Down the local.

The relevance of locality has changed vastly over the years. The desire for something local also changes with subject, age and to some extent, location. As someone who began working in local radio, it has always been a particular passion of mine. When it is done well, it is immensely powerful, unbeatable and potent. Tokenistic localism fails almost every time and stands out for what it is- patently false.

Just think about the change in radio from the days of Independent Local Radio (ILR) beginning in 1973 with separately owned stations around the country to the current situation with those local licences carrying national networked output with very little real local content. Irrespective of the pros and cons of all of that change, and the consolidation going on behind it within media, there is also a background theme of a change in the relevance and meaning of local to someone in any given location. The invention of smartphones, globalisation in all genres and more connected world, make the idea of “local” appear perhaps a little small, secondary and unimportant to some. Again, hugely caveated with demographics amongst many metrics. A younger social media connected person, with “friends” with an actual wide geographical spread feels differently than someone did prior to that explosion of connections on social media. Before socials existed and the like of Friends Reunited kicked it all off, your friendship groups consisted of those with physical geographic connections (they lived close by), or they took a sizeable amount of physical effort to maintain- phone calls, visits and trips. The likes of Facetime, Skype, Whatsapp not existing meant a catch up required actual travel.

Its interesting therefore, with the news that the BBC Sounds app will include a “Local To Me” section, which will populate with stations, content and podcasts with a geographical relevance.

I was pondering on the reasoning. One of the byproducts perhaps of a more connected world is actually a feeling of more isolation. A real sense of belonging. Its almost like having to much choice- you can be connected to everything instantly and so can feel connected to nothing with any great meaningfulness as a result. The strength of radio has always been its curation- I can get every song released on my app, but having someone to navigate it, weed out the duds and tell me what I need to know, is where radio in particular has always had a strength and purpose.

Developing a local curation of the myriad of choices for audio content from radio and podcasts seems like a decent point of difference for BBC Sounds, and plugs nicely into the central BBC core purpose. Content quantity and quality will be the issues at hand and just how ‘Local to me” it actually is will be interesting- and I suspect it might be more regional in its scope, Midlands, South East, North West etc? I see from the PR in England it will be “Local to me” and in other nations, “From Wales”, “From Scotland” and “From Northern Ireland”.

All in all it is interesting to evolve the local angle and perspective and add local into the mix when it comes to searching for content, and reenforces local credentials to the BBC Sounds brand.

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Listen like a listener.

Through my whole life as a programmer, the mantra has always been to “listen like a listener”. The job of the programmer, well one of the jobs at least, is to represent the listener in the process of producing any output. In the words of Bryan Adams, “Everything we do, we do it for you”… the listener and so bearing them in mind at every turn is vital.

Sometimes it can be a difficult task. You have to divorce yourself from the knowledge you have about the process of production, the back story and the rationale. The listener wasn’t in the S&P meeting, they didn’t get the email about the promotion, they didn’t hear the promo, the live read, the earlier link or the solicit for the contest. They just turned on the radio, or opened the app and heard something. Did it make sense?

I have posted recently about assuming someone heard something, or even cared. Listening like a listener requires a programmer to switch off the pre-conceived knowledge and only go on what you HEAR.

The problem is that without a doubt people who exist within radio and media consume media totally differently from anyone outside of that world. Many is the time I’ve stood in a lecture theatre with people in radio and broken the news that nobody inside the room is a ‘normal person’. Stepping outside onto the street and asking someone passing by what is important in their life would create a lengthy list before they said “what radio station I listen to”. Media people consume media differently because we are involved in the making of the product. I know that I can’t listen to radio for casual enjoyment. I can’t help to analyse it, to critique and assess it.

A programmer has to train themselves to step away from it and almost have an out of body experience to listen. It helps to ensure that you take good breaks from the day to day. I would often come back from a holiday or a break, and hear things I didn’t hear before purely due to the break in listening- I heard it again with fresh ears.

I was talking to a radio legend and friend of mine, Paul Easton about something similar. Part of the “step away’ is what you have to do when you leave anywhere that you worked. You have to decouple from the listening you once did and you once had. It helps give you the mind space to remain critical, and listen like a listener. When I left Global in August of 2020, and despite being intricately involved with Capital, Heart and Smooth regionally (and to a degree nationally), and even despite having some good friends in the thick of it… I actually listened to nothing for about 3 months. Even after that it was only a sporadic sample of those stations and nothing more. I remember when I made a very career radio station swap from Ram in Derby to Trent in Nottingham, despite emotional and personal ties I had to stop listening. It wasn’t my baby any more and I had to step away and clear the mind before being able to listen again dispassionately at a much later date. A mental reset.

Programmers, and indeed radio people in general, have a balance to strike. You have to listen more than anyone else to hear what needs doing, what needs tweaking and addressing. Quality control and snagging all the time. At the same time not listening so much that you become accustomed, relaxed and familiar to the extent that you miss the detail you are trying to hear.

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Get it right or not get it wrong?

I had a blog post lined up to publish today, about listening like a listener. It will publish at a later date and I postponed it on Friday of last week, following the news of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday. On Friday it didn’t feel like it would feel right for it to post and drop into social accounts. Sitting here this morning, when the post would have published, it might have actually been ok. Plans and reality do that!

I’ve heard many broadcasters over the last few days talk about the planning and the rehearsals for events such as a royal death. Indeed from the very first time I went into a radio studio in Nottingham at the start of my career, I was introduced to the “Death & Emergency Box”- a lever arch box file with instruction of what to do in the event of a royal death. The contents changed over the years, probably fewer CDs of national anthems and appropriate music with the advent of computer playout systems, but the general function, the overall plan is largely unchanged. The box expanded into other Major News Plans, but the constant has always been there- what happens when a senior royal dies.

Despite the plans, the rehearsal, the time considering what it would feel like- when the moment happens it changes. What seemed like the right thing to do in the cold light of day in a planning meeting before anything happened, now seems out of step and not quite hitting the mark. That doesn’t mean the plan was a waste, its absolutely required and gives you a safety net to fall back on.

Trying to predict what the mood will be like ahead of time is hard- its the job of the people in those senior positions to make their best attempt at it of course and ultimately one ends up erring on the side of caution. It is easier to ramp up than cause offence and pull back.

Since the day I first saw a “Death and Emergency Box”, media has changed dramatically. Then, Radio Trent had a classical show, a rock show, and oldies show amongst others. Now of course there are complete radio stations catering for those interests- the days of “all things for all people” services are largely behind a majority media outlets, save for a few exceptions. The original and often used obit plan model was first devised and created for the “all things to all people’ services.

I remember when Prince Phillip died – the last time the plan was tested in earnest. I was at Jack Media Group, we did exactly what you would predict we would do- and largely the planned set of actions from the original obit model: Fold all services into one, take IRN for updates and programming for a short time and then one log of, at first, classical music. It was at that point it felt out of step. For a national “Best of British” station (and largely rock centred), and a pure rock station and a dance station it really didn’t fit. We quickly changed to more station centred appropriate non- strident set of music. The first plan wouldn’t have caused any issues (“not getting it wrong”), but the refined plan worked so much better for the stations it sat upon. Evolving the plan in real time.

I listened around a bit on Thursday and Friday when the news of the Queen’s passing broke. I think everyone handled the moment very, very well. It is a very stressful moment and well done to everyone in front and behind the various microphones. The one observation I have really is just how far the planning has evolved into matching the audience expectation for the station the programming sits upon. It was also quite different from the plan when Prince Phillip passed away last year on all the services. The BBC, being the national broadcaster is always going to be in the biggest of spotlights and probably more cautious as a result, but after the initial news had broken- Radio 1 sounded like a sombre and respectful version of itself, as did Radio 2, Radio 4 etc. Keeping them all together for longer, with a single output would have been easier and a case of “not getting it wrong”, but instead they got it right.

Similarly for commercial operators. The Hits Radio stations once the initial news moment had happened, sounded like a sombre version of itself, as with GHR etc. Over at my former stomping ground at Global, where with LBC and Classic in the arsenal it would have been easy to switch everything to that. LBC took the news lead initially, but then individual stations sounded like respectful versions of themselves.

There were no doubt some moments which didn’t go as planned, or perhaps given their time again, those involved would do differently. It is quickly forgotten and the overall telling of the news, comforting the listener and taking them on the journey is what remains and persists. Radio builds a relationship with its listener, in good times and in bad times. When those busy with the on air get a moment to reflect, it should be on a job well done.

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Music is passion.

For pretty much most of my radio career, “music passion” has been often mentioned. Sometimes it is “we need more music passion”, sometimes it is “the music passion is great”. I was reminded recently about the number of times I’ve spent having conversations explaining what music passion is, and what it isn’t.

Firstly, a thank you to my friend Tim Littlechild for suggesting this blog post subject. Tim and I worked together launching Smooth Lake District and Tim hosts breakfast there to this day. Tim and John Pye were very forgiving when on one visit it wasn’t until I got to the office in Kendal after a 3 hour drive, that I realised I had left my laptop on charge at home! Anyway… back to the point…

Music Passion and Music Knowledge are two different things. They deliver different results and have different benefits. Its possible to have both, but having one doesn’t mean you have the other. Having a great knowledge of music doesn’t always equate to having a music passion. It can absolutely help without doubt, but it is important to not confuse the two. I’ve often seen programmers asking for more music passion in links from presenters, only for presenters to add in more music knowledge and info, rather than passion by mistake. That said, the discussion I had with Tim was instigated by his listening to Gilles Peterson on BBC 6 Music and specifically the All Day 90’s Rave show one Saturday in early August. Gilles has immense music knowledge about the genre and the time period and so the show very much demonstrated his expertise and understanding. His personal memories of driving the motorways to a number of events every Saturday and his feelings about the songs, artists and events added in the passion. It certainly was the case that this show had both music passion and a ton of music knowledge and they both intertwined.

Music is a diary

Music, by its very nature, is passionate. It evokes emotion, memory, feelings and moods. There are probably songs I could play that will make you cry, or feel happy. It’s nothing to do with who the producer was, where it was recorded, how far up the chart it once got or who wrote it. It’s about how it makes you FEEL not Wikipedia. Music passion.

I’ve worked with a few great orators of music passion, and one who stands out for me is John McCauley at Smooth Scotland. John has been in radio for a long time and has a huge and illustrious legacy in Scotland. It is important to know that to give context to my example of music passion from John- one of many examples I have from our time working together. I can only imagine the number of times that John would have back announced or introduced some of the songs he plays on Smooth. Probably hundreds or thousands of times for some of them, but he always sounds like it is the first time he has heard it. I don’t think during our time together I ever heard John use the word “great” when referencing a song, as in “that’s a great song”. He always chose something more passionate, emotive and descriptive to say. Somewhere I have a link from John back announcing a song from The Carpenters, (which again was probably a song he had played thousands of times over the years). His use of timing, leaving a short “thinking second” once the song had ended to give some emotion, then saying “It’s just breathtaking isn’t it”. Then describing just why in an articulate and passionate way. Why say “great” when you can say “breathtaking”! Use of words is important and painting pictures with them creates a rich image for the listener. Another example from John that springs to mind is explaining after one song that he was listening to it with his eyes closed and then how the music made him FEEL. Now not to sell him short, John has great music knowledge too and can inject that into links with ease too but seldom without giving some passion.

Music passion comes from emotion created by the song, and how music makes ordinary people feel when they hear it. They don’t need to be a muso to understand it, they don’t need to know the band or the song or their back catalogue or tour dates or production legacy. It creates a bond with the listener, whether they know the song or not, and can make them listen to it differently as a result from that moment onwards and every time they hear the song in the future. For a music radio station, there is no greater asset than the station’s music, and so something which can elevate it to a greater level is a fantastic thing to demonstrate from its presenters. Knowledge is also important of course and I’m not decrying having music knowledge- its just that confusing that for real passion is a mistake. Having gravitas, knowing your onions, and knowing the music is important, but being able to articulate how music makes you feel can’t be beaten.

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The posse.

I don’t write a topical radio or media news blog. Occasionally though there are incidents and stories which transcend the topical and general media landscape.

A while ago the news broke about about Steve Wright leaving the afternoon show on BBC Radio 2 in September, where he has been for some 24 years. That in itself is a huge achievement in the fickle and transient world of radio and media. Steve’s afternoon show will be picked up by Scott Mills, and Matt Deegan has a fantastic and articulate deconstruction of Scott’s skill set on his blog post, “In Praise of… Scott Mills.

When Steve left the Radio 1 breakfast show, I had the great fortune of working with him for a short period of time. GWR Group hired Steve as a consultant to work with breakfast shows across the group and I met with him a few times and found him charming, funny and engaged with the process.

The first time of meeting was both bizarre and memorable. He was due to come to Derby where I was at the time and have a meeting with the team (Skye & Russell- Ian Skye and Joanna Russell) at RAM FM, but I had to pick him up from Birmingham New Street railway station and drive him to the radio station. This was our first time of meeting and I had a company vehicle- a white Peugeot 305 in which I was going to pick him up! All went without a hitch and so ensued a somewhat surreal hour long journey with Steve Wright in my rather small car, and us both putting the world to rights about radio and media. I have to say he was fantastic, and the journey went without incident, although he expressed that he didn’t like the traffic filled awkward right turn at the Tyburn Road (at the time also without traffic light control!).

It was a bizarre moment to have the guy who just a few short months before had been presenting the national Radio 1 breakfast show, and before that the huge afternoon show which was ground breaking at the time, sitting in the passenger seat of my small car! The thing is, Steve checked his ego at the door. At no point did he raise anything which gave any impression that any of this experience was beneath him- and to be fair I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did.

For the uninitiated let me just place this into some context. There was no streaming, no listen again, radio existed in live, linear form only. Podcasts were not a thing and the internet was desktop and fairly slow. Phones were not smart, the most you could expect was the game ‘snake’ on a Nokia. Local ILR was just starting down the networking road, but only just. Radio 1 was still very much in a dominant position as was the BBC in general compared to commercial radio. Steve did breakfast for a little over a year, before Chris Evans took over and along came Britpop, Euro 96 and all of THAT. Steve’s afternoon show prior to breakfast brought the ‘zoo’ format to the UK on a mainstream network- essentially a team show with a cast, some character voices and benchmarks and bits.

This reminds me of an important lesson worthwhile bearing in mind: The bigger you are, the smaller you should appear to be. If you are king of the castle, everyone knows it and so if you act like you are- you re-enforce those perceptions and can very easily trip into arrogance. If you absolutely could be lording it, but are instead meek, helpful and pleasant- you unlock so much more and create an environment that is rewarding for all. It works for people, but also for brands as well. Steve may well have been thinking, “What on earth am I doing here?”, but it never showed, nor on subsequent visits and when we communicated on text in the meantime. He was generous with his time and his observations during every interaction during the short time he did some work with GWR Group.

Explode the misconceptions. Break from the expected. Make a difference.

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Stop assuming!

When you assume you make an ASS out of U and ME. Thats how the cliche goes!

Assuming listener knowledge or interest is something which I have forever been pointing out to presenters, producers and programmers in pretty much every coaching session for as long as I can remember. Its fairly basic, but I absolutely understand how you can get carried away with the latest big THING you are doing as a station and therefore assume that everyone knows what you are talking about… and gives a monkeys!

The fact is that it is at that moment that you have to be right on your game. You are doing a big thing- pulling in extra new or lapsed listeners and so its really important to ensure you don’t assume they know, assume they care, or assume they will stay without some encouragement.

I’ve been in the midst of these situations where you have a big game, promotion or contest running- or event or some smaller running theme within a show. The momentum gets to you and everyone involved, and you just go with the assumption that everyone listening must know what you mean if you just casually refer to it. Some might, but many will be hearing it for the first time and the reality is that most will have only heard a bit of the hype or news and not be aware. You don’t have to exhaustively explain, but say enough to welcome new listeners and give them some context. Otherwise you might as well not mention it at all.

Cash Toilet

Oddly one of the things which is a big obstacle is a TITLE of the activity or content. Many is the time when I’ve pointed this out to presenters who have said something like “…and we will play [insert contest name] next”. In coaching sessions I have stopped the audio and said, “What is [contest title]?”. Normally the title doesn’t adequately explain what it might be in order to give me enough understanding or intrigue to stay around to find out… “We’ll play cash toilet next”, “We’ll play the big bong shooter next”. Titles are great for marketing and name awareness on one hand, but they don’t do the whole job. Where is the listener interest in what you are doing? The listener interest is in the prize, so ‘you could win £XXX next’ is probably stronger than “we’re playing Celebrity Slug Chess next”. [I don’t know what Cash Toilet is, and I invented it just now, but I’m thinking it might be a fun game, probably better than Slug Chess as that might be a bit slow going].

The same is true with any title or activity. When I was at Smooth and we launched the evening ‘Smooth Sanctuary‘ show when the network launched I remember mentioning to a few in coaching sessions where a link might have said something like, “The Smooth Sanctuary is on later”… What is the Smooth Sanctuary? Is it a building or retreat? Does it have whale sounds and a jacuzzi? Its needs explaining, not much but enough- so “a perfect way to relax into the evening with some chilled songs for a summer’s night, the Smooth Sanctuary is on from 7 tonight…”, or “laid back songs in the Smooth Sanctuary from 7” puts some flesh on the bones rather than assuming listeners know everything you do all the time. Show titles, contest titles and content titles can be great, but they are also a crutch.

Recently BBC Radio 1 had their latest game involving a Giant Jigsaw and Greg James from Radio 1 Breakfast hunting the pieces around the country. It takes a lot of effort to explain what it is, why I should care as a listener and what you want me to do with that information. It’s a BIG ask and something they have done before with a game of Hide & Seek, Escape Room etc, but on the whole they did pretty well at being consistent and explaining it enough without too much assumed knowledge from my casual listen. Matt Deegan writes an excellent post “In praise of the story arc” about this content in his blog. I heard one particular fail, which stood out for me and my critical ear. I won’t reveal who it was who did it, but in a link which had ZERO other references to the game or activity and consisted of just a list of shout outs to listeners and what they were doing whilst listening, the presenter said at the end, “…and don’t forget to keep looking out for those pieces“. There were no mentions of the jigsaw game for 10 mins before or after this reference, and so if you were unaware of it, it would have been totally random and a wasted opportunity. Pieces of what? Where should I look out and why? What are they going to do to me? Why do I care and is it important? Are you ok?

Now as I say by and large with such a complex mechanic and a LOT of moving parts they did a good job in selling in the concept and carrying on the story. I mention it this link though because its an example of the danger when the hype gets ramped and you start to think that everyone must know what is going on and you can get carried away with the excitement. Listeners might be aware but I would bet that they are not as aware, hyped and engaged as you might think, or want them to be. If you assume they are, you know what that makes of both you and me?

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Invest in the future.

Its my personal belief that those who are in a position of any kind, owe it to the future of whatever industry they are in, to help people get into their particular industry.

I blog about radio and audio, so lets get specific- if you work in radio or audio now, what are you doing to help new entrants come in? An old boss of mine used to say- train your replacement and make them better than you. I honestly don’t know where my belief came from- it might be something of an ember of a once held desire to go into teaching I suppose. When I worked daily in radio, I used to do a lot of coaching, and also get involved in student radio– helping and finding ways to bring on the future of the industry. I would frequently present session at SRACon and training days etc and found it extremely rewarding.

I’ve spent some time analysing why it was so enjoyable. There was the ‘giving back’ element- training the future which I’ll come onto shortly, but I also found it personally helpful. Having an interested engaged person ASK you for a rationale about why something happens, or how something comes about is really helpful in ensuring that you don’t take things for granted. You re-learn and remember the reasons why you do something because you have the explain it to someone else. I have been asked questions which I wouldn’t have predicted beforehand and had to analyse and think through the processes there and then, thinking on your feet. It keeps you smart and it keeps you sharp.

Giving back. Its more than that. There is a conveyor belt, a take off ramp into the industry and without the next people stepping onto it we have a problem. About 9-10 months ago I was in the need for another music scheduler. The pool of potential for a role like that is very shallow. Now, its a job which requires a level of expertise and understanding but its more than that. There are actually very few music schedulers in the radio industry because of shared playlists, networking etc and as a result the opportunity to learn the skills required has also shrunk. Who is training up the future?

The path I took to a career in radio doesn’t exist anymore. The path that many of the people I helped into the industry over the years also doesn’t exist anymore. Thats natural and a byproduct of the evolution of the medium- no complaints or criticism. The issue is one of where the new path and the new skill share is developed, both geographically and metaphorically. Its vital that the industry invests in training the future talent, allowing them the time and space to develop, grow and shape their skills.

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Lets do the show from here…

For as long as I can remember, there has been a desire to do shows from remote locations other than the studio. Outside Broadcasts (OB)!

I always had a built-in resistance to taking shows out of the specifically built broadcast environment, unless it could be entirely editorially justified. All too often the reasons for doing something remote didn’t really match up and outweigh the positives of doing the show from the studio.

For me it wasn’t that outside broadcasts were a bad idea, merely that the benefits didn’t outweigh the consequences of leaving the studio- the tech, the structure, the rationale and the consistency of the output and quality. Shows fall apart really quickly when you take away the building blocks that make them work. A bit like my post about PREP, the thinking hadn’t gone past the first link. After you have said that you are from XYZ location, what next?

This last weekend BBC Radio 1 have been live, in part, from one of my favourite places- Ibiza for the Radio 1 Dance Weekend. The last time I experienced Radio 1 in person from Ibiza it was a massively impressive event in 2018 (see below). The stage outside Cafe Mambo and Cafe Del Mar on the edge of the sea, with the sunset behind it was truly outstanding. The output too, portrayed the mood of the island, the dance culture and feeling for the target audience. The mood matched the output and visa versa.

Radio 1 captured the zeitgeist of the island really well with a LOT of guest sets from key artists. The 2018 event had guest artists on the stage in the sea as well as artists at key venues (Cafe Mambo, Ibiza Rocks Hotel, Ushuaia etc). It wasn’t just a presenter doing their show from the studio upstairs at Cafe Mambo (although they did some of that too). Go large or go home! Subsequent years have done something similar, minus the stage in the sea, but always capturing the mood and spirit and this year, folding into the wider weekend with standout moments (from Ushuaia, Mambo and Eden). Its evolved from a “lets do the regular shows from Ibiza, to something which matches the genre, music and editorial requirements.

Now its likely that the BBC can put more resource behind something like the Radio 1 weekend in Ibiza, but even without the stages, extras and impressive structures, the on air content did more than a straight, “Hey we are live from XXX” with little more to back it up, or just linking to a co-presenter saying they are paddling in the sea! Thinking about link 2 or link 3 or hour five and hour six makes all the difference. Thinking about the bigger picture, covering and ensuring you are translating what is happening into the output, creating a feeling, mood and vibe that embodies what is happening. If you are covering an event then thats fairly straightforward- the event is happening and giving you material but for something like the above in Ibiza, its harder to embody that mood. It takes effort and creative thinking, but the prep and work is worthwhile.

Now, I’m off to sample some Hierbas Ibicencas over ice.

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It comes down to prep…

Everybody SHOULD know that you perform better when you do some prep. Its almost cliche to point it out, but still I see and hear evidence of a lack of prep.

Now please understand, some prep is better than no prep, but a lot of people are not doing enough.

Firstly lets just map out what doing enough prep gives you. Confidence to perform. Knowing that you have not only prepped what you are going to do- with enough material ‘spare’ should you need it, but also you have prepped for the unexpected- the catastrophic and unplanned event which might need you to step up- all that means you can be totally confident in your delivery, performance and trust that you are in control. You will therefore do a great job. Are you THAT prepped?

Prepping for the unexpected is hard, because its… well unexpected. It actually doesn’t take much, but makes all the difference when its actually needed. I’ve witnessed a network failure which meant that the PC and broadcast network infrastructure failed. It meant presenters had to jump into take over the output of local stations in a network early and also had a severe restriction on what they could play. Local audio only would play and all ads, anything played off any remote server was not responding. It forced thinking on your feet and then the back up prep can into focus. Those who had a bank of material coped really well and took it in their stride, confident that they could deliver material whilst technology colleagues focussed on getting every back up and running.

Even without the unforeseen events, having more than enough prep gives you the ability to CHOOSE content that fits the moment, rather than just do what you have. You give yourself options.

There are some tell tale signs of not enough prep. If you hear someone telling a story or quote from a news source or article and their only personal comment is, “Ha, well thats how it goes I guess!”, or “Can you believe it eh?”. The prep stopped when they found the item and didn’t include having a view, thought or original take or comment. Its prep of course, but at its most basic form.

I once did a session where I created an acronym- RIP your content.

R.I.P. YOUR CONTENT

R” stood for RESEARCH– gather your content, your surveys, your weird stories or talking points that you find from whatever source. Gather the material in buckets.

I” stood for INTERNALISE. Consume it, think about it and know how you feel about it. What do you have to say? If its just “Well only in America!”, or “Well there it goes then”, then you don’t feel enough and discard it. Also internalise it to the point that you don’t need the original source material- DON’T TAKE IT INTO THE STUDIO. You lose me when you start reading out a news article. TELL ME, don’t read to me!

P” stood for PERFORM. It is a performance and one which should ensure that the content cuts through and reaches its potential. You perform your material to an audience, so rehearse and ensure its give its best shot when the on air live illuminates.

Another pet peeve and one which I hear a few times in talk formats is, “well we are just going to have to see how that goes”, or “we’ll see how that plays out”, or “lets see what happens”. Its such a completely pointless phrase that you might as well say, “something else is going to happen, and then something else after that because thats how time works”. Of course if you are talking about a topical event or news story, then it is going to play out and you don’t know for sure what will happen but you don’t have to point that out. Perhaps it might be handy to give your perception or professional insight into how it MIGHT play out? What the consequences might be and what might influence how things change in your professional opinion? Just retelling me a list of events and ending with “we will just have to see what happens” is not useful. Try some prep for the bit which gives me insight?

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What are you planning?

The two most powerful words in marketing and promotion are “new” and “improved”.

I’ve posted before about the “we love new” mantra in former days at GCap, but this ins’t about that. There is some similarity I suppose because for established brands, individuals or products, evolving and trumpeting that renewal is important.

There is a key time coming up very soon. SEPTEMBER is huge for the lifestyle reset of consumers and your listeners. Is the time of the year, then listening patterns get back to some semblance of normal after the upheaval of summer. Schools go back, university goes back, traffic increases in the rush hour and the mindset changes back to the regular routine.

This is a powerful time to introduce change, to refresh and renew. The lifestyle of listeners matches it, and so its an ideal time. There are also some risks to just sounding the same as you always have done. Think about it- the last time the ‘feeling’ was the same would have been at the other end of the summer and so tuning back in again in September and finding “the same old, same old” can be a bit of a damp squib. True there is some comfort too in the recognisable and familiar, but up against something which might be familiar and refreshed, you might be on at a disadvantage.

If you have not thought about where you might refresh- then now is kind of the last chance you have to do something worthwhile and get the planning sorted. I always used to like the Tracy Johnson concept of going through everything you might have in a show and putting them all into one of 3 folders- Repeat, refresh, refuse/replace. What are you doing that you can absolutely keep? What are you doing that could do with a refresh and renewal? What are you doing that you can file in bin (to be replaced with something new). The idea is that your content sounds familiar and good, but with enough “new and improved” for existing, lapsed and new listeners.

Spend the time NOW, combing through your show if you are on air, your station if you are a programmer, and your portfolio if you are a senior manager. The timeline is very tight for September, but you might just about make it happen in time of you start right now.

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Want to get me working with you on your projects? Here are a few things I could help you with:

  • Coaching talent on performance. Remote or in person.
  • Analysis of markets and performance.
  • Leading training sessions- remote or in person.
  • Editorial advice and guidance.
  • Bespoke presentations or sessions.
  • Programming development and management.

Click the links below and lets start to have fun.