Back To Basics

15 06 2011

Programming 101

So many Program Directors try to create GREAT radio stations before they’ve mastered the art of a GOOD radio station.  It sounds elementary, but as the old saying goes, “You have to walk before you can run.”  One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to “sprint” to keep up with the competition…that will just cause your station to stumble.  So what are the elements that comprise a good solid radio station?

Music

Get the music right.  Unless you are a news/talk format, the number one reason listeners tune into your radio station is the music.  The goal should always be to be playing one of their favorite songs every single time they tune in.  If you have the budget to conduct research, do it.   If not, at least use some of the other tools that are available like Mediabase, charts and more importantly your gut.  Don’t be afraid to use your knowledge of the market and take a chance on a song that you believe will connect with your listeners.  Finally, play the hits!  More on this in my “Play The Hits” article.

Imaging

There are varying levels of imaging your radio station and some of those just depend on your budget.  I would encourage you though, if you have to cut corners on your budget, DO NOT do it on your imaging.  The “personality” of your radio station is just too important.  Find a voice talent that fits the sound that you are looking for and do everything you can to secure an unlimited deal with him or her so that you don’t have to decide what you want to produce this month.  I would encourage you to produce the imaging yourself because only you can hear the station in your head.  If you don’t have time or that just isn’t your cup of tea, see if you have someone in-house that can do it.  You’d be surprised how many of your employees do good work.  The other option is to outsource it to a production company.  There are many very good ones out there, I personally use Studio 197.  The other piece of the imaging puzzle is a jingle package.  Jingles are the icing on the cake.  Can you get by without them? Sure.  As a matter of fact, some formats don’t call for them.  Again, if you decide to buy a jingle package, don’t skimp.  No jingles at all are better than a low cost jingle package that sounds bad.

Morning Show

Your morning show sets the table for the rest of the day on the station.  A fun, relatable, music driven morning show plays a major role in building a solid station.  Meet with them and critique them to make sure they are doing the service elements: time, weather, temperature, benchmarks.  So often, air personalities get caught up in worrying about being a comedian or coming up with witty parody songs and forget about the basics.  When the ratings come out, they wonder why they’re losing in morning drive.  One of the number one reasons listeners tune in, especially in morning drive, is WEATHER.  How do they need to dress their child for school? If you aren’t giving them this info, they will find a station that is.

Community

Building a winning radio station goes beyond a great morning show and a cool sweeper you produced.  The radio stations that understand the idea of getting out in the community are the ones that begin a friendship with their listeners.  Unfortunately, many jocks think their job ends when their airshift is over.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  You have to find ways to put your finger on the pulse of your community.  Partner with organizations for events, find causes that mean something to you personally and volunteer, speak at the Kiwanis meeting, etc. 





Listeners Still Count On Us

11 03 2011

A listener called the morning show this morning and asked me if I knew how close the earthquake and tsunami in Japan were to Yokozuna because she had a family member there.  I attempted to do a little searching online and tried to help her as best I could with the brief amount of time I had before the break.  Before she hung up, she commented that “you guys were the only ones I could think of that would know.”  Wow.  As a Program Director and air personality, it really made me stop and think about how important radio truly is to our listeners.  Such a short, quick statement like that reassures me that local terrestrial radio is not dead or dying.  But…I believe we owe to our listeners to provide entertaining, compelling local content and when a call like this comes in don’t blow them off or let ego take over but give them that brief moment to show them that there is a reason why they thought to call the radio station FIRST.





Brand Manager? Content Director?

5 02 2011

So apparently I am no longer a Program Director.  The landscape of programming a radio station has changed…drastically.  While scheduling music logs and writing witty little sweepers is still part of our role today, it is just one of the many responsibilities of a PD.  The radio “Program Director” in 2011 is faced with the task of not only the “on-air brand” but the “online brand” and the “on demand” brand.  We have to continue to polish the sound of the on-air product by playing the best of the best songs, writing and producing creative imaging, and critiquing the airstaff.  At the same time, it is our responsibility to expand the brand of the radio station beyond the radio.  We also MUST be doing the social networking thing.  Facebook is to an air personality today what the request line was 20 years ago.  It is your lifeline to your P1 listener.  If you are a PD and your station does not have a Facebook page or if you are a jock without a page then I’m assuming you are still playing records.  Twitter is of course the other hot social site of the moment, but I think people and radio stations are still tapping into it and trying to get a good grip on ways to utilize it best.  So recent discussions have begun where I work to change the title of our Program Directors:  Brand Manager?  Content Manager or Director?  I mean, those titles do better describe the role of the PD today.  We’re expanding the overall brand of the station to all of these various forms of entertainment for the listener, finding as many new ways of delivering compelling content as possible.  I think I’m more in favor of Brand Manager because ultimately branding our product into the brains of our listeners is our daily goal.  To me, managing content sounds like something I could pay a part-timer to do.  What do you think?