeating media everywhere.  Provide an escape.

 




 

THE TOP PREDICTIONS FOR 2021
-Mike McVay

The pandemic has forced all of us to change how we operate. In some cases,
it has accelerated the timeline for what would have been eventual changes.
Starting with "Audio" becoming the key word to describe the medium versus
"Radio" which is simply a receiver. That receiver isn't the only place one
can hear Audio Programming. Audio is the better name and it means no
disrespect to our medium. It enables is to expand what we do and how we do
it.  

Smart programmers will adapt to the changes the audience has made
during the pandemic as the hours for the most "Radios In Use" has shifted in
this past year. Some highly successful talent will be approved to continue
to perform from locations other than in the station’s city of license. WFH
(Working From Home) will be encouraged by some companies, although that will
be the exception.

The value of talent, those that perform at a high level and are successful based on ratings & revenue, will be in greater demand. More stations will go to voice-tracking, or use syndicated programming, in
non-drivetime hours. Promotions and their value will be reevaluated as will the size of promotion teams.

Research companies will see a resurgence as the shift in the audiences "wants" and "desires" cannot be taken for granted or assumed to be what they were in 2019.

 


 




 

The Future is Ahead of Us; Welcome 2021
Mike McVay

You would be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t thrilled that 2020 is behind us. The words “Happy New Year” mean more to many of us this year as we move beyond a year of loss. The loss of family members and friends to the pandemic. The loss of income that impacted so many us so negatively. The loss of advertisers, who’ve lost their businesses and therefore will never be back as advertisers, is a real loss. The loss of audience and the loss of the time that the audience previously spent listening to the radio is a loss. It’s always easier to keep the audience you have than to attract an audience that you do not have.

A new year always starts with a blank slate and we have an opportunity to welcome 2021 by looking forward to the reopening of the world and specifically that of our communities. I’ve heard and read where some are pointing to VJ-Day as to what it will be like when the pandemic ends. There won’t be one specific day that we can point to and say “Pandemic Done.” Recovery will be a slow process, but it’s much like each day after the winter solstice. There is more sunshine every day once you pass that darkest day.

Get ready for it now. Deliver to your audience the news and information that will surely be desired by listeners as we reemerge into society. Be prepared to serve the community by delivering COVID-19 vaccination information. Make your audience aware where to register to add their name to that of those who wish to be vaccinated. What is the selection procedure and what steps need to be taken as one prepares to be vaccinated? What does life look like after a vaccination? Providing essential information to your audience will allow for a faster recovery of pre-COVID audience levels. Give your audience the information they want and need … even if it is repetitive … and deliver it daily.

People helping people. Listeners helping listeners. It remains important to assist one another with fund raising for those charities whose existence has been disrupted. The feeding of families, who have never experienced the need to wait in a food line, children without coats to keep them warm and caring for the homeless remains important. It’s hard to find a cluster of radio stations, in a market, that doesn’t execute some form of charitable event or promotion for the December Holiday’s. What about the other eleven months of the year? Your connection to the audience increases their desire to be connected to you.

Traffic on the roads will increase as more people return to the workplace and the number of employees who WFH (Work From Home) decreases. It’s highly unlikely that all businesses will bring employees back to their offices as WFH enables a percentage of businesses to exit expensive leases. Regardless, the increase in traffic means that service elements like traffic and weather reports will once again become important. Radios in use, that is over-the-air audio, will increase as individuals return to habits and activities that predated the pandemic.

Concerts, In-Person Events, Movie openings, Running Road Races, Festivals, Fairs and similar events, will return and/or see an increase in attendance. The consistent opening of indoor dining will excite many. Make that a part of the information that you deliver. A concert may be rescheduled for months and months away from today, but announcing the date and the fact that it has been scheduled or rescheduled, provides the audience with hope. We all need hope and something to look forward to for the future. Consider having your talent announce such events as they’re announced and announce those dates again closer to the event date. The addition of an Entertainment Update, while thought of as old and trite pre-pandemic, is now timely and appropriate.

The same goes for large churches, temples or mosques that have been worshiping virtually. When will they re-open? Announce that to your audience. Religious beliefs are at the center of many families and communities. It may be something that you would never mention during a normal show, but we lost whatever “normal” meant in March 2020. I am of the opinion that an age-old tradition, seldom celebrated these days, will return this summer or fall. That is the family reunion. It’s hard to ignore the awareness of life’s fragility when a pandemic has claimed so many. Bringing families & friends together is where you want to be with your radio station.  Won’t it be nice to see those in-person that you’ve not seen for a year?

Can you imagine the excitement of an audience who hears information daily regarding the reopening of the nation? Can you imagine what a destination for listening it would make your station? Brighter days are ahead. Prepare for them. Your audience should never have to visit a search engine to find critical information. One word … Deliver.

 


 




 

Radios New Year’s Resolutions
– Mike McVay

The New Year is upon us. This is that time of year that we resolve to lose weight, exercise more, sleep more, spend more time with our families, read more books, and so on. You “get it.” It’s the start of another trip around the sun, and a new calendar pops up on our phones, so it’s the perfect time to make promises to ourselves that have a 50-50 chance of being acted upon.

I would like to see those of us in radio, and any part of the audio business, to make some resolutions ourselves for this new year. Let’s resolve to get over our inferiority complex about radio and stop apologizing for a mass appeal medium that has a greater aggregated reach than any other medium. While the level of competition continues to grow every year, and it will continue to do so, let’s acknowledge that we are ubiquitous and can be heard anywhere at any time.

Let’s agree to stop discounting the value of content. Better programming, aka content, always seems to attract the bigger audience. We should resolve to be respectful of the music we air, the talk content we present, the personalities who connect with an audience, the news people that provide information, the producers who put it all together and the production people who produce great commercials and imaging for our stations. When you have a special connection between your station and the audience, do not put it into jeopardy. It’s too hard to attract a new audience.

My resolution is to encourage more of my radio clients to use research in making their decisions. If you have the ability to ask the audience what they want to hear, then why wouldn’t you be interactive with them. The most successful radio stations, year-in-and-year-out are those that combine art & science.

Let’s make a New Year’s Resolution to respect sales people, to satisfy our advertisers, to help them sell their products and services, to be creative and come up with new ideas that generate revenue for the station and the company. Let’s resolve to air fewer commercials, even if we have to charge more for them, so that our client’s messages are not lost in what’s become the “yellow pages of radio.”

Make a New Year’s resolution to develop promotions for your audience and for your advertisers. Plan for the emergence from the pandemic, and be prepared to be everywhere and be seen everywhere, when that becomes a safe thing to do in the coming year. Resolve to stop doing promotions for the sake of doing promotions and focus instead on satisfying your listeners.

Resolve to acknowledge the value that your Engineering department brings to your station. I learned early in my career that if you cannot pick-up the station, you cannot listen to the station. Present a great listening experience, be it on-air or on-line, and strive to have an audio sound that competes with your streaming competitors.

Make a New Year’s Resolution to be more thoughtful, kinder, respectful, collaborative and understanding than in year’s past. We’re all part of the same human race. Show some empathy. All of these New Year’s Resolutions are easier than losing weight.

 




 


Does “Live and Local” mean that you need to be Live or Local?
– Mike McVay

It’s been an argument among air-talent and Program Directors for a long time.  I’ve heard some argue that “Live and local can beat pre-recorded and/or not local … every day of the week.”  That’s what we thought, but it’s not reality. There are many examples of nationally syndicated or voice-tracked talent who have outperformed local talent. The same holds true from the other side of the argument where locally live talent have beaten recorded, syndicated and not-locally originating talent.

The question becomes; what are the keys to success for being syndicated or voice-tracked versus being live and local? The keys are, actually, what all talent should focus on, regardless of their point of origination.

Learn about the market. What’s unique to the community. There are similarities across almost all markets in North America, but there are also great differences. New Orleans is unlike any other city in the USA. Austin is unique. Denver is unlike other cities of its size. Montreal and Toronto are dramatically different cities. Same for Los Angeles and New York City. Regardless of size and location, each community has something unique to it. Learn what that is to be able to relate to it.


Learn about the audience. What type of people listen to the radio station on which your show airs? Understand their lifestyles, their likes, wants and desires. Their habits. Where do most of them work? What’s the heritage and lineage of these potential listeners? What’s the history of the radio station and other radio stations that you’re competing against?


What are the best websites to assist with show prep from this market? Where can you learn what’s news in the community, what’s trending, what social media sites exist for this community? Almost every community has a Facebook group that will help you know what’s being talked about by residents of the market.


The Program Director and Promotion Director should communicate with the talent, network, syndicated or voice-tracked, as if they were a local talent in the market. Copy them on your interstation memo’s. Share with them what’s to be promoted or mentioned on the air.


The reason that some voice-tracked talent sound better than local in-market talk is because they work harder to be prepared than the talent who shows-up and “wings it.” There are some who believe that operating remotely during this pandemic, has been beneficial to the talent's show, as they’ve had to be better prepared.

If you’re not in the market, you need to work harder than those that are, to outperform them.

 





 

Spontaneity; The Missing Ingredient
– Mike McVay

When you think about what’s missing from radio today, many things may pop into your brain, but among that list for me is spontaneity. That’s one of the critically important elements that winning stations have and the rest of the platform does not. Something happens that’s out of the ordinary and it prompts a series of moves or actions that could make your radio station a destination.

Spontaneity is one of the things that a music streaming service cannot easily duplicate, what an automated station may not have programmed into its format clock and what many air-talents ignore as they’re ‘going through the motions’ versus thinking deeply about each break and each segment of their show. It is that unexpected moment that causes someone to turn-up the volume, pay attention, that evokes an emotion, and possibly causes whatever just happened to be shared as word-of-mouth. That’s what creates day-to-day tune-in. That’s what builds habitual listening.

Being ready to adjust and alter the format to take advantage of an unusual situation seems like it should be something that can be done easily, but unfortunately it isn’t and it doesn’t happen often.  Most recently, when the depth of the pandemic became accepted by us as a people, some stations sprang into action and began saluting frontline healthcare providers. There were those that played the National Anthem at a set time daily. There were others who decided to play Christmas music at night as a way to lessen the stress we were all feeling. There were others who did nothing for fear of breaking format.

What I’ve learned over the years is that the very best Program Directors spring into action and take advantage of such situations. Celebrities all seem to die on the weekend. That’s an obvious exaggeration, but it feels true, and when it happens those stations whose audience has a connection to the deceased makes their audience aware of it and pays tribute to them. When John Kennedy, Jr died on a Friday evening, there were stations that immediately searched out songs to play as a tribute to him. Same for Princess Diana who perished in the early hours of a Sunday morning. I remember seeing the positive ratings for those stations that played 100% Michael Jackson music following his death.

There was a time when a program director would call the studio, or walk down that hall, and she or he would tell the on-air talent to “play songs that feel like summer today … it’s finally above 32 degrees.” Same for that first snow when I’d run into the studio and ask the talent to play Christmas music. One station that I programmed even had a category of songs titled “Rainy Day Songs” and we would spike them into the on-air rotation when the weather turned wet. That doesn’t work in Seattle where it rains a lot, but it works somewhere like Phoenix or LA where rain is the exception.

Every now and then there is a “moment” like the guy on Tik Tok, (Dogface208), who rode a longboard and swigged from a bottle of Ocean Spray while Fleetwood Mac’s song “Dreams” played. You’ve seen the video as Ocean Spray eventually turned it into a commercial. There were PD’s who were spontaneous and spiked the song. When Lil Nas X enlisted Billy Ray Cyrus to join him on a remix of his song “Old Town Road” … it was a moment. If nothing else, your morning show would “spike” it by playing it on-air and calling attention to it, and talk about it. Why? Because it wouldn’t be expected, but it wouldn’t be a tune-out, and it would cause talk. That’s why you should be spontaneous.

If you’re truly concerned about keeping your programming exciting and engaging, then encourage spontaneity, and coach your people what’s appropriate and what isn’t for your format. Being spontaneous works for any format, music or spoken word, and it definitely builds day-to-day tune-in.

WE GET LETTERS; In response to my most recent article in Radio Ink


We received this letter from Steve Eberhart, a former personality on KVIL/Dallas, and a longtime broadcaster, in response to my recent article Spontaneity is Missing.

Mike … Another great article.

Spontaneity IS a lost art in broadcasting….it doesn’t have to be, it shouldn’t be – but here we are.  Voice-tracking makes it somewhat impossible but I always tell people to listen to the few remaining live jocks on the air and tell me a break that could not have been recorded.  If the answer is none that jocks should be replaced with a voice tracker…might as well…. OR…hire someone who understands what spontaneity actually is and how and why it is crucial to radio – long known as an immediate provider vs newspaper or even television.  In the past we could simply crack the mic and get information on in a second.  With formatting the few live/locals being so stringent that it doesn’t allow for that – we all lose.  As we have discussed before, there must be a renaissance to live/local people with SOMETHING to say.  I’d prefer drive off the road funny – but hell, now, I’d just be happy to hear some simple relatable on the air pertinent to the moment…

I recall being on the air for a few years recently in Dallas on weekends really just for fun (the pay was $10 and hour – seriously, you make more at McDonalds) …

I realized when I’d listen that you never heard one person even say “Dallas Fort Worth” on the air.  I began saying that in almost every break and people started commenting on it with an amazement that I HAD to be IN Dallas-Fort Worth and not an out of town Vt-er.   I would quickly remind them I didn’t necessarily even say I was there (although I was) but the point was made – there are tricks VT’ers can use but they have not been instructed on it.  There needs to be a consultant exclusively for the “how to” to voice tracking…. much like live/local – there IS an art to voice tracking that can make it almost undiscernible to the listener.  My biggest compliment one day while working as a voice tracker was getting an email from an old radio friend driving through one of the markets I was if. They were surprised I moved there and was working there….and this was a radio guy! they have no idea how much they complimented me in actuality.

There is possibly more need right now for that than anything else…!

I saw George Johns comments on the AC battles…great stuff.

Pertaining to KVIL, AC, Chapman et al….

When an air talent (hate to call them DJ’s, or jocks)…was hired, before they even were shown the control room, they would be required to spend an afternoon with Ron going through what he called “basic training”.   Not just station policies and formatic’s, but a full-fledged philosophical education on “Chapman’s KVIL”. 

When I was hired there at the ripe young age of 20 (yes) I was one of the youngest people ever on the air staff.  I sounded 30, but looked 17, which was why I was never featured in any marketing materials.  As disappointed as I was, Ron would explain, “I can’t have a high school looking kid trying to relate to my 30-year-old ladies”. 

When I went through the basic training with Ron, I left feeling like I had completely started over in radio.  Almost everything I knew about radio and being on the air was challenged, enlightened and forever changed, Ron,

It took HOURS as Ron meticulously went over item by item in exhaustive detail, leaving absolutely nothing to question.  As he would explain, these were not suggestions but mandatory non-negotiable requirements.  In fact, he had two plaques on his office wall.  About 12 x 6 with large letters one read, “ZERO DEFECTS”.  The other “A POLICY DOES NOT CHANGE MERELY BY THE PASSAGE OF TIME”.  Curious, obvious and a constant reminder to anyone who might considering challenging either.  They too, were mandatory requirements and compliance, no exceptions.  That quality control is probably what made KVIL the most successful station in the format and perhaps all of radio for many years.  Literally nothing was left for interpretation.  His thoroughness in actual staff meetings was beyond believable.  You would not be leaving a meeting with him with ever asking or wondering about any even minute detail.  He literally thought of everything and every possible question or wrench in the gears that could possibly come up.

So back to basic training.  I can almost recall it all verbatim even now after over 40 years!

I still have my notes taken from that day and review them regularly.  One of my most enlightening moments was at the end of the session, he handed me a printed copy of his basic training.  “I see you took notes, very good, and I highly encourage that at all times, but here is everything we’ve talked about in case you missed anything”.

1.     Positive vs negatives:  When the listener came to you, they likely already have been hassled by everyone else around them.  Whether boss, husband, kids or whatever.  If you present a negative to them as well – you’re just as tuned out as the rest, except literally as they change the channel or turn the radio off entirely.

Find ways to be positive.  They already know all the negative things in the news and unless it is pertinent or relevant, stay away from negatives.  Be the one bright spot in their life.

2.     Don’t tell the public what you don’t know.  If you don’t know – find out.  If you can’t find out, then don’t mention it until you do.  “we don’t have that score right now but hope to get it….”  Never do that.  You’re supposed to know everything.  They come to you to find out so don’t tell them otherwise.

3.     YOU.  Never say “everybody” or “all of you” etc.  Direct comments solely to ONE person – the one that is listening to you.  It is a one on one communication; you are not in front of an auditorium.

4.     Weather:  no clear to partly cloudy.  Relate the weather.  Read it from the weather service and translate it to conversation speak.  “A nice day for a walk in the neighborhood after work”, “the pool may be your best friend today…upper 90’s expected”

5.     TOP STORY:  Every day has a top story.  It is THEE thing everyone is talking about.  Top of mind awareness.  It likely changes each day and may very well change by the hour if not minute when things are fluid or breaking.  You must remain aware of what is going on in the world and your community by the minute to be sure if someone tunes in to find about something, you are at minimum aware of it and talking about it.  (we were REQUIRED to have the top story written on our cheat sheet in front of us at all times when on the air – and he would step in occasionally to check or call in to ask, “your top story today?”  if you didn’t have the right answer, he’d tell you what he felt it might be)

6.     Don’t TELL anybody to DO anything.  Offer suggestions or opportunities but don’t tell them what to do. This goes back to respecting your listener. 

7.     Address adults not kids.  If there is a topic intending for youngster, address your comments to the parents.  “if you have kids and looking for something to do with them, here’s something you might be interested in.  There’s a great new exhibit at the museum for children”

8.     No teens exist:  Much like above – we’re happy to have any that might find us but we are not seeking them and do not do anything on the air to address them directly.  Comments are made to parents but not directly to teens. “Hillcrest High is playing a playoff game today, if you’re vested in that, be aware of the parking situation along Hillcrest Avenue today as that game gets underway at 2 and should be over by 5 or 6 at the latest.”  You’ve just mentioned it, gave good information for those going or those that want to avoid it and the traffic etc. and still maintained the targeting of adult’s vs younger types without alienating anyone.

9.     Never knock a song.  If we’re playing it, it is because someone likes it or may even love it or it might just be their favorite song.  If you knock it, you just lost them. We have a music director who is responsible for that.  You are not.  You are responsible for content on the air and nothing else.  Stay focused on what is your responsibility and do not worry about that which is not your responsibility. 

10.  Don’t knock spots.  They are paying good money to be on our air.  Indeed, that is the stations lifeline.  Not all spots get on the air but again that is the responsibility of someone other than air talent.  Don’t make fun of spots, don’t make comments that are negative to spots.  If it’s a problem it will be handled off the air.

11.  OWN EVERYTHING:  It is always “KVIL’s Ron Chapman”, ‘KVIL’s People’s Choice Contest”, “KVIL’s ….” whatever it is – it is ‘KVIL’s “

12.  No “over in”.  Physically the radio station may be in one location, but philosophically we are nowhere.  When you say “over in” you are telling people listening there that you AREN’T THERE.  This is contrary to everything we are trying to accomplish which is BE everywhere on the air – at least in their minds. We treat all locales as if we ARE there.  The smallest suburb gets the same attention as the biggest city.  Never give away exactly WHERE we are.

13.  What are the people talking about today?  That should be part of your conversation with your listener as well.  Cowboys, new freeway, something on local TV, whatever…be sure you are TUNED IN so you are also talking about what people are talking about. 

14.  Stay aware from politics and religion.  These topics are no win subjects.  If you say anything you are usually alienating another.  Do not offer an opinion on most anything…do they REALLY care what little Ol’ you think?  Probably not. They didn’t come here for that.

15.  CONTENT each break.  Each break must have some content rather than call letters, name and time temperature etc.  Prepare for each break. CRAFT it.  (even easier to do nowadays with voice tracking!)  Is it relevant?  Will they know what you’re talking about?  Is it something they are interested in?

16.  No artist/title unless it is RELEVANT to your break…” did you see Cher on TV last night…if you missed it, she did a version of this song….”  IF it isn’t relevant to the break no need to mention title and artist – almost all of the music is highly recognized already anyway.  What value is there in saying “he’s the Beatles with Hey Jude” Listeners likely are keenly aware of that already so it’s hardly worthy.

17.  DO NOT BEGIN A BREAK WITHOUT KNOWING EXACTLY HOW YOU ARE GETTING OUT OF IT.  Each break has an A, B and C.  Beginning, meat of the story, and hopefully a punchline, outcome or ending comment.  ALL breaks have this.  “there ya go” is NOT an outcue.  Don’t think you can begin a break and think up something clever for the ending while you’re delivering the comment.  Very few people can accomplish this.  It is a good idea to WRITE DOWN your punchline or out comment as well.  Often you might begin the break and halfway through it something insignificant distracts you just for a second to make you forget the outcue of your comments – if it’s written down, you can look at it and get back on track.  There’s nothing worse that delivering a perfect set up and then having nowhere to go with it – which by the way, sounds AWFUL on the air!  Know how you’re getting out of it before you begin.  (he would also say, it’s not bad advice for life too)

18.  WHO is the typical listener?  Have an image in your mind.  He had a photo of the typical KVIL listener posted in the studio.  Look at her.  Would you say that to her?  Would SHE be interested in that?  What would she think of that comment or whatever?  Direct all of your comments to her.

19.  What is special about today…goes along with top story and relevant content. 

20.  Jock relief:  Rather than a break with no content or inferior content – roll a segue.  One is fine.  Two is okay.  Three and I might wonder if you’re alive.

21.  No visitors of any kind.  No one goes in the studio unless they are authorized and if they do come in – don’t engage them.  The control room is sacred.

22.  PARAKEET THEORY:  PARAKEETS will talk to YOU if they are alone.  If you put two parakeets in a room, they will talk to each other in bird talk and ignore YOU.  If one person is in the studio and on the air, they will talk to the listener.  IF two people are in the studio – they will talk to each other and ignore the listener.  No visitors.

23.  IF YOU BLOW IT.  fix it, move on. Don’t refer back to it. If you do, you not only have one blown break but you have created two negative events for the listener.  Don’t refer to errors or mistakes. 

24.  THE ONLY BREAK THAT IS IMPORTANT IS THE NEXT ONE.  No matter what happened before – if they tune in RIGHT NOW whatever you are doing is all they heard.  Is it compelling enough to garner their attention?  If the world ended yesterday and no one told you – you’d still be Rockin’ on. 

25.  No request.  We don’t play me.  The phone line is unlisted for that reason.  Those who want to call usually will do so with content that may or may not be usable on the air.  The phone is used as an on-air tool to relate to the listener.  Their comments or questions can be used to add to your comments or as a reaction to your comments in a relatable manner which makes them part of the conversation.

26.  DAILY SHEET:  relate to it, don’t read it.  take information from it and use it in casual conversation.  “I see the National association of Optimists are meeting in our area today…do you suppose the speaker podium has a smiley face on it?” is an example.

27.  Vary content break to break - station promotion, prepared content, weather, daily sheet, etc.  keep a balance of prepared content and station information or promotions.

28.  Vary delivery/tempo with the music.  Don’t be hyper over a slow intro, don’t be down over an up-tempo intro – match the music tempo.

29.  Keep talk over intros.  no stop down and talk. 

30.  Is it better than the Bee Gee’s?   If not, play another song. (remember this was 1978)

 

Ron would say I realize many will take this to heart only to forget it or lapse from the instruction but you must understand this is the policy henceforth and will not change unless you are directed otherwise.  Any infraction will be dealt with.  (and WAS!)

There ya go…the trade secrets…I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has long expired…As I said, I still occasionally go back over it to remind myself how innovative this was at the time and how relevant most of it still is today.

I think many programmers might have had similar rules and such, but few probably spent the time to instill it consistently as Ron did…. some got it, some didn’t but it has stuck with me all these years and made me a much better broadcaster because of it.  if you go back and listen to airchecks from the golden age of KVIL, you will hear all of this.

Happy holidaze!

Steve Eberhart

 




 

Becoming a Program Director
– Mike McVay

 

Those of us who have served as a Program Director, have a variety of reasons as to why we want or wanted to program a radio station. Everything from making more money to controlling our own careers. In my case, I was lucky to have been bitten by the radio bug at a very young age, and to grow-up during a time when on-air personalities were an important part of the entertainment value of radio. Emulating such talent, and listening to what successful radio stations did on the air, was an important part of my training.

 

I would have preferred to be a highly rated and successful morning talent, but I wanted to become a PD to be able to do that and to control my career. I wanted to work as an air-talent to create an entertaining radio station that everyone would want to listen to without being restricted by the PD. Becoming the PD enabled me to do that … as I was my own boss. That isn’t to say that sometimes a Market Manager or General Manager didn’t derail my plans, but that’s also why I later became a General Manager in my career, and eventually owned radio stations, ultimately leading to becoming a consultant.

 

The desire to be accomplished at attracting an audience, as a Program Director, is what really drove me to continually perfect my craft and to learn from my successes and failures. The way that I started to learn to become a PD was by observation, listening to other successful radio stations, trial and error, and preparation. I also accepted that I wasn’t as smart, or as well educated, as those I competed with (and still compete with) so I have made myself a lifelong project for improvement. I’m still learning. You should never stop learning.

 

Mike Baab, a former Center for the Cleveland Browns, told me that when the former Super Bowl winning head coach Bill Cowher became a coach, he wasn’t surprised. Baab shared that when Cowher was also a Brown, he was always taking notes on the plays that they were being taught, Cowher sat in on both offensive and defensive meetings, and would stay after practice to talk to the coaches. Cowher put in the time to learn all facets of the game, which enabled him to outperform his competitors, and so it is with programming. Learn all you can by paying attention to all aspects of the business. Not just one.

 

There are many tools available to you that can lead to you becoming a Program Director, and actions that you can take to prepare for the opportunity, that will not interfere with your performance in your current role. Start by making your Program Director aware that you’d like to learn from them and are eager to do whatever it takes to assist them as a part of your training.

 

Focus on Nielsen and learn everything you can about the ratings. What’s the process used to select a diary keeper or meter holder, what do all those numbers on the computer screen mean, how are the numbers utilized by the Sales team, and what can be gleaned from them that shows strengths and weaknesses for your radio station as well as your competitors? What are the various courses of action that can be taken to improve your ratings? Where should you play your commercials, your biggest hit songs and new music that you want to expose to an audience? Wherever you see the word “Music” … you can insert “Hit Story” if you are a spoken word station. It’s always about playing the hits the most frequently within every quarter hour.

 

Ratings equal revenue. Whenever someone says to you “What’s more important … ratings or revenue?” It’s revenue. I’ve been fired, as a consultant, from some stations that achieved #1 ratings but were unable to turn them into revenue. They could no longer afford me. True, that means the sales department was poor, but the end result for me was the same. I also learned that the majority of the time big ratings do generate big revenue.

 

Music stations; ask the PD if you can learn from them how to schedule music and start by scheduling the weekend shift or the overnight show. Sit in on music/research meetings and learn how, and why, the currents you add to your playlist are selected. Interview your PD and ask them why certain categories of songs are placed where they are in the clock. Learn about rotations, the sweet spot in an hour, and when it’s time to add a song or drop a song.

 

Talent are important and how you manage them is critical to your success. Ask for permission to learn to be a talent coach by coaching the weekend talent and any talent on your station that are voice-tracking. Schedule the shifts for the weekend talent. Listen to highly successful talent on the competition in your market and elsewhere in America. Listen and learn.

 

Request permission to sit in on the weekly Promotion meeting, a weekly sales meeting, and ask if you can mirror the PD in one meeting a month where they’re meeting with the Market Manager. When you’re in that meeting, pay attention and be seen, not heard, unless called upon. You’re observing to learn.

 

Practice writing promotional messages for your station and submit them to your PD for their input and constructive criticism. You will need to understand positioning & branding, how to write copy, and learn the key words that catch a listeners’ ear. The very best PD’s know how to write a sweeper, a liner, and create exciting sounding contest promos. They understand that a promo for the station is the most important message of the hour.

 

Spend time with your legal representative or station lawyer, or visit the NAB On-Line Store and purchase the book Legal Guide to Broadcast Law and Regulation. Your first responsibility is to protect the stations license. In that book you’ll find rules that pertain specifically to contesting, plugola, payola, political compliance and other such things that will further prepare you to be a PD.

 

Read everything that you can get your hands on; Motivational books, the trades, books by Marketing leaders and Business leaders. Look especially for interviews with PD’s, successful air-talent and anything that you can find in regard to promotion. Log-into the many virtual conferences that have been going on this year, even if on-demand, after the event.

 

Then … be patient, continue to do your primary job at the highest level, and spend the time necessary to learn as much as you can about programming. The opportunity will present itself eventually. When it does, be ready for it, and go after it.

 

 




 


Brace for Burnout
– Mike McVay

While the counting of ballots continues, and the nation awaits the certification of the results on December 14th, many of us in media and many members of the audience, are ready to “take a break.” Election burnout, in what was possibly the most contentious election of our lives, was predicted. What to do about it is what has not yet been addressed. You cannot ignore an unsettled electorate, but you cannot continue to beat the same drum endlessly without expecting to see a decline in ratings.

What we have learned is that it has become popular for the mental health experts to recommend listening less to news/talk radio, watch less of the TV news channels, turn-off the news in-general, step away from social media and avoid electronic or printed daily news updates. This “ostrich” strategy (put your head in the sand and ignore everything) will probably work for some listeners. It doesn’t work for radio.

We have to deliver the news and talk about the election, but we don’t have to be a part of the echo chamber that is much of talk radio, and add to the burnout factor by ignoring all else. We don’t have to repeat the same messaging over-and-over again. We can be different from that and still be topically connected to the biggest stories of the day. We can deliver news without the alternative to election coverage being “life style” stories.

There are many more immediate things in listeners' lives that have nothing to do with election results. The economy is a huge problem and keeps many of us awake at night. Unemployment, families that need food, a holiday around the corner that will be like no other, schooling during a pandemic and the negative impact on mental health that comes from being quarantined or socially distanced. These topics need not be politicized. When it’s all said and done … we people care about our tightest inner-circle. Our families and our friends. Refocus there and deliver to your audience the news that they care most about.

To the non-news stations, combat burnout by being the alternative. Start by acknowledging that research shows us that people who listen to anything other than a news/talk station, do not want to hear your non-news/talk station (meaning a Sports or Music station), talking about politics. That’s not why they’re listening to your station. Be true to your brand.

Discourage your talent, on your non-news station, from taking a side politically. There’s no reason to alienate half the audience. Realize that your talent’s opinions voiced on social media, on a TV show or when speaking in-public, represent your stations opinion as much as they represent theirs. The weight of our words are heavier than ever and create ripples that are greater than ever.

 




 

Meeting Preparedness and Professionalism
- Mike McVay

The reality of business during a pandemic, is that we are social distancing while at work, and we’re using video conferencing instead of in-person meetings. In many situations video meetings have replaced the simple phone call. This new way of working remotely means that we have to change how we participate in meetings.

You’ve heard that a FIRST IMPRESSION is a Lasting Impression … it is true. Every time that we have a video call that includes a client or prospect, be prepared and strive to appear “put together” and “confident” in your role. Confidence … on display … is important.
We are a part of the world of Showbiz; Your role is to appear to be informed, confident, in control and able to satisfy the clients questions … while creating the illusion of calm.
You’re now on-camera for your meetings. Almost every meeting is a television or video show. Be prepared and appear to be prepared.
Too Much Information is NOT a good thing. Meaning don’t talk past the logical point of conclusion.
If you don’t know the answer … respond that you will find the answer.
Be problem solvers; don’t say “I’ll tell someone…” Say “Let me work on this …” “Let me get you an answer …”
Don’t give excuses. No one wants to hear an excuse.
No one should see how the sausage is made. If they did, no one would ever eat sausage again.
Come to EVERY meeting, that clients are attending, understanding the purpose of the meeting, the expected or desired result, who is participating in the meeting, and know your role. Be OVER prepared with the information that you will be called upon to present.

 




 

Ten Tips for Reinventing Radio
-Mike McVay

What better time to focus on reinvention and improvement than during a pandemic? The rating services themselves are suggesting that advertising buys are not to be made using the current rating results. Advertising sales are off from projected goals, budgets have been discarded, expenses are being cut. It makes sense to take advantage of the situation to improve your product and to prepare for that time when we see the economy return to a point where we can take advantage of it.

Ten tips to improve radio through reinvention:

1.  Focus on presenting the best product 24/7/52. Program for every hour of every day and do not fall into the trap of worrying only about Monday-Friday 6a-7p. That may be the area of interest for advertisers, but your listeners opinions are formed every time they listen.

2.   Play fewer commercials and have fewer interruptions. We all acknowledge that we have degraded the listening experience, but no one has the stomach to raise rates and air fewer commercials. I’d suggest that we go to an hourly unit count versus a minute count, but we’d all accept an overall reduction in commercial minutes per/hour.

3.  A commitment to investing in research. Marketers and retailers will tell you that if you don’t know what your consumer wants, you’ll never be able to satisfy the customer, and you won’t increase sales. We’ve become an industry of copycats. We look at national charts and national trends and mirror them. One fails, many fail, and we wonder why our total audience decreases every year.

4.  Invest in talent and Invest in coaching for your talent. Be they local or imported, talent is the one element that cannot be easily duplicated by a competitor and talent create day-to-day tune-in. Talent endorse and sell products for our advertisers. We’re now seeing the DSP’s add talent to their line-ups as they understand that personalities aid in the development of loyalty.

5.  Bring back marketing as a tool to continually build cume for your station, to fortify it against your competitors, and to send a message to your own advertisers that you’re committed to exposing their products and services to as many ears as possible.

6.   Commit to Promotion as a way to build share of listening and to add excitement and participating to your station. Contests, appearances and events are a part of the necessary development of a stations’ “personality.” That is, what’s the “personality” of your station? Promotions support and develop that stationality. 

7.   Being in a community means that you should be connected to the community. Be that talking about what’s going on it the community, or supporting the community’s charities and interests, or simply being everywhere and being seen in a community, that connectivity is very important if you’re competing against a nationally delivered format or syndicated product.

8.   Focus on great imaging. Your audio product is being judged against Netflix, Disney+, Network Television, highly produced and refined entertainment or produced messaging and more. It’s an excuse to claim that it's impossible for you to have great imaging for the station, well produced commercials for your advertisers or to be able to have enticing promotional messaging. There are companies available for barter or cash to provide the service as outsourced.

9.  Be known for something. Own a position. Are you the first choice for a specific format, for an emotion (makes me feel good, relaxing, up to date), and be memorable. Be the listener's first choice for “something.”

10.  Make having the best audio output a priority. Sound cleaner, louder, crisp. The perfection of audio, on-air and on-streams, appears to be a lost art. People won’t listen to what they can’t stand to hear.

Aren’t you tired of hearing listeners complain about radio and opine about better days gone by? I know that I am. We can make radio better … if we’re willing to make the sacrifice to do so.





 
 

Creative Writing and Production
- Mike McVay

There is no better Commercial Message on your radio station than the Promotional Message for your station. Promos that image the station, promote contests, events, and your product, need to be well written and well produced. In a promo you’re selling to the audience what’s important to your station’s success and as such the message should be well written, excellently voiced and well produced.

My style of writing was influenced by several legendary programmers and continued to evolve over the years. Chuck Blore, who was an excellent program director, launched his own television production company where he employed the concept of “brainstorming” to create unique imaging that screamed for ones’ attention. Blore is best known for The Remarkable Mouth television commercial. Blore taught me to look for the audio magnet that attract attention.

Jack McCoy, a programmer who used his skills to evolve into an amazing marketer and consultant, taught many of us to create a big, imaginative sound, when he launched The Last Contest. He followed that with the prize catalog and continued to mentor many as to the power of sound. McCoy wrote contest promos in a style that was termed the reverse pyramid. Most people start with the prize and how you can win it. McCoy started with the benefit and imagined the listener into the prize.

For example, “Imagine the ooohs and ahhhs of your friends as you round the corner in your brand-new Porsche 911 Turbocharged supercar.” Another example, “The grit of the sidewalk crunches under your shoes as you walk up the driveway to your newly renovated 5,000 square foot home … and as you lean against the new GM SUV in that driveway, you realize that listening to (WXXX) changed your life.” Visually written, focused on the benefit of winning more so than the prize, and an emphasis on the fantasy of being recognized by your friends and family.

The key to writing in such a fashion starts with understanding the benefit to the listener of winning the prize. Don’t get lost in the prize. Focus on why someone wants to win that prize. Write about that. Write visually when describing the prize, but again, stay focused on what the prize means to someone who wins it. A trip to Hawaii means escape as its too far away to rush back if the workplace needs you. A sexy sports car means that you’ll impress your friends. Winning cash means relief, either from the stress of paying bills, or it mean “fun money” and you can treat yourself and your loved ones.

Produce your messaging in a way that matches the image of your station. If you have an exciting, energetic, high-energy station, then your promotional message should match that environment. The challenge is to make it stand out. That’s where production and the voiceover artist come into play.

Sound effects, music changes, production tricks like doubling a voice or a classic tactic like backwards echo, can enhance your message. It can also make it annoying. Adding in pings, swooshes, zips, zaps and intrusive music can make a promotional message overwhelming and irritating to hear. These elements need to be used appropriately and sparingly. Think of it as adding a touch of spice to a dish that you’re creating in your kitchen.  Used properly, it can emphasize the promo’s message and make it memorable.

The voiceover talent for your station should be selected based on the image you want to be forward facing to your audience. That voice, the one you use, is another part of how your station is identified in the listener's memory. Sometimes stations change their voice talent because a new program director has a favorite, or because they simply want to leave their fingerprints on the station, but a change for changes sake seldom delivers positive results.

There are other times when change is warranted and the freshness of the new sound attracts a new audience. Knowing the objective, before you make the change, increases your chance of success. The more memorable your talent and their delivery, the more likely it is that their voice will become a part of your audio signature. History supports that theory. Len “Boom-Boom” Goldberg on WMMS/Cleveland and WHTZ/NYC, Keith Eubanks on 99X/Atlanta, Johnny Donovan on WABC/NYC … and more.

Listen worldwide for imaging examples and search for those stations that are similarly formatted to learn from their promotional messaging, their imaging and the “sound” that they’re wrapping around their product. However, don’t use these examples to plagiarize, but use them to spark new sounds, new ways to stand out and how to make your audio product memorable.

  

 


 

 

 

 

 




 

DECEMBER 8 & 9, 2020
 
 
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

Media: Driven by Medicine
The Present and Future of an Industry
Impacted by Health

 
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, sits down with Mike McVay, leading industry content consultant and programming expert, at Forecast LIVE on December 8 for a fascinating interview that will explore the pandemic from many perspectives, including its medical, social, and economic implications.

In this frank and honest discussion, Dr. Gupta, whose calm demeanor and medical expertise have made him a top resource to the nation during the COVID-19 crisis, will share his perspective on a variety of COVID-19-related topics with McVay.

What might we have done differently, what have we learned, what can we do to accelerate the virus’ decline, what should we expect as the pandemic evolves, and what will the world look like after such a life-altering event ends?

Also on tap for discussion will be the ramifications of quarantining, working from home, schooling remotely versus schooling in person, and, most importantly, how media has performed. What kind of grade does our industry get in regard to the ways in which we’ve handled the dissemination of information and commentary around COVID-19? And how do we prepare for whatever is next?

This is one conversation you won’t want to miss — one that can help guide your decisions on the health and safety of you, your family, and your business associates in the uncertain months ahead.
 
 
 

 

 

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is the multiple Emmy-award-winning chief medical correspondent for CNN. Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon, plays an integral role in reporting on health and medical news for all of CNN’s shows domestically and internationally, and regularly contributes to CNN.com. Since 2001, Gupta has
covered some of the most important health stories in the United States and around the world.

Gupta contributes to the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes and serves as an executive producer for the HBO Documentary Unit. He is the author of three New York Times best-selling books, Chasing Life (2007), Cheating Death (2009), and Monday Mornings (2012). His fourth book, Keep Sharp: Building a Better Brain will be published in 2021. In addition to work in the media, Gupta is an associate professor of neurosurgery at Emory University Hospital and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

 

 

 

 

 

Mike McVay is president of McVay Media Consulting, working globally as a full-service consultant in the areas of content creation, program consultation, syndication, digital delivery, production and imaging, podcasting, and talent coaching. He was most recently executive vice president of content and programming for Cumulus
Media and Westwood One.

McVay is a 40-year programmer with national and local management, ownership, sales, major market programming, and major market on-air experience. He has owned and operated radio stations in multiple markets and understands the business of our business. McVay has also developed and launched several highly successful nationally syndicated programs.


Forecast LIVE is the virtual version of Radio Ink’s annual Forecast conference, considered to be the radio industry’s premier financial summit, gathering the smartest minds in media and advertising to forecast revenue and analyze projections and trends for the coming year.

REGISTER now and save $200 on an agenda packed with information you can count on, especially in uncertain times.





 

Everyone Needs a Mentor; Be a Mentor
– Mike McVay

Almost every day there is a news story about the change in America’s work habits, and the locations in which we work, all driven by the pandemic. There is a strong general belief that many of us will never return to a formal office and we’ll continue to work remotely. There’s good and bad in that dependent upon your ability and discipline to work remotely and be successful at what you do for a living.

I was having that exact discussion with a C-level executive when she replied to my comment that I’m enjoying working from home, by objecting to my assertion that doing so was good for the industry, and saying that what would be lost would be the opportunity to mentor our future.  Of course, she is right that there is value to having a mentor, as it’s a great way to train the up-and-comers.

The discussion that ensued encouraged us both to remember those who mentored us and those who we mentored. I was lucky to have individuals who liked me, and they encouraged me to learn and improve, but the mentoring started with me seeking them out. The approach has to be personal and the relationship has to be somewhat unobtrusive and respectful of one another’s time.

Lori Lewis, a former Program Director and on-air talent, best known for many years now as a Social Media marketing expert and President of Lori Lewis Media, suggests to her clients that “when you can find people who believe in our potential, embrace it! Success is not a solo process.” That quote underscores that we all need someone to pave the way for us, point us in the right direction and provide insight that comes with time on earth.

To that end, I always sought out individuals to whose level I aspired, and as a result they sometimes thought of me when they needed someone with my skills and knowledge. When I wanted to be a PD in a major market, I looked for successful PD’s in major markets and learned from them. When I wanted to be a General Manager, I went to work for one that taught me sales, and when I wanted to be a consultant, I hired that eras best to teach me how to improve my radio stations and my performance.

During my career, there have been those individuals who I’ve mentored, without them ever formally approaching and asking me for my mentorship. It just happened organically. Likely because I saw something of myself in them, or they reminded me of someone I know, and that opened me up to investing my time in them. There is someone every week that reaches out and asks for advice, for me to listen to an aircheck, wants to talk about programming theory or is looking for career advice. I try to make the time to satisfy their requests.

There are many amazingly successful individuals in our industry who have much to share. Seek out a mentor and then heed their advice. Look for that person whose level you aspire to and then earn their respect. To those who are mentoring, thank you. What we give comes back to us in many ways.

 




 

You’ve Lost Your Job; Career Counseling
-Mike McVay

We’ve seen radio and audio companies eliminate talent in a cyclical fashion, multiple times over the years, often driven by revenue or the lack thereof. Consolidation in the mid-90s brought about a significant number of terminations. That has ebbed and flowed inconsistently until recently. The economy for broadcasters showed a downward turn long before COVID-19 became known as a worldwide pandemic. The Coronavirus has created even more job eliminations. This is especially true for on-air talent. The question is, what to do when you lose your job?

I’ve always been convinced that you can tell how seriously committed to being a performer someone is once they find themselves unemployed. Those that are truly committed to their craft take a day to feel bad for themselves, without feeling bad about themselves, and they sign-up for unemployment as they start the search for a new job. Talent today are less likely to want to move across the nation to accept a new position, but many of us made a commitment to go wherever our career takes us, and we go. I’ve lived in 10 different cities, to date, in my career.  Many have had a longer journey than mine that includes more markets than where I’ve worked.

Pause long enough to reflect on the position that you’ve just lost. Why were you terminated? Was it for a poor performance, not being user-friendly for your employers, did you make a serious mistake or violate a policy of the Human Resources Department? Were you eliminated because of budget cuts? Regardless of the reason, the question is “What are you going to do about it and how do you keep it from happening again?”

If the reason that you were terminated was for poor performance, likely meaning a poor rating performance, then you need to sharpen your skills and practice-practice-practice. Get coaching. Work on becoming a better on-air talent. If it was because you aren’t easy to work with, own it, and come to grips with the fact that you need to make yourself a “project” that will lead to you to becoming a better co-worker and better employee. If your reason for termination was due to an HR violation, own that, too. Get help, if necessary, or do the research to better understand and accept where you went awry. I’ve long believed that people can change and I’ve hired many a person who could be considered a “reclamation project.” More times than not it’s been a successful hire.

The reason for the intense focus on improvement, even if you’re elimination was due to a budget cut, is that successful talent who generate revenue and ratings for a station are usually not eliminated because of the economy. Those who pay for themselves, go above and beyond the call of duty and are selfless workers, tend to be the keepers. Even in a bad economy the talent that are kept are those with good ratings, assists sales in generating revenue, are desired by advertisers for appearances and remotes, has a long list of products or services that they endorse, and is an in-house favorite to voice commercials. Be that person. Be that talent. It doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer a termination due to a budget cut, but it does force there to be a conversation and deeper consideration from your employer.

The talent that I tend to avoid hiring are those that have a continuous string of bad luck. Every time that they’ve left a position, it was someone else’s fault. Not of their own doing. They are a helpless victim. A potential employer can believe that once. Not if it appears to be a repetitive history. Your luck is what you make it.

Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to get back on the job-hunt-horse and ride again, fine tune your resume. Keep it to one page. If you’re an on-air talent, include a link for your audio to be heard. If you’re a Program Director, include a link to a demo of your most recent stations. If you have access to the ratings, include those, too.  Be honest. Today’s potential employer will search your social media postings. The digital age eliminates the opportunity to be anything other than genuine.

Give some thought to where you want to live, what type of station you’d like to work for and the type of employer you’d like to work with, before sending out the first resume.  Develop a list of places to send your resume to, and set-up a cycle on how regularly you will send a follow-up as there is good and bad in repetitive contact. My suggestion is that it be once-a-month. Don’t hound the prospect, but send along your resume as a reminder, so that you come to mind when they do have an opportunity. No phone calls. That’s interruptive. Don’t use social media Direct Messaging to contact the prospective employer. That violates a personal space. Using one’s work E-mail is most appropriate.

If you have an agent … let them do their job. Be encouraging to your agent, and communicate your desires, but don’t have expectations that exceed your level of talent. By the way, the time to sign an agent isn’t when you’re out of work, but rather when you are working. No agent wants to sign a newly terminated talent as their job then becomes more like an employment service than a marketing arm for your career.  There are those of us who have held corporate jobs that like the idea of the biggest talent having an agent. It provides another stream of communication to the star personality and often brings reinforcement to concepts and ideas that you may want the talent to better understand.

Despite the cutback of jobs that we’re seeing, there are opportunities available, and there are people who want to hire talent with specific skills for specific jobs. It may not be the job that you want and it may not pay the salary that you need, but there are opportunities available. I’ve seen air-talent terminated because a station decided to us a voice-tracked talent. Don’t complain about the use of voice-tracked talent. Become one.  Be prepared to evolve and change.

One of my children spent time with a film company as an assistant to a Casting Director. She changed her perspective on trying out for acting jobs because of that position. She said that “she used to be nervous when auditioning, but she realized when she joined casting that the Director wants to find someone for the open role, so they can move on to the filming process.” The same can be said for the decision-makers in radio. They want talent who can fill a role. Then they can focus on the product. It’s not about you. It’s about the role and the job.

Be committed. Believe in yourself. Get busy.

  




 

Santa Claus is Coming … to Your Radio
By - Mike McVay

The debate every year is do you play 100% Christmas Music on your station, and if so, when do you flip the switch to be All Christmas All the Time? I’ve been involved in consulting stations that go 100% Christmas or compete against those that do for many years ever since when KESZ/Phoenix was the first FM station to go 100% Christmas for the holidays. KOST/Los Angeles followed the next year and scored big in the ratings, which showed that the All-Christmas format, if done properly, can be successful in any market.  The format has many that claim its origin and success, but I point to those two stations as making in a season programming tactic.

This year's Christmas format looks as if it will be the most listened to since the holiday post-9-11. This year, it may even be bigger than that Christmas season in 2001, because of what is happening in our lives and in the world today.  When the pandemic first took hold, we saw some radio stations purposely program Christmas music at night. It saw some ratings spikes as the tactic provided relief from the drama and despair of the daily news. I believe that validates that the All Christmas Music Tactic will be successful the season.

Some despise the tactic as they believe the change to All Christmas is a format change. I would argue that it isn’t a format change. You’ve already seen me describe it as a “tactic” In the previous paragraph. If you are the station that’s known for playing 100% Christmas music, then it’s another part of your on-going music format.

Adult Contemporary stations seem to be the most successful with the All Christmas tactic. There are some exceptions in that I can point to Classic Hits and Country stations that have done well by playing All Christmas Music, All the Time.  Many stations that flip to All Christmas also add a Scrooge Channel to their website, which is where your loyal listener who doesn’t want to hear All Christmas can hear your regular format.

To those who are worried that they’ll lose audience, this is the one time of year when you can make such a programming change and the audience knows when you’re finished, so they can come back to your station when you return to regular programming. It’s also a great time to promote what you do for the other months of the year.  All Christmas is a cume magnet. Promote your regular programming frequently as you may be able to convert new listeners by advertising your programming on your own station.

The key to winning is to play the Christmas Classics, over-and-over again, just like a Top-40. Create a super power category for the Original Classics, power category, regular category, and lunar category. Place the instrumentals into a category and manage how frequently you play those songs. The currents that work best are covers of classics, which gives you a feeling of variety, although there is the occasional original Christmas song. Unfortunately, that’s not what your listeners are looking for.

My recommendation is to hold-off on the overtly religious songs, like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” or “O’ Holy Night,” until you’re a week before Christmas. Keep them distanced on-air so that you don’t alienate a part of your audience. Be conscious of your content into and out of a song that is religious in nature.

Production, imaging, promotions and contesting round out the product. Using holiday sounding jingles, special imaging that includes sleigh bells, artists wishing the audience “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” as well as your on-air staff recording similar greetings and making a big deal on-air for when you throw-the-switch to All Christmas. These things create a warm feeling and emphasize the spirit of Christmas.  You’re creating an atmosphere.

When to flip-the-switch and go all Christmas also brings debate. Given that Nielsen ratings has moved earlier to nullify the tactic, many stations have been moving their start date earlier and earlier. The commonsense starting date is the day after Thanksgiving. The weakness in that start date is that you have a short window to impact the third month of the fall sweep. My preference has always been one to two weeks before Thanksgiving, starting on that Friday. That’s anywhere from November 13 to November 20.

Many have done research on when to start the tactic. The audience tells you that they want you to wait until after Thanksgiving. The ratings show otherwise. There is a difference between one’s opinion and one’s action.

This year, given my anticipation for there to be a huge appetite for Holiday Music, I expect to see many stations make the flip on Friday, November 6th. That start date moves the tactic past the Presidential Election, and lands just in time to give the audience relief from the insanity that’s sure to follow what promises to be a drama packed general election.

Feliz Navidad. Merry Christmas and to all a good rating sweep.

 




 

Talent Make the Difference
– Mike McVay

What does Apple Radio know about On-Air Personalities that some Radio Executives don’t seem to know?

That question is raised because Apple Music Radio recently launched two new radio channels, and rebranded an existing channel, with on-air personalities to enhance the listening experience of their subscribers.  According to the first two trillion-dollar US company (Apple), as noted in their press release and in a recent article in RollingStone Magazine, they believe by prioritizing the human component of live radio and mixing it with their algorithmic playlists and charts, it will strengthen their position as a music platform.  Meaning that personalities that create a connection with the audience create loyalty among listeners and that means more attraction of potential users. It means repeat tune-in. That’s how traditional over-the-air radio (regardless of the device you use to listen) grows ratings.

Edison Research, in their 2020 Share of Ear study, noted how radio listening has been eroding for the last several years and that Gen Z listeners spend half as much time listening to AM/FM for audio consumption when compared to all other age groups. That’s a scary number. Traditional thinking has always been that if you attract teens and young adults you will create loyalty for the future. That is no longer valid thinking based on Edison’s study.

Highly respected consulting firm Jacobs Media Strategies was also quoted in the Rolling Stone article. Noted was their study from 2017 that reminded us that one of the audiences’ primary reasons for listening to radio is the attraction of local on-air talent who entertain and inform. Could this not be one of the reasons that radio is eroding on the young side of the demographic scale? We aren’t focused on making our air talent an important part of our everyday product.

This fact echoed loudly with me as for years I have noted to clients of my consulting firm that what we present has to be about more than the music. No doubt that the music, on a music platform, is important. However, it isn’t the only thing that listeners listen for on a radio station.

There is nothing that keeps your competition from playing better music than your radio station, more of it with fewer interruptions, and out spending you on marketing their station … which means they can always beat you in the ratings if they have more money than you. Unless your station has great dynamic entertaining personalities, who have built an audience that is loyal to listening to them. I can easily come to your market and copy your music. If I have a bigger budget, I can out-market your station. I cannot easily copy your on-air personalities.  On-Air talent are key to our success in fighting off competitors.

It is difficult for radio to compete with any music streaming service, if the user of the service wants music without talk. It is especially hard to compete with a service that has no commercial interruptions. That is unless the potential user wants to be entertained, informed and has a loyalty to an air-talent. This has to be what Apple Music Radio is embracing.

Talent make the difference.

 





 

The Pros Take Pictures
 - Mike McVay

Professional football is always a great inspiration to me in how to direct a radio station’s programming or sales departments.  Watching the NFL, I noticed the announcers on the network detailing the attention paid to each individual player by the coaches who are located in the booth above the playing field. Not all coaches are on the field. They have a better view from a sky box.

The coaches have cameras and actually take digital pictures of the on-field action and then E-mail the photos to the sideline coaches who view them on digital tablets. The coaches’ look at every detail of the play, they look at what the competition is doing to them, and what they are doing to the competition.  They try to catch the players doing something right as well as catch them doing something wrong.  They are teaching the players, in real time, by using examples.

 

Programmers coach and direct air personalities, or Managers review the performance of sales people, to specifically help them improve their performance.  It is not always to point out the negatives or indicate to them where they have failed, but rather to show them how to improve and to encourage them to do better.  Catching your personalities doing something right gives the talent gratification. This is because they’ve perfected that part of their craft. It also tells them what to do more of to stay on your “good side.” Almost all professionals always want to improve their performance.

 

Lately, we seem to be running into too many Program Directors who are reluctant to coach their air talent. Maybe they’re too busy due to multitasking or dealing with the influx of new media platforms, maybe they’re simply shy, or maybe they fear confrontation. I remember one major market PD that I worked with telling me that “by the time an air-talent gets to this level, they don’t need coaching.” Amazing! Who doesn’t want to be continually improving.

 

The classic situations are those PDs who make statements like “our air-talent know how they need to sound.  If they don’t know how to do a great show, then they don’t belong here.” That approach sounds like a great way to encourage an aspiring personality to hang him or herself once you have given him/her enough rope. It’s an irresponsible approach. It encourages failure. It leads to the termination of the talent, and often, the PD.

 

It’s sometimes too easy to terminate a personality. As Program Director’s we need to realize that when we terminate a personality, we have in fact failed. Sometimes it cannot be helped, but if you hire wisely, then you increase the odds that you won’t have to terminate that talent. You should try your best to hire wisely and then fire reluctantly. You owe it to the employee, and your employer, to work with talent to improve their performance to a level that’s more acceptable. Termination is the last thing that you do … after all of options have been exhausted.

 

Let’s start with coaching. I used to use the word “Critique” when it came to coaching sessions, but I came to realize quickly that critiquing is all about finding fault, being critical, and not positive. No one wants to be critiqued. We all want to be encouraged and that’s what coaching can do for a talent.

 

There are three styles of coaching that I like program directors to employ in a rotating fashion. I’d like to suggest that you use these coaching techniques to help guide your air-staff.

 

They are as follows:

FRAME-BY-FRAME: 

This method of coaching reviews every frame in which the personality talks.  Call-letter placement, basics, for example, time-checks and weather, etc., are all analyzed.  Does the content disseminated by the PERSONALITY pass the WHO CARES test?  Information talked about should be of interest to the target audience, one thought per frame.  Does the PERSONALITY sound natural as he/she delivers liners?  These frame-by-frame critiques should be returned to the PERSONALITY in written form, along with a link to the audio, that they can review each frame and read along.  The PD should be available for questions and should explain EXACTLY what is meant by comments in the coaching memo.

OVERVIEW: 

This coaching tactic is presented in written paragraph form and discussed with the personality.  The content, flow of the music, and basics are all analyzed.  This form of coaching is not as critical as a frame-by-frame review, but gives more of an impression of what a listener may hear and feel. You’re considering the overall feeling of the show.

SELF-COACHING: 

The personality operates the audio and hits pause after each frame telling the PD how they feel about that break.  This form of review is very interesting in that you will find most personalities are harder on themselves than you as a PD would ever be. Most talent, not all, will tell you what they feel they need to do to improve their show.  You need only guide them as they determine if there is anything that they can improve upon. You want to be encouraging as you guide the talent in this self-help method.

OVERALL:

Apply the Golden Rule to how you coach. Remember that humor is subjective. Just because you don’t think it’s funny, doesn’t mean that it isn’t funny. Allow your talent to do their job and guide them with coaching. Don’t critique them.





 

Hurricanes; Before During and After
 -Mike McVay

 

Hurricane Laura swept through the Gulf Coast, Midsouth, parts of the Midwest and Atlantic states in late August 2020. Hundreds of thousands were without power for days and weeks. Many endured serious damage to their homes and belongings. The most unfortunate have suffered injury or have lost lives.

Hurricanes can be dangerous killers. Learning the hurricane warning messages and planning ahead can reduce the chances of injury or major property damage, serve your community and satisfy your advertisers. It is in times of crisis and emergency that radio generates the most interest. When you need news now … its radio that responds first with information.

BEFORE

Help your audience plan an evacuation route. Plan such an escape route for your staff, too. Many are working remotely due to the pandemic and that situation has shown us that we can deliver information and entertainment from somewhere other than the eye of the storm.

Contact the local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter, and ask for their community hurricane preparedness plan. This plan should include information on the safest evacuation routes and nearby shelters.

Learn safe routes inland and share that information with your audience. Encourage them to be ready to drive 20 to 50 miles inland, or farther, to locate a safe place.

Provide the audience with information on-air and on-line to have disaster supplies on hand.

Flashlight and extra batteries
Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
First aid kit and manual
Emergency food and water
Nonelectric can opener
Essential medicines
Cash and credit cards
Sturdy shoes


Encourage your audience to make arrangements for pets. Pets may not be allowed into emergency shelters for health and space reasons. Contact your local humane society for information on local animal shelters. Bring your face masks. A pandemic knows know boundaries and people sheltering in-place can be a breeding ground for this virus.

DURING

When it comes to supplies, this is where advertisers can get involved, as there will be demand for whatever they sell. Where do you get water, gasoline, food, sand bags, plywood, batteries, medicine and medical supplies, essentials for after the storm (toilet paper and tissues) and extra batteries.

Let the audience know when the storm will arrive, what is expected meaning how much rain and how strong will the winds be, and how long is it expected to last. What should the audience expect in regard to traffic conditions?

Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a hurricane.
Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or fire department and promote on-air, within your cluster of stations, that you will simulcast emergency information on all of your owned radio stations for the listening area.

Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a disaster (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.

AFTER

What areas need to be avoided due to flooding, downed wires, roads out or areas to avoid due to fires. Provide air-time to the local power and gas authorities to update the audience and let them know the progress and process to restore power and gas.

Where are the shelters for those in need? Where can families receive food? Where can individuals make donations? Where and how do you make insurance claims? Those are the questions that your listeners will want answers to and they’ll be looking to you and the internet for answers. Post the information on-line that your audience will want to hear on-air.

Know the difference between a Hurricane Watch and Hurricane Warning.

A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24-36 hours. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions (winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, or dangerously high water and rough seas) are expected in 24 hours or less.

 




 

Programming Winning Syndication
– Mike McVay

There was a time when common thinking was that local programming will beat syndicated/network programming every day of the week. Then Howard Stern, Tom Joyner, Delilah, John Tesh, Bob & Tom, Nights with Elaina, The Breakfast Club and many more showed significant successes.

What we learned is that listeners don’t judge if a show is local or not. They judge if a show is good or not. There are many examples of local shows that outperform syndicated programming and many examples of syndicated programming that outperforms local shows. One thing is for sure, fun – informative – engaging – entertaining wins.

What doesn’t win is when a radio station simply “flips a switch” puts on a syndicated/network show and walks away. Every moment that your radio station is on the air is important as it creates a lasting impression about your station and forms what could be a lasting image as to how a listener views your station. Because a network show runs outside of Monday-Friday 6a-7p doesn’t make it any less valuable to the overall listening experience that you should be trying to create for your audience.

The smartest programmers treat a syndicated show as if it is unique to their station. They ask the talent to update promotional messages weekly, they have the talent record liners that can be used to promote their contests, events and other shows that air on their station. They look for ways to connect the syndicated talent and their show to their market.

During my previous life, as a Corporate Programmer, it used to frustrate me greatly when I’d hear national programming that was poorly integrated into a station. Poor transitions into and out of commercial breaks, poorly written promotional messages or no promotional messages, occasional dead-air, and the inability to properly back-time to start the show on-time and without the previously played song having to be faded out early.

The conclusion that I came to was that those PD’s who didn’t want to air the syndicated show to begin with, simply didn’t care about it, and would prefer that it fail. Harsh words, and I am sure it’s an over exaggeration, but there’s no other logical reason to allow anything that sounds inferior to be broadcast.

Program Directors who truly care focus on the Best Practices previously mentioned, and they understand that programming a radio station should be about the complete body of work and not one daypart. Primetime is the most important window for stellar programming, but all other dayparts are almost as important. Listeners don’t use radio (streaming, over-the-air, smart speakers … wherever you listen) like they do TV/Video. Television is show-centric. Radio is station-centric. If you execute properly, you build an audience that starts using your station in the morning, and they repeat tune-in all day.

The way to win the ratings game is to increase the frequency with which a listener returns to your radio station. That includes weekday and weekend syndication and network programming.

 




 

The Best Program Directors 
By – Mike McVay 

The reaction I received recently from an article in Radio Ink about Managing Talent, where I mentioned talent and the traits of the best talent, prompted several individuals to ask about Program Directors and the traits of the very best program directors. It’s a worthy question, because so many situations exist in so many different stations and markets around the world, that the needs of a station for a Program Director is sometimes different than what that Program Director can deliver. That doesn’t change the traits that the most successful PD’s have, as a part of their skill set, the personality and the approach to managing what comes out of the speakers. It doesn’t change how Program Directors should be managed.

When hiring a PD, it is easy for a sales-oriented Market Manager to approach the PD candidate as if they’re hiring a Sale Manager, and they look for that same style of individual. The mindset of the PD is similar in that as a GSM looks for potential clients all the time, the PD is looking for potential listeners all the time. You want your PD to collaborate with sales, but you don’t want them to be of the same mindset as your Director of Sales. The PD’s job is to build and maintain an audience. That’s the bottom-line. You want the PD to be collaborative with sales, supportive and non-combative, but their job is to make the station sound fabulous and have the largest audience possible. Period. 

The very best Program Directors know who their audience is, what their audience is looking for from a radio station, how to give it to them and can “hear” their radio station in their head. They have a sound in mind. They know how to lead and encourage their air talent to match that sound, how to have their imaging enhance that sound, how to collaborate with sales and promotion to entice the target audience and how to create a consistent sound across their radio station … without creating a sameness of sound that equates to sounding boring.

They know how to hire air-talent who have special skills, are highly entertaining, creative and committed to working to delivering special content every time they turn on the microphone, and they know how to allow those same talent to do what they do best. Likewise, they know how to work with, engage and motivate the talent that are already at their radio station when they arrive as a new PD to the station. The very best PD’s know how to keep their ego in check and allow those who have earned the right to be egotistical to be exactly that. 

The very best PD’s are driven to succeed, tireless, creative, focused, organized, motivational, know how to manage up – down – sideways, understand ratings methodology and how to maximize the ratings system to get credit for the audiences’ use of their station, understand research and how to implement the results of whatever study has been conducted, and they know everything possible about their target audiences lives within their community. 

They understand marketing, promotions, how to design a format clock where each quarter hour is strong enough to live on its own, how to select and “play the hits” whether “the hits” is a song or a hot topic on a spoken-word station, and they know when to break format. There are times when breaking format is the absolute right thing to do. Too many today allow rare special moments to pass without taking advantage of that opportunity to create talk among your audience by breaking format.

The very best PD’s understand that they work for the talent. Their job is to help an air-talent perform at a high level, by providing them with the tools and guidance they need or want, and it is to positively coach and motivate them. I learned more from some of the amazing talent that I have worked with in my career than I did from any manager that I worked with as a PD. 

The best PD’s take responsibility for everything that comes out of the speakers 24/7/52. No excuses.





 

New: THE MAKING OF: A NAT GEO PODCAST
– Press Release

Benztown+McVay Media Podcast Networks and Dave Beasing’s SOUND That Brands, are joining forces with National Geographic Networks to produce a For Your Consideration podcast series promoting an entertainment network’s awards contenders.

 The 12-episode podcast series, THE MAKING OF: A NAT GEO PODCAST, targeted Emmy Awards voters and helped create marketing momentum for National Geographic Networks, culminating in a total of 9 Emmy Nominations for the network.

Hosted by journalist Stacey Wilson Hunt, THE MAKING OF: A NAT GEO PODCAST features interviews with on-screen talent and other Emmy contenders including Dr. Amani Ballour (“The Cave”), Jeff Goldblum (“The World According to Jeff Goldblum”), Dr. Jane Goodall (“Sea of Shadows”), Bear Grylls (“Running Wild with Bear Grylls”), Marcia Gay Harden (“Barkskins”), Keegan-Michael Key (“Brain Games”), Gordon Ramsay (“Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted”),

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person screenings — a staple promotional event during awards season – has become impossible. So National Geographic Networks’ Chris Albert, EVP of marketing strategy and global communications, and Stephanie Montgomery, Sr. Director of Communications and Awards, had an idea. “Stage” these events a new way, via a For Your Consideration podcast, designed to reach Emmy voters and raise their familiarity with 9 standout Nat Geo programs. They turned to Benztown + McVay Media Podcast Networks and Sound That BRANDS to produce THE MAKING OF: A NAT GEO PODCAST, featuring interviews with Nat Geo Emmy contenders, in front of and behind the camera.




 

It’s a time for a softer, kinder, gentler touch on-air
– Mike McVay

A week doesn’t go by when I am not talking to friends and colleagues that are on both sides of the political aisle and as diverse with their opinions as they are diverse members of society. There is the optimist who believes we’ll have a vaccine before December 31st. There are those that think it will be no sooner than summer 2021. “Kids need to return to school.” “Kids should continue to be home schooled.”

Pick a topic, any topic, and those that are most vocal are extreme to one-side or the other. The majority of America, validated in the same research that I have seen for years, are somewhere in the middle between the two extremes. We all want a better world and a better nation within which we live and raise our children. That’s what most listeners want.

It's time for a softer, kinder, gentler touch, and more understanding approach on the air. Many among your audience are looking for a break from the bad news, a chance to forget about the situation we find ourselves in and a break from what has become a new obsession with “Doomscrolling and Doomsurfing.”

Doomscrolling and Doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 or social unrest without the ability to stop or step back.

That isn’t to say that your station or your personality needs to change who they are or the way in which they deliver content, alter their sound, or become someone that they aren’t. It does mean that we need to accept that most people are just plain tired. Tired of the argument between political parties. Tired of air-talent who lack a medical degree spouting off on their thoughts about this pandemic. Tired of personalities who are screaming at callers and hanging-up on anyone who disagrees with them. When did we become so angry? How did we let these negative feelings bleed through the studio door, into the microphone and over the airwaves?

Those listeners who desire talk radio, and want validation, will listen to conservative-talk radio (which is found mostly on commercial stations) or liberal-talk radio (which is found mostly on non-commercial stations), and they’ll also flip between news channels on TV. They need a break, too. Television ratings spiked when the Pandemic first hit. There was another spike with the riots following the killing of George Floyd. The ratings have settled back to almost normal viewing levels.

My belief is that most talent should be encouraged to look for Good News stories, create features like Random Acts of Kindness, continue to salute First Responders & Health Care Heroes, identify individuals who are spreading positivity in the lives of your listeners and within your local community. They should avoid rumormongering, meanspirited dialogue and provide us with an escape. Even for a moment … give us a distraction.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all recommendation, but it is an encouragement to pause for an assessment of the talent and their content on your station, and stop doing what you’ve always done “because we’ve always done it that way.”  We need a softer, kinder, gentler touch.

 





 
What to Do When Your Talent Goes Over the Line  
- Mike McVay

 

It could be on-the-air, on a podcast, on social media, in public or at an appearance. Wherever it is and whenever it happens, we have to remember that words are like bullets. You cannot take them back. There isn’t one human who has never regretted saying or doing something. When you’re a personality, living in the eyes and ears of the public, the weight of your words is heavy and the ripples they create are great. What you do in the moments when it becomes apparent that there is a problem sets the course of what’s to come.

 

The first thing to do is have your talent hit “pause.” Tell them to do nothing. Don’t respond to a listener, a caller, a reporter, an advertiser, a civic leader and especially don’t respond to anything on social media. There needs to be a moment for everyone to take a deep breath, evaluate the situation unemotionally, and then begin to research what happened, what was said, or what action took place. Only then, once you have the facts, can you begin to determine how to react to the action of the talent.

 

Don’t lie. The talent needs to be truthful to you. You need to be truthful about what happened to everyone else. The coverup is always worse than the crime. The list of examples is very long. Ignore the instinct to “spin” the story. It happened. Own it. Announce what you’re going to do about it. Report it on your station. Wouldn’t you rather your audience hear it from you first, versus hearing the news on your competition?

 

Assess the situation. What’s the talent’s explanation for the situation? Does an apology satisfy those who were harmed, hurt or offended? Does the situation warrant therapy, a deeper dive into emersion for the talent to understand another’s life or situation, a public investigation and debate that enlightens those in need of such enlightenment, a suspension or is termination the only answer? Those offended need to know that you took the offense seriously and action was taken to rectify the situation.

 

There are obviously HR issues that occur, from time to time, that warrant an immediate termination. If the situation isn’t one that fails the measurement of HR, then you should consider how best to estimate the damage done to the stations image and that of the personality. Rehabilitation, be it of attitude or of ones’ education, can be much more meaningful for a radio station or network than termination. Termination shuts the door on the opportunity to correct the wrong.

 

Encourage the talent to become involved in the community, to meet with and learn from those who were offended, to educate others to discourage them from making a similar mistake and be remorseful. Truly remorseful. If your talent can “walk the walk” and remain committed to such change, then you may find that they become a great advocate for your radio station.

 

One more thing … none of this is a promo. Let your talents actions, and those of the station, speak for your company.

 





 
Tips on Promoting Podcasts


Many broadcasters have a toe in the podcast water. The largest radio groups have most of their body in that pool. There are specific things that radio stations should do to promote and grow their podcasts.

 

The greatest way to grow an audience for a podcast is by interviewing Podcast Hosts on like-minded podcasts. Regardless of which company owns the podcast. Big audiences begat big audiences. Example; Conservative talk host Ben Shapiro interviews a host of a similar rightwing talk podcast. Then Ben is on their show. Same with Dan Bongino and others. This grass roots way of promoting a podcast, guesting on each-others podcasts, is a great unobtrusive way to grow an audience.
Advertise (instead of an interview) inside similar like-minded podcasts with a pre-produced Gateway Advertisement that airs immediately after the podcasts opening tease, but before the podcast content begins. Promote a youth targeted podcast as a gateway advertisement on a station like Q99-7/Atlanta’s “Bert Show podcast” makes sense … given that his program is pop culture and family oriented … as is his podcast.
Promote your podcast everywhere and be seen everywhere. Promote the topic daily on the talents’ social media platform (Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, TikTok, etc.), mention it wherever the talent appears (TV Guests, Digital Streaming, Radio Shows), everywhere.
Radio Interviews need to be for a specific topic and fit with the theme, content or talent whose show the interview is appearing on. Example; If it’s Black History Month, the hosts of a podcast like Mouthpeace could be interviewed by any one of a number of Black targeted radio shows inside of the radio station. Leading up to the Super Bowl, having former players and sports reporter Pat McAfee, Dan Patrick, and others on Sports formatted stations, makes sense.
 
The important thing with offering podcast hosts for radio interviews is that there be a timely and topical reason to have the guest on the air. Anything other than that is CLUTTER!




 

The Steps to Winning Programming
– By Mike McVay @mcvaymedia

To program a great radio station, you must have many different components working together harmoniously. The following are the components that I most strongly believe in. I believe in this formula given my experience as a major market Program Director and Air-Talent, my 30 years of consulting around the world and my recent experiences working for 9 years inside one of the big three major USA broadcast companies.

 

MUSIC: Music is the most important part of a music driven radio station. Music selected for the station should be made with the sound and brand of your station in mind. Your music choices should be based on local callout (if you have it), the National Research that comes from M-Score, Airplay Intel, tracking on-line exposure and trends as well as using BDS or Mediabase for the monitoring of stations similar to your station. Music should be on-point and should be scheduled so that each quarter hour is representative of the format. Apply the theory of instant gratification. That is playing peoples favorite songs frequently.  No one ever complains that you’re playing their favorite song too much. They complain about the songs that they do not like.

 

The radio is still a point for music discovery. When you play new music, identify the artist and mention the song title, as well as note on-air that the song or the artist are new. I’ve always been a fan of using a tactic called “box-car” when you segue two songs together. That is that you speak over the intro of the next song, and not over the outro of the last song and the intro of the next. Talk over an outro when you are going into a commercial break. That’s how the audience has been trained for years. When a listener hears an air-talent speak over an outro, it means “commercials are coming” and they may punch-out. Speaking over the intro only, is an unspoken message to the audience, that you’re not stopping down for commercials.

 

Music Specials are aired for two reasons; to either move an audience to a specific time/day or to remind the audience that you’re still on-air in the fringe timeslots. You may not believe that it is worthy to promote a special or a weekend show by using valuable promo time, but great radio stations do exactly that. It makes them multidimensional. The station may be one that targets At-Work listening Monday-Friday. All the more reason to promote what happens during the weekend.

 

Music Quantity is important. Long music sweeps. Fewer Stop-Sets. The objective is to build time spent listening, but being known for long music sweeps can build you cume numbers, too. If a listener knows that you play the most music day-in-and-day-out, they’ll come back more frequently. We know that TSL (Time Spent Listening) is built by repeat tune-in.

 

Where and when to schedule a long music sweep should be based on when you have the most listeners. If you are in a diary market, then research shows us that the first and third quarter hours have the most diary entries. That’s a function of the methodology used by the diary rating system. People start their activities at :00 and :30. In a diary market, the best place for a commercial break to start is :18 and :38. That ensures that you receive five (5) continuous minutes in a quarter hour. You want to cover the biggest two quarter-hours with music.

 

PPM markets are treated a little differently. You need only to have five (5) individual minutes of listening inside of a quarter hour in a PPM market. That’s why we stop across the quarter hour in PPM markets. Preferably :12-18 and :42-48. Although one can argue that being “the other guy” and moving across the top of the hour has value. PPM Markets have tools to search which hours have the most meters in use.

ON-AIR PERSONALITIES: Developing an emotional connection between your on-air personalities and listeners (without increasing the amount of talk) is an effective way of ingraining the station’s brand into the listener’s memory.  On-air personalities need to be disciplined hosts who are providing relatable content to the target audience while keeping the music (or News/Talk – Sports/Talk conversation) moving. The more real you are, the better connection you’ll have with your audience. You’ll want to have on-air personalities that the listener can identify with, or be greatly entertained by, when they listen.  

 

The very best talents are efficient in how much they talk. Efficiency is an important word. Efficiency is different than brevity. Brevity is “Weather today … Nice.” It doesn’t tell the listener anything. Efficiency is using only the number of words necessary to completely explain the thought in question. Encourage your air-talent to be efficient. If it takes me 60-seconds to tell a story, and it couldn’t be done any more quickly, then I was efficient. However, if I could’ve told that story in 30-seconds, then I wasn’t efficient. Encourage your air-talent to be efficient.

 

The very best talent are amazing story tellers. They tell strong descriptive stories using visual words as they paint a picture. They look for common experiences that they and their listeners have had, which makes them relatable, and should engage the listeners interest. To tell a story in an efficient fashion, the talent needs to understand where they’re going to go with their story and how does it end? Meaning, before you start the journey, you need to plug-into your GPS the destination. If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will take you there. I’m not suggesting that you write out your story. I am suggesting that you have to think about it before you open your microphone.

 

We use a show prep system that is referred to as E/I/A/A/A. The letters stand for Emotion, Image, Area, Activity and Artist.  Emotion is what’s going on in the listeners world. Image is about the image of the radio station. Area is for what’s happening in your listening area. Activity is about the station’s activities. Artists is an element of artist information. For spoken word stations that element is about a news maker.

 

PROMOTIONS: Great promotions are like life. Expectation, Realization and Memory. Tell the audience what you are giving away. Paint-a-picture. Give the prize away and let us all share in the winning experience. Remind the audience what you gave away and allow the winner to share their experience. When it comes to events … it’s all about signage. I shouldn’t be able to look in any direction without seeing your stations presence. I should hear it on the air. You absolutely must own every event you do.

 

Promotions are one of the most important parts of station awareness. A station needs to be highly visible around town in order to be as successful as possible. When it is time for listeners to fill out their Nielsen diary, they won’t go to the radio and see what station is on, they will recall it from memory. If you’re in a PPM market, then you want to develop contests and content that create repeat tune-in. This is why I feel it is so important to always be on the streets, be everywhere and be seen everywhere. Do things in your community that makes you a talked about radio station. That is what keeps a good radio station on the mind of the listener. 

 

Promote where and how one can find your radio station. On-Line, On Smart Speakers, On the WXXX App, One the Audio Aggregators (like iHeart, Radio.Com and Tune-In) on Social Media & You Tube and on your radio at FREQUENCY. Wherever a listener can find Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, etc.

 

 

You will need more than on-air promotions and contesting, though, if you plan to grow your cume. You will need external marketing to do that. That means on-line marketing via website ads, social media, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as well as the more traditional platform of transit and billboards. I’m not a big fan of TV for marketing as it isn’t cost effective. If you can advertise on Cable or one of the Digital TV platforms, then maybe, but as far as local TV … Local TV News is the only thing worth investing in and that’s best for marketing of spoken word stations or those that target an older audience. Targeted marketing is the most cost-effective form of marketing that there is available to us today.

 

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Getting a station with organizations like St. Jude Children’s Hospital or Children’s Miracle Network, Salvation Army, The United Way, local food banks, and Toys for Tots are great ways to tug at the emotions of listeners, and it makes the on-air personalities “human” and clearly local. A station who takes every opportunity to celebrate the community in which they live will accomplish much more than a station that is syndicated or voiced tracked.  If you are using syndicated programming, network programming or are voice-tracked, then work hard to be local sounding and really focus on what is important to your market.

 

SYNDICATION: The biggest problem that I see with syndication and voice-tracked programming … Lazy or passive aggressive Program Directors. They don’t want the show on their station, or they’re too lazy to focus on the show, and they plug-it-in and ignore it. Do NOT “flip the switch and walk away.” The number one reason that a network or syndicated program loses the rating game is that the local broadcast programmer doesn’t update the liners and promo’s for the show, they don’t request how to localize the show, they never reach out to the talent or the shows producer and they never inform the national talent what’s going on locally.

 

This weakness is magnified where PD’s take a “Brown Bag” version of a show. A Brown Bag show is one that is delivered as voice-tracks and the station adds in their own music. If you’re going to take a brown bag version of a show, then run all the tracks and in the order, that they are scheduled to run. I have heard tracks air out of order or not at all. Example; I have heard a break that promotes an interview is “coming up next.” Then the interview never airs. I have heard an interview air and the wrong song air out of the interview. I have heard local air talent voice promos within a syndicated show, where the promo should have been voiced by the national air talent.

 

MUSIC: The concept of instant gratification continues to be most valid. Play peoples favorite songs frequently and they will come back over and over. Repetition breeds familiarity and builds TSL.

 

SPORTS/TALK: Great sports talk stations have on-air talent that understand that they are really Men Talk stations, without alienating women, and the focus is on sports. The collegial atmosphere of friends, men and women, sitting in a bar. Talking sports, making fun of and teasing each other.  Stay away from politics. Don’t focus on heavy news stories. You cannot ignore the world, or your local market, but the listeners who come to Sports/Talk stations are there for an escape.

 

NEWS/TALK: This format, when executed properly, treats news stories as if they’re the biggest current hits on a Top-40 Station. Play the biggest hits as frequently as possible. View the aforementioned paragraph on Music and think of using the theory of Instant Gratification on the topics that are hot and perishable for the day. What’s the audience talking about? What are the newsmakers doing daily? What are the opinions of your commentators/personalities? Make no mistake that the personalities on a news/talk station are commentators and are offering their opinions. It isn’t news. It is commentary.

 

NEWS/INFORMATION: This element is News. News on a News/Talk station or News in targeted dayparts on Music stations. Content, in no particular order should focus on Heart, Purse, Health, Relaxation, Safety, Local and National stories.  Heart stories pull on your heartstrings. They’re the stories that move you emotionally. Purse is all about the pocketbook. What’s costing you more? How can you save money? Health stories tell us about new illnesses that are hitting us, how to stay healthy, how to be in better shape and what you should avoid as it may be harmful. Relaxation stories tell me where to go with my free time, how to manage the stress in my life and plays to the fantasy of wishful thinking. Safety is the most important thing to us all. Safety for us and safety for our families. Tell me how to remain safe and how to avoid being in danger. Local and National stories should be rewritten to answer the question “What does it mean to me?” Explain that and then the story will connect with me and I will connect with the story. News anchors and reporters NEVER speculate or offer an opinion. Be credible.

 

IMAGING: This is where and how you create a stations personality. Known by some as Stationality. This is where you create fantasy, develop a “station sound”, make the image of your station bigger than life and at the same time connect to the community and to an individual listener.  The best messaging is benefit based. “What’s in it for me?” The best imaging can create an aspirational feeling. “If I listen, I’ll know what’s happening in my area.” The best imaging catches my attention. The best imaging is direct and to the point. It’s easy to understand. It paints a picture that an announcer speaking is incapable of painting. If the air-talent can say it and paint the picture without sound effects and music imaging, then you should have the air-talent say it. Imaging should take advantage of the sense of hearing and paint a visualization that employs the brains eyes for the sense of sight.

 

IMAGING AS AN IDENTIFIER: One of the things that I have noticed, many times over the years, is that whenever a new program director arrives at a radio station, they want to change the Voice-Over imaging voice of the station. If you are changing the stations format, updating or changing its programming, or have a rating failure that needs a reboot … then change your voice talent. If you’re not failing … then think long and hard before changing the VO talent. One of the reasons your station is successful is consistency. A station that has a successful rating track record should view its imaging as a part of how listeners identify your station and how they remember it.  Instead, coach the VO talent to update their sound, without changing the dynamics of the fantasy that their voice creates.

 

LISTENERS AND THE ADVERTISERS: If you keep harmony with both, then the reward is increased ratings and increased revenue. When your station is on the air, it should be the one that listeners and advertisers say is their favorite radio station. This is because it not only satisfies their radio listening needs, but also properly reflects the community. It meets their needs as a person searching for audio.

 

THE STAFF: A program director needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of every one of their staff members and use them accordingly. The program director must see to it that the air staff has the coaching and direction it needs to be the best in town. All too often I talk to talent who have NEVER been coached. Successful talents want to improve and perfect their craft. By working with and knowing the goals, personalities and skills of each on-air personality, you will send the message that you not only care about the product but most importantly that you care about their individuals’ careers.

 

COACHING: When coaching talent … make them a priority. Turn-off your phone, don’t look at your E-mail, be prompt and don’t cancel your talent meetings, and be sure to listen to what your talent is saying to you. The objective is to have a conversation with the talent. Explain to them why you want them to do certain things. Understand why they want to do what they want to do on the air. Define the parameters for their show with positives and not negatives.  Telling them what you like and what you want the talent to do is better than telling them what they cannot do. Do not define parameters with negatives.

 

WHAT’S IMPORTANT: Maybe the biggest and most important thing for a Program Director to do is to keep it fun to work at the station!  Without fun, morale slips and on-air personalities move on. If you’re having fun, it is reflected on the air. Never forget … a radio stations “personality” is that of the Program Director. Show me a FUN program director and I’ll show you a station that sounds fun to listen to.

 

Reboot Your Radio Station
– By Mike McVay @mikemcvay

When your computer, your WIFI, your TV, or your Cable service is disrupted and not working properly, you reboot. We all need a reboot as we wait for the Coronavirus Pandemic to become a thing of the past. Many businesses will need a reboot. We need to flip the off-switch of our radio stations, wait three minutes, and flip it back on. Now, we’re set to restart. Let’s take advantage of this moment to make radio better.

Start by asking yourself … What’s the benefit to an audience member by listening to your radio station? Is it to be informed, have fun, create interest, provide news updates, commentary relaxation, background music or “white noise” or is it simply for companionship?

We find a large number of Americans now listening and working from home … Every station in North America should consider Total Line Reporting with Nielsen. That is to say that I strongly believe you should be in full-simulcast with what’s over the air onto all other platforms where you deliver audio. It needs to be implemented, because you are otherwise missing out on the audiences that are hearing your station elsewhere. Your audience is listening to your radio station over the air, on-line, via smart speakers and on-demand via podcasts or digital delay. Get credit for the size of your audience.

Make the product better. Connect the dots between content and your rating results. There comes a point, among really good programmers, that research, marketing, contesting, building a strong format clock, are just a part of the cost-of-entry. I’ve sat in meetings, over the years, where executives demand that the ratings improve, but they’re unwilling to make the necessary changes to improve them.

Commercial loads … spot loads need to be lowered. We, as an industry, play too many minutes of commercials and we air too many units. We should give higher value to the live commercials we air and we should continue to sell and execute live appearances at a premium. Commercial production needs to improve. Promotional messages need to be viewed as if they’re commercials. Same as a promo for a podcast. The audience hears them as commercials.

On-Air Talent … They need to be personalities. No one needs a nice voice that lacks an engaging personality or strong content. Talent need to do better show prep, need to be aware of audience research, understand the art of performance as a personality versus being an announcer.  Local versus national, as a debate, will continue to be argued. I can point to talent that voice-track into a market, from elsewhere, and they’re more entertaining and prepared than the locally live talent. It is a privilege to speak on the air today. Don’t take it for granted.

Air-shifts … You should match the hours if usage during this pandemic. Morning shows could air 7:00am-11:00am or even until 12:00pm. Afternoon shifts could be adjusted to air 12:00pm-4:00pm. I am not trying to eliminate the middays show, but rather suggesting that stations look at their surge hours. When are the most listeners listening to your station during this time of social distancing? That’s when you want you best talent on-the-air.

Creative “spur of the moment” programming should be the norm and not special. We should always be prepared to break format and do something entertaining or informative that encourages a listener to repeat tune-in to your station or to talk about your station to another potential listener.

Unleash your creative animal. Create tribute songs. We’ve been doing that regularly with Benztown from Los Angeles. Develop unique ways to share messaging to the audience. Realize that we may have another year ahead of us that is most pandemical. Just because you’re tired of reporting on the pandemic, doesn’t mean that the audience is tired of hearing about it.

Promotion on-air, and in your community, has to be with safety in-mind. If your air-talent are going to be on-location for a remote broadcast, wear a mask, use antibacterial, avoid shaking hands, continue to socially distance by 6’ or more. Prizes for contesting should be appropriate. What does someone need now? I’ve heard radio stations giving away concert tickets, for shows that are 6 months away, which is a double-edged-sword. While it gives the listener hope for the future, it also raises the question of whether the concert will take place or not.

Marketing that connects to a community is most important. The message that you may have marketed pre-COVID 19 could be outdated or inappropriate during the pandemic. The way you reach a potential audience has also changed, but to eschew all marketing is a mistake, as it is times like these that leadership within a market can change. The product has to be on-target and better than your competitors, and if it is, scream it from the rooftops. The investment today may show dramatic returns in the future. The pandemic will end. Be ready for it.

 
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media. A full-service consultancy with a focus on audio on all platforms. He has 40+ years of radio experience as well as experience in regard to coaching talent, developing marketing for singers, songwriters and labels, media training for politicians, actors and performers in various area of entertainment. He is a partner in Benztown + McVay Podcast Networks. McVay Media has been a consultancy since 1984. Additionally, he most recently concluded nine-years (9) as the EVP/Content and Programming for Cumulus Media & Westwood One Radio Networks.

 




 
The Goodman T
-Mike McVay

Creativity is only rarely spontaneous. The objective is to have the forethought to see things in the abstract so that you can be seemingly spontaneous when the opportunity presents itself.

The Goodman T comes from Andy Goodman who was a comic writer for a show prep service named The American Comedy Network. We used his service in those early days. He went on to write Sponge Bob Square Pants, The Dinosaurs and The Nanny. He shared how he engaged his brain to write creatively. It’s one of those things that I’ve never forgotten. Thank you Andy Goodman!

Draw a line left to right across the top of the page and then draw a line from the top-to-bottom of the page. You now have big T on the paper. Write the subject across the top of the T. In this case write “Social Distancing/Quarantine” at the top. Down the left side write every fact you can think of about the subject. Down the right you will eventually write down every abstract thing you can think about that matches the item on the left side.

                                                             SOCIAL DISTANCING/QUARANTINE

          FACTS                                                                                                                  ABSTRACT

Staying home alone                                                                                    Audio from the movie Home Alone

No takeout food                                                                                         I wrap-up my own meals to “feel it”

Missing Friends & Family                                                             Embarrassing Zoom Moments

Grooming Issues                                                                                          Hair growing in unusual places

Dry Cleaning Piling-Up                                                                                The wrinkled look is IN style

Watching shows never thought I’d watch                              NATGEO (Animals eating Animals)

Planning meals and cooking                                                                      Becoming your grandparents (Meals)

Wearing Masks                                                                                            Using Old Bras to make face masks

 

Hopefully you get the idea. Write as many facts as you can think of, and when you think that there are no more facts, rest for 15 minutes and start again adding even more facts. Repeat until you’re truly on “empty.” Once the facts are finished … look at the item on the left and write on the right something that’s abstract about the item directly across from it. Repeat the process until your brain is on “empty.” Now … put them together and save them for that right moment to use them as if they were spontaneous.

 





 
Mike McVay Radio Ink Interview - ED RYAN and DEBORAH PARENTI

Mike McVay You Tube Radio Ink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


 


Q; What is your opinion on how radio is covering the crisis and how can they improve? 

A: I think that radio, for the most part is doing a good job. It took some stations a little while to grasp that these are unusual times and the usual format needs to be adjusted, changed, altered. Some stations have shifted the time that their morning show runs until … extending it by an hour. That better matches the lifestyle of some of the late-starters who are working from home, but you don’t want to start the show later.

A2: Stations have added more information on-air and to their websites, they’re telling listeners what business are open, symptoms of COVID-19 to look for, and a lot of other valuable information … like where to donate to Feed Families in need (There is a nationwide radiothon this Thursday … Radio Cares; Feeding America Emergency Radiothon)

Q: If you were programming a music radio station right now how much coronavirus news would there be?

A: I don’t know that I would have added hourly news updates, but Initially I think that we needed something from the air talent every hour. A personality can deliver the same information in a friendly, credible style, and it will sink-in with the audience. Many stations aired at minimum updates 4 times a day. Sound the Brand and Benztown launched a podcast titled Coronavirus 411 and excerpts of that podcast continue to air twice a day on many radio stations.

Q: Explain the four phases of covering the virus.

A: I believe that you look at it as four phases; Awareness, Acceptance, Encouragement and Memory. 

Awareness was when we first heard of the virus. It ramped up significantly before we were able to grasp and understand that this was unlike anything that we had faced in our lives.

Acceptance is when we acknowledged that the pandemic was real, that we would all know individuals who would be infected with this virus, and that some would die.

Encouragement is what we have to do for our audiences. Encourage them that we will get through this pandemic. Share with them things that they can do while sheltering. Look for positive, but factual, news to report to the audience. The peak having been reached in some communities. A decline in deaths. Talk of sports activities being rescheduled. It gives us all an “end point” to look forward to.

Memory is what we hope is ahead of us. Remembering what it was like when we were in lockdown. What good came from it, besides health, and what lessons can we learn from it? Plan for our recovery and return to life. Party Centers that are usually only open on weekends, will be open 7-days a week while people make-up for weddings, funerals, proms, baby showers, Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, family reunions and more.

Q: We have been in a holding pattern, sheltered in place, for about six weeks now. Beyond doing a great job serving communities, what grade would you give radio for its performance during the crisis and why?

A: I’d give us a B+ or an A-. The grade would be better if we didn’t take so long to adjust. Too many air-talents have become paralyzed by the format clock and it took a bit of time for them to realize (or to be given permission) that if there was ever a reason to break format and do something special, it’s a pandemic. Too many music stations continued to run the same contests and benchmarks that they aired pre-pandemic.

A2: I also think that on spoken word stations there’s been a blurring of the lines between what’s News and what’s Commentary. You see it on TV and in Print, too. How we cover a pandemic shouldn’t be a political argument. It should be a health argument. There is NO problem with a talk host to give their opinion. That’s commentary, but when it spills over into the newscasts, that concerns me. We are running the risk of destroying what little credibility electronic media has left. Be credible, and highlight the line between what’s news and what’s commentary.

Q: There's a new term - isn't there always - Pandemic Programming. Care to weigh in on what that is - and if some of the creative elements it has inspired that might have legs or lessons for the future?

A: I don’t like the name “Pandemic Programming” or any name for doing what we should do all the time, which is be special, and connect with the audience. There are stations that are playing Christmas music at night, some have added the National Anthem, others are saluting our Health Care Heroes on-air and play Queen/We Will Rock You. We all saw in your publication how Z100 NYC presented special tribute music every night and coordinated it with a light show on the Empire State Building. Some great production houses are creating really strong tribute songs. Artists are participating in remote on-line performances.

A2: I think that the closer you can be to your community, the better, and that could include taking calls and saluting local heroes, announcing birthdays & anniversary’s, allowing your audience to sing the praises of people in your town. I saw where Beth Neuhoff has assigned three of her stations in Iowa to make school announcements on-air. Why not? Those things that you might normally think sound “small market” are exactly the things you should be doing in every market.

Q: We recently read that due to offices being closed, adult contemporary radio stations are getting hit, but classic rock is up. Why?

A: There are several layers to that onion. One is that AC has always been a station that does best in At-Work listening. We should all be shifting our on-air statements from “Listen AT Work” to “Listen While You Work … Whenever you work … Wherever You Work.” I’ve seen research from Pierre Bouvard at Westwood One and he found that 1 out of 4 radio listeners do not know how to hear their favorite radio station on a Smart Speaker.

A2: Classic Rock and Classic Hits stations do better in times of crisis and war. We saw that after 9-11. The music you know, familiar music, is the same as comfort food. It makes you feel comfortable. It’s the same reason that HBO and Showtime are showing older movies at night, why Nickelodeon is booming and why many of Netflix most watched shows are older series.

Q: There is a lot of discussion about how we reopen business as we begin to emerge from the crisis. Radio has never been closed but certainly impacted by all of this. Is there a "getting back to normal" for it and if so, what's the process?

A1: I’m not sure that any of us know what the future holds, but radio isn’t going to go away. Getting back to “normal” depends on when the nation goes back to work and normal commute times, and normal commute patterns resumes. When that happens, we should see radio listening habits return to pre-Covid levels.

A2: Some are saying that we’ll no longer need studios, that talent can work from anywhere. I think that depends on the talent, the station, the show. Being in a community is important for some stations and in some markets. However, there are examples of network and satellite programming that does very well in local markets, despite being a national show.

Q: What is the takeaway from all of this for radio?

A: Be prepared. Be prepared for a 9-11-like attack. Be prepared for a disaster like the Challenger exploding. Be prepared for a pandemic. Know what you’re going to do on-air. Who is going to do it. Be prepared to throw your format out the window and plug-in for Crisis Coverage.





 

The Steps to Winning Programming
– By Mike McVay @mcvaymedia

To program a great radio station, you must have many different components working together harmoniously. The following are the components that I most strongly believe in. I believe in this formula given my experience as a major market Program Director and Air-Talent, my 30 years of consulting around the world and my recent experiences working for 9 years inside one of the big three major USA broadcast companies.

 

MUSIC: Music is the most important part of a music driven radio station. Music selected for the station should be made with the sound and brand of your station in mind. Your music choices should be based on local callout (if you have it), the National Research that comes from M-Score, Airplay Intel, tracking on-line exposure and trends as well as using BDS or Mediabase for the monitoring of stations similar to your station. Music should be on-point and should be scheduled so that each quarter hour is representative of the format. Apply the theory of instant gratification. That is playing peoples favorite songs frequently.  No one ever complains that you’re playing their favorite song too much. They complain about the songs that they do not like.

 

The radio is still a point for music discovery. When you play new music, identify the artist and mention the song title, as well as note on-air that the song or the artist are new. I’ve always been a fan of using a tactic called “box-car” when you segue two songs together. That is that you speak over the intro of the next song, and not over the outro of the last song and the intro of the next. Talk over an outro when you are going into a commercial break. That’s how the audience has been trained for years. When a listener hears an air-talent speak over an outro, it means “commercials are coming” and they may punch-out. Speaking over the intro only, is an unspoken message to the audience, that you’re not stopping down for commercials.

 

Music Specials are aired for two reasons; to either move an audience to a specific time/day or to remind the audience that you’re still on-air in the fringe timeslots. You may not believe that it is worthy to promote a special or a weekend show by using valuable promo time, but great radio stations do exactly that. It makes them multidimensional. The station may be one that targets At-Work listening Monday-Friday. All the more reason to promote what happens during the weekend.

 

Music Quantity is important. Long music sweeps. Fewer Stop-Sets. The objective is to build time spent listening, but being known for long music sweeps can build you cume numbers, too. If a listener knows that you play the most music day-in-and-day-out, they’ll come back more frequently. We know that TSL (Time Spent Listening) is built by repeat tune-in.

 

Where and when to schedule a long music sweep should be based on when you have the most listeners. If you are in a diary market, then research shows us that the first and third quarter hours have the most diary entries. That’s a function of the methodology used by the diary rating system. People start their activities at :00 and :30. In a diary market, the best place for a commercial break to start is :18 and :38. That ensures that you receive five (5) continuous minutes in a quarter hour. You want to cover the biggest two quarter-hours with music.

 

PPM markets are treated a little differently. You need only to have five (5) individual minutes of listening inside of a quarter hour in a PPM market. That’s why we stop across the quarter hour in PPM markets. Preferably :12-18 and :42-48. Although one can argue that being “the other guy” and moving across the top of the hour has value. PPM Markets have tools to search which hours have the most meters in use.

 

ON-AIR PERSONALITIES: Developing an emotional connection between your on-air personalities and listeners (without increasing the amount of talk) is an effective way of ingraining the station’s brand into the listener’s memory.  On-air personalities need to be disciplined hosts who are providing relatable content to the target audience while keeping the music (or News/Talk – Sports/Talk conversation) moving. The more real you are, the better connection you’ll have with your audience. You’ll want to have on-air personalities that the listener can identify with, or be greatly entertained by, when they listen.  

 

The very best talents are efficient in how much they talk. Efficiency is an important word. Efficiency is different than brevity. Brevity is “Weather today … Nice.” It doesn’t tell the listener anything. Efficiency is using only the number of words necessary to completely explain the thought in question. Encourage your air-talent to be efficient. If it takes me 60-seconds to tell a story, and it couldn’t be done any more quickly, then I was efficient. However, if I could’ve told that story in 30-seconds, then I wasn’t efficient. Encourage your air-talent to be efficient.

 

The very best talent are amazing story tellers. They tell strong descriptive stories using visual words as they paint a picture. They look for common experiences that they and their listeners have had, which makes them relatable, and should engage the listeners interest. To tell a story in an efficient fashion, the talent needs to understand where they’re going to go with their story and how does it end? Meaning, before you start the journey, you need to plug-into your GPS the destination. If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will take you there. I’m not suggesting that you write out your story. I am suggesting that you have to think about it before you open your microphone.

 

We use a show prep system that is referred to as E/I/A/A/A. The letters stand for Emotion, Image, Area, Activity and Artist.  Emotion is what’s going on in the listeners world. Image is about the image of the radio station. Area is for what’s happening in your listening area. Activity is about the station’s activities. Artists is an element of artist information. For spoken word stations that element is about a news maker.

 

PROMOTIONS: Promotions are one of the most important parts of station awareness. A station needs to be highly visible around town in order to be as successful as possible. When it is time for listeners to fill out their Nielsen diary, they won’t go to the radio and see what station is on, they will recall it from memory. If you’re in a PPM market, then you want to develop contests and content that create repeat tune-in. This is why I feel it is so important to always be on the streets, be everywhere and be seen everywhere. Do things in your community that makes you a talked about radio station. That is what keeps a good radio station on the mind of the listener. 

 

You will need more than on-air promotions and contesting, though, if you plan to grow your cume. You will need external marketing to do that. That means on-line marketing via website ads, social media, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as well as the more traditional platform of transit and billboards. I’m not a big fan of TV for marketing as it isn’t cost effective. If you can advertise on Cable or one of the Digital TV platforms, then maybe, but as far as local TV … Local TV News is the only thing worth investing in and that’s best for marketing of spoken word stations or those that target an older audience. Targeted marketing is the most cost-effective form of marketing that there is available to us today.

 

Promote where and how one can find your radio station. On-Line, On Smart Speakers, On the WXXX App, One the Audio Aggregators (like iHeart, Radio.Com and Tune-In) on Social Media & You Tube and on your radio at FREQUENCY. Wherever a listener can find Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, etc.

 

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Getting a station with organizations like St. Jude Children’s Hospital or Children’s Miracle Network, Salvation Army, The United Way, local food banks, and Toys for Tots are great ways to tug at the emotions of listeners, and it makes the on-air personalities “human” and clearly local. A station who takes every opportunity to celebrate the community in which they live will accomplish much more than a station that is syndicated or voiced tracked.  If you are using syndicated programming, network programming or are voice-tracked, then work hard to be local sounding and really focus on what is important to your market.

 

SYNDICATION: The biggest problem that I see with syndication and voice-tracked programming … Lazy or passive aggressive Program Directors. They don’t want the show on their station, or they’re too lazy to focus on the show, and they plug-it-in and ignore it. Do NOT “flip the switch and walk away.” The number one reason that a network or syndicated program loses the rating game is that the local broadcast programmer doesn’t update the liners and promo’s for the show, they don’t request how to localize the show, they never reach out to the talent or the shows producer and they never inform the national talent what’s going on locally.


This weakness is magnified where PD’s take a “Brown Bag” version of a show. A Brown Bag show is one that is delivered as voice-tracks and the station adds in their own music. If you’re going to take a brown bag version of a show, then run all the tracks and in the order, that they are scheduled to run. I have heard tracks air out of order or not at all. Example; I have heard a break that promotes an interview is “coming up next.” Then the interview never airs. I have heard an interview air and the wrong song air out of the interview. I have heard local air talent voice promos within a syndicated show, where the promo should have been voiced by the national air talent.

 

SPORTS/TALK: Great sports talk stations have on-air talent that understand that they are really Men Talk stations, without alienating women, and the focus is on sports. The collegial atmosphere of friends, men and women, sitting in a bar. Talking sports, making fun of and teasing each other.  Stay away from politics. Don’t focus on heavy news stories. You cannot ignore the world, or your local market, but the listeners who come to Sports/Talk stations are there for an escape.

 

NEWS/TALK: This format, when executed properly, treats news stories as if they’re the biggest current hits on a Top-40 Station. Play the biggest hits as frequently as possible. View the aforementioned paragraph on Music and think of using the theory of Instant Gratification on the topics that are hot and perishable for the day. What’s the audience talking about? What are the newsmakers doing daily? What are the opinions of your commentators/personalities? Make no mistake that the personalities on a news/talk station are commentators and are offering their opinions. It isn’t news. It is commentary.

 

NEWS/INFORMATION: This element is News. News on a News/Talk station or News in targeted dayparts on Music stations. Content, in no particular order should focus on Heart, Purse, Health, Relaxation, Safety, Local and National stories.  Heart stories pull on your heartstrings. They’re the stories that move you emotionally. Purse is all about the pocketbook. What’s costing you more? How can you save money? Health stories tell us about new illnesses that are hitting us, how to stay healthy, how to be in better shape and what you should avoid as it may be harmful. Relaxation stories tell me where to go with my free time, how to manage the stress in my life and plays to the fantasy of wishful thinking. Safety is the most important thing to us all. Safety for us and safety for our families. Tell me how to remain safe and how to avoid being in danger. Local and National stories should be rewritten to answer the question “What does it mean to me?” Explain that and then the story will connect with me and I will connect with the story. News anchors and reporters NEVER speculate or offer an opinion. Be credible.

 

IMAGING: This is where and how you create a stations personality. Known by some as Stationality. This is where you create fantasy, develop a “station sound”, make the image of your station bigger than life and at the same time connect to the community and to an individual listener.  The best messaging is benefit based. “What’s in it for me?” The best imaging can create an aspirational feeling. “If I listen, I’ll know what’s happening in my area.” The best imaging catches my attention. The best imaging is direct and to the point. It’s easy to understand. It paints a picture that an announcer speaking is incapable of painting. If the air-talent can say it and paint the picture without sound effects and music imaging, then you should have the air-talent say it. Imaging should take advantage of the sense of hearing and paint a visualization that employs the brains eyes for the sense of sight.

 

One of the things that I have noticed, many times over the years, is that whenever a new program director arrives at a radio station, they want to change the Voice-Over imaging voice of the station. If you are changing the stations format, updating or changing its programming, or have a rating failure that needs a reboot … then change your voice talent. If you’re not failing … then think long and hard before changing the VO talent. One of the reasons your station is successful is consistency. A station that has a successful rating track record should view its imaging as a part of how listeners identify your station and how they remember it.  Instead, coach the VO talent to update their sound, without changing the dynamics of the fantasy that their voice creates.

 

PROMOTIONS: Great promotions are like life. Expectation, Realization and Memory. Tell the audience what you are giving away. Paint-a-picture. Give the prize away and let us all share in the winning experience. Remind the audience what you gave away and allow the winner to share their experience. When it comes to events … it’s all about signage. I shouldn’t be able to look in any direction without seeing your stations presence. I should hear it on the air. You absolutely must own every event you do.

 

LISTENERS AND THE ADVERTISERS: If you keep harmony with both, then the reward is increased ratings and increased revenue. When your station is on the air, it should be the one that listeners and advertisers say is their favorite radio station. This is because it not only satisfies their radio listening needs, but also properly reflects the community. It meets their needs as a person searching for audio.

 

THE STAFF: A program director needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of every one of their staff members and use them accordingly. The program director must see to it that the air staff has the coaching and direction it needs to be the best in town. All too often I talk to talent who have NEVER been coached. Successful talents want to improve and perfect their craft. By working with and knowing the goals, personalities and skills of each on-air personality, you will send the message that you not only care about the product but most importantly that you care about their individuals’ careers. 

 

When coaching talent … make them a priority. Turn-off your phone, don’t look at your E-mail, be prompt and don’t cancel your talent meetings, and be sure to listen to what your talent is saying to you. The objective is to have a conversation with the talent. Explain to them why you want them to do certain things. Understand why they want to do what they want to do on the air. Define the parameters for their show with positives and not negatives.  Telling them what you like and what you want the talent to do is better than telling them what they cannot do. Do not define parameters with negatives.

 

Maybe the biggest most important thing for a Program Director is to keep it fun!  Without fun, morale slips and on-air personalities move on. If you’re having fun, it is reflected on the air. Never forget … a radio stations “personality” is that of the Program Director.




 

Coronavirus and the Media – Updated 4-12-20
- Mike McVay

The Coronavirus has changed how we are living our lives at this moment in time. Social distancing, quarantining, sheltering … are all words that have become a way for us to describe our lives. Some of us are wearing masks and gloves when we must go out in public. Some never go out in public while others continue to question if the restrictions on our lives isn’t too much.

How audiences are using media, and when they’re using it, has also changed. Morning and Afternoon commute times are non-existent. Even those who work from home are awaking later and they wrap-up work in time for dinner. Few people have in-home radios and much listening is being done on smart speakers, streaming on-line via laptops, apps or phones, and some listeners will time-shift their radio listening by using the on-demand listening that a radio show on podcast allows.

Many of us are working from home. Video conferencing is becoming a way of life for work and family connectivity. A large number of our fellow citizens are unemployed or on furlough. They’re suffering, dealing with anxiety, fear and the stress of not knowing what the future holds for them or for all of us.

Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, Spousal Abuse and Domestic Violence are all magnified in times of stress and panic. Suicide levels are predicted to increase. Recognize our first responders in the health sector as well as fire, police and military. Acknowledge them by name. Salute and honor them. Thank them.

There is the possibility that some of us, as members of media, have been exaggerating its seriousness while others have not been taking it seriously enough. We need to be factual in the information we deliver. We need to pay attention to the doctors and scientists and not politicians. Politicizing this pandemic has no purpose in serving your community.

We, as members of media, have to be sensitive to the concern of the audience. Our responsibility is to serve the community and provide them with information that can be useful to them. Stations are airing regular updates. Some are breaking away for news reports, which was not previously a part of their scheduled programming.  

One of my concerns is that the contradictory opinions of commentators, especially those on TV and on Network Radio, is destroying what little credibility was left for electronic media news operations. Mainly because some of them present themselves to be news reporters or news journalists. The content of a news report, should be factual and focused on what is important to the target audience. The content of a commentator or talk host should be labeled as commentary.  There is absolutely nothing improper about a commentator taking a stance and presenting a position that may include political views and editorial commentary. Don’t present it as news. It is commentary.

Real people have died and are dying. Real people are becoming sick, or will become sick, and some of those who are yet to be inflicted will die. Someone recently commented to me “fewer have died that what was predicted.” That doesn’t mean that we didn’t need to take steps to protect our citizenry. It means that the steps we have taken, and are still taking, are working.

I remember when I was a small child, just about 10, my father and I would watch the nightly news on TV. In those days the Vietnam War was in full swing and the evening news would include a daily death toll of Americans who lost their lives. One evening the number was single digits. I said aloud “that’s not very many.” My father replied “unless its your son that died.” That’s how I feel when I hear someone note that the death toll for Coronavirus, while high, is less than what was predicted to happen by this time.

This story is meant to underscore that you should be sensitive to the loss of familial lives that many are enduring. It’s time for a kinder, gentler world. It should be reflected in what you say and how you deliver content on-air.

Be factual. Don’t politicize. Don’t exaggerate or dismiss the information that is being delivered to us from recognized credible medical experts who are at the center of the research that’s being done to find a vaccine and a cure for COVD-19.

Those shows that play games and air bits that make light of someone’s lack of intelligence, should be reconsidered, much like the sometimes-collegial humor that makes fun of an on-air partner. Don’t be mean. Avoid sounding mean spirited. Your credibility, as an air talent, will be magnified by being understanding of the less fortunate. Don’t make every story of hardship about you. Acknowledge how blessed you are to be working. Realize that many aren’t as lucky as you are.

There are four faces of Coverage of the Coronavirus. Awareness, Acceptance, Encouragement and Memory.  

Awareness was when we first heard of the virus. It ramped up significantly before we were able to grasp and understand that this was unlike anything that we had faced in our lives.

Acceptance is when we acknowledged that the pandemic was real, that we would all know individuals who would be infected with this virus, and that some would die.

Encouragement is what we have to do for our audiences. Encourage them that w will get through this pandemic. Share with them things that they can do while sheltering. Look for positive, but factual, news to report to the audience. The peak having been reached in some communities. A decline in deaths. Talk of sports activities being rescheduled. It gives us all an “end point” to look forward to.

Memory is what we hope is ahead of us. Remembering what it was like when we were in lockdown. What good came from it, besides health, and what lessons can we learn from it?

There are some artists and production houses working on creating a musical tribute to the heroes of the pandemic and other working on an event to raise funds for the memory of this event. Don’t be gratuitous and, if you’re an artist, don’t be opportunistic by taking advantage of this crisis to personally benefit.  

We need to plan for what happens when we’re allowed to come back to the “outside world.” Party Centers, normally only open during weekends, will be booked for events seven days a week. There will be “make-ups” for lots of events that had been postponed. Wedding Receptions, Baby Showers, Graduations, Birthday Parties, Celebrations of Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah, Baptism’s, Funerals or Celebrations of Life.

Provide guidance on where your listeners can find information on filing for unemployment. Where can individuals go to find out their options to refinance their homes or delay payments. What can be done to assist small businesses to stay in business during this time? How will the governments COVID-19 recovery plans help everyone from individuals to big business? Surviving is what’s most important to all of us, at this moment, and will be important to our recovery.

Benztown and Emmis have worked together to create a short series of updates named Corona411. Westwood One is developing information for stations to use. Some stations will create their own info pieces. These are not promotional messages. They shouldn’t sound like a promo or a sweeper. These are elements of information that carry weight. They should sound special and unique.

https://tunein.com/podcasts/News--Politics-Podcasts/Coronavirus-411-alerts-updates-and-information-p1289595/

We should be messaging that this is not a time to make jokes about the outbreak. It isn’t a time to present tongue-in-cheek contests that are about this health crisis. It’s also not a time to panic our listeners by being anything more than factual. It is a time to share positive news, too. Give the audience a reason to smile.

It may be months and months before there is a vaccination that will prevent this virus from infecting our listeners. We’re all hoping that we’ll see life start to get back to normal, soon. However, we’ve not yet seen the crest of the wave of this illness in a total fashion for the United States. We have to help the world live a normal life.

Many air-talents are broadcasting remotely. Encourage them to mention that fact on-air. How is working from home impacting their lives? How are they occupying their days and the days of their family members? The purpose of such talk is not to make it about them, but to create the feeling of community. “We’re all in this together. We’re going to get through this.”

Update your imaging. Eliminate the “Listen at Work” liners. Come up with imaging that reinforces listening “Listen while you work, no matter where and when you work, whether at home or on-site.”

Look for WOW moments to unite your audience. It could be playing the National Anthem daily at 12:00pm to salute the men and women who are fighting on the frontline of the Coronavirus. It could be creating a consistent moment to underscore that we’re all in this together. Like playing Queen’s song “We Will Rock You” at 6:00pm nightly.

Don’t talk about what you’re doing on-air as if it is work. It isn’t “work” compared to what the majority of your audience considers to be work.

Below is a list of five things you should know about the coronavirus outbreak.

1. While COVID-19 has been compared to the flu, there are differences

From a media briefing on March 3, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus outlined important differences between the two viruses. “First, COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza, from the data we have so far,” he says. “With influenza, people who are infected but not yet sick are major drivers of transmission, which does not appear to be the case for COVID-19.”  

The second major difference is that COVID-19 causes more severe disease than seasonal influenza, he says. “While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity. That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease.”  

Third, we have vaccines and therapeutics for seasonal flu, but at the moment there is no vaccine and the treatment for COVID-19 is experimental, he says. “And fourth, we don’t even talk about containment for seasonal flu – it’s just not possible. But it is possible for COVID-19. That’s the positive. We can contain COVID-19.”

While China is reporting a decrease in new cases, possibly as a result of containment measures, the potential public health threat from this new coronavirus is very high, both globally and in the U.S., according to the CDC. The number of people infected in the U.S. has been increasing and will continue to increase. A growing number are under quarantine in New York City. That city has been the USA epicenter for this Flu. We are now starting to se a decline in daily reported cases.

Doctors in the U.S. are keeping a close eye on the new virus and working with humans as a part of their experimentation. “With the new virus in a culture dish, they are looking at the biology and working to make drugs to treat it,” says Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist Joseph Vinetz, MD. There is also a great deal of effort underway to assess drugs in development (and some medications currently available) to determine if they are beneficial for treating patients infected with COVID-19, adds Dr. Martinello.

2. The disease is thought to be most contagious when people are most symptomatic

While there has been sustained person-to-person spread in China, according to the CDC, the exact mechanism for transmission is still unclear. “There is still much to learn about how this pathogen is transmitted between individuals,” Dr. Martinello says. “Data is needed not only to better understand when those who become ill shed the virus, but also which body fluids contain the virus.”

The disease is believed to be most contagious when people are the most symptomatic, and there may be some spread before people with the virus exhibit symptoms, although this is thought to be minimal. Symptoms can appear anywhere between 2 to 14 days after exposure. 

Doctors say the most important route of transmission is likely close contact (six feet or less) with sick patients who spread respiratory droplets when they cough or sneeze. The risk of spread from asymptomatic people, and from touching surfaces and objects contaminated with virus is much lower than droplets spread from sick patients.

Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions appear to be at highest risk for the virus, but people at any age have also been infected.

3. If you feel ill, here's what you can do

Do not assume that you have COVID-19. There are drive-thru testing locations in many communities. The objective is to keep the Hospitals open for those that need health care for COVID-19, versus someone who has allergies, seasonal flu, etc.

The severity of COVID-19 infection ranges from mild to severe, but the majority of cases in China have not required hospitalization. It is believed that we’ll see that in the USA, too.

Common symptoms have included: 

1.    Fever (of >100.4 F)

2.    Cough and/or sore throat in some people

3.    Difficulty breathing that can be severe enough to cause people to seek hospital care

Officials are urging patients to stay home and contact a health care provider (or hospital emergency room) for guidance if they experience fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and if they have had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient and/or traveled from a hard-hit area within 14 days of the onset of illness.

4. There are things you can do to protect yourself

To protect yourself from the new coronavirus, Dr. Vinetz says, “The best thing you can do at this point is take care of yourself the way you would to prevent yourself from getting the flu. You know you can get the flu when people sneeze and cough on you, or when you touch a doorknob. Washing hands—especially after eating, going to the bathroom, and touching your face—and avoiding other people who have flu-like symptoms are the best strategies at this point.”

The CDC also recommends the following preventive actions:

Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Stay home if you’re sick
Avoid touching nose, eyes, and mouth. Use a tissue to cover a couch or sneeze, then dispose of it in the trash
Use a household wipe or spray to disinfect doorknobs, light switches, desks, keyboards, sinks, and other objects and surfaces that are frequently touched
As for masks, the story has changed from “a mask won’t help you” to “wearing a mask may prevent you from spreading this disease to someone else.” According to Dr. Martinello “Masks may provide a modest degree of protection against fluids, including spray from a cough or sneeze, and they provide some filtration of the air. But, since the masks do not provide a tight seal around the wearer’s nose and mouth, much of the air inhaled and exhaled remains unfiltered.”

However, the CDC does recommend face masks for people who have symptoms of COVID-19, as well as for health care workers and others who may be caring for them.

5. Precautions remain extremely important

The CDC is now working on multiple fronts to operationalize its pandemic preparedness and response plans, which include specific measures to prepare communities to respond to any local transmission of the new virus.

Second, extreme caution is warranted because so much remains unknown about this new virus. New diseases aren’t discovered often and some (such as Ebola) are deadly. For now, spreading awareness and keeping people updated as scientists learn more, screening people who might be at risk, and separating those who are infected from healthy people—a basic public health intervention—are the best tools available. So, if you visit a health care provider or facility, it may be helpful to know that the COVID-19 signs you see and questions you may be asked about your recent travels and exposures are important.

Since threats like COVID-19 can lead to the circulation of misinformation, it’s important to trust information only from reputable health organizations and government sources such as the CDC.

 We’re seeing daily updates from the Whitehouse and the Presidents Coronavirus Task Force. Vice-President Pence heads-up that committee. Follows what doctors Anthony Fauci and Deborah Brix deliver daily. Promote in advance when you will air your own special reports and updates on COVID-19.

Here’s the latest information everyone should have to minimize the risk of exposure to the new virus. “Whether it is the flu, which we see every winter, or an outbreak of an emerging infectious disease, the public health infrastructure in the U.S. is a critical resource for leading the federal, state, and local response,” Dr. Martinello says. Because knowledge about the new virus is evolving rapidly, you can expect recommendations to change, even frequently.

If you are planning to travel, you will want to check the CDC’s travel advisories concerning several countries that have had confirmed cases of COVID-19. The CDC’s latest recommendations include avoiding nonessential travel to China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea. Spain has had an enormous number of deaths. They’re outpacing China per/capita.

 

Travelers to Japan should also practice enhanced precautions, which means older adults and people with chronic medical conditions should think about postponing travel to the country. Those going to Hong Kong should take the usual recommended precautions, including practicing proper hand washing and avoiding contact with sick people.

If you have traveled to an affected country in the past 14 days or have been exposed to another person with COVID-19, health officials will give you instructions on limiting your activities and movement for up to 14 days in order to help keep the virus from spreading. You should call a health care professional who will work with the CDC or state public health department to determine whether to test for the virus. 

Healthcare providers who may be in the position of caring for a patient with the virus should follow infection control protocols. In early March, federal health officials announced new criteria that allows doctors to test any patient for COVID-19 if they are experiencing a cough, fever, or shortness of breath. (It’s unclear whether there will be enough tests for everyone that wants one, however, as the nation’s testing capacity is limited at this point.) The CDC is also encouraging doctors who want to test to first rule out other respiratory illnesses, including the flu, and to continue to consider the patient’s travel history and possible exposure to other people who may have had the disease.

Infection prevention specialists at Yale New Haven Health (YNHH) have provided guidance for the screening of patients with acute respiratory infections to determine whether they have been to China or other hard-hit locations across the globe in the few weeks before they got sick, or if they’ve been exposed to anyone who may have been ill with COVID-19. YNHH is taking a cautionary approach by putting masks on patients who may be at risk and placing them in a private room to ensure the safety or all patients and staff.

Meanwhile, public health authorities strongly advise everyone to get their annual flu shot if they have not done so already. In addition to preventing or mitigating the severity of flu, the vaccine will simplify the evaluation of patients with flu-like symptoms if potential cases of COVID-19 surface in the community.   
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media Consulting. A media firm that focuses on content creation, coaching on-air personalities, marketing strategy, audience development and growth, and advises all platforms for audio companies.





 

Coaching Talent; A message to Program Directors
- Mike McVay

Coaching talent properly can make a big and immediate difference. Focus on the forest and not the trees. When a PD is too far into basics and bits/features, the talent feels as if they’ve lost control of the shows content, and they stop being genuine and become contrived or manufactured.
The show has to be about more than the basics. The basics are important, but no one listens for the basics. They listen to be entertained and to be put into a good mood. They want to start their day feeling alive and energized. Audio adrenaline.
Focus on the content of the show. Is it fun, funny, interesting, emotion evoking and targeted properly to the station’s specific audience? What about the delivery?
Listen to the talent. Make them a priority when you meet with them. Don’t be checking texts and interrupting the meeting with calls. I repeat … Listen to them. I’ve sat in meetings, heard a morning talent tell me what type of show they feel they do best, and the PD then suggested something that was 180-degrees away from what the morning talent believes to be best. If a 180-degree change is needed, then you address the need for a change, but don’t offer a content suggestion that’s contrary to the talent’s personality.
When I start to coach a show, or specific talent, I begin by understanding who they are, who the audience is, what the objective is for the station and who is the competition. I never focus on the basics in the first few sessions. It’s like coaching a baseball pitcher. If they can throw fast, you work on that, then later you teach them control.
Most PD’s don’t coach the talent. They fail to have regular meetings whereby they offer constructive criticism and suggestions upon which to build the programs content.
Too many PD’s focus on the wrong thing and deliver criticism that focuses on basics or suggest bits/features that are not befitting the talent. If all you do is define the parameters of a show with negatives, it will be easier for the talent to do nothing, than risk getting into trouble for trying something new.
The best morning shows are fun, funny, connected to the community, have a strong link to the listeners lifestyle, thinks like the audience thinks, is continually doing show prep and is anchored by an intelligent person. I’ve never seen a successful morning show that wasn’t anchored by someone smart.
The best on-air personalities can be difficult to coach. They can be difficult to keep focused. Some have issues that go far beyond anything ion your scope of expertise. However, the very best air talent are intelligent, committed to excellence, have a strong work ethic, a keen sense of right versus wrong when it comes to their audience and they often hear a “party” in their head that no one else was invited to attend. Great and successful air-talent are involved in their community. They are everywhere and they are seen everywhere.
Always remember this; don’t fix what isn’t broken. Evolve and grow the product before decline, but don’t make dramatic changes without being prepared to run the risk of losing audience. I can put up with a lot of “stuff” to be number one.
Apply the Golden