You say tomato, I say…

In the last few days there has been a lot of talk of “salads” & “tomatoes” because of some comments made in a radio trade publications.  The comments came from long time radio consultant Keith Hill who told Country Aircheck “if you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out.” Hill went on to say  “the reason is mainstream country radio generates more quarter hours from female listeners at the rate of 70 to 75 percent, and women like male artists.”While I’m a fan of a good salad myself, I’m admittedly not a programmer or a music director.

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Now, I don’t have the years of experience in the radio industry that Mr. Hill does, nor do I have access to the information he quotes in the article, but as a country listener and some who works in country radio, I have to disagree with removing females completely from country radio. From Mainstays like Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood to up starts like Kelsea Ballerini, Mickey Guyton and Maddie & Tae, some of the best acts and best up and coming acts in country music are female in my opinion.

I’m really impulsive when it comes to music. I either love it and want to listen to it over and over (which is the case with Old Dominion) or a song has to grow on me (I’m looking at you “Sangria” & “Kick The Dust Up“).

Here are some songs by female artists you need to watch out for in the coming months:

Singer/Songwriter Kelsea Ballerini

– She just released her debut cd “The First Time” on May 19, 2015. Here is one of my favorites from the album called “XO” written by Kelsea, Catt Gravitt & Gerald O’Brien

Singer/Songwriter Mickey Guyton

– Her new EP just came out. Mickey has a voice like we haven’t heard on country radio in awhile and I love it! Here is her debut single “Better Than You Left Me” written by Mickey, Jennifer Hanson, Jenn Schott & Nathan Chapman

Singer/ Songwriter Cam

– I had the opportunity to hear Cam live almost on accident. She was opening for Dan + Shay at Brick Street Bar in Oxford, OH and I happened to be working the show. She is a true powerhouse vocalist. Shes an accomplished writer who has even written for Miley Cyrus. Here is her debut single “My Mistake” written by Cam & Tyler Johnson

Singer/Songwriter Natalie Stovall

– I have had the chance to see Natalie perform with her band The Drive a few times and each time I’m left more and more impressed. Not only is she a great singer but a talented fiddle player as well. She stopped into my radio station to play a few songs and I was blown away. Here is “Baby Come On With It” written by Chris Destefano, Jerry Flowers, and Bobby Hamrick

These are just a some of the “tomatoes” aka supremely talented female artists to watch out for in country music in the coming months. Check out these talented artists and let me know if you find some you like!

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Best practices to kick start your brand

It seems like every day there is the latest and greatest social media tool to hit the market that you just have to use to grow your brand. Sure, some of them end up sticking around but when most staffs are spread thing to begin with (including my own) who has time to chase down the platform? You’ll make the profile, promote that you’re now on the platform and then try to maintain it on top of the other social media you’re already doing PLUS the other duties of your job?

I remember being told once my Program Director that yes, we do want to be where our listeners are, but what good is it to have a profile on every social platform if you’re not doing great work on all of them. It’s a point that has stuck with me. If you’re making boring content and just posting because your bosses say you need to post… who would want to follow or engage with you.

There are lots of ways to connect with the listeners outside of our traditional platform but I’m going to focus one two of the more personal ways Twitter and Blogging.

What are things that you can do to help increase the quality of your Twitter feed? Sharing cat photos all the time might not do the trick. However Professor Alfred Hermida does outline 10 of the best practices for Twitter:

The 10 best practices they identified are:

  1. Have a voice that is credible and reliable, but also personal and human
  2. Be generous in retweets and credit others
  3. Link to external material rather than simply broadcast your own content
  4. Listen and respond to others
  5. Provide information that adds value
  6. Seek out the views of users
  7. Promote the most interesting and useful content for audiences
  8. Use hashtags created by the Twitter community
  9. Include multimedia with tweets
  10. Link to other networks where a conversation is happening, such as Facebook

These are some of the key ways to engage your audience, make them part of the conversation and truly grow your station brand and your personal brand. It’s also for me one of the most entertaining parts of being on air is interacting with the listeners both during the show and throughout the day.

More great best practice advice from NJI Media
More great best practice advice from NJI Media

Blogging is something that radio personalities can use to share a little bit more of their personality and their likes/dislikes. For our station I blog about things in the community as well as in Country Music. It’s also an extension of the “Country Music News” segment that we have during the show each morning. Blogger Corey Eridon points out some things that can make it a little easier for you to get started and have the type of blog people want to read. She says successful bloggers read stuff that has nothing to do with their job because a variety of sources can help broaden your horizons. I think one of the pest points she makes is that successful bloggers don’t hide their personality which I think is really important to think about when you’re writing. We don’t hide our personality on-air. In fact the best on-air talent usually amplify their personality to 11 when on the air so why hide it in your blog?

how-to-use-a-free-hosted-blog-to-recruit-for-your-mlm

Those are just a few of the many ways to make compelling content for your platforms. What do you do that is creative or unique? The challenge is to go out and engage your audience! You might be surprised what you find.

Make Your Station Brand A Social Success

In Radio it’s not a matter of IF your brand should be social but how social your brand is and what platforms are the right platforms to be on. For the most part each format has a different target audience and that target audience may prefer one social platform over another.

For example a Talk Radio station is geared toward adults. Robert Unmacht who ran the Radio Book for Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) for 15 years says that “Men between the ages of 45 and 54” are the main demographic for this format. On the flip side a format like Top 40 or CHR as it’s also known is programmed for a demographic of 18- 34 year olds according to Unmacht.

Research by Business Insider at the end of 2014 indicated that while Facebook is still the most used social platform for Teens, Instagram has more prestige among that age group. Facebook also is used more be females than males according to the report. However Business Insider says that Twitter is being used by males and according to Pew found that 22% of men use Twitter, while only 15% of women do.

Facebook user breakdown from BusinessInsider.com
Facebook user breakdown from BusinessInsider.com

So with all this in mind what do you do if you’re the Program Director or Brand Manager of a radio station and you want to take your brand social? First you have to figure out your target audience and find out where they want to be communicated with. You also need to figure out HOW they want to be communicated with. Chances are… they don’t want another long wordy post on Facebook about the latest and greatest contest that you’re running or a promotion that your clients are doing. Your listeners want content that is local and relevant to them. I believe that.

As on-air personalities we need to take our unique position as someone who is (hopefully) part of someone’s almost daily life and relate information to them and connect on a one on one level. That being said you also have to be mindful to not fly off the handle and damage our brand and the brand of our station because the penalties can be severe. Radio host Anthony Cumia of the Sirius XM “Opie & Anthony Show” was fired after one such twitter tirade (His comments are NSFW).

Jacob Media Digital & Social Strategist Lori Lewis says it best “Bottom line: Social is an opportunity to show your brand’s soul and make the audience feel like they matter. Otherwise, you’re just a commodity in the social space, something we can all get anywhere else.” You always have to be “on” when interaction on social media even after your show is off the air. So the question is what will you do to show your brand’s soul?

iHeartRadio Revolution

The iHeartRadio App is the radio/ streaming service app from iHeart Media formally Clear Channel Communications. As described on the iHeartMedia web site “iHeartRadio is a free, all-in-one digital music service that gives users instant access to thousands of live radio stations from across the country and the ability to create commercial-free, custom music stations featuring songs from their favorite artist and similar music”.

A screen shot of the iHeartRadio app from bestvendor.com
A screen shot of the iHeartRadio app from bestvendor.com

This app truly revolutionized what a radio station mobile app could and should be. It provides access to all of the iHeartMedia radio stations across the country at the touch of a finger. The app was so successful and the branding of the product was so successful that Clear Channel Media has rebranded its company after the product and is now iHeartMedia. In a letter to investors iHeartMedia said “On Sept. 16, 2014, we announced the exciting news that we have become iHeartMedia, Inc. — reflecting our commitment to programming live content and entertainment across all media platforms. This name change is for branding purposes only.”

It’s one of the most successful social apps in history “iHeartRadio reached 20 million registered users, a milestone reached in only 13 months — faster than all other popular entertainment and communication platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Spotify and Instagram.”

I think what make it successful is the variety it offers and it also is interactive and fans can use it to vote on songs they like and even for the iHeartRadio awards. The success of the app is measured in downloads and the number of active users that the app enjoys.

The challenge that radio stations and media companies in general are facing is that if you’re not an iHeartRadio station or affiliated with the app how do you compete with it? The key is to be user friendly and interactive and try to localize your content. The station I work at is using the commotion app that allows people to stream the radio station as well as message within the app.

The most important thing in mobile and social apps is to adapt. What are things that you’d like to see in a radio mobile app?

Let’s get digital: Social Media in the Radio World

The current state of social media in the radio world is one that is constantly evolving. Radio stations are faced with the challenge of connecting with their listening audiences in a way that is drastically different than the way they approach that connection over the air. While radio stations are used to strategically planning every aspect of what happens on the air, social networking for most radio stations and radio personalities is a new frontier.

Jacobs Media Digital and Social Media Strategist Lori Lewis says that “Understanding what it takes to build and sustain an active social fan base is critical to broadcast radio, as the social space grows and becomes an even bigger part of people’s lives.” I’d have to agree with this statement but the question from almost every air talent I’ve talked to is “ok…but how?”

The social world give stations the opportunity to expand their brand from the airwaves to into the digital platform but in many respects the audience they hope to reach doesn’t translate to the different platforms. As Joan Mancuso and Karen Stuth of Marketing Insights point out that if your company is targeting the 18-34 year old demo you may be missing out “on a key social media demographic group: seniors. People over the age of 65 are the fastest growing demographic group on social media, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.” So stations are faced with trying target their posts to either the core demo or push it toward the “social friendly” senior demo.

So how do we do it? Right now many radio stations and personalities (myself included) are quite simply missing the mark. Lori Lewis explained in an article for AllAccess.com that “Twitter, for example, beyond the real time news and information that’s shared every day — has humor and snark, a playfulness that transpires on this platform. Yet, all too often when a media brand gets traction on Twitter and starts trending, it’s typically frivolous, self-indulgent, forgettable contesting.” Stations need to interact with their fans and get them talking about your brand. A great way to do this is by creating memorable moments and making their fans feel like they have a voice and they matter. Are you going to be at a concert? Make it a social event. Find out where your listeners are and go say hi. Pay attention to what they’re talking about and get involved in the conversation. Every little bit helps.

Nash-FM_Lee-Brice-Fan

Source: Lori Lewis “The Holy Crap Metric”

As an air talent we’re geared toward the quality of our breaks, the tease of an upcoming story, the latest and greatest contest and often times the social post comes secondary. We need to put in the effort to plan a post as well as we do our on air components. Using a site like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to schedule your posts ahead of time are helpful. I’ve found that doing this has helped our staff be able to have better quality posts on our personal pages as well as on the company accounts. In the end you don’t want to have passive users of social media you want them to be engaged and to share your content.

The struggle still exists with some platforms though. The new restrictions on Facebook and who will see what from business pages makes it very important for your content to be worth the listener to share it. Facebook explained their decision to change how posts are displayed in news feeds by sayingPeople told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content. We dug further into the data to better understand this feedback. What we discovered is that a lot of the content people see as too promotional is posts from Pages they like, rather than ads.” This means stations have to either get the views “organically” or promote the posts which can be costly and generally not in your stations budget.

One of the best quotes I’ve seen about engaging your audience is from Mark Ramsey You do it by creating unique and compelling content and atomizing the best of that content across social platforms.” If it’s well thought out, compelling and not just something slapped together I think it has the ability to engage our listeners and in the end it will show up by creating a stronger brand and hopefully in the ever important ratings book!