By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Say “talk radio” to someone not in the business, and they conjure a caricature: Soreheads reciting catch-phrases, now seeking to dampen the patriotic zeal they themselves cheerlead in such an unqualified way for four years.
Undaunted by polls demonstrating widespread optimism as the American comeback unfolds – and TSL erosion – their daily doom-N-gloom show still accounts for most of the format’s source material.
Programmers: We are purveyors
Not consumers. If you’ve owned or managed a bar, you know what happens when the bartender drinks with customers.
What prompts this analogy is my disappointment seeing programmers’ personal posts dishing-out day-after-day negativity on social media. It’s a useful tool for our talkers to provoke and invite. They should. That’s their job. They’re the entertainment… although if they spent more time listening than talking there, they would better read-the-room in the way a watchful, sober bartender keeps things under control.
Another parallel more relatable to radio: How well will you do if you’re a music station, and the entire playlist is your personal favorites? Quoting one of mine, by Yes: “Don’t surround yourself with yourself.”
Our task is cume-to-AQH conversion.
Sure, saving the world is important. First-things-first: Saving radio is urgent.
- When you ride-along on sales calls, ask any retailer: The best prospect for future business is an existing customer.
- Thus the way ratings experts prescribe “additional occasions of listening,” an invitation we script-into station imaging. But promos only talk-the-talk.
- To walk-the-walk: WHAT IF every time a P2 tuned-in, they heard something unexpected? Or at least more “you” and “your” than “I,” “I,” “I,” and “me,” “me,” “me.”
- Conversely: To turn a P1 into a P2, tell them something you’ve already told them, ad nauseam.
In two recent focus groups with local direct talk radio advertisers, I heard:
- “I can’t take it anymore.”
- “Too depressing.”
- “I stopped listening. And I stopped watching his TV show.”
Right now, listeners who settled for stay-cation last year are jazzed about summertime-summertime-sum-sum-summertime. So if you’ve fostered false hope over that Arizona recount, or you are otherwise hip-deep in Swamp stuff, you’re compounding the caricature. As Blutarski told Flounder after the Deltas smashed-up his brother’s car: “If I were you, I’d start drinking heavily.”
Holland Cooke is the author of the E-book “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books (click the banner on this page). He is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. And HC hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke