For use On-Air; 10 Tips for Mom’s Working from Home
By Ryanne Saucier
Luckily for me, I have the opportunity to work from home on Fridays, pre-COVID-19, and also worked part-time during my maternity leave. While I am by no means an “expert” on the work-from-home setup, there are some things I do that I find helps my overall productivity and allows me to balance the “being Mommy” aspect. It also helps that there are aspects of my job as an attorney that allow for some of these “tips,” that I realize might not be realistic for everyone. Below is how I balance attorney/Mommy/house manager and now part-time preschool teacher.
1. Find a designated block of time that works for you that is uninterrupted and syncs with your own biological clock. I’m a morning person, so I get up SUPER early and get started working. This allows me a good 2 ½ to sometimes 3 ½ hours of uninterrupted focused time before my son gets up. Knowing that time is precious makes me really productive and focused. This time of day is also before most of my Company’s internal clients wake up and start working, so I am equally free from the distraction of new emails coming in and phone calls. It’s overall a win. But, if you’re a night owl, reversing this schedule could also work for you. Regardless, find a block of time where you can focus.
2. My job as an attorney is one where sometimes I need space to think after I have read and researched. In my thinking periods/pre-drafting periods, I find it is helpful for me to get up and physically do something while working through an issue/mentally preparing for a phone call. I certainly do not go on a run, but small physical things like moving the laundry from the washer and dryer helps free up my mind to come up with solutions, and simultaneously accomplishes something on the Mommy to-do-list.
3. Before closing my eyes each night, I mentally walk through what my son’s day will look like for the next day - imagining about how long each task will take. I then plan my phone calls accordingly. This does not always align, but I have found coming up with a plan does help, or gives me the allusion of being more in control of a toddler’s whims.
4. I stop working at my normal time when I would usually leave the office to commute home. Without the need to commute home, I put on my running shoes and hit the pavement. My thinking is that I would normally be in the car during that time, so why not use this as a gift to do something for me?
5. I make it a point to have an actual telephone conversation with my boss and colleagues, even if there is nothing “work” related. Just spending time catching up like we would normally do in the office gives my mind a feeling of normalcy.
6. I get the opportunity to eat lunch with my son and husband on those work-from-home days, and I definitely take advantage of that. My son also knows that he gets to help me make lunch, which gives him something to look forward to doing with me when I take a break. Another example of a set routine adding to my overall productivity.
7. When those interruptions come from the toddler (and they do happen), I have chosen to tell him that I am “helping people,” rather than “Mommy has to work.” This is a conscious choice of word usage. Toddlers LOVE the idea of helping. Attorneys do help, so by using that word I am reinforcing the idea that helping is a good thing, and I am not (I hope) creating a space in his mind where he associates the word “work” negatively or that work is more important than him. Once I made that shift of word usage, his interruptions did dramatically decrease. He sees me as helping and by giving me space to do that, he’s also helping.
8. When the day goes off the rails and I’m not as productive as I would have liked to be, that does mean that after I get him to bed that night that I also finish up my day. My job is customer service based, and those wanting documents from me do not really care that my day working from home was not what I had planned. The work still has to get done, and it does. It’s not ideal, but very much real life.
9. At almost 4 years of age, our son does not use a tablet or have a “kiddie” tablet either. We do not anticipate that changing for our family any time soon. If your family does use tablets, you can modify my idea and incorporate this suggestion as it fits for you. On those work-from-home days, my son gets a bit more of the educational shows on television than he normally would. Shows produced on PBS that have curriculums attached like Sesame Street, Curious George, and Daniel Tiger are our family go-to choices. This is a treat for him, and also makes him excited when Mom works from home.
10. Lastly, I try to keep this thought in the front of my mind that helps me with the big “Why?” There will be challenging days and there will be good days. On the challenging days, think about all the days where this setup worked exactly like it should. On the good days, be extra thankful it is not one of the challenging days. Either way, know that showing your child how to try to balance work and family is a valuable skill that most generations did not get to witness firsthand before technology. We are not just talking the talk! Our children are getting a front row seat as to what work ethic looks like. They are learning that love for family sometimes looks like making lunch, but also looks like performing the best for your employer. That is a lifelong skill that will make them better humans for generations to come.
About the Author:
Ryanne Duffie Saucier is a second generation broadcaster, media, intellectual property and entertainment attorney who serves as Corporate Counsel in the office of the General Counsel for Cumulus Media. Prior to joining Cumulus, she served as the Deputy Executive Director for the non-commercial broadcaster Mississippi Public Broadcasting, the NPR and PBS affiliate for the state of Mississippi. In 2011, Ryanne was published by the American Bar Association in the book titled Entertainment Law for the General Practitioner, making Ryanne one of the youngest attorneys published by the American Bar Association on the topic of entertainment law. She is a 2015 graduate of the Broadcast Leadership Training school from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the premiere executive-style MBA program for leaders in broadcasting. She is regularly requested to lecture on the topics of media, intellectual property and employment law as it relates to the entertainment and broadcast industry. All of the foregoing pales in comparison to her favorite title and responsibilities of being wife to Dan and Mommy to Elias and his fur sister Belle. You can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter @RyanneDSaucier
P1 Media Group and Benztown Launch New Facebook Page for Radio Stations Around the World to Exchange Ideas on How They Are Dealing with Coronavirus
LOS ANGELES, CA, MARCH 25, 2020 — P1 Media Group, providing research, strategies and consulting to radio stations worldwide, today announces that it has partnered with Benztown, a global leader in radio imaging, voiceover, programming and jingles, to launch a new Facebook page for all radio stations around the world to curate and exchange ideas on how they are dealing with Coronavirus (COVID-19). The page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/coronavirusradioideas, is open to radio professionals looking to collaborate with others during these complex times to use their station platform to best serve their listeners, advertising partners and community at large. The Facebook Group is called: Coronavirus Radio Ideas.
Ken Benson, Partner, P1 Media Group, noted: “We can do so much more together than separately. This terrible pandemic is presenting an opportunity for radio to educate, inform and even entertain listeners like never before.We hope this Facebook Group will empower the international radio community to come together and exchange their ideas and experiences as we work to serve our communities.”
Dave “Chachi” Denes, Benztown President, said: “Today, the radio industry is here for people in communities around the world, just as it has been through good and bad times over the years. We are glad to be able to bring together radio professionals across the globe through this new Facebook page and meeting place.We are hoping that it will serve as an inspirational space for radio stations to connect around the Coronavirus by sharing their creative concepts, sparking new ideas in the process that will ultimately help people.”
As an example of the types of ideas that can be shared and accessed through the Coronavirus Radio Ideas Facebook Group, 183 European radio stations collaborated to produce this uplifting video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7CA8ru3PGA&feature=youtu.be
For more information, visit www.p1mediagroup.com or contact Ken Benson at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 360-883-0092.
Working for Home; Self Quarantine and Social Distancing during the Coronavirus Crisis
The best book for those of us who are working from home, who may not be used to it, is The Two-Second-Commute by Christine Durst and Michael Haaren. In full disclosure, they were a client of mine in the first iteration of McVay Media. Hearing how so many are adapting to working solo from their house … or trying to work around the family with a house full of people socially distanced by working from home … I want to recommend this book. It’s at the link below.
The 2-Second Commute: Christine Durst, Michael Haaren ...
This link leads to an article in the New York Times. Read it. Read the book. Master the art of being disciplined to work from your home office.
We’ll get through this. Be disciplined.
Coronavirus and the Media
The Coronavirus is on top of everyone’s mind. There is the possibility that some of us, as members of media, are exaggerating its seriousness or we’re not 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.
The cancellation of SXSW in Austin sent a panic through North America as its cancellation was driven by advertiser and sponsorship support, not from travelers expressing their lack of interest in attending the music event. It underscores the growing concern among our listeners.
Then, enter the Social Distancing order, and no more than 10 people or 5 people together (depending on the state) and suddenly the rest of the nation started to cancel concerts, sports seasons, school, work-from-home orders and the official shutdown of non-essential travel. Many states are complying with the Presidents request. Many governors have added to the restrictions for their state based on the impact this virus is having on their areas.
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 breakaway for news reports, which was not a part of their scheduled programming, previously.
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.
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 the United States. We have to help the world live a normal life.
Many air-talents are broadcasting remotely. Encourage them to mention it 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.”
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 is the USA epicenter for this Flu.
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 and how those may contaminate surfaces and even the air surrounding them.”
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)
3. Sore throat in some people
4. 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
As with a cold, there is no vaccine for the coronavirus—and a flu vaccine won’t protect people from developing it. While researchers are working on a vaccine for the new virus, it could take as long as 12 to 18 months to develop one, according to Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
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, there is little evidence supporting their widespread use for people who are not sick. “We generally do not recommend the use of masks for the general public,” says 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. In addition to large numbers of people needing medical care, widespread transmission could mean that people will need to stay away from schools, workplaces, and other places where people gather. Some schools, businesses, churches, and other organizations—especially in parts in the U.S. that are experiencing local transmission of the virus—are taking precautions that have included canceling events and other activities, restricting travel, and encouraging employees to work remotely.
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.
Guidelines will evolve as doctors learn more
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.
Tips on Promoting Podcasts
- Mike McVay
- The greatest way to grow an audience for a podcast is by interviewing Podcast Hosts on like-minded podcasts. Example; Conservative talk host Ben Shapiro interviews a host of a similar rightwing talk podcast. 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. Promoting the podcast Mommies Tell All as a gateway advertisement on the Q99-7/Atlanta Bert Show podcast makes sense given that his program is pop culture and family oriented as is the podcast.
- Promote your podcast everywhere and be seen everywhere. Promote the topic daily on the talents’ social media platform (Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, 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; It’s Black History Month, so the podcast hosts of the podcast Mouthpeace could be interviewed by any one of the African-American targeted radio shows inside of company or network show. Leading up to the Super Bowl, having former player and sports reporter Pat McAfee on Sports formatted stations, makes sense. The important thing with offering 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!
Tips For Interviewing Guests
- Mike McVay
- Every guest has a purpose for being on the air. Usually it is to promote the guests project. Does the audience care about the guest’s project? If not, but the guest is amazing, then touch the project topic and get to the entertainment.
- Get to the question. A set-up for a question should not be more than two-sentences. The reason for interviewing a guest isn’t for you to talk. It’s for the guest to talk.
- The purpose of the guest is for you to ask them what the audience wants to know … and then let the guest answer … and listen to what they’re saying. What they’re saying sets-up the next question. That turns the interview into a conversation, which is always more enticing.
- Reset the interview as you move through the interview by reidentifying the guest.
- EXAMPLE: The Doobie Bros will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; Will it be the Tom Johnston Doobie Bros or the Michael McDonald Doobie Bros? That’s the logical direction you go with the line of questioning.
Who Is The Competition?
If you are a movie buff, you’ll remember the scenes and dialogue from the classic flick “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Butch and Sundance (Paul Newman and Robert Redford) are two lovable desperadoes on the run from a powerful enemy who seems to be able to guess their every move. They are outflanked, outmanned and overpowered. Newman and Redford are clever and quick, but every time they feel like they’ve eluded their pursuers, guess who shows up and blocks their escape? The famous line is delivered by both Robert Redford and Paul Newman. “Who are those guys?” You may feel the same way if you’re in a market situation where the competition always seems to get the better of you. We maintain that if you can answer that key question, “Who are those guys?” you’ll have a great start toward figuring out how to become a winner when the ratings are released. You might even have your competitors asking the same question about you.
Before your next big rating period take the time to find out more about your competitors and what they are up to. Enlist the help of your staff to make this a team project that will bring you knowledge and help your people understand what it takes to win the ratings sweepstakes.
Assign each member of your airstaff the job of listening and analyzing a competing station. Since this exercise goes beyond formats, the assignments don’t have to be in exactly the same format area. Make sure you include the top stations in your market and especially the stations you share audience with. Assign a specific daypart and ask them to aircheck a key hour. The hour should start at the top and include every element. Encourage your staff to record this hour themselves, or you may simply want to hand them the hour (already recorded) to analyze. This will allow your morning show to listen to another AM drive approach and so on with other dayparts. The other critical part of this exercise is the comparison between you and “those guys.” Make sure you compare this hour with the same hour on your station.
There are seven key areas to examine for each hour you explore.
1. Call Letter Mentions & Positioning Statements
- How many times are call letters and positioning statements mentioned?
- How does your count stack up against the other station?
- Make sure it is noted how the call letters are placed. Front and back sells, weather, traffic and news mentions all count.
- Are these identifiers really being sold? Are they spit out with no enthusiasm or in inappropriate places?
2. How Many Songs Did Each Station Play?
- Music quantity is a big deal in most competitive situations.
If a direct format competitor plays three or four more songs each hour than you, you’ve got a problem!
- If you have the quantity issue under control, what about their song choices? Are they playing established hits? All gold? Mostly current music?
- What’s the overall tempo of the music? If the other guys are a 3 on a scale of 5, is your station at a slower or faster tempo on average?
- Who is the narrow target for the competition? Does their music selection hit their target?
3. Local Mentions and Listener Interaction
- Whether or not a station can “localize” well is a key component of winning and truly being a part of your community. Try to quantify how and how often your competitors (and you) connect with the community.
- Could the show you are listening to come off a satellite or does it get specific about your town and area?
- When listeners appear on the phone or in the studio do they bolster a local image, or could they be calling from anywhere?
- Does the personality have a handle on what’s going on in your town?
4. Produced Elements
- Production value is something we often mention in aircheck reviews. Too many bells and whistles can have the effect of overproducing the sound of a station. Under-producing can create a lifeless feeling station that rarely has energy or creates forward momentum.
- Produced liners, beds under talk segments, pre-produced intros to features, stagers and stingers to introduce information elements, even corny sound effects should be noted.
- What’s the biggest difference between the most produced and least produced station in your market?
5. Weather Mentions, Liners and Station Promos
- Weather mentions are extremely important in AM drive and not so important in other dayparts. Focus groups on morning shows indicate a high level of interest in today’s weather and what time it is.
- Are the forecasts formalized or just quick one-liners? Does the station tie its positioning and call letters into information elements?
- Liners and promos are a critical part of every daypart. How often the liners appear and the content of promos should be noted.
- Does the air talent (or team) make the liner sound fresh or are they just reading it.
6. Stop Sets
- A stop set either contains commercial content or revolves around info elements.
- A liner between songs doesn’t count as a stop set.
- Note the number of stop-sets and where they occur in the hour.
- Note the number of national vs. local spots. (Pass the local advertiser info. to your sales department.)
- What is the total number of commercial units on each station?
7. Contesting and Promotions
- With a rating period underway almost every station will have some kind of contest on-air. Some minor promotions or smaller contesting will likely appear on each station too.
- How often is the contest mentioned in an hour?
- What is the prize? How do you win the contest?
- What other media are being used to promote the contest?
- Enlist the help of your entire staff to bring in any direct mail pieces, recorded TV spots, clip print ads, note billboards, call-outs, and e-mails or web site mentions connected with the contest. Do listeners have a real chance to win prizes? Can a station create increased time-spent-listening if their marketing budget is devoted exclusively to contesting? Is the station fielding too many smaller contests along with a major giveaway? All of these comparisons will be helpful as you sift through his information.
We started with a simple question from a movie classic, “Who are those guys?” When this project is completed you should have a terrific overview of what’s happening in your radio market. The best benefit of this analysis is what it will do for your airstaff. Most PDs listen to the competition, but it’s unlikely that your morning show, midday or afternoon personalities have spent much time listening to their counterparts on the other stations. Deficiencies will jump out as you look at these reports and you may find that where you are right now puts you ahead of the curve for your market. When you have a complete snapshot of the market, get your staff together and present the information. Point out adjustments that have been made to counter what the other guys are up to.
Oh, and if you haven’t ever seen it, look for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” on Netflix. It’s a classic. Old … but still very entertaining.
The Past Is The Present and The Future
- Mike McVay
This article comes from 2006. Fourteen years later, these philosophies continue to hold true. The Philosophies that built McVay Media.
Inside Radio 2020 Interview
- Mike McVay (January 2020)
Q: What formats will grow and which ones are challenged in 2020?
A: Classic Hits and Adult Contemporary will continue to grow as the radio audience ages. Formats that are used for At-Work listening have the most upside. Classic Rock also has upside potential, but only where the station stays true to the format. News/Talk will do well. See next question. – Those who will be challenged will be Sporting/Talk and CHR/Contemporary formats. Sports because the NFL, MLB and NBA compete with radio by providing their own APPS that deliver Play-by-Play audio and video. Sports Talk is no longer exclusive to radio.
Q: What impact will the election have on all news and news/talk?
A: We’ll see News/Talk show some nice spikes as we go through the Primary and the General elections. The impending impeachment with also show rating growth. News/Talk stations on the FM will do better than AM News/Talk stations in PPM markets. That is if the FM signals are full market. Those local talent who relate to their market will do better than those that simply echo what Rush, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Ben Shapiro have to say. They’re special and unique. Local talent should do that.
Q: As TSL among younger demos continues to decline, will upper demo formats become even more dominant?
A: The TSL of upper demo stations won’t increase, but the Cume will stabilize. Possibly even increase as the audience continues to age.
Q: How will the role of data continue to shape programming decisions?
A: Research has been an important part of the assessment of entertainment since before Shakespeare did performances in the round. If you don’t know what the audience wants, then how can you ensure success. Companies like Amazon, Apple, Proctor & Gamble spend millions on research. Research will remain critical to the success of radio. The level of competition will continue to increase as time marches on. Innovation driven by research will remain critical to the success of radio. Perhaps even the mediums survival.
Q: How will the availability of digital platforms spur more programming innovation and experimentation?
A: Entertainment delivery companies are going to further divide. The biggest difference between radio and audio streaming services isn’t whether one carries commercials or not. Radio has limited channels versus a streaming or satellite service that has almost limitless entertainment channels. Their only limit is technical, not limited by the government, and at best radio in North America has its primary channel and two HD channels. We should evolve as Norway has done and move to 100% DAB. Television doesn’t require the audience to have an over-the-air antenna. When radio gets there, and we fully transition to an Audio service, we’ll be better able to compete for a young audience. This is in the future for radio.
Q: How will podcasts continue to fit into the picture?
A: We’re living in an on-demand world. The development of large podcast platforms is important to enable the user to sift through the massive amount of “content” that is available. We need someone else to sift through the content for us. Imagine a Netflix of Podcasts. That’s where the world is moving.
Little Things That MATTER
-Bruce Gilbert (SVP/Cumulus Media - Westwood One)
1. Don’t promote a Sunday show on Monday. Promote it Thursday-Saturday.
2. Never talk about anything visual without posting it on social first and then referencing it for the audience when you talk about it live on air so they can look it up and see it and not feel left out.
3. One message per promo or liner.
4. Follow the format clock. Stay on time.
5. PLAN AHEAD - ALWAYS - don’t wait until the last minute. Plan next month this month, plan next week, this week. Plan tomorrow today. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN.
6. Your first idea is likely the same “first idea” your competitor came up with.
7. When you open the mic you must be immediately interesting. Slow starts, ramping up, giggling about something that happened off-air or referencing things that already happened are ratings killers. The Mic “On” button is the “GO NOW” button.
8. Don’t discuss your shifts on-air; “Hour #1 in the books”. “Halfway through the show”. “With you until 10 O’clock”. Nobody cares what your on-air hours are – they just want to be entertained. The parameters of your show serve you, not them.
9. Audio, Audio, Audio. For every story you plan to do on the air, think about what audio you have - or can get - that enhances, highlights or amplifies the discussion/story/bit. Ditto on social posts.
10. Teases matter. Every missed tease is a blown opportunity to hold your audience.
11. Exact times matter. Telling someone to tune in “Later today”, “this afternoon between 2 and 6” or “In the one o’clock hour” is not real language and does nothing to help your ratings.
12. Don’t lie. People aren’t dumb, they know when you’re not telling the truth.
13. Be authentic. Listeners want to listen to REAL people with real lives, real stories, real struggles, real families, real interesting information. Announcers and people that talk DOWN to the audience never really develop a loyal audience.
14. Use the word “YOU” every time you reference the audience/listeners. Every time you say “A lot of you out there” and “hey everybody” or “folks” or anything similar you are missing a chance to connect with someone one on one and spoiling radio’s #1 attribute - the intimacy of the companionship for that ONE listener with headphones on, or alone in a car. This is a VERY personable medium, take advantage of that - ALWAYS.
15. Know who you are talking to. Some things - no matter how much they interest you, personally - are not appropriate for the room. Know the room, know who is in the room and be smart about your choices.
16. Develop a thick skin. If you do nothing, you’ll never get noticed. When you do something, you will not only get noticed you might attract some haters. Nasty people only know how to be nasty and you have NOTHING to gain by acknowledging them and engaging with them in any back and forth. They have NOTHING to lose, you have EVERYTHING to lose. Being able to IGNORE the noise is vital to your success.
17. Understand what your station stands for and how can you best represent that.
18. WRITE MORE, wing it less. We all may have a real gift to gab and a super quick wit and that is fine, but when you have something that’s really important to convey to the audience, writing is preferred. When you can choose and then proof and re-write your words it’s always going to “print” better when it goes live.
19. Stop doing anything that you are doing simply because “we’ve always done it that way”. History is helpful, but history can also hold you back. If you are doing anything that no longer holds value today or moving forward, dump it.
20. Evolution is your friend. Change is inevitable and doesn’t always have to be negative. Change can also be exciting and fun and imaginative. Be a change agent in your building. This will keep your show fresh and provide “oh wow” moments. Remember, if something starts to feel “comfortable” it might actually be “boring”.
21. Practice your storytelling. Quick engaging beginning… interesting, detailed and juicy middle... payoff. Practice it like you would practice a sales pitch. Payoff could be a punch line, could be a statement, could be a reason why you do or don’t like something anymore etc.
22. Be opportunistic. Look for things happening in your town RIGHT NOW that YOU or someone on your team can get involved in, help with, support, denounce - whatever puts you in the storyline without making it about you. Get IN the conversation. if you’re doing/acting/living what your audience is talking about, it gives you a real advantage.
23. Live tweet/FB/Gram events that matter to your audience. Big sporting events, award shows, concerts. Do live commentary during the event so your core audience will see you in the conversation they are having about the same #subjects on their favorite social channels.
24. Support your brand 24/7 - not just the time you are in your building. When something happens that is important to your audience – no matter when - they expect their favorite media brand to react in real time. Fans expect instant gratification.
25. Don’t read liner cards. If that is part of your job, then read the card, make your own notes and then TELL me what the liner card said, don’t READ it.
26. Never talk down to the audience. if you want respect you have to treat them with respect. Every listener/voter matters. If you want votes, you have to earn them.
27. Likeability matters. It’s ok if listeners don’t always agree with you, or don’t love everything you say or every song you play. If they LIKE you, they will stick around. Be likeable, it matters.
28. If you have guests on your radio station be sure you introduce and identify them before, during and after you have them on your show. It’s really frustrating for listeners to hear unfamiliar voices and not know who is speaking.
29. Don’t telegraph breaks. “We have to pay bills” “We’ve got to keep the lights on” “On the other side” “When we come back” “We have to take a break” or music playing into breaks is like waving a flag and saying “here comes some commercials”. Be entertaining, then shut up and play the commercials.
30. Grab ‘em when you got ‘em. EVERY moment matters. Attention spans are short. If you aren’t interesting in 8 seconds or less, people WILL tune out.
What Is Adult Contemporary
Adult Contemporary, in its truest form, is what its name says. It is contemporary music for adults. That generally means that the stations Recurrents are already gold on a Top-40/Pop Contemporary station and its Currents are the Recurrents from Top-40/Pop Contemporary. The cycle of success for AC is often dependent upon other formats. Meaning, when Top-40 is in an Urban leaning cycle, Hot AC and AC perform better in the ratings as there is a slice of the audience that does not like Urban leaning music.
The greatest difference in the flavors of Mainstream AC can be found in the Gold library. How far back do you go? Meaning are you playing Top-40 hits from the 80s, 90s, early 2000s? The gold is generally from the Top-40 Gold category. That is all of the gold was once played on Top-40. Most of the successful AC’s in North America focus on music from 2000-2018 with a couple 90s. Some play a song or two per/hour from the 80s. Those would be the late 1980s songs that sound like they belong in the 90s. My ideal hourly clock on a Mainstream AC is to categorize the music with 1 song from the late 80s, 1 Power 90 and 1 Regular 90, 1 Power Early 00s, 1 Regularly Early 00s, 2 Power Late 00s, 2 Regular Late 00s. Add to that 1 Recurrent, 1 Power Current and 1 Regular Current. That gives you a 12-song hour.
Soft AC plays more older gold. A significant amount of the gold comes from the AC format when that format had exclusive artists, mixed with former Top-40 Hits. Meaning Seals & Crofts, Michael Bolton, John Denver, Olivia Newton-John, Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand. One will hear songs that were once big hits in a time when AM stations played music, that have been lost in recent years, which gives the format an image of variety. Simon & Garfunkel, Debbie Boone, Amy Grant, Pure Prairie League, Huey Lewis, Rod Stewart, James Taylor and Carly Simon. The strength of the song and the texture/tempo of the song have a lot to do with the rotation the song receives. Most of these stations play no currents, except for the occasional soft hit like Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s song from A Star is Born.
There have been several AC Programmers that have approached me about creating a Soft & Contemporary format. That would be akin to the burgeoning theory that Soft AC can be newer and softer. This format, as described to me, could be this generations “Relaxing” format. It takes the place of yesterday’s Smooth Jazz (NAC) or yesterday’s Easy Listening (Beautiful Music) format. The necessity would be that the music be familiar, tempo based, almost Triple A in delivery, and have as little clutter as possible. That means a low commercial load. No contests. Very few promotional messages. Air talent that sound like real people and avoid “Silly DJ Games.” I believe that there is an opportunity in this arena, but it will require significant marketing to break through the noise that exists today. Longtime AC and Country Programmer Sue Wilson, a former McVay Media consultant, has crafted such a format. It is worthy of consideration.
Better Story Telling: How to Make It Strong and Direct
Storytelling is the key to communication in media. Be it on-the-air, on a podcast, during a newscast, a sportscast, a You Tube Video, from the stage during your musical performance … whatever and where ever.
I am excited to share this link with you as it was shared with me. Mike Birbiglia shares how and why he tells stories and how to do it in a strong and direct fashion. Find the full article HERE. This comes from www.fastcompany.com.
The Commonalities of Great Morning Shows and Great Morning Talent
- Mike McVay
Coaching Talent; A message to Program Directors
- 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 Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The Commonalities of Great Morning Shows and Great Morning Talent
By - Mike McVay
For the Talent:
• The anchor or co-hosts are intelligent, topical, understanding of their audience’s lifestyle and connected to the community in which they broadcast.
• The best performing morning shows are fun, funny, positive and encouraging and overall entertaining. The shows are fast paced and provide audio adrenaline to the audience.
• Great talent stand 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’s character. What’s the purpose of your show.
• They are continually 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 over the trees. Meaning that they aren’t so close to forest that all they see are the trees. They 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 show is MAPPED. 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 Topic Pulse for Topics (What’s Trending) or other social media tracking programs to be able to follow what your local community is talking about on this specific day.
• It’s OKAY to be political and be controversial WHEN it touches a high interest topic. The big shows never take a side, unless the show is on a Talk Station that has a particular bent or lean.
• FUN is the reason for the audience to tune-in daily.
When They Say "Winners Win!"
By - Mike McVay
Jimmy Fallon hosting The Tonight Show on a Sunday night. Following Sunday Night Football.
Do you think Fallon grumbled because he had to work on a Sunday night or if he thought “how do I take advantage of the huge audience that will be watching TV on Sunday Night Football?”
This is what people mean when they say Winners Win!
How Do You Pysche Out the Competition?
By - Mike McVay
On a recent weekend, a friend and I went to an Atlanta Braves baseball game during their Braves Alumni weekend. We met several former players and spent some time talking to them.
One player that we spoke to was Ryan Klesko … a legendary Braves player who in his late-40s looks like he could still play. Ryan shared that his WALK-UP SONG (the song played as a player walks to the plate to bat) was “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood. He said that it psyched him up, but it also psyched up the pitcher.
He wanted the pitcher to be full of adrenalin so that the pitcher would shake off whatever pitch the catcher wanted him to throw. He knew that the song would make the pitcher want to throw a fast ball. Thus, he’d be prepared for a Fast Ball in the strike zone and look for that pitch to hit.
Think about it. He was “Counter Programming” the pitcher.
How do you counter program?
How do you psyche out your competition?
Are you focused more on your station than the competition?
It’s a lost art whereby we, as PD’s, pay attention to what the competition are doing and then work to outsmart them.
So many PD’s that I speak to feel that if they work to make their station as good as it can be, they’ll win. That’s not necessarily true. You need to be that focused on your station, but you also need to know what the competition is doing, and block or counter-program against the station.
Psyche them out.
Study: Stop-Set Conundrum Solved
By - Mike McVay
Programmers have debated where to place stop-sets and how to divvy commercials up in the hour for years. A recent study appears to have finally uncovered the magic formula for minimizing tune-out. The findings may convince some stations to cut spot-loads.
Easily the most-dense, highly nuanced of the half-dozen studies presented at regularly scheduled Nielsen Ratings annual Fly-Ins, “The Impact of Commercials on Station Performance” came to a simple yet pragmatic conclusion: two stop-sets an hour, each straddled across adjacent quarter hours, appear to maximize AQH performance. To reach that elusive answer, Nielsen Ratings VP of customer enhancements John Snyder correlated October PPM data from the top 15 stations in the top 10 markets with stop-set placement and commercial counts.
“Every time a station breaks, some part of the audience bolts,” Snyder said. “The more opportunities you give them to bolt, the more missed quarter hours you’re going to have.” (Five minutes of listening are required for Nielsen Ratings to credit a station with a quarter hour).
The study found a correlation between AQH Differential — or temporary listener bounce caused by
commercials — and missed quarter hours. Although evenly spreading out spots appears to reduce
bounce, more breaks turn listeners away, Snyder said. Placing commercial breaks at the top and bottom of the hour (or at the 15 and 45 minute marks) would minimize bounce and reduce missed quarter hours.
The average station could increase its AQH performance by 35% by getting credit for all the quarter hours in which listeners heard the station, Snyder said.
“Don’t assume that commercial time can be increased without impacting AQH,” Snyder said, adding that he hopes the study leads broadcasters to reduce spot-loads, making radio a more pleasurable medium, thus driving up ratings and demand for spot inventory. The average station in the study places just 9.5% of the hour’s spots in the first quarter, 31% in the second, 23% in the third and 36% in the fourth.
Country, regional Mexican and urban AC run the most commercial minutes per hour among music
formats. There doesn’t appear to be an AQH difference between stations that run higher levels of units vs. higher level of minutes, the study concludes.
The Steps to Winning Programming
By – 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 40 years of consulting and my most recent experiences working inside a major broadcast company
MUSIC: I feel as though music is the most important part of a music driven radio station. Music selected for the station should be a group decision among the program director, music director, and the VP/Format. Your market’s VPPO should be involved with you (the PD) in setting the stations music direction and essence. It should be a collaborative decision. Your music choices should be based upon local callout (if you have it), the National Research and chart from your VP/Formats, M-Score, Airplay Intel, tracking on-line exposure and trends as well as using BDS for the monitoring of stations similar to the dynamics of your station. All of our stations have BDS accessible to them. Music should be on-point and should be scheduled so that each quarter hour is representative of the format.
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 moving. The more real you are, the better connection you’ll have with your audience. You need to have personalities that the listener can identify with or be greatly entertained by when they listen.
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 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, being seen and talked about is what keeps a good radio station on peoples’ minds. You will need more than on-air promotions, though, if you plan to grow your cume. You will want need marketing to do that. That means on-line marketing via website ads, social media, Facebook, Instagram 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 Digital TV platforms, then maybe, but as far as local TV … news is the only thing worth investing in and that’s best for marketing spoken word stations
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Getting a station with organizations like St. Jude Children’s Hospital or Children’s Miracle Network, Salvation Army, 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 in 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. Do NOT “flip the switch and walk away.” These simple things don’t take up much airtime, they sound great on the air, and most of the time lead to free local press coverage.
LISTENERS AND THE ADVERTISERS: If you keep harmony with both, then the reward is increased share and increased revenue. When your station is on the air, it should be the one that listeners and advertisers say is their radio station. This is because it not only satisfies their radio listening needs, but also properly reflects the community.
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. By working with and knowing the goals, personalities and skills of each on-air personality, she/he will send the message that you not only care about the product but most importantly that you care about the individuals’ careers.
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.