It’s Not Show Friends, It’s Show Business

It’s Not Show Friends, It’s Show Business

“It’s not show friends, it’s show business”

– Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) in ‘Jerry Maguire’

Have you ever noticed how many of your friends are not hosting radio shows? They aren’t cut out for it. Your real-life friends probably think it’s easy to do radio … a few of them may even start a podcast but no one, not even you, will listen. Love ya, pal, but who has time for that?

Many Christian radio stations are branded with imaging that includes “your friends” or “family friendly”. That’s a wonderful brand promise: no swearing, talking about sex, or saying anything kid-inappropriate. My dentist is family-friendly too, but I only go when mandated, every six months. We must be more than “clean;” try, compelling.

Lest we forget, radio is show business. You don’t work in a factory and have a shift. You work at a radio station and have a show. Shows are written, edited, and produced. They can’t be winged.

To wing indicates the capacity to play a role without knowing the text, and the word itself came into use from the fact that the artist frequently received the assistance of a special prompter, who …stood … screened by a piece of the scenery or a wing.” Stage Magazine, 1885.

The quality of a show hinges on its combination of prep and production value. Finding show prep (topics) is half the work. The other, harder, half is figuring out what to do with your prep. That’s where the production comes in. Taking the raw prep and creating something magical out of it, that makes a show.

Producing a show requires using everything at your disposal to curate the perfect moment for your listeners. Every break. Filtered, edited, outlined, and re-edited before you open the mic. Let’s examine each step.

  1. Filtered: Do your listeners care about this topic? Is it relevant?
  2. Edited: Everyone has the same access to Facebook and can see what’s trending. Listeners don’t need or want you to read to them what you saw on the internet. They want you to tell them a story in a unique and compelling way.
  3. Outlined: Determine the emotion you’re looking to convey. (A) Now, put the emotion up front. (B) Then, figure out your exit. Finally, practice how you’re going to get from point A to point B.
  4. Re-edited: Could you make it shorter? Should you add some audio candy (a sounder, clip from YouTube, or a perfect piece of music to fit underneath the break)?

For team shows, try putting a 30-minute production meeting on your calendar pre-show to review all your prep and determine what elements are needed to enhance the content. This small investment of your time will pay huge dividends.

Help me…help you. I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at paul@goldsmithmediagroup.com

This article was originally published on AllAccess.com

Want to Get Great? Get a Coach.

Want to Get Great? Get a Coach.

GM to PD: “What happens if we invest in developing our air talent and then they leave?

PD to GM: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?

Christian radio is now in that blessed season between summer and Christmas known as “Fundraising.” This holiday also includes decorations; like signs with your phone number, tables covered in decadent food, and kind volunteers hovering over your station’s phones.

 Maybe you’ve noticed that many stations and networks bring in coaches and consultants to optimize their fundraising performance. Yet, many of these same stations don’t provide coaching for their air talent outside of their fundraisers. Why is that? Isn’t a personality’s performance important the rest of the year?

 The greatest advantage radio has over streaming music services is our air talent. Alas, personalities can also be our greatest liability if they’re dull. Talent coach Valerie Geller says, “There are no boring stories, only boring storytellers.”

 So, what do LeBron James, Lauren Daigle, and Oprah have in common, other than being incredibly talented, affable, and at the top of their respective fields? Each has a coach to help them discover their blind spots and continually improve their performance. A blind spot is an area where a person’s view is obstructed. You can’t see what you don’t see and you can’t hear what you don’t hear. We all need a trusted outsider’s perspective.

 I feel passionately about this: everyone in CCM radio should have a coach who understands the PD, who understands the talent, and who truly understands the mission of Christian radio.

 If you don’t currently have a coach, please ask for one. If your station won’t provide one, I’d encourage you to take responsibility for your own growth and hire one yourself.

 In the wise words of philanthropist and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

This article was originally published on AllAccess.com

7 Questions For Highly Effective [Radio] Programmers

7 Questions For Highly Effective [Radio] Programmers

Having been inspired by recent columns about Christian radio over on AllAccess.com, I penned my own. Mike Couchman (Program Director at 99.1 JOY-FM and Boost 101.9 in St. Louis, Mo) challenged us to change our radio game by killing all the radio clichés and then Amanda Hildabrand (Music Director and Morning Show Co-host at WCSG in Grand Rapids, MI) sent us running for the proverbial programming border by ditching the Taco Bell-style programming blandness. She nailed it with this line: “Don’t be so familiar that your listeners begin to be bored or annoyed with you.”

In that spirit, here are 7 Questions for Highly Effective Programmers to ask that might spark an idea to spice up your current program offerings:

  1. What leap of faith do you need to take next? In the book “LEAP: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied”, IMD Professor of Management and Innovation Howard Yu argues, “No value proposition, no matter how unique, remains unchallenged. Good design and great ideas get copied regardless of patent laws and trade secrets. The only way to prosper under such conditions over long periods is to leap. Pioneers must move across knowledge disciplines, to leverage or create new knowledge on how a product or service is delivered.”
  2. If Tomorrow Never Comes…will she know how much you loved her? Do your listeners love you, or merely the songs you play? What unique content do you create for her that she loves so much she has to share with all her friends? I’m totally “borrowing” this idea from SiriusXM’s “The Garth Channel.” In-between songs, Garth Brooks shares stories about the songs and other artists. It’s uber-compelling. Why has no one approached a CCM legacy act like Steven Curtis Chapman or TobyMac to create an online station or app that revolves around their personality?
  3. What memorable experiences could you create for your listeners by partnering with new artists? Record labels are typically eager to provide access to up-and-coming artists. Take full advantage of this. (Cubicle concert in a listener’s office? Take them to the local children’s hospital and sing for the kids? Mini-concert in the Chick-fil-a drive-thru?)
  4. Would you be better off Ted? Could your station arrange a TEDx-style event and invite local pastors or speakers to deliver their best sermon in 18 minutes? Record it for a web series.
  5. All Politics Is Local. Is your radio station? Is “local” the goal? If so, what makes being local more compelling than literally everything else on the radio or Internet? Most people don’t watch local TV or read local newspapers. What about your local radio station makes it more compelling than a network? The answer to this is not trivial.
  6. What would it look like to be the best station in your market regardless of format? In a recent interview, K-LOVE CEO Mike Novak explained the secret to the Mighty K’s success is the vision to “just be the best radio network we can be, that just happens to be Christian.”
  7. Finally, and most importantly, ask WHO? Three years from now, what do you want to be true about your station? Be honest. If it’s completely clear how you’ll accomplish that, your vision isn’t big enough. You don’t have to, nor should you, do it all yourself. Define what success will look like and then find the people with the insights and experience to help you get there.

This article was originally published on AllAccess.com

Key to Great Writing

Key to Great Writing

Malcolm Gladwell is one of the most prolific writers of our day. His advice to writers needs to be read by everyone;  whether you write a blog, radio copy, or non-profit donor appeals.

From Gladwell’s Masterclass, a key to great writing is to avoid “The First-Person Problem”: 

“Problem #1 – if you are going to write in the first-person, you have to understand that the bar is way higher than if you were writing about another person, another object, or another activity. Why? Because the reader’s expectations are higher. Nothing to do with you, it has to do with the reader. The reader has been educated on stories of great people. When you read an autobiography, who do you read the autobiography of? You read biographies and autobiographies of people who have done something extraordinary in the world. That’s what you’re thinking when you’re hearing someone tell their own story. You’re thinking, “oh, this guy, or this woman, was the one who cured cancer, who discovered a continent, or who broke the code of some famous puzzle.” So, when your expectation is that high, that’s what you have to deliver if you’re writing about yourself. You’re facing these sky-high expectations of what the story is going to be about. So that’s, sort of, problem number one.

Problem #2 –  When you write about yourself, you are engaging in a self-indulgent act. You are dealing with the contents of your own heart, mind, and experience. That raises people’s suspicions, so the first question we have is, ‘who is this person who thinks that they’re so interesting that I have to read what has gone on in their life?’ I think that expectation concerns me as a writer. I’m not sure I have a good answer to the question of why someone should care about my life so much. That means that I have written about my own life very sparingly. Now, not never, I’ve told a couple of stories of my own life. The number of things I can talk about from my own life, that I think justify the self-absorption, can compete with the grand stories that are told about people’s lives out there is very small. Right? It’s two, or three, and I can only tell them in a context where you will accept the kind of diminished dimensions of my own personal narrative.”

It’s The Experience, Stupid.

Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign was about a lot of things. Political strategist James Carville knew that if they were to win they needed to focus on one central theme, thus coining the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid”.

Your radio station is about a lot of things.

Encouraging Music. Relatable personalities. Impactful promotions.

All good stuff. But if we are to boil it down to its core value to the listener: it’s the experience they have when they listen. The emotional payoff. We know this. But it’s easy to get busy and forget. Just think back to listening to the radio as a kid. How did it make you feel?

Now, what are you trying to make your listeners feel each time they turn on your station? Your imaging may say you’re “positive” but do I feel positive when listening? Are you willing to take a “risk” on a new song to create a serendipitous moment for your listeners? Do you give yourself permission to fail? Failure isn’t fatal but status quo is a death-sentence for radio in a world where music is ubiquitous.

Here’s a challenge: Try something on-air every day/week that you have to preface with “This might not work …” That’s where the magic happens. Reading the liners, backselling, proclaiming “Happy Tuesday” are all safe. And they’re boring. Never forget Valerie Geller’s “Rule of 3” for creating compelling content. 1. Tell The Truth. 2. Make It Matter. 3. Never Be Boring.

We haven’t all been replaced by algorithms yet. Give people an experience … a feeling. How are you making them feel?

My apologies for saying ‘stupid’ but, in my defense, it got you to read this.

This article was originally published on AllAccess.com.

Make Christian Radio Fun Again

“Well, isn’t that special…could it be, Satan?”

The memorable catchphrases of the classic SNL “Church Lady” character played by Dana Carvey are so funny because we all know someone like that. We’ve all met some super-religious buzzkill that attributes every source of “fun” as coming from the Devil himself.

If you haven’t met someone like that, then maybe you’re like that.

Fortunately, Contemporary Christian radio, for the most part, isn’t super-religious sounding (anymore). We even have the occasional “family-friendly” fun.

But what if we just had fun and dropped the “family-friendly” part?

Comedian Jim Gaffigan-often described as “family friendly”-shared his feelings on the phrase in his book Dad is Fat:

“As a parent, I know ‘family-friendly’ is really just a synonym for ‘bad.’
Family-friendly restaurants serve horrible food. Family-friendly hotels have
the charm of a water park. Really, anything with the word ‘family’ before it is
bad.”

What if our stations were the ones known for having fun?

[Disclaimer: This is not an appeal to tell jokes. There are professional comedians, such as Steve Harvey, with radio shows. If you are not a professional comedian, don’t try to be funny. But having fun is achievable for all who are willing to put in the effort and not take themselves too seriously.]

Maybe you’ve heard it said of Christian radio that “fun is not why people come here.”

What if it was?

Frankie Morea, VP of Programming for Positive Alternative Radio, argues it should be:

“Our radio stations are a trigger format for people who find themselves in
need of hope and encouragement in difficult times. We have done a great
job of helping people through loss and the various challenges of life in their
valley.Our challenge is to always be mindful of those on the mountain or
somewhere in between.

Being inspirational and caring is what we do. God touches hearts through
our music and content but let’s keep in mind a merry heart does good like
medicine. Having fun can be a beautifully biblical thing!”

What if you were the go-to station not just for spiritual encouragement, but also for when someone just wants to have fun? As argued previously in this space, everything on your station matters. It’s either engaging or disengaging.

Over 39 million Americans own a smart speaker (Amazon Echo or Google Home). It will be 100 Million within a matter of months, not years. There are approximately a billion ways to hear Christian music or get a “verse of the day” on a smart speaker. If you want your station to be a preferred destination in the voice-command world, a good strategy would be to optimize to make your radio station for fun. NOW.

Have fun!

 

This article was originally published on AllAccess.com.

Feckless Love

Most people don’t love radio. Those of us who do, likely, work in it. When it comes to radio, most people are feckless-that is to say, utterly indifferent.

Ever been on a road trip and tried to convince your travel companions to pop in to the local radio station?

…Just me? Let me tell you … they’d rather hang out at the Flying J gift shop.

Most people, however, do love the feeling radio gives them.

The feeling of connection to other people, to music that stirs their souls; and in Christian radio, a connection to God.

Creating powerfully evocative content, consistently, takes the right talent with intention, planning, and production.

“Live is lazy!” UK Radio Futurologist James Cridland is wont to say. He further explains:

“Used well, voice-tracking enables the best use of great content – yes, repeating it at times (particularly at times of crisis).

Used badly, voice-tracking and automation can make cookie-cutter radio which doesn’t look after your listeners. But then, we can do that quite adequately with live human beings if we’re not trying, too.”

Rather than debate the merits of live-and-local vs voicetracked and syndicated, what if we were all to commit ourselves to consistently delivering exceptional and emotionally-compelling content, 24/7? Does your weekend overnight girl have a coach? What about the production guy? Why not?

“People on average give a song seven seconds on the radio before they change the channel, and you got to hook them,”says Jay Brown, the president of Roc Nation and career overseer to international pop stars including Rihanna, Shakira, and Timbaland.

Seven seconds. Every piece of content on your station has seven seconds (or fewer) to capture listeners’ attention. Whose job is it to ensure everything passes the “7-second rule”?

Spotify is a free music service, and yet, 71 million people pay for Spotify to eliminate friction (non-music elements).

Of course, there are two major advantages radio has over streaming services like Spotify: 1) personalities and 2) the element of surprise (music discovery). How is your station strategically-capitalizing on this unfair advantage?

The biggest disadvantage for radio is that we have varying amounts of friction-or content-that is not optimized for listeners; namely unplanned banter from personalities and commercials/underwriting.

For listener-supported stations, underwriting is an opportunity to serve listenersbyletting them know which businesses share their values. But is it possible underwriting spots could be reimagined in a way that brings delight to listeners?

Everything on your station matters. It’s either engaging or disengaging (hello, Spotify!). Here’s to bringing back the heart of radio. Let us not be feckless. Rather, let us approach all programming with the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love for our listeners.

 

This article was originally published on AllAccess.com.

Settling for Greatness

What would the world be lacking if God settled for okay?  In the beginning, God created new things that had never before existed and then He called them good. Not okay, not passable; GOOD.

We are charged with being good stewards of what God provides us.  Why do we settle for just okay?  You may know we’ve got the best message ever to tell people and a bullhorn with which to do it, but then we bury it in okay songs with not great storytellers while we’re trying to convince listeners to come support the thing we’re doing because we think they should and then wonder why listeners aren’t loyal to our station.

Even if you’re not in a decision-making position at your radio station, you have the opportunity today to strive for better, even greatness.  Ask God today to use you to accomplish His purposes.  Decision makers, for what are you waiting?

The Natural Church Development process identifies eight characteristics of successful churches and, to get the point across, uses a barrel with staves (helpful for visual people).  The lowest stave determines how much water the barrel will hold.  Build up that stave and the barrel holds more water.  The next step is to identify and build up the next lowest stave.  The process repeats until the church is functioning well with all eight characteristics fully developed and engaged.  You might imagine, this process never truly ends; rather, it’s a constant evaluation of what can be better and dedication to making it so.

Let’s imagine our on-air product is the barrel with five staves – music, talent, imaging, underwriting/commercials, promotions.  What’s the lowest stave in your on-air barrel?  To ask it another way, where do the listeners run out?  Identifying and building up the low points give your listeners more reasons to stick around and provide you the opportunity to continually evaluate your product while fulfilling the mission.

To be fair, most organizations realize it’s next to impossible to overachieve in all areas and so settle on one area in which they’re willing to be “just okay.”  In the store where employees wear blue vests, have you ever tried to find customer support when you had a question?  That’s their “just okay” area.  Your on-air product should never be the “just okay” part of your radio station.

I encourage you to be invested and interested in your on-air product.  If you’re not, why should anyone else be?  Evaluate what needs to improve and then effect the changes.  Ask for help; you don’t have to have all the answers.

Give the good news wrapped in great songs and relevant storytelling while inviting listeners to be part of something bigger.  It is a labor of love and an act of service for it is the King of Kings to whom we answer and by whom we are called.

What needs your attention today to begin the journey to greatness?  Expect that tomorrow the answer likely will be different.