Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Role Development

The 'key ingredient' for any jock/personality is to develop a 'role' with the audience. To visualize it take a look at sit coms where we have actors usually playing characters. Sinefeld was the 'observer with a unique angle' and used that platform to build a character that took funny views of the things in everyday life. Ray Romano built his show around a husband/wife/family relationship where he was mostly the 'unfortunate' one that couldn't quite get it while being lovable. Charlie Sheen plays the hip playboy in Two and Half Men living with an opposite nerdy brother and a little kid who gets more of his playboy lifestyle than we expect.

All of these people are actors and do a great job of playing their roles and developing their characters. How many of your air staff members approach their daily shows with an eye/ear on role development and realize that they are creating a character? I bet most of them would tell you they are seeking to 'be themselves' on the air.

So who wants to listen to a guy who lives in a sound proof room? We have to create and develop roles that the audience can understand in the time they have to listen. When Ray Romano creates his character he only has 20 minutes to develop the story and build his character. So we don't get a ton of insight - mostly that he's into having sex with his wife but she's a bit cool on it, his parents live across the street and are a pain in a rear, and his brother is mostly a loser. It's pretty simple stuff to build a show on and with only 20 minutes that's about all we can expect.

In Morning shows you have a whole different game to play with multiple personalities and a lot more time to develop them as we typically talk more. But, for years we've focused a lot on that daypart - it's time to work on the rest of the day and I bet most stations haven't spent the time and effort to coach and develop roles the rest of the day.

The lesson here is keep it pretty simple and basic and make sure to develop it well enough to cut through. Here's some roles that we often hear somewhat developed in our non-morning show air staffs that you might consider:

In Touch Jock: They know what's going on in the world on a general platform. They follow TV, Movies, Sports, Music, Personality, and the Community and work in the headlines almost every day.

Music Expert: Focused on the music and they know it inside and out. They offer some critiques, inside info on tours and new releases. Great on the concert scene also.

Everyday Joes: Almost as if you plucked someone out of the audience and put them on the air. They follow everything the audience does and relate to it in a way that sounds natural. This is usually not the deep voiced or formal sounding jock.

Wild Ones: It seems like they party all the time and are everywhere there's something happening in the market. Every event they hit is an adventure with drama, zany moments, and edgy actions.

Cool Ones: Rather laid back with a 'just the facts' attitude. This one is pretty hard to pull off and make an impression with. You can do it on screen with looks a lot easier than on the radio where we can't use those tools.

Rule Book: We hear this character a lot, but it usually doesn't make any impression on the audience. They execute the backsell, liner, billboard deal well with a smooth delivery and everything is well positioned, but it's usually about as entertaining as listening to auto phone answer systems.

The Mayor: Sooo plugged into the community. If there's 3 people at an event they are one of them. They have touched so many people personally they get known. How many times have you seen a jock who doesn't sound that great on the air, but seems to have huge numbers and a big following. Chances are they are The Mayor - they ran for the office and never quit once they got the job.

There are a lot more roles out there. If you're on the air or if you're coaching the air staff make sure to take some time and look closely at Role Development in every coaching session. If you want to build real personalities instead of just some taking heads this is THE KEY to doing it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Personalities and Tune Out

In Mark Ramsey's excellent NAB presentation on Seducing PPM one of his conclusions focuses on tune out around the 'open mic' vs tune out during music. Of course the data is not favorable for the jocks. For most stations it's at least twice as likely that the audience will tune out.

While some of this may be jocks that have nothing to say, are un-prepared, or really don't know anything about the audience and can't relate to them. We all know there are personalities that have huge followings and DO connect with the audience. But, there could also be another factor at work here - OUR FORMATICS.

When do you hear from the jocks? In most clocks you hear from them 4-5 times an hour. 2-3 of those exposures are just BEFORE THE SPOTS. So what has your personality become? A SET UP MAN/WOMAN FOR THE SPOTS. The jocks clue in the audience that - COMMERCIALS IN 20 SECONDS. So what do they do? Start hunting for more entertainment and avoid the spots.

If we somehow re-worked the clocks so the personalities were doing more between the songs and perhaps we started going from a sweeper into spots perhaps our personality assets wouldn't end up in the audience trash bag as much.

Mark's presentation is great reading and he also has a video on it on his web site check it out here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Rock Music for 25-54s

While Classic Rock is no doubt a great format and we've seen a whole bunch of winners playing the 'music that's stood the test of time' it's a tough format to keep alive in the long run. The problem is New Music. Yes there are so many great songs that seem to never completely burn out in the library, but it's still a challenge to make Freebird sound exciting enough to hang out for a spot break to hear it for the millionth time.

There are new songs out there that could be played. Just look at the new Springsteen E Street Band reunion. It debut at #1 in sales and hung in there for 2 weeks. The song is a very well done Springsteen tune that in the 80s would have been zipping up the charts. There's a ton more of the vintage artists that have tried to keep putting out new music and there's also a bunch of artists that really are compatible with rock. Why couldn't we play Coldplay if we play U2 or perhaps even taken on John Mayer or Dave Matthews if we played the Eagles? We play old Ozzy all over the place, but little happened with the new Ozzy outside of all the active rock airplay which is really not directed fully at the boomer 40 plus audience that Classic Rock targets.

This same audience is paying thousands to see the classic artists perform in concerts and they are really the last ones buying CDs today. Part of the problem lies in the positioning of Classic Rock. Just like we saw in the name 'oldies,' which meant only songs from the 50s and 60s to the audience - Classic Rock means only songs from the 70s and 80s. It's been sold to the audience that we only deliver those decades and new music, even from these artists, is not in the package. So when we play it the audience rates it low on the scale. We could build a station that blends the classics and new music from compatible artists but it will take a whole new platform. Someone has to try.

A while back we revamped the Fox in Grand Rapids to include currents and still focus on a Classic Rock base. It took a whole revamp of the positioning and imaging, but in the end we were never able to make it fully work. The station gained a lot at first then fell behind as the marketing dried up just as we needed it and internal changes pushed the station off target. Had they stayed the course it was likely it could have been a breakthrough station. It's an approach that needs some research, fresh marketing, and you have to be very careful with finding truly compatible newer music.

If you look at other 25-54 formats like AC or Country they have NO PROBLEM playing current songs and getting compatible new artists in the mix. Why can't rock?

If you want to get some other views visit Lee Abrams' blog here. While Lee is seeing it from the XM perspective the reality is still there. BTW his views are a bit buried in his blog entry this week - you'll have to wander through Lee's airplane tales (always entertaining to those of us who fly and wish we could just take off in our own rig) and a few sales pitches for the XM channels, but it's always a worthwhile read.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fall TV Shows - Change and Fantasy

Remember 5 years ago on TV when reality shows lead by Survivor and Idol were all the rage? The fad that started on MTV and TV from other countries was taking over. Every network was in search of reality shows while we saw comedies nearly disappear from the line up of the 5 broadcast networks.

As the new season debuts it looks like our programming friends in TV land are sensing a trend away from reality. There are only 3 new shows that qualify as reality out of 27 new shows set to debut this fall. You can see the full line up here.

One of the trends emerging is what I call supernatural drama. Heroes and perhaps Lost started the trend and now we have the Bionic Woman, Supernatural, and Journeyman that seem to be the opposite of reality. The plots, like Heroes, are built on people with super/extra powers - the opposite of a reality thread. There are even comedy shows in this vein like Chuck and Aliens in America.

One of rules when you track trends for popular entertainment from movies, TV or music is that once a fad or trend starts to become huge a balancing will follow with the next trend often coming from the opposite pole. Looks like the TV programmers with there test audiences, research and guts are betting on the decline of the reality era and into a fantasy land of drama and comedy.

If you look back at the early 80s we had a similar trend. From the sitcoms of the 70s like Happy Days or 3s Company to a shift lead by space movies like Star Wars and ET. We even ended up with cars that talked.

Remember the old sayings.

-Change is good
-When your through changing - you're through.
-Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.John F. Kennedy:
-Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.

Keep that in mind as you listen to new music, craft your imaging, plan your promotions and coach your talent. What worked today or yesterday is likely to be inadequate in the future.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Building Your Air Talent Team

No doubt the last 10 years of content management in Radio has not helped develop much on the talent side of the ledger. As an industry we've learned to operate on a tight budget, multi-task with many PDs and talent team players handling multiple roles and many of the having very little to do with serving the audience.

We've also seen PDs crawl behind the computer screens dealing with the 'machine' that seems to run the programming. Listening in hotel rooms and on-line you can see it all the time - talent just rolling along on the air, talking to themselves (or about themselves), not paying attention to the audience and really not listening to their shows. I've even seen studios where there is no aircheck system - digital or even a boombox cassette.

As you think about coaching the talent in your halls here's a couple of tips I've found useful:

  • Avoid the Critique - Looking back at all the mistakes or blown breaks and ranting while the talent squirms in the chair won't improve their game. It already went over the transmitter. Look ahead at show prep, their comfort level in the studio, their understanding of the audience and how confident they are behind the mic. If you can take a positive approach to finding ways to improve those areas you will end up with better shows. Just preaching - DON'T - only gets them uncomfortable, under confident and un-entertaining.

  • Listen - Not just to their shows, but also to them. What are their struggles? You have to make things work in the studio and even though the engineering list with the bad pots, faulty phone system or software issues may seem like nit-picking it does make the job harder.

  • Don't scare them - The more they dread the 'meeting' with you the less productive it will be. You can show your leadership and authority with the time sheets, showing up on time, and other 'hallway' areas. But when it comes to working on their show if they fear you your effectiveness in coaching will go down a ton. What you really want is their trust and respect - not their fear.

Lastly make sure you have a plan for each of the people you work with. For some it's role development, others it's getting comfortable on the air, some need to prep better, others may be challenged in understanding the target audience. Know what you need to work on before you open the tool box.

It takes time to work with the talent and the learning curve can be a tough one. It might even be an area where you want or need a coach to coach the coach.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Fig Man Hits It On The Head

If you haven't read Bill Figenshu's comments after the NAB on the never ending question of the state of radio and where it's heading - click here.

Fig sums it up completely in just over a page. The goals are simple and the observations are keen.

Also congrats to Fig on taking on the leadership role in Peak Broadcasting. Glad he has a position to make some of the dreams from his vision into reality. WE NEED IT.

The key to our future lies in THE PRODUCT and we all see the need to get away from all the money concerns and the 20 year philosophy that sales and money solves all problems.

It sort of reminds me of the Diet Crazes. We all know that a balanced diet, patience and some exercise will do the trick, but we continue to jump on any new diet craze. Let's get back to the product and stick with it.