10 Questions with ... Chris Malone
November 10, 2015
1) How do you see interactive being integrated with traditional radio?
People are spending more and more time with social media and their mobile devices every day; the daily exposure rates are shocking. In order to successfully integrate interactive into your day-to-day operations it's important to find the social platforms that work best with your audience, focus your efforts, and create a plan to continually provide content to your fan base. From what I've observed, younger demos tend to prefer Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram right now. For older demos: Facebook, Twitter and Periscope happen to be the most appealing interactive tools.
These platforms are now an extension of our brands. I worked for a station that took interactive media seriously; we followed the plan a strict plan to post 48 Facebook interactions a day, seven days a week, around the clock. As a result, we gained over 20,000 followers on Facebook in a year and maintained market dominance on-air in our demos, in large part because we took interactive media serious.
It's more than posting content, but responding to your audience on social media makes it a truly interactive experience. Thanks to the digital tools at our disposal, we can integrate interactive promotions more interactive, too. Most recently, I gave away front-row seats to Charlie Wilson in concert via a text-to-win campaign. I set the appointment, gave the code, and set a call to action. Within a 30-minute window, I received more than 200 unique entries and received far more 'strategic' mileage than a traditional 'caller #9' call-in contest.
2) Could you explain how you see yourself with all of this going on?
Interactive media is fun! It's an opportunity to showcase more of yourself to your audience. Since the interactive tools are forever evolving, it's important for me to stay on top of the latest trends and observe how different people use digital. You see it at the dinner table with your family, in the stores ... you see it on television. Observe how it's being used and innovate. Additionally, use it to your benefit, respond to feedback to build listener loyalty. Use social media as a barometer to gauge the level of interest in show prep material before you think it to air. If a topic generated a lot of buzz on social media and mix of emotions, I would then carry the conversation on-air.
3) Are there any parallels between your favorite sport of basketball and radio?
Yes, you have to be able to see the entire court; in radio terms, you have to be able to see the entire market landscape, while keeping an eye on your opponent's moves. Just like ball players "watch film," we have to absorb audio and content constantly from stations near and far.
4) If you had not gone into radio, what other profession would you have chosen?
Radio has been my dream job since I was an eight-year-old kid. There were times when I would stare at the radio for hours and wonder, "Wow, how do they do that?" It's hard to say what I'd get into outside of radio, but my digital photography is my outside hobby. Like radio, photography allows you to capture so much emotion and tell a story, using something that's has a very basic concept. I love to travel and take majestic nature shots, so perhaps I have a future with the National Geographic as a photographer!
5) How do you think the simultaneous jobs you had in Memphis helped prepare you for the future?
To this day, I'm amazed at how I managed to work four different radio jobs simultaneously around Memphis. Fortunately, I was able to get a solid start in my own hometown, in a top-50 market. It was totally worth the effort because I was able to perform in every area of radio from programming, on-air afternoon drive, promotions, production, sports broadcasting, and even front desk/administrative duties. From there, I learned that radio is a mixture of business and art. Very fortunate to have an extremely supportive group of radio colleagues in Memphis, they all shared so much with me and were happy to see me advance in the industry.
6) What is your programming philosophy?
There are four areas that are critical to a successful programming operation -- music, mornings, marketing/promotions, and internal mindset. Music: Local research and Mscores have been tremendous resource in my work as a PD to ensure that the music was always in touch with my target audience. There's no room for guesswork ... just analyze the data and give the listeners what they want. Mornings: an entertaining, humorous and relevant morning show is obviously the foundation of a solid station. Marketing and promotions: requires ongoing brainstorming and idea generation (how do we attract new consumers and keep current consumers with us long). It's absolutely necessary we market ourselves through constant exposure with your audience in the community and embrace interactive media. Internal mindset: the most important of all of these, a staff that is hungry to win, understands the environment, and has a genuine love for their craft, is hard to beat. We may not be able to control what our competitors do, but we can provide contrast through our actions and if you're solid in those four key areas, you've got a definite advantage.
7) How do you see the future for radio?
Radio has the opportunity to expand like never before. It's now a multimedia industry, no longer one-sided. Listeners want to be more hands-on with our brands. As we evolve, it's important we embrace all social platforms (video, v-logs, non-traditional contesting), which enables us to get more creative with the ways we connect and engage with our audiences. Adding value to digital assets is a necessity. Over the air, our presentation will need to be clever, exciting, and sharp in our proven fast paced society.
8) Can you tell me about all the mentors who have helped you?
Forgive me in advance if I forget someone, but my close colleagues know exactly who they are. From my Memphis days, I picked up a lot from a great programmers like Brad Carson, Chris Michaels, John Roberts. In Raleigh, I was fortunate to work alongside some of the most powerful names in the industry in Raleigh, including Phil Zachary and Lisa McKay. Our collaborative staff meetings and brainstorming sessions in Raleigh were always informative and we generated a lot of great, executable ideas that worked. I've worked with radio talent coach Sam Weaver since my first job in radio and he's someone I can call at the drop of a dime for advice and guidance. Programmer Michael Tee and I worked very closely with WBZJ, I have a ton of respect for Michael's format knowledge and ability to direct winning stations. A few other names: programmer Nate Bell, morning drive personality Scott Miller, and retired programmer Rick Wagner. All have inspired and helped me along the way.
9) What frustrates you the most about radio and the music industry?
Let's hold off on the digital downloads for AC formats, please! Adults over the age of 40 just don't bother and still prefer tangible CDs! In all seriousness, I've always maintained an open and honest relationship with record reps and have never found myself frustrated. For radio, we have to build and retain audiences using every measurement tool available to us. For the music industry, they need to push songs and support artists. We both have a job to do and as long as that level of respect remains intact, it's makes a stress-free relationship.
10) How do you see the role of an air personality?
It is more clear than ever that listeners still crave intimacy and companionship. My 3 C's for on-air personalities: communicate, connect and create. Create compelling content and features on-air and across digital platforms. Communicate to your target listener the things that matter to them. Connect to your community and be visible. These are exciting times for on-air personalities, the talent not only is able to have fun executing great radio but also share their passion for music, current events, and love of community beyond radio. They can pull their fan base inside their world like never before using interactive tools.
You told us how you started, what's your advice for air personalities just starting out who have dreams of programming?
You have to be willing to do any and everything around the radio station, learn every department, because all of the information that you gather is relevant to programming. Never be afraid to ask questions, and NEVER make an enemy.
What's your favorite radio memory?
Rev. Al Sharpton visited our radio studios, back in the Memphis days. He was in town for a speaking engagement, but needed to rent our studios to do a broadcast of his daily radio show. One of his staff, turned to me and said "We need to get out of here by 4p, can you book our flight and make sure we get on a plane?" Jokingly I said, "You can't fly first class on my salary" the guy hands me Rev. Sharpton's information (credit card and all) and asked me to handle the computer check-in. Pretty cool to say ... I booked a flight for Rev. Al Sharpton!