WE GET LETTERS; In response to "I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Gonna Take This Anymore"
Great article today on News Talk content.
We have never met, but we share a lot of friends in the business as I had a wonderful career over the years holding various management positions beginning at 55 WKRC in Cincinnati (Taft, Great American, Citicasters eras), WIBC in Indianapolis, and then KKOB-AM in Albuquerque (during the Citadel years). Great stations, great companies and some great programming minds behind those call letters.
Now I own an ad agency, but I stay close to the Radio business because I am and forever will be a "radio guy". One of the ways I stay connected is to follow and read your articles and commentaries. For some reason your article today resonated loudly. I have fond memories of my years working in the News Talk format, and I am passionate about wanting to see and hear 'good radio' happen in News Talk and across all music formats.
What is interesting on the agency side of things is to see how all of the media present their products. Some companies almost seem to apologize for their status, while other companies fervently "sell" their product without knowing what our clients need, while others simply present their offerings with a positive energy and with no apologies. Those positive energy companies actually ask questions, listen to our answers and try to solve our problems. Their actions are much like what you are asking News Talk programmers to do: Understand what the audience is thinking. Ask better questions. Deliver a better solution/product.
Full circle back, thanks for your clarity on the News Talk programming challenges. You are absolutely on target.
Dennis Logsdon, Toscana Marketing Group
(Here is the article)
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.
Why is Mike McVay so successful?
Because Mike does what every radio station in the world should do but don’t. He’s not only smart and a legendary programmer - but Mike McVay is the ultimate promoter. He makes himself visible everywhere!! He markets himself with little more than being there… in your face… writing articles… being highly visible on multiple platforms from industry sites, social media, and personal time - all while being smart, timely, in touch, and a true warrior on behalf of radio!
Take heart Radio! Stay as in touch with your community as Mike McVay is with the radio community!
Very few people “get it” like Mike gets it!
Bob Lawrence, GM/Market Manager | New South Radio
WE GET LETTERS; In response to "The Coaches of Programming"
Hope you are well and ready for the Hall of Fame game on Thursday! 🙂 I just read your latest Radio Ink article and, as usual, it was full of great info. I always thought that coaching air talent was like raising kids - give them roots, then give them wings. Give them a solid platform and then allow them to do what you hired them to do. Phil Jackson did not "coach" Michael or Kobe, he built a system in which they could thrive by doing what they do. Give them the ball and get out of the way! It is like holding a bird in your hand...if you hold it too tight you will crush it...if you don't hold it tight enough, it will fly away. Thank for helping me succeed by allowing me to be me within the bounds of the system in place. I look forward to your next posting.
Thanks for everything!
Jimmy The K
Here's the article:
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.
WE GET LETTERS; In response to "Listen, Really Listen"
We received this letter from Steve Eberhart, a longtime broadcaster, in response to my recent article:
Loved your column again this week!
Funny, you seem to hit my button almost every time on either something that drives me crazy or a problem I’ve been noticing.
This time the simple act of LISTENING to your station.
Example: We run [news] on my station. It’s run out of KRLD in Dallas. It’s treated as the bastard step-child of KRLD, almost an afterthought – however, it’s on over a hundred stations across Texas.
I don’t know the numbers but I’d bet there are more listeners on [news] than KRLD.
The example I often give of what could be an excellent state network is how much inattention they give it. I am usually their worst enemy, if you will, because I DO monitor my station almost every waking hour. I hear all their mis-steps and email to point them out. Not because I want to be the quality control cop, but I’ve come to realize if I don’t, no one at the network often even knows something went wrong. Almost without fail when I email, I am met with, “we’ll check it out, thanks”. All good – but just once – I’d like an email return that says, “yeah we heard it too and are looking into it”. That never happens...I truly can’t imagine how things go over the air – often gregarious errors! – and no one at the network even heard it unless I point it out. One time the anchors mic wasn’t on! Intro ran, actuallities aired, but NO anchor...I called in, no one there heard it and it was essentially 5 minutes of dead air....They called back and said the anchor didn’t have her mic turned up. She was turning it on, but with no volume. She didn’t want to wear headphones and mess up her hair!....OMG, where do you go from there??! Plus no one in the building monitors the newscasts, so they were unaware until i called...
That is so unacceptable and it is a point to your column...
Either we’re overworking the few remaining behind to mind the ships or we have a lot of leftover station-sitters that either don’t have an appreciation for the RIGHT way to do the basic simple things, or worse – they don’t care.
I wholeheartedly agree with you that LISTENING to your station is MANDATORY...airtalent sessions are MANDATORY for maintaining QC.
But then, I come from the “school of Chapman” where NOTHING was left to interpretation and NOTHING fell through the cracks – not more than ONCE for certainty.
(Here is the article)
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.