Friday, 26 June 2009

Thrilling Radio

As I arrived home last night from spending the week in Copenhagen I settled down to watch to the BBC 10 O Clock News, saw the Michael Jackson story break at around 10:20pm and soon realised that we may be on the verge on something quite considerable.

Out came the laptop, on went the kettle and BBC News Channel / Sky News... and communications were established with the radio station I had just left. As I was hearing about the story on the TMZ website, which were the first to report Michael Jackson was dead, I started planning for the morning ahead.

I even managed to capture a screen grab of both TMZ and The LA Times as I went along ... a kind of strange ‘breaking news’ collector’s item of a momentous culturally significant event.

The timing was quite convenient (if these things are ever convenient, particularly to the person dying!) because it meant that most listeners in Europe switching on the radio in the morning would be hearing the news first from their favourite radio station, that Michael Jackson had died.

Therefore, there was a great opportunity to plan a ‘content packed’ show throughout the night and be ready for 6am... which is exactly what I did!

As consultant Programme Director for Radio 100FM in Denmark, I took charge of providing direction for that particular station in areas such as tone of voice, music, production etc... but I was backed up by a fantastic team who all came in early to ensure listeners got the best possible product. For good measure, all client stations received a bespoke 2am ‘advice’ email! :-)

What were the key ingredients?

Information – people needed to hear the facts about what had happened
Reaction – getting reaction from both listeners and celebrities on the breaking news
Mood Music – reflect the passing of a musical icon by playing lots of his songs
Tone of Voice – ensuring we found the right voice to demonstrate a genuine sadness at someone’s passing without being overly sentimental or mawkish
Production – capture the feeling and significance of the event with production the caused an emotional reaction

After 90 minutes sleep and a hastily arranged 4:30am conference call, we were up and running. The team on the ground put together a really excellent show and listeners were provided with some first class radio, balancing all the key ingredients.

I thought I’d share with you the some imaging that we had on air this morning, (produced by Imaging Director Bjarke Rasmussen) which has cuts of the station’s newsreader, a famous Danish TV host commenting on MJ’s death, clips of the press conference and of Michael himself, and a simple yet effective script. This was followed by an appropriate emotive Michael Jackson song and played at the top and bottom of each hour all day.

A sad day, but a great opportunity for radio to do what it does best.... react quickly to changing events, deliver information and capture the public mood. I hope your station took that opportunity.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Light My Fire

How committed is your morning show? How far would they go to entertain their listeners? Would they, for example, set themselves on fire? Hats off to Jacob Wilson from client station Radio 100FM, who's a host on their morning show ‘Morgenhyrderne’ who did just that! Take a look...

And if that wasn’t enough, a week later he tested a new summer remedy for bee stings and subjected himself to a being stung by some sort of killer bee, on purpose, just to test it for listeners... twice! Ouch!!

Radio hosts that are committed to entertain the audience by ‘going the extra mile’ are the kind of guys you want on your team. Nice work don’t you think?

Having a ‘liberal’ Health and Safety policy at your station also helps!!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Flavour of The Old School

This morning, at one of my daughters’ schools, it was “Fathers Into School Day”. They do this thing at her school a couple of times a year. It’s a kind of ‘open day’ where just the Dads can come and hang out at school, sit in on the lessons, see what goes on, help your kids with their school work and have some lunch. (Don’t worry – they have a “Mums Into School Day” too!)

My eldest daughter, Issy, is 6 and she thought it was great fun to have her Dad in her classroom, and show me everything she’s doing, and introduce me to all her mates (including her boyfriend!).

But actually, I think I had more fun than her! It was a great opportunity to just experience the school during a normal working day, and see everyone go about their business.

It reminded me of something we did many years ago when I worked at Power FM. We had a ‘Listener Open Day’. Listeners could turn up at the radio station on a pre-determined day, get a tour of the building, hang out for a while in the studios and see the DJ’s in action and generally get the vibe of the place. I even think we also asked for a small donation too, which went to a local charity.

I remember getting the feeling at the time that the process really helped to cement the loyalty of listeners even further, and acted as a real opportunity to be entirely transparent and show people what went on at the radio station which for many, was a significant part of their lives (i.e. they woke up with the Morning Show, listened at work, listened in the car etc)

Certainly, my experience today brought me much closer to ‘the brand’ (in this case, my daughters’ school) and made me feel much more of an emotional bond with it.

Winning the radio battle is as much about ‘encouraging loyalty’ as anything else... so any initiative that does that (at very little real cost to the business) must be something worth considering.

Most of the current thinking in many companies, regardless of sector, is how to create a dialogue with its customer base. This is a slightly harder job when you’re a bank or sell bread for example. But in radio, we’re good at communicating with people... so why not try removing the microphone and transmitter, and have a real dialogue with some real listeners for a change. Chances are they’ll tell some of their friends that they had a trip round their favourite radio station, and “...the guys at Radio FM were really nice you know...!”

And don’t underestimate the power of the building you work in! It may be just a workplace to you, but most people have never been inside a real radio station, so will probably find the experience quite exciting! You never know... in these recessionary times, a trip to your radio station may become the next hot ticket in town.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Athens Radio

When I’m on holiday, one of my guilty pleasures is getting out my portable ‘World Band’ Travel Radio and having a little trip up and down the FM dial to see ‘what’s what’ in the world of radio in my particular destination.

First stop on my (slightly early) summer holiday was Crete, where there was lots of radio available. Unfortunately, most of it was just terrible! The worst thing I heard was something that started off like a standard music image promo with short hooks of songs one after the other, but then they proceeded to play me about 8 minutes of hooks!! I felt like I was listening to an AMT broadcast live!!

Sorry residents of Crete, but all your stations seem to interrupt the listening experience far too much, and are way too commercial. The programming wasn’t ever allowed to breathe. There wasn’t a station I could find that was well put together and understood the basics. I hope there is one... it’s just I couldn’t find it!

And then, on to Athens...

Now that’s more like it! I sat on the obligatory sun-lounger by the pool with my headphones on. What started out as a little scan up and down with a few notes jotted on a napkin, turned into a couple of hours really interesting radio listening. It helps when you have absolutely no real pre-conceptions of the stations or their image. You can really listen to the output without being swayed by external factors. So, there are a few things worthy of mention;

Greek music is alive and well on the radio dial in Athens
There were many stations either offering what an untrained ear may call ‘Traditional’ Greek music, or ‘Contemporary’ Greek hits (and about every possible mix of the two in varying degrees, plus all the variants... like ‘rhythmic contemporary Greek’, soft AC Greek etc, etc) So it’s fair to say, the domestic music scene is very healthy and supported admirably by Greek radio.

Some of the commercial blocks are very long
Several of the stations offering a contemporary mix of Modern Greek hits and English language hits had commercials breaks which were in excess of 6 or 7 minutes each. They were just far too long. I felt sorry for the advertiser who was placed 13th in the ad break! In these cases both advertisers and listeners lose.

Sweeps of music work
For music stations, regardless of format, well programmed sweeps of music across the day just work. This is nothing new, but it’s interesting that some stations just ‘get it’ and put together really well programmed music sweeps with a great flow and musical treats, and some stations just interrupt you far too often. Guess which ones are more appealing to listen to? Not too difficult is it?

Standout Stations
A few stations broadcasting to Athens are worthy of mention:

Red FM - 96.3
These guys offer a really listenable mix of Modern Rock, Indie and Cool Classics. It’s a male skewed station, seemingly aimed at 25-39 year old blokes with a real focus on credible music and a well defined sound. Songs I heard over a couple of hours included:

Blur – Song 2
Athlete – Wires
U2 – With Or Without You
Rasmus – In The Shadows
Bryan Adams – Can’t Stop This Thing We’ve Started
Semisonic – Secret Smile
Blondie - Heart of Glass
Bob Marley – Is This Love?

96.6 (That seems to be its name)
Again, another male skewed station, but aimed a little younger than Red FM, probably more 15-24. The nearest comparison I can draw is with XFM in London. The running order is dominated by a stack of very cool and credible bands ranging from Foo Fighters to Razorlight, and the station has a really nice feel to it, with minimal interruption from DJ’s, who only really stop to tell you what band you were just listening to. They’ve just dropped a musical treat too... AC/DC – ‘Highway to Hell’! Nice production sound too. Songs I heard over a few hours included:

Muse – Starlight
Florence and the Machine – Kiss with a Fist
Verve – Sonnet
Moby – Natural Blues
Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
Alanis Morrisette - You Oughta Know
Razorlight – America

Lampsi 92.3
If you want a decent AC station, you’d be hard pushed to find a better one in Athens than Lampsi 92.3. It blends the biggest international hits with the best in current and contemporary Greek music. The format is clear to follow and the production sound is straightforward yet effective. News, weather, traffic bulletins... the whole nine yards are there for you to enjoy. It’s not the most exciting station on the dial, but it’s probably the least offensive, and many stations reach number 1 in the marketplace by being just like that. The adbreaks are a little on the long side, but they’re not alone on the dial in Athens for that! The lovely team at Radio Intelligence have done a good job in positioning Lampsi. Nice work. Songs I heard over several hours included:

Katy Perry – I Kissed A Girl
Lady Gaga – Poker Face
Duffy – Stepping Stone
Amy Winehouse - Valerie
Katy Perry – Hot N Cold
Enrique Iglesias – Taking Back My Love

So, as I wave goodbye to Athens in a few days, I’m pleased to report it has a vibrant and exciting radio market with loads on offer for listeners... both domestic and foreign!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

On The Beach...

On holiday right now, but hearing some amusing things on the radio worth writing about soon.

Nomal service resumes shortly!