I read the blog post from a few days ago from the huge radio brain of David Lloyd. One of his social followers asked him to sum it up in one sentence and his reply was succinct, “Identify the audience- Run it decently”. It was both a great response and also cuts to the main thing everyone should do within radio management and beyond really, as I’d argue that everyone in a company plays a role in that end goal. Now, his blog post was about the BBC and local radio and this post isn’t I should add- its inspired by David’s response which got me thinking. (Not the first time David has inspired me to be fair).
First, some history as a brief aside. David and I go back a long way- he was on the midmorning show at Radio Trent in Nottingham when I first stepped inside the building, my first job in professional radio. He has always been a great thinker and a creator in radio. Somewhere in my loft I have a cassette of David’s “split demo” of Trent and Leicester Sound, all created using tape, carts and in a totally analogue world. I would encourage a read of David’s blog posts- his unique position of having been in commercial radio, (on air, as an owner and also in middle to upper management), at the BBC and also at the regulator gives a level of clarity and insight all too often missing.
Identify the audience– it seems really simple and basic doesn’t it? It should be, although at times it can be more complex, it’s not beyond the imagination of articulate people to be able to do this. There are many experts and examples of how this can be done. In a few weeks I’m doing some teaching to some online foreign students about setting up radio stations and how you can identify audiences- it’s something I have been teaching and coaching since the early days of running PC School for GWR Group! There can be a lot of science behind it, but the principles are simple. Everyone is looking for a hole in the market, and then if there is a market in the hole. The more fragmented a market becomes the harder it can be to find a position.
Once the audience is identified, and refined- the next job is to run everything through that filter. If it doesn’t reflect on the audience, if it doesn’t pass the filter then it’s not relevant. If it can’t be tweaked to be relevant to the identified audience then junk it. Keeping things as pure as you can is the daily battle and clutter and deviation are your constant enemies. It takes a tough resolve and often you will be tempted to “just this once” take an opportunity that doesn’t fit. Don’t do it. One more thing- I mentioned “refined”- that is also important. Identify the audience, then refine it. Knock the rough edges off- sometimes this takes a bit of time and programming is always a series of contradictions and changes. I’m often reminded of Duncan Campbell (ARN Group Programmer), who I worked with when he was a consultant and then Group PD in GWR/GCap. Sitting in a meeting discussing something he said, “I’m a programmer so I reserve the right to change my mind- things are seldom black and white.”
Running it decently– again should be simple shouldn’t it? The opposite shouldn’t be your desire after all? To be fair though there is a wide gulf between decent and appalling! The number one thing to focus on is the people– you can’t do it without them and so they need to be on-side. Treat them, (all of them), in the way you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes. Occasionally people will disappoint you. Except in exceptional circumstances they don’t do this deliberately- especially if you have been treating them like you would like to be treated yourself. Events and outside influences can upset the equilibrium and cause turmoil (downsizing, market turmoil, liquidation etc), dealing with people fairly and carefully might be upsetting, difficult and require a careful plan, but again it shouldn’t be beyond the imagination and ability of people who have this as part of their job remit. I have had to have “difficult conversations”- the kind that end contracts or terminate them early, with many people across the years. I remain friends with pretty much all of them.
The programming of radio (and other audio outputs) has numerous facets but the things that makes it function, makes it gel together into that magic thing that can delight a listener, is the people that make it, create it, invent it.
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