Get With The Program Or Get Out
October 28, 2014
All is well when ratings are good and the station is making money. However, the mood around work can quickly change whenever the Nielsen Monthlies or Trends are down. The once-contented suddenly begin questioning the music, promotions, the personalities, the station website, and the general commitment of everyone within earshot.
These days, with consolidated radio, the layers of questions can reach a lot of levels before surfacing in the numerous department head company-wide conference calls. At the end of the day, an air personality has to stay focused and understand even the smallest redirection could be a result of an overreaction, misinterpretation, or actually something they really should be doing. Here is a jock who is upset because he thinks his PD is being over the top on some things.
Jock: My ratings have been good around here for a couple of years and just because we have had a couple of down Monthlies, my PD is questioning my air act and wonders if I know my audience.
Coach: You said Monthlies, which means you are in a PPM market. I need to know your target audience and what your PD is telling you.
Jock: Our target is 18-34, Top 40 and my PD is saying I'm not hip and I don't know how to talk to my audience.
Coach: How down are the station numbers and yours personally? Oh, one more thing, do you know the specific demo you are down in?
Jock: We are down almost a full share and my numbers are down a little more than that.
Coach: What shift do you do and how many formats are in your building
Jock: Nights, 6-10p. Our 18-24s are down. We have 4 other stations in this building.
Coach: I can guarantee you that what you are being told is a coming from a collective thought process from inside and at higher corporate programming levels. Your PD is just trying to cover his bases on all fronts to make sure everyone is performing at maximum levels. What he is telling you is important regardless of the numbers. Try and be objective with yourself and make sure you are relating to your audience.
I can remember inheriting a personality who was an institution in the market and a bit older than our target demo. He had a tendency to use words way over the heads of the listeners. One of the first things I did was to have a meeting with him to discuss the current pop culture factor, the ageless relatability of Dick Clark and Casey Kasem, and using simple words.
Just prior to our meeting I heard him pre-promote some songs using a word which probably made most listeners stare to the radio, "Coming up we have a plethora of great music." Hell, I had to look up the word (it means more or a lot).
Jock: That's pretty funny. I try and stay on top of things
Coach: Good, because regardless of the format or age target, listeners like to see themselves as hip and in the know. Based on your target demo, if you have any teenage friends, station interns, or some regular followers on Twitter, Instagram, or the request lines, pay attention to the words and phrases they use for things. Every day you wake up it's a chance to research to make sure you are relevant to your audience.
The basic premise for research is to find out what most of the audience wants and give it to them.
Jock: I read things all the time and pick up on catchphrases all the time, but what you are saying is to make an effort to stay up with or stay ahead of lifestyle stuff.
Coach: Yes, that is exactly what I am saying; you get an A. You need to constantly re-tool your edginess. Also make sure you select things to talk about within your target demo, and the demo changes from year to year as new listeners come in and others leave.
It makes me crazy to hear a personality on a contemporary music station mention the birthday of an artist their station doesn't play and who is outside the target audience. I recently heard a jock on a Rock station mention the Classic Rock group Journey. His station does not play classic rock and he used them as an example for something. He could have just as easily could have referenced an artist his station plays. It is a little thing, but enough little things done add up quickly and suddenly you're no longer in touch with the audience.
Jock: You are saying I need to micro-manage my words and thoughts.
Coach: There is a scene from one of my all-time favorite movies, "Caddy Shack" starring Rodney Dangerfield and a host of comedic acting crazies. It is the scene when Chevy Chase blindfolds himself and hits a shot over the water onto the green. He does it in an effort to teach his caddy about being one with the ball. I am telling you have to be your audience!
Jock: I have to be honest, I am really not sure I have kept up the way you are talking about it, so maybe my PD might have a point, but he did not break it down the way you did.
Coach: Be honest with yourself, he probably said more than you remember, but you probably shut him done mentally as soon as you felt uncomfortable with his constructive criticism.
Jock: Maybe, but I still think he is being nitpicky.
Coach: My friend, when the numbers are down everyone is nitpicking everything, but it's not about you, but it could be if you do not do what your PD suggested. Look, anyone can program or jock when everything is going well, it takes a professional to take care of business in the most trying of times. In other words, grow a pair and pay attention to your boss.