Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Over Hype - The Core of Un-Authentic

In today's radio world we seem to gravitate to Hype almost naturally. Look at our positioning. There is hardly a station that can't avoid falling into- the BEST - The MOST or The Number 1 trap. The contesting is also filled with it - we can't just have the Winter Escape - it has to be The Ultimate Winter Escape. Then you look at the features, special programs and weekend themes and we've added another layer of hype. The air staff often falls into the 'sound' repeating the hyped up positioning with that 'extra' hype in their sell and fills the breaks even more fomatic hyped up billboards.

What really lies at the core of HYPE is making claims that you can't justify or that are subjective. Who is really 'the best?' Can you prove it with words? Rarely can you make claims like we do and expect the audience to ever really believe them. But, for years radio programming has followed the old marketing model. The reach and frequency game of repeat the same message so many times that it reaches the whole audience and then do it enough till it becomes drilled in. Hypnotize them and they will do anything or believe anything.

This game worked well when we only had a few media to work with and were not saturated with marketing. Now that we are swimming it in all the time and so much of it follows the reach and frequency hype model the audience is not believing it any more.

Getting rid of the HYPE in your station will be a tough task but one that you have to accomplish if you are going to stand up as a hip and credible brand with the under 40 year olds. Cleaning it out of your imaging, contesting, jock presentation and your marketing will take years. These habits run deep in our products and we won't get a lot of recognition for the efforts for a while. The audience expects hype from radio - it's become cliche.

OK so what happens if we commit to cleaning out out the hype - how do you sell the product to the audience? That's what we'll explore in the next segment building Authenticity Back Into Radio in a few days.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Authenticity - The Key To Reviving Radio - Part 1

We've all recognized radio's issues and concerns as we've watched our 'stock' fall with the audience over the last 10 years. In the end our media just isn't 'hip' anymore and with so many new media entries to choose from the job of taking on so many challenges looks daunting from the product and sales side.

While all of these challenges may seem new, radio has actually faced many of them before. As FM radio was taking shape we faced a lot of the same core issues. AM Top 40 radio ruled the land and it was packed with hype. Phony DJs, overly tight playlists often playing the top song every hour, and imaging that was anything but authentic. A lot of the audience was expressing the same issues we see now that radio had sold out and was no longer hip or a source of music discovery.

In those early days of FM being authentic was a core value. Even if you picked a phony name you had to have one that was more of a natural nickname than a hyped up image. Stations didn't position themselves as the Best or the Most they strove more to be unique. The presentation was more 'laid back' and the messages between the songs were more informational than fixed on selling the product. The playlists were a lot wider and deeper than the top 40 AMs with a freedom that lead you on more for what you might discover than what you already know. While you may feel that the description here was mostly about 'progressive radio' or the origins of the AOR format these values were also present in the Beautiful Music Formats and the AC stations of the era.

Radio began to regain it's ties to the audience and the shift to FM was on. In the early 70s only 10 to 15% of the listening was on FM, but by the end of the decade it was over 50%. Of course it moved to the 80% range through the 80s.

Looking at today's 20 something and younger generation that seems to be at the core of radio's woes the one thing they are looking for is AUTHENTICITY. In the oversold world that they have grown up in they can smell a sales pitch miles away and usually run from it.

Radio is full of gimmicks, hype and illusion -- all detractors of AUTHENTICITY. From our 'THE BEST XXX' claims to the over dramatic contests, gimmick names for the stations, and endless formatics designed not to entertain but to drill images into the audience's head.

If we want to revive our product with the audience under 40 AUTHENTICITY will have to be at the core of our values. Over the next 2 weeks let's take a look at some ideas you can use in your station's culture and foundation that will breed authenticity. Hope you can make it back and I also hope you will add to the party with a few comments.