Tag Archives: radio station

Is Your Radio Station a Bunch of Jerks?

Tuesdays With Coleman

Two years ago, I attended a Carolina Hurricanes game. While sitting in the lower level, I took a look around and snapped this picture on my phone.

Carolina Hurricanes Bunch of Jerks

This was a National Hockey League game between the Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres on a Friday night in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the number of empty seats was staggering. That night, I went home and wrote a blog I posted on LinkedIn called, “How to Fix the Carolina Hurricanes.” I made reference to some special moments I had in radio during the team’s Stanley Cup run a decade earlier.

Fixing hockey teams is not my domain. That’s for hockey experts to figure out. What I felt that night was a troubling trend indicative of a team bordering on irrelevance in my town.  Somehow, some way, my team had to fix the Carolina Hurricanes experience. History shows us that the Carolina Hurricanes experience is not the Detroit Red Wings experience nor the Toronto Maple Leafs experience. The Carolina Hurricanes experience, at its best, is unlike any other in the NHL. It is not an experience you can plop into any other city. And that’s exactly what makes it special.

Central North Carolina is college basketball country. Early on in the Hurricanes’ existence in Raleigh (the team moved here from Hartford in 1997), it became apparent that fans liked bringing some of that college sports vibe to their hockey. That included things like air horns in the arena. Tailgating and day-long barbeques in the parking lot. A pig for a mascot.

Over the years, the bloom faded from the rose. There were fewer tailgates, fewer air horns and fewer people.

The Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs since 2009, and Captain Obvious would probably say that winning fixes everything.

And that would generally be true.

But it’s also fair to expect the Hurricanes to have up- and down-swings like every other team in every other sport, and the franchise can’t rely solely on winning alone for long-term success. There has to be an experience that attracts the fans. In that blog two years ago, there was one line I wrote and typed in bold for emphasis:

A team in a non-traditional hockey market requires non-traditional marketing.

Dallas billionaire Tom Dundon, primary investor of TopGolf, took over ownership of the team in January 2018, and change was in the air quickly. There was the game during which fans in the upper level had their seats upgraded to the lower level. There was a Twitter-only giveaway. And most of all, there is the Storm Surge.

The Storm Surge is a victory celebration, during which the Hurricanes players line up and start a Viking clap over their heads. This is followed by a different type of celebration every night. The players have slid down the ice knocking over players posing as bowling pins. They’ve played Duck Duck Goose. They’ve done a limbo line. And recently, guest Storm Surge participant Evander Holyfield walked out on the ice to deliver a faux-knockout of Hurricanes center Jordan Martinook. Martinook fell perfectly to the ice and was promptly dragged off by teammates Justin Williams and Michael Ferland.

Hockey traditionalists hate the Storm Surge.

A few weeks back, iconic hockey commentator Don Cherry railed the team over their childish celebrations, calling the Carolina Hurricanes a “bunch of jerks.

The next day, the team was getting “Bunch of Jerks” t-shirts printed and ready for sale.

Carolina Hurricanes Bunch of Jerks t-shirts

The next Storm Surge featured a brand new “Bunch of Jerks” logo projected on the ice.

Non-traditional marketing has returned to a non-traditional team.

The Carolina Hurricanes organization just provided a road map for your local radio station’s branding and marketing strategy. While this is a sports story, it is applicable to every station in every format in every city.


The Hurricanes have re-established a non-traditional identity. Like the tailgates and air horns that preceded them, the current Storm-Surging Canes are fun and a little bit out there for the hockey world. The fact that it wouldn’t work elsewhere is what makes it special. While your radio station is likely influenced by others, make the station’s identity uniquely reflective of your audience and your city.


On Limbo Surge night, team captain Justin Williams sent a group text to media relations and team services asking if “Limbo Rock” by Chubby Checker could be played in the arena (even providing the link to listen and download.)

If Hurricanes executives said to the team, “Hey guys, the next night, here’s what your Storm Surge is going to look like,” do you think that would be as effective?

The Storm Surge works because it goes bottom up, not top down. When your talent is invested in the mission and given freedom to contribute, you’re more likely to get magical results—just as when players are invested.


The Evander Holyfield Storm Surge obviously took some planning. They made a special jersey with 4X on the back (to acknowledge he’s a four-time heavyweight champion). It’s not like the Hurricanes were playing a cellar-dwelling team. They were taking on the St. Louis Blues, a team that had just set a franchise record for consecutive wins (11) a week earlier. The Canes don’t do Storm Surges when they lose, so it would be a real bummer to put forth all that effort for Holyfield just to lose the game.

But they didn’t lose the game.

You can just imagine how much the players, knowing how awesome a celebration lurked around the corner, wanted to beat the Blues so they could watch Evander Holyfield knock out their teammate.

People love having something to work towards. What tangible goals can you set at your radio station that will result in celebration?


We can’t plan everything. What we can do is stay alert and always be prepared to pivot. The Hurricanes didn’t know Don Cherry would call their team a bunch of jerks. And they could have very easily only done a social media post about it. Or nothing at all. But coordinated mobilization happened quickly, from logo design to printing to social media to interviews.

Your radio station will have many opportunities to be awesome that you don’t know about yet. Don’t miss the opportunities when they arise.


Hockey is a business. Radio is a business. In both, it’s easy to get caught up in the business side of it. But if you’re in hockey, you started playing because of the unbridled joy you felt on the ice. If you’re in radio, you got in because of the unbridled joy you felt, whether behind the microphone or on the streets.

Winning may be fixing things for the Hurricanes, but you can also make the case that the fun brought the winning.

One of my former program directors, Casey Keating, liked to say, “The station that wins in the hallways wins on the air.”

See? Works in radio, too.

What’s your Brand’s Social Currency?

I have a small circle of close friends, so it sparked my interest when several of the local ones mentioned a new bar in town called The Atlantic Lounge.

Here’s what you need to know about this new watering hole in downtown Raleigh, NC:

  • It’s modeled after a speakeasy
  • You have to have a “key” to get in or come as a guest of a member with a key
  • To get a key, you send an email to a specific address and request one
  • You’ll likely have to wait a little while to get a key because they’re only offering them on an “occasional basis”
  • The key will cost you $40 once you’re approved
Atlantic Lounge, Raleigh NC social currency
The Atlantic Lounge in Raleigh, NC builds social currency by requiring the purchase of a $40 key to enter and limiting access to keys

My wife is dying to get a key, because she wants the status and it must be the hip new place to be.

I can’t even, but I get it.

People like to feel special. They like to think they are getting something exclusive.

In his book “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” author Jonah Berger credits the following common ingredients or factors of ideas or brands that catch on:

  • Social currency (sharing things that make us look good);
  • Triggers (things that keep ideas and products top-of-mind);
  • Emotion (when we care, we share);
  • Public (the more visible, the more opportunity to imitate);
  • Practical value (sharing things that are useful to others);
  • Stories (highly effective way to sell your brand)

The story of The Atlantic Lounge falls in the social currency category. Telling your friends about this bar makes you look good because you have information about a cool new place. Having a key makes you look cool because it is exclusive and not everyone can get it.

There are, in fact, similar examples in the book to the Atlantic Lounge. Barclay Prime in Philadelphia could have been just another steakhouse, except that it launched with a $100 cheesesteak on the menu. It’s not about how many people order the sandwich. It’s about the restaurant being top-of-mind because of it. It’s people who haven’t even been to the restaurant that talk about it. It’s the publications and internet sites that cover it. It’s the visits from the TV food shows. It’s the celebrities that stop by.

It’s social currency.

An even better example may be Please Don’t Tell, a bar in New York’s East Village.

After you walk into Crif Dogs, a hot dog shop that purports to have “NYC’s #1 Weiner,” you enter an old-fashioned phone booth, pick up the phone and dial a number. After a voice answers and you’re approved, the wall of the phone booth opens to a small room with a bar in the center. The bar’s website has one picture and a phone number. No other pages, no other information.

“Did you hear about the bar in a hot dog shop with an old-fashioned phone booth? It’s so cool! You have to get approved, then the phone booth opens up into the bar!”

Social currency.

And so, it’s time to consider how to make social currency work for your radio station or podcast or media brand.

Every city has steakhouses, many of which are interchangeable. But Barclay Prime is the only one with a $100 cheesesteak.

Every city has bars, many of which are interchangeable. But the Atlantic Lounge has a $40 key. And Please Don’t Tell has a phone booth in a hot dog shop.

Every city has radio stations, many of which are interchangeable.

They have different styles of music or talk, just as restaurants and bars have different menus.

They have different personalities, just as restaurants and bars have different servers and ways of presenting the product.

But how is your radio station, podcast or media brand creating social currency?

You don’t need (or want) a long list of things.

Barclay Prime has one thing: the $100 cheesesteak.

The Atlantic Lounge has one thing: the $40 key.

Please Don’t Tell has one thing: the phone booth.

What’s your one thing?

What’s your social currency?

Can Video Make the Radio Star?

Tuesdays With Coleman

Now that the US midterm elections are—mostly!—behind us, we can look back at some of the marketing techniques candidates and their campaigns used and consider their implications for the radio industry.

Fortunately for many of our clients, many of these campaigns continued to recognize the value of radio to engage consumers and target audience segments efficiently. Some groups (i.e., Entravision) even reported more revenue from the midterms than they generated during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Yet what I think is worth noting is that the rise of new competition for radio can also provide the industry with a great marketing opportunity. It’s not a new phenomenon but observing how political campaigns used it may provide important lessons for radio managers.

The marketing phenomenon I speak of is the viral video.

We’re all familiar with viral videos. They started in the 90s with memorable items like “The Spirit of Christmas” and “Dancing Baby,” became more prevalent through the ubiquity of YouTube and are now shared extensively via social media. We’ve been through The Lonely Island’s many viral videos, the “Kony 2012” documentary and—of course—”Gangnam Style.”

What has changed in recent years, however, is how viral video has become central to the success of many marketing campaigns, perhaps most notably in the political space. This was documented in an excellent September New York Times article, Viral Videos Are Replacing Pricey Political Ads. They’re Cheaper, and They Work. If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to take a break from this post and do so; then come back and read the rest of my thoughts.

My colleagues and I often lament at the limited or non-existent external marketing budgets with which some of our radio station clients struggle. We still strongly believe in traditional advertising via television spots and outdoor advertising for radio stations, but we recognize that many stations do not have the financial capacity to utilize them.

This is where viral video can help. It can be used to tell the story of your station, your morning show, your key personalities, your contests, your station events, etc. and if executed correctly can have a big impact for limited cost. Some morning shows—iHeartMedia’s “The Breakfast Club” is perhaps the best example, with nearly three million subscribers to their YouTube channel—have figured this out already, but it strikes me that as an industry radio has barely scratched the surface of telling its stories via video.

The Breakfast Club Power 105.1 New York

In a future post, we will share some of the more impressive efforts that radio has executed in this area, along with suggestions for how to make viral video work for your station. Please comment with any radio industry viral videos that you think we should highlight.

Images Are Like Icebergs

Tuesdays With Coleman

There’s nothing more sobering than watching a focus group of your radio station’s listeners talking about your beloved product. You might watch in horror as they:

  • Refer to your station by its previous brand name;
  • Are unable to name any of the people on your year-old morning show;
  • Are certain your station plays 70s music, even though it evolved and stopped playing 70s music three years ago.

Why are listeners—the real-life consumers of your radio station who are responsible for your brand’s success and your very livelihood—not aware of changes that seem so obvious to you?

Because they aren’t paying close attention.

Sounds harsh, I know. But the reality is that listeners have busy lives that are full of distractions, and your radio station isn’t getting their full undivided attention. They’re not listening all the time, and even when they are listening, they’re not soaking in every little thing that they hear and they’re not totally discerning what they heard on your station from what they heard on another station. It’s all a blur.

Because listeners aren’t paying close attention, messages need to be delivered clearly and often—especially when you are attempting to develop an image.

Images are like icebergs. Slow to develop, slow to erode.

Let’s take that music example from earlier. Say your Classic Hits station no longer plays 70s music and has added a lot of 80s music. You assume, because you dramatically decreased the percentage of 70s music and increased the percentage of 80s music, that listeners will pick up on it.

But just playing the music isn’t enough. You need to clearly and repeatedly tell listeners about it. Remember, images are like icebergs. The audience may be slow to forget that you play 70s music and slow to learn that you play 80s music. No one is keeping track of which songs they hear on your station versus which songs they hear on your competitors. If you fail to educate them about your music changes, then you could get hit with the double whammy of (a) not fully satisfying those who are tuning in to get 70s music while (b) not attracting those who love 80s music.

This is why marketing strategy and programming strategy must work hand in hand. We need marketing plans that help us align listeners’ expectations with our well-thought-out programming plans.

By the way, it’s not just radio. Images are like icebergs in other industries as well.

So, for every image you’re looking to build or erode, have:

  1. A proper assessment of tastes, expectations, the competitive lay of the land and your available resources. Is there a path to get to where you want to go, and is it a lot better than where you are now?
  2. A marketing strategy in place for how to communicate your changes clearly, with the proper weight and to the right audience.
  3. A strong stomach for how long it is going to take.

After all, images are like icebergs.

Should I Play That Song On My Radio Station?

Tuesdays With Coleman

For radio program directors, the question of which songs to play and which to leave out is as old as the medium itself.  If it was only about playing popular songs, radio stations would be broader than they are.  Why is that?  Well, just like restaurants don’t all serve the same popular foods and generally must choose what to serve, radio stations also focus on types, styles and eras of music.

Pizza Hut doesn’t sell hamburgers. CHR stations don’t play country.

Outback Steakhouse doesn’t sell Chinese food. Rock stations don’t play pop music.

Chipotle doesn’t sell pancakes. Hip Hop stations don’t play Taylor Swift.

These choices seem obvious, but are they always?  How can a program director think about what to play when consumers listen to popular music and music that seems right for the format?  How can they know when to stretch beyond the narrowest definition of their format?  When can they take chances and when should they play it safe?

Just as they choose restaurants and most brands based on simplistic image perceptions, consumers also select radio stations based on an image they have of that station.

As we’ve illustrated in our explanations of Outside Thinking, that image may be formulated based on Type (like Rock, Country or Hip Hop); Era (like 80s, 90s or 00s); or Texture (like Hard, Soft or Upbeat).

But in the real world, not every song a station plays will meet the pure definition of the brand it represents to its audience.

Sometimes, a program director will want to throw in a song just to “freshen things up.”

Other times a song will reach such a high level of popularity in the zeitgeist, a program director may feel compelled to play it even if it is outside the format lane.

Program directors will fill their music tests with “fishing expeditions” to see what happens.

Every program director and music director is faced with the decision of whether or not to play songs on their stations and is left questioning if it was the right choice because of Fit.

So, when to play and when not to play?

Don Benson, the former President and CEO of Lincoln Financial Media, put it something like this:

You can be entrepreneurial in your own lane. You can’t be entrepreneurial in your fringe lanes.

What Don means by that is your format lane gives you license to introduce your audience to songs and even sounds they haven’t heard. When you play outside your lane, you risk losing listeners and may encourage brand erosion.

For most listeners, this isn’t a conscious thought process. In the moment, if they really like it, a listener may sit through a song that feels out of sync with the brand and wait for the radio station to return to expectation. If they don’t really like it, and it’s out of sync, the listener is less likely to stay.

The real danger here is, if a station plays out-of-sync songs too often—songs that aren’t consistent with its brand perception—the listener will lose confidence in the station’s ability to deliver what the listener wants.

The Coleman Insights Brand-Content MatrixSM dictates that the success of great radio stations is the result of two dimensions. First, the station’s brand strength—its top of mind awareness and perception. Second, its in-the-moment content strength—a function of how compelling the content is. The Brand-Content Matrix shows the most successful radio stations marry high-quality content with a well-established brand.

Brand Content Matrix

In many ways, the decision-making process on whether or not to play a song on your radio station can be handled in much the same way…using an Acceptance-Fit Matrix.

Acceptance Fit Matrix

Ideally, your radio station will play a high percentage of songs that test well (High Acceptance) and fit your station’s brand (High Fit).

But, there always will be moments of questioning.

In the late 80s and very early 90s, for example, pop music took a milder, less edgy turn. During this period, artists like Richard Marx, Mike and the Mechanics, Wilson Phillips and Michael Bolton topped the charts.

Michael Bolton Soul Provider

How was CHR supposed to live without Michael Bolton?

For CHR stations, playing too much of this fringe ACish sound risked undermining their brand expectation. The expectations were edgier and had more tempo. The center-lane pop was from artists like Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna.

Stations had to be careful how quickly and deeply to move into the fringe sound—not just for fear of brand erosion, but also the risk of making themselves vulnerable to attack by more focused formats like Hot AC or edgier stations like Hip Hop.

As the Acceptance-Fit Matrix indicates, if a song is outside your own lane, it had better be exceptionally popular to play it.  A song that is exceptionally popular but not in the center lane is in the lower right quadrant. You may be able to get away with that. But, if it is only moderately popular it will be a tune out and will hurt your image.

Our recommendation is to evaluate every song in your library in terms of both Acceptance and Fit.

Aim for highly popular songs that are a great fit with your brand.

The less it fits your brand, the more selective you should be.

So when it’s time to ask “should I play that song on my radio station?”

Be smart.

Be thoughtful.

Be strategic.

And, be entrepreneurial.

Just do it in your own lane.

Preparing Your Radio Station for U2

Tuesdays With Coleman

On Friday, October 2, 2009, I was programming 96rock in Raleigh, NC and preparing the station for a major live broadcast the next day. U2 was set to play nearby Carter-Finley Stadium as part of its 360 Tour, and there were a number of last-minute logistics to run through. That’s when the phone rang.

It was the regional rep for Interscope, U2’s record label.

“Jay, I have a few questions for you.”

I was intensely focused on what I was doing, but, “Sure, what’s up?”

Interscope rep: “How long does it take to get from the venue to your radio station?”

Me: “15 minutes.”

Interscope rep: “How long does it take to get from the airport to your radio station?”

Me: “25 minutes.”

Interscope rep: “How long does it take to get from the airport to the venue?”

Me: “10 minutes.”

Interscope rep: “Ok, thanks.”


My mind started racing and I was freaking out, and here’s why:

I knew on the day before U2 kicked off the North American leg of their 360 Tour in Chicago, they had conducted radio station interviews and visits at several stations, including 93.1XRT and Q101, and had donated a VIP concert experience to 101.9 The Mix for its fundraiser.

A week later, the band popped into the studios of 102.1 The Edge in Toronto with just a few hours’ notice.

Now, my Interscope rep had left me a cryptic message and I’m certain U2 is going to come by the studio for a visit.

That overwhelmingly thrilling concept led to this thought:

“Oh no, what if U2 comes by the studio for a visit.”

Was the studio in an acceptable condition to host U2?

Could we mobilize a security infrastructure fast enough once the word got out?

Did we have the right people in place to handle everything that comes with a visit like this? Could we turn around production pieces immediately? Would we be able to maximize the PR opportunity? Would we be ready to utilize our digital assets right away? Could we come up with some memorable questions they hadn’t heard before?

And so, we mobilized like U2 was coming to visit. Fortunately, I do believe we were prepared for the special moment if, in fact, the band decided to grace us with their presence at the last minute.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

On the other hand, it was a great opportunity to ensure we had all our ducks in a row.

In many ways, we work in the preparation business.

Among many other things, perceptual research can identify the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities both for your station and for the radio market as a whole.

Stations we work with often evaluate various potential scenarios and determine which actions to take based on the insights.

Although you can’t predict every scenario, you can prepare.

So, prepare like U2’s going to drop by this afternoon.

Don’t Change Your Radio Station

Tuesdays With Coleman

There are times in the lifespan of a radio station when making changes makes sense. Often, these changes are guided by research. A library music test is a great opportunity to freshen up the sound of the station. A perceptual study may indicate that a shift in music strategy or positioning would be a sound move.

On the other hand, high value propositions from radio research studies can manifest themselves in learning what not to change on your station. Sometimes research indicates the audience is picking up on an image you’re trying to build, like “The Alternative Station.” It may tell you that a new morning show feature has relatively low familiarity but has high excellent scores among those familiar with it.

In “How Brands Grow” by Byron Sharp, the author writes “Again and again it appears in numerous product categories, markets and countries that there is a fundamental law of brand size. Big brands have markedly large customer bases.”

Therein lies the ultimate goal of media research. Use the data to build a bigger brand to draw a bigger audience.

One problem. Humans like to change things.

I was a radio program director and sometimes fell into the trap of Inside Thinking. This is when you think like someone who works for the radio station, rather than putting yourself in the shoes of your listener. When I put a sweeper or promo on the air, I generally used my gut to determine when to take it off, which was usually when it sounded like it was “getting burned.”

Of course, I didn’t listen the way my listeners did. My TSL—or time spent listening—was way higher. When something sounded burned to me, it was probably nowhere near ready to come off.

Outside Thinking would have dictated patience with that sweeper or promo.

A program director may implement a positioner on the air, like “The Best Variety of the 80s, 90s and Today”, knowing from the research that’s an image the station should build. At first, the line is delivered multiple times an hour. Then, the jocks aren’t saying it as much. Some of the new sweepers have the slogan in them and some don’t. You’re feeling “burned” on the line.

Your listener isn’t feeling burned on the line. Unless it is a strong, established image, your listener barely knows you’re saying it.

Building images takes time. Outside Thinking dictates you’re probably not saying it enough.

“That promotion isn’t working.” How often did you run it and for how long?

“That feature isn’t working.” Did you give enough time for the audience to get familiar with it?

Why do we constantly feel the need to change things?

There are a few iconic brands in every category and there isn’t much changing going on. Big iconic brands understand it takes time to build images. Once an image is built, you don’t change things for the sake of change.

A Coke can is red and the McDonalds arches are yellow. If it were the other way around tomorrow, your brain might melt.

Big iconic brands don’t often change logos and colors.

Sure, there are times when a radio station needs to change its logo and colors. But, it shouldn’t be just for the sake of change. Can you think of some radio brands that have kept the same logo for a long time? Chances are they’re big brands.

McDonald’s has kept the same slogan (“I’m lovin it”) for the past 15 years.

Get your singing voice ready. “Nationwide is on your side.”

Radio station listeners generally consume your brand the same way they do other brands.

If a key message is “Traffic and Weather Together”, don’t get tired of saying it.

If you’ve got a catchy jingle they sing back to you, don’t get tired of playing it.

If a key promotion is the Workday Payday, don’t get tired of running it.

If a key artist for your station is Justin Timberlake, don’t get tired of all those Justin promos.

“I’m burned on all those Justin promos. The listeners will get sick of them.”

No they won’t.

Don’t change for the sake of change.

Be an Outside Thinker.

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.

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.

Reducing Friction On Your Radio Station – Part 2

Tuesdays With Coleman

Where do you go when it’s time to brainstorm and talk shop?

Recently, the Coleman Insights brain trust found itself where it often does on a random Friday afternoon.


Just before the server took our orders, I noticed our dining musical accompaniment featured the ambient beats of “Jive Talkin’”, which had seamlessly faded into “Got to Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn.

“Huh”, I remarked. “Disco Friday at Chili’s”.

Donna Summer came on after Cheryl. It was indeed Disco Friday.

This led to a conversation my colleague Jessica relayed to me later in the week, during which she was asked, “Does any radio station play disco anymore? And if so, who would?”

As you know, if you’re on the hunt for an all-disco station, it’s gonna be slim pickins on the prairie. That doesn’t mean there aren’t stations that play disco titles. Where would you hear it?

Last week’s blog discussed obstacles to the customer experience, sometimes referred to as friction. I mentioned some of the ways radio stations have traditionally dealt with listeners, and whether some should be re-examined in 2018.

Another kind of friction can occur when expectations of the brand don’t mesh with what the brand is delivering.

Does a little disco make sense on a Classic Hits station? Adult Contemporary? Adult Hits?

The answer could be yes in all those instances, but it could be tough to determine how much to play. Does the market see disco as a fit with your brand? Does it work with the core sounds you’re playing on the station? Or, should it perhaps be relegated to a specialty show or not played at all?

A Classic Rock station’s core may be 60s and 70s Classic Rock. How far this station can deviate from that core differs by station and market. Is the spice 70s and 80s Pop? Can it delve into 90s Alternative Rock?

How much can a Hot Adult Contemporary station rooted in contemporary sounds play in the 80s or 90s? How does it mesh with popularity and brand perception?

Zappos used to sell only shoes. Now, they sell shoes, clothes and accessories. This isn’t unusual for a shoe brand, but if they started selling televisions that may cause some friction.

In 1990 Coors figured they’d get in the water business because, you know, the water in their beer was so good.

Didn’t work.

Cartoon Network was known for showing kid-oriented cartoons but had developed a more adult slate of programming at night. Research guided them to spin their “Adult Swim” into its own network. This allowed each network to stay in its lane. Same with Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite.

Research can help answer questions like these. When brands have a clear understanding of their core proposition, they can better focus on delivering their product and know how to explain it to current and potential customers. They know what lanes to stay in, where there’s room to add spice to the recipe and which spices to add. We use measurements such as Fit and Compatibility to assist our clients in this process.

Aim for a focused, cohesive, consistent product.

Aim to reduce friction.

What if Bill Belichick Programmed Your Radio Station?

Tuesdays With Coleman

Let’s imagine, this Super Bowl week, what it would be like if New England head coach Bill Belichick wasn’t the leader of the Patriots.

In fact, let’s imagine him out of football completely.

What if Bill Belichick was the program director of a radio station?

What would those aircheck sessions look like?

Belichick would dissect each break into pieces like game film. Do you think Belichick would rely on the same few clichés PDs have used for decades, like “One thought per break” or “Stop puking”?

Or would Belichick explain to you not just what you did right or wrong, but why? Do you think he’d just tell you how you forgot to sell station benefits or would he get you to buy in to the strategic vision?

If Bill Belichick designed clocks in Selector or Music Master, do you think he would know the exact layout of every clock of his competition? Of course he would.

If Bill Belichick showed up to a station remote, what would he think of a station banner hastily hung behind a bored jock eating a cheeseburger?

I’m betting the display would be perfect, the jock would never sit down, and feedback about the radio station would have been solicited from every employee and listener that stopped by.

I’m also certain the jock showing up to the remote on Belichick’s watch would have known almost as much if not more about the business than the manager on duty.

Belichick says the only sign the Patriots have in their locker room is a quote from The Art of War: ‘Every battle is won before it is fought’”.

Many radio station personnel have long held the viewpoint that a certain amount of spontaneity is good, that perhaps too much preparation takes away from that “anything can happen” feel of a live show.


Sure, true spontaneity happens and can be great. But great programmers and personalities can give the illusion of spontaneity because they planned so effectively.  Spontaneity on the radio would be like Tom Brady rolling out of the pocket on a busted pass play.  He and the receiver would spontaneously find a new way to connect, but even that would be within defined boundaries of when and how to be spontaneous.

Preparation is always the key.

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman explains it this way: “You never go into a week thinking you’re not prepared. Even if it’s the one play that the (opposing) defensive coordinator had when he was a graduate assistant at Louisiana Tech, you’re going to see that play and you’re going to be ready for it.”

Think about that for a minute. He’s implying the Patriots studied a play that an opposing coach ran once when he was a graduate assistant in college.

That’s preparation.

I have a feeling few things would ever surprise employees at a Bill Belichick-run radio station.

Morning shows would diligently plan the next day’s show, but they would also be prepared to adapt to any situation. They would have a strategy in place for hypotheticals ranging from how they would handle a tornado touching down during the show to what they would do if a celebrity like Bruno Mars called the hotline.

New England Patriots players talk about how Belichick will quiz them on strategy in the hallways and how nervous they get when he approaches with a question out-of-the-blue. Over time, players became less nervous. Because they were more prepared.

If Belichick programmed a Hot AC station and the competition added 20 percent more 80s, he’d have a plan for that.

If he programmed a CHR and the competition just launched a big new morning show, he’d have a plan for that, too.

Sports talk hosts would be able to anticipate every question from every caller on just about any topic before they called.

Do you work at a radio station where the answer to why something is done a certain way is, “Because we’ve always done it that way”?

One of the most important characteristics Belichick would bring to a radio station is always looking toward the future.

Belichick was asked in April 2017 if he was still celebrating the team’s Super Bowl win two months earlier (incidentally, that reporter would never work for Belichick).

“We’re on to 2017. No one cares about 2016 anymore. We talk about today, and we talk about the next game. That’s all we can really control.”

Great radio stations are prepared radio stations. Great personalities are prepared personalities. Great program directors are prepared program directors.

You don’t have to like the Patriots or be a fan of Bill Belichick, but you can adopt the most important tenet of his success – be prepared.