Change Your Strategy. Change Your Story. Change Your Results.
July 26, 2016
"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." - Winston Churchill
When a brand fails to deliver ratings and/or revenue over an extended period of time, it usually leads management to course correct. In our industry, that means a format change.
I worked for Entercom in 2009 when the decision was made to blow up Sacramento's heritage Alternative station, KWOD. As much as everyone in our building was passionate about the brand, the station struggled to stay competitive once PPM became ratings currency.
A decision was made to go outside of the box and launch terrestrial radio's first all-90's format.
106.5 The Buzz arrived with great fanfare that spring and the novelty of a radio station that could segue from Bell Biv Devoe into Nirvana was intriguing for the first few months.
But as was the case with "Jammin' Oldies" before it and the "Gen-X" stations that came after it, the success was short-lived. The thrill of hearing "Baby Got Back" wore off after the first 100 spins and the station eventually cratered in the ratings.
In hindsight, we were missing the first key element that you need in order to create successful change.
You see, we had committed to trying the 90's format before we had the research to support it. It wasn't until after we made the commitment to the flip that we invested in a music study. We researched over 700 titles from the decade to find the "coalition songs" that would appeal to the masses.
But according to the study, there weren't any. In fact, only two songs out of 700 tested in the triple digits.
Unfortunately, we had already created logos and imaging. The morning show had already been hired. When I suggested that we might want to rethink our approach, it was "too late" and the music study just looked bad because "listeners have never heard this format and don't know how great it will be." We ignored the warning signs and called it "bad data."
The ratings would eventually prove that the data was correct. The strategy was wrong.
We pivoted the following year, morphing into a Rhythmic AC that played upbeat Dance hits of the 90's and 2000's. Listeners didn't notice. So in December of 2011, we flipped again, taking advantage of a format hole and relaunching as a Hot AC. The station quickly moved into the top 5 within 90 days.
We finally had a winner.
The irony is that we almost didn't seize the opportunity because we were afraid of another failed format attempt. There was a train of thought among some on the team that "Nothing else has worked. Why is this going to be any different?"
Which brings us to the second key element you need for success.
You must be willing to change your story.
We could either say we've "tried everything" and just stay where we were. Or we could say "here's an opportunity that's fallen into our lap and we can do it better than the other cluster did."
Thank God we found a more empowering story. Star 106.5 turned out to be a major victory.
Strategy and story are not just vital to success in your career. They are essential components to your personal growth.
Do you know people (or are you the person) who isolate themselves after a couple of bad breakups? It's easy to give up on love and protect yourself from more pain by telling yourself "I'm bad at relationships." The reality is if you find yourself dating people that you feel you can "fix," you have a bad strategy. By telling yourself that "all of the good people are taken," your story is blocking you from getting out there and finding the love that you deserve.
Do you know people who resign themselves to financial hardship and just assume "only the rich will get richer?" Are they spending more money than they actually make? That's a bad strategy. Blaming "the system" is a convenient story to hold you back from creating a better household budget.
Are you obese but telling yourself you can't join a gym because the fit people will "judge you?" I've been there. But not joining a gym was not a productive strategy and I didn't lose 35 lbs. until I found a better story.
The fact is that you may have tried to make changes to your life in the past and it didn't work out like you wanted.
But that isn't failure. Failure is a made up construct. What is real are the learning opportunities that help you grow.
The 90's experiment on 106.5 The Buzz did not succeed. But it did teach us the importance of having a thoroughly researched strategy when we launched the AC station that followed it.
And you can achieve the same level of results in your own life. You just have to find a better strategy and story.