Forget Everything You Know
April 13, 2015
Have you listened to a station without judging it using your own professional checklist?Â It’s not easy.Â But, in order to compete in a world where consumers have convenient listening options beyond the confines of Broadcast Radio, it’s critical that we get in touch with how consumers hear our programming.Â
Many programmers try to get out of their offices for a day every week/month/quarter/year/decade to “listen like a listener.”Â But, with cluster and company responsibilities it’s gotten tougher and tougher to find the time.Â Smartphones haven’t helped.Â If you ARE lucky enough to be able to get out of the station to actually listen, you can be assured that some problem will track you down on your smartphone.Â If you hear something that isn’t running as you’d planned it, you can probably change it remotely using your smartphone â€“ dragging you back into working when you’re supposed to be listening.Â
In fact, the biggest impediment to actually listening like a listener is usually the curse of knowledge.Â You KNOW what song is supposed to come up next on the clock.Â So, instead of experiencing the segue as a listener and deciding whether or not it was pleasing, you’re likely to focus on whether or not it ran as scheduled.Â You KNOW what promos are supposed to run, what liners are supposed to play, etc.Â Again, instead of really experiencing it as a listener, it’s easy to succumb to doing a checklist of whether or not things are playing as scheduled (while you trade emails with the promotions director about the station event coming up next month).Â
But, if you can find a way to shut down all the details and just listen to the station â€“ the way you listened as a teenager falling in love with radio (many of us did) â€“ you’ll start to hear it again the way a listener does.Â You might:
- Start thinking about whether or not all the liners and promos really make sense to a listener.Â If you were tuning in for the first time, would it all make sense?Â What would your impression of the station be?
- Wonder whether it’s more important to reinforce the station’s strategic positioning or to work harder on giving listeners a reason to smile (while still trying to impart your strategic message).Â Most listeners come to music radio hoping to get in a better mood or maintain their good mood.Â Does your station consistently satisfy that need?Â
- Consider if the jocks are relating to the music, communicating how great it is (after all, the music is tested so you know listeners love the songs).Â It’s hard to maintain enthusiasm for a playlist day in, day out â€“ but part of their job is making a listener feel good for choosing to listen to your station and making them feel good about the music they love.Â
- Give thought to whether or not there’s enough “human” contact.Â Having live (or apparently live) talent is one of the things that sets Broadcast Radio apart from online streaming services.Â It’s that warmth and connection that can help elevate listening from occasional sampling to habitual.Â
- Evaluate whether or not the production really stands out (as it was intended) or if it sounds too much like what’s on competing stations.Â TV station managers usually believe the set for their station’s local news is unique with its glass, polished wood, chrome accents, blue background and city skyline â€“ which to the untrained eye is like every news set.Â
- Try to hear the music sequence without knowing all the Selector rules and challenges underneath.Â Is it a pleasing sequence?Â Does the mix sound unique compared to the station’s competitors?Â Are there surprises within the sequence that make it feel less predictable, while always delivering songs listeners love?
The best programmers and managers in the business are always listening to hear what can be improved â€“ even on stations that are winning in their markets; there’s always a list of improvements to be made.Â If we can work to hear our stations as if we’re hearing them for the first time, we can make better radio.Â