Brilliant At The Basics Is The Price of Admission

Brilliant At The Basics Is The Price of Admission

by Tracy Johnson

When attending a concert or sporting event, there’s a price of admission. You don’t get the entertainment unless you pay the price. In radio, we’re competing for audience attention, and there’s a price to pay. We must be brilliant at the basics.

The webinar focused on basic, but often overlooked areas of radio station performance. Being brilliant at the basics is critical, because without a solid foundation, it doesn’t matter how wonderful everything else is. We’re doomed to mediocrity.

One of the questions that followed the webinar asked how my client stations approach the Ratings Tune Up exercise with their staff. That varies from company-to-company, of course. Some stations barely acknowledge the start of a ratings period, while others make it a major talking point inside the station.

However, all of the great stations that constantly outperform the market regularly remind their staff on the basics that lead to success. This should be a consistent part of every programmer’s leadership, and he/she should require active participation from all staff members.

Are You Brilliant At The Basics?

Here’s some of the things great PD’s typically discuss with their teams:

How The Audience Uses Your Station

The audience is not paying attention to any radio station, even ours. Yes, we have some super-fans that hang on every word and are actively involved, and we love them. They call, text, email, comment on social media and come to our appearances. As a result, they have loud voices, but there aren’t many of them.

The bulk of the audience is distracted, and knows very little about stations, shows, personalities or features. That’s why we have to constantly reinforce our brand values.

Most Listeners Don’t Know You Exist

Ouch. Really? Yes, really. Most of the population doesn’t know your station exists. They don’t think about it. It’s not a button on their car radio and don’t know your dial position.

If prompted, they may remember something about your station, but it’s often from many years ago, and could even know you as something that doesn’t exist. In San Diego, we flipped the legendary B100 to Star 100.7 (now going by KFM-BFM) in 1994. To this day, it’s common to hear, “Oh, 100.7. That’s B100, right?” This is why it’s important to clearly and simply position your station on-air and off.

Stations Are Chosen For Mood

Radio is a utility, and consumers just push a button and it entertains them. Or it doesn’t, which is what the other buttons are for. They don’t (and won’t) work hard to remember your station, and they don’t take time to evaluate their choices.

They choose the station by the mood they are in right now, and will listen only when it’s convenient to them. If they can’t figure out what you’re talking about, they tune out. The fragile, volatile nature of the radio listener is why we must always focus on executing the basics with enthusiasm in every single break.

The Audience Is Blind

In general, they don’t care about what goes on in the studio. They’re not clued into those inside references, and can’t see what you’re doing. They don’t know what a “spot” is or what a “control board” is. And they really don’t care. It’s not on their radar. To them, it’s just self-indulgent talk, and they can’t relate.

Ratings Participants

Only a select few, unique folks agree to participate in the ratings process. They are not like other people. They’re motivated differently. The ratings game is not at all representative of the actual listening audience. As long as ratings are important to your station’s financial health, it’s critically important to understand the differences.

Personality Life Stages & Relationships

It takes time for audiences to get to know air personalities. A long time. It takes even longer for them to develop a relationship with them, and decide if they like them. It takes even longer for them to fall in love with them and become fans.

This is a natural part of the personality life stage evolution. Trying to force this to happen quickly usually results in failed shows or weak launches.


These are just a few facts that are important for everyone on your team to know and understand. Spend time with your staff, answering questions and explaining more about the audience’s world. Being brilliant at the basics should be a part of every employee’s training.

If you need resources, there are plenty on this site.

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