This Side Toward Enemy

The most important thing I learned is that soldiers watch what their leaders do. You can give them classes and lecture them forever, but it is your personal example they will follow.”– General Colin Powell


When the team is together, everyone talks teamwork.  When it’s public, we’re all aware that people are watching.  But when in pairs, or by themselves, when they think no one is around, it’s sometimes different.  They’re not leaders, I’m not even sure they’re managers, but I know they are toxic.

There’s a reason the military has “This side toward enemy” printed on the front of claymore mines.  They know that sometimes people are in a hurry, not paying attention, or just don’t understand the ramifications of which way it needs to go.  I’m sure in the early days there were cases of those devices being planted in the wrong direction.  But in the business world, a backfire is a glitch.  People aren’t killed.  Harmed maybe, but not killed.

The difference is you, and your leadership.  When you’re complaining about your boss, or another leader, when you’re rolling your eyes at their comments, or when you try to create an alliance to ensure you win, you’re planting a leadership claymore in the wrong direction

The Secret To Bigger Is Better

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.”  Rick Cook, The Wizardry Compiled


Yes, it’s a different “programming,” but the message is the same.

Everyone wants bigger.  It’s part of radio and part of our culture.  We seem obsessed with having the biggest city, the tallest building, the busiest airport or the largest house. Of course that’s why the universe is winning.  We tend to forget the difference between David and Goliath.

But the term “bigger is better” isn’t true very often.  First we have to look at the words themselves. “Bigger” is a quantitative word, while “better” is an ambiguous qualitative word.  But most of the time people don’t realize they’re playing that bigger vs. better game.  It’s just to say that having a lot of listeners isn’t the same as satisfying a lot of listeners.  Given a choice, I’d rather be involved in the best situation than I would be the biggest.  Big get’s attention, but best get’s things done.

So what do you want, quantitative or qualitative?  Biggest, or best?

P.S.  You CAN have both, but you need to start with the qualitative.

Roads To Nowhere

“If you don’t know where you’re going you might wind up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra


I was cruising along the freeway on one of those amazing “sun break” Friday’s in Seattle when I saw a freeway exit that didn’t go anywhere.  It was just a blocked off dead-end exit ramp.  There was a lot of poor government planning and financial problems involved, but being a fan of metaphors I couldn’t help think about radio’s future.

I’ve been involved in a major project since January looking at Millennials, and it’s very sobering.  There are a lot of stories in the trades about the reach radio has with that generation, but you don’t see a lot of them talking about their shrinking TSL.  You don’t see any articles about their use of radio in context with their use of other media.  It’s as if we boomers don’t know any Millennials or see their actual media use.

These people are digital natives, and are in almost continual use of media, averaging around 11 hours a day.  But they are multi-media consumers, not single media consumers.  Considering radio’s financial model, that’s disconcerting.

There are plenty of off ramps on the media highway, but we’re not using them for what they are.  All of our social media, community building, video and such, is built around reinforcing radio, not complimenting it.  The answers are there, but someone needs to act on them.

The cool part about the coming convergence between digital and media is that those startup costs are much less than buying a major market signal.  Again, the answers are there, but someone needs to act on them.

What’s The Role Of Your Talent

Dana Perrino (Fox News) in an interview with a U.S. Navy SEAL discussing all the countries he had been sent to:
“Did you have to learn several languages?”
“No, ma’am, we don’t go there to talk.”

Recently I heard that some in radio management said the music was all that counted on a station, that a the talent didn’t add much value.  In fact that the concept of “personality” radio was old school, and in modern times it was about having good DJ’s.  I really didn’t know what to say.

You certainly can’t turn good DJ’s into personalities, and maybe that was at the root of it.  You have to know the principles of personality in order to be one.  However, a blanket statement about personality being old school fade me to think, “That means the pilot of an airplane doesn’t matter, just the airplane.”

I consider the right personalities a “force multiplier,” another of those military terms I tend to use.  According to wikipedia, force multiplication, in military usage, refers to an attribute or a combination of attributes which make a given force more effective than that same force would be without it. How cool that you can have this kind of forcer multiplier at your station.

All it takes is a strategy of understanding what kind of talent and why. You can’t take the “good DJ” route and then wonder why you’re not building an ongoing relationship with your listeners. It takes strategic intent to hire or develop talent that can build the relationship. It’s more difficult than the typical approach, because, in my experience, the best talents are also the most quirky.  That’s a nice way of saying high maintenance.

That high maintenance is worth it when you’re in competition as much as we all are.  While a good DJ might be able to keep people from tuning out, a force multiplier talent is magnetic, drawing people to him or her.  They’re the elite special forces of the radio airwaves.  Strong willed, independent, unique and maybe even a little egotistical.

I don’t know about you, but if I were trouble I’d rather hear a Seal is coming to rescue me.

Changing Listeners Minds

“Persistent stories that are true, amplified by the tribe… that’s what changes behavior.” – Seth Godin


Have you listened to some of the imaging you hear on radio? Not quite “the more you listen the more you hear,” but close. We’re so busy talking about our own perspective and our own needs, that we forget that stories, not slogans, have impact and are memorable.

We write for print, use cliches, and sound very radio. But it’s not just us. Much of what you see in TV advertising falls into the same category. But we should expect more of ourselves, we’re radio people. David Ogilvy, one of the greatest marketing people of all time, once said “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything.” With that in mind, take a listen to your imaging. What kind of “image” are you looking for? Is that what you hear?

If you listen to how your fans describe your station to each other, you get insight into what’s important. The best stations find a way to reflect that self image.