Tag Archives: Outside Thinking

What Radio Stations And Diets Have In Common

Tuesdays With Coleman

About a month ago, I started on one of those “two shakes a day” diets.

Wait, I’m not supposed to call it a diet. About a month ago, I started on one of the two shakes a day LIFESTYLES.

Isagenix Diet Shake

I’m only slightly embarrassed to say I needed something to get me started toward a healthier way of living.

So I’m on the plan. Shake for breakfast, shake for lunch. Modest dinner, mainly protein, and healthy snacks along the way. You know what? The pounds and inches that I picked up in the radio station kitchen (who brings all those free donuts?) are starting to fall off.

I’d like to maintain this LIFESTYLE as long as I can.

The process gets me thinking… besides eating the donuts in the kitchen, what other bad habits might I have picked up at the radio station, and how can we “shake” them?

Radio programmers generally do a great job of keeping good habits. But like diets, it’s easy to lose your way. Here are some ways radio stations fall “off the diet”:


At our presentation at the Worldwide Radio Summit, Outside Thinking: Flip The Script On How You Think About Your Radio Station, we demonstrated how delivering too many messages at once inhibits any of them from breaking through. Check out this guy I ran into at an amusement park.

Outside Thinking Too Many Messages

He’s wearing a radio station t-shirt featuring their name, call letters, an extra frequency, slogan, morning show and workday positioning. Whew! That t-shirt could lose a few pounds.


You’re utilizing music research as part of your radio station’s strategy. “The Plan” says 00s Rhythmic Pop music not only doesn’t add potential audience, it is incongruent with your brand and the fans of your most appealing music don’t like it. “Yeah, but that song tested really well!”

Doesn’t mean you should play it.

This also applies to adding titles in between library music tests. “It’s only a few songs”. The next thing you know, your library is bloated with titles you shouldn’t be playing.

Put down the cookies.

Trust the music research and stick with your strategy.


Your listeners are the lifeblood of your radio station. They often provide the most valuable feedback you can hear, giving you the opportunity to do more of the best things and cut out things they don’t like. Get out of the office and talk to them. You’ll even burn a few calories in the process.


You’ve done a market research study, you’re clear on the strategy, but who is in charge of delivering your radio station’s message day in and day out? Your air talent.

By regularly airchecking your jocks, you can create powerful buy-in from your team and ensure the plan is executed properly.

Just as a personal trainer is charged with keeping me disciplined and sticking to a workout schedule to stay fit, a program director is charged with keeping air talent disciplined and on message.

The bad habits of radio stations really aren’t that different from the bad habits of a diet.

Unfocused messaging? Kind of like bouncing from diet to diet. “You know, I tried that one for a little while but it didn’t work”. Why didn’t it work? Because it was the wrong diet (message) or because you didn’t give the diet (message) a long enough chance to be effective?

Not following the music research? That’s like straying from the diet here and there. “Hey, a little ice cream won’t hurt me.” “I can cheat with a few slices of pizza.” When you have a plan, whether to better your radio station or change your life, you have to remain focused and disciplined.

Maintaining focus and discipline will be the only way I continue to be successful with my new lifestyle.

And it’s also the only way you’ll continue to be successful with your radio station.


Three Ways Radio Stations Misunderstand Their Listeners

Tuesdays With Coleman

Last Friday, May 4th, Coleman Insights delivered a presentation to the Worldwide Radio Summit in Hollywood called “Outside Thinking: Flip The Script On How You Think About Your Radio Station”.

During the session, Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman and Executive Vice Presidents/Senior Consultants John Boyne and Sam Milkman explained how radio station programmers can fall into the trap of Inside Thinking—a boardroom mindset, as opposed to thinking like a listener.

Outside Thinking Worldwide Radio Summit

Coleman Insights’ Sam Milkman and John Boyne at Worldwide Radio Summit

Soon, we’ll be sharing the entire presentation so you can discover how successful radio stations utilize the principles of Outside Thinking to build powerful brands with consistently impressive ratings. In the meantime, we’ll share three ways radio station programmers misunderstand their listeners. This misunderstanding, rooted in Inside Thinking, causes radio stations to over-focus on things like short-term tactics. It encourages programmers to make knee-jerk decisions by not being patient. By recognizing these three misconceptions, radio stations can recalibrate their focus and think like a listener.


We’d love to think our listeners know the names of all our personalities. We picture them playing every contest and attending all our big station events.


Like other entertainment options in your listeners’ lives, radio plays a role—but it is likely not the most important role. Listeners generally don’t engage in a deep, well thought out process of choosing a station.


Surely if we tweak our clocks and go from one to two 80s songs per hour, all our listeners will know and we’ll get credit for it.


Listeners not only don’t notice the little things we do, they often don’t notice the big things. You’ve heard listeners call your station by the wrong name or dial position. They’ve thought your morning show was on the competitor. Because listeners aren’t paying close attention, changing an image takes a great deal of time and patience. Clock changes, like in the example above, aren’t enough. You have to tell the listener about the change, repeat with regularity, and stick with it.


By using carefully placed tactics, contents and clock changes, listeners can be made to listen at specific times.


Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, listeners wake up at the same time every morning. They get their coffee at the same time, shower at the same time and commute at the same time. They also generally listen to radio stations at the same time. Your station needs to be a part of their lives and habits. This is much more realistic than trying to manipulate them to listen at times that may not be possible for them.

There’s lots more to share regarding how you can use Outside Thinking to flip the script on how you think about your radio station.

Subscribers to the Tuesdays With Coleman blog will be notified first when the presentation video is made available.

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How Will Your Radio Station Use Outside Thinking?

Tuesdays With Coleman

Later this week, we’ll be in Hollywood to present “Outside Thinking: Flip The Script On How You Think About Your Radio Station” to the Worldwide Radio Summit.

What is Outside Thinking?

Let’s face it. Most of us in the radio industry don’t listen like a typical listener—we inadvertently practice Inside Thinking. We believe listeners hang on our every word, adjust their schedules to play our contests and choose to listen to our stations because of a deep bond they have with our brand. The reality is quite the opposite.

But radio is hardly the only industry that wrestles with getting stuck in an Inside Thinking mindset.

The film industry, centered in Hollywood where we’ll do our presentation this week, also risks succumbing to Inside Thinking.

In his new book, “The Big Picture: The Fight For The Future Of Movies”, author Ben Fritz gives examples of how Hollywood has shifted its thinking over the past few years.

In the past, Fritz writes, “no other industry pumped out so many products so frequently with so little foreknowledge of whether they would be any good. The only feasible business strategy, it appeared, was to sign up the best creative talent, trust your strongest hunches about what looked likely to appeal to millions of people, and hope you ended up with Back to the Future instead of Ishtar.”

Hollywood’s shift to Outside Thinking has resulted in what Fritz calls “The Branded Franchise Era”. Rather than focusing on putting out films they hope will be successful, Hollywood has hedged its bets more often with proven franchises. Marvel, Fast and Furious, and Despicable Me are examples of franchises that regularly take in over $1 billion at the global box office. Pixar will release Incredibles 2 this summer and Toy Story 4 next summer.  This is an example of Outside Thinking because not only does this strategy minimize risk, it feeds audience demand. Hollywood moved from releasing the movies they thought they should put out for any number of reasons (artistic, contractual, etc.) to movies audiences wanted them to put out.  Outside Thinking means walking in the customer’s shoes.

Outside Thinking in Hollywood goes well beyond selecting which films to produce. As Hollywood alters its content, the moviegoing experience is also changing. This change is often driven by disruptors who have adopted Outside Thinking.

Outside Thinking led to the development of Alamo Drafthouse. Noticing how frustrated customers were getting with endless ads, a limited selection of sugary concessions and frequent rudeness from their fellow patrons, Alamo aims to vastly improve the experience of attending a film. The chain features over 30 beers on tap and comfortable recliners, refuses to show commercials before the feature presentation and has a strict no-texting-or-talking policy that will get you kicked out after one warning.

Alamo Drafthouse Texting Policy

Customers love it.

Inside Thinking is raising movie prices again because it’s what’s always been done. All the while, more and more entertainment options from streaming services encourage those who used to be regular moviegoers to stay home.

Outside Thinking is MoviePass, whose latest offering is a $9.99/month plan that gets you tickets to four movies a month (they claim over 91% of theaters participate) and a subscription to iHeartRadio.


So this week, we’ll bring a taste of Outside Thinking to Hollywood for radio’s consideration.

At the core of Outside Thinking for radio stations is understanding why listeners choose your station in the first place. This can impact everything from how you deliver your messaging to the way you execute your contesting.

During our presentation, we’ll illustrate:

  • The differences between Inside and Outside Thinking;
  • What factors drive listeners to choose your station at specific moments in time
  • Specific examples of Inside Thinking to avoid at your radio station

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share Outside Thinking tidbits with you so you can face the future the way your listener will.

It’s time to flip the script.

Is Inside Thinking Blurring Your Strategic Vision?

Tuesdays With Coleman

If you work at a radio station (or in any business, for that matter), it’s easy to get caught up in Inside Thinking. We sometimes get too close to the product for our own good, and are unable to see it through the lens of our customers. When you’re the manager of a radio station, this can lead to blurred strategic vision, exemplified by statements such as, “We just need to know what’s most popular with 25- to 39-year old men because that is our target.”

Is that really enough?

This is the final installment of a four-part series that revisits a Radio & Records column I wrote in 1999. It describes scenarios I ran into when speaking with radio station managers about research projects. All of these scenarios, including Scenario 4 – No Strategic Vision, still come up with regularity 18 years later.

The inability of some managers to look at their stations from any other perspective than from inside the stations’ walls manifests itself in Inside Thinking. These managers believe that listeners:

  • Care deeply about radio
  • Are paying close attention to our stations
  • Can be manipulated

Conversely, Outside Thinkers believe the opposite. They understand that listeners’ station choices are:

  • Driven substantially by habit
  • A result of instantaneous need fulfillment
  • Based on a simplistic set of perceptions they have of different stations
  • Impacted by the role of language
  • Determined by their lifestyle

Listening to radio station

This very different mindset leads Outside Thinkers to approach research with a much more strategic point of view rather than simply trying to find out what listeners do and do not like. They use research to ask questions like:

  • What is my station’s awareness level in the market?
  • How different is my actual product and what people perceive my product to be?
  • Where do the musical tastes of my market really lie and are they moving in the direction that I believe they are?
  • Does the fact that my target demo share dropped by 25% over the last two Nielsen books really mean that my position in the market has weakened?
  • Am I focusing my energy and my resources on the right things?

Our suggestion that radio managers take the Outside Thinking approach to their stations—and their research—provides a good final thought for this four-part blog series. Our previous installments warned against obsessing over methodology, not investing in research when your station is successful and confusing tactical and strategic research. Outside Thinkers rarely make these mistakes, and as a result, their stations are far more likely to enjoy long-term success.