All posts by Gary Berkowitz

The Lost Art of Air Checking

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

If you are a regular reader of my newsletters and MAB columns, there’s one thing you know for sure, I believe in being “Brilliant with the Basics.” One of the most basic (and important) jobs a PD can do is critique talent. But with today’s busy PD schedules, this often gets ignored. So now that you’ve been reminded, set up an aircheck session today. To
help, here’s a rundown of important areas to review:

MORNING SHOWS

  1. Trying too hard to be funny. There is a difference between “fun” and “funny.” Being fun is important and much easier to do.
  2. Not enough time checks. Too much time in-between time checks.
  3. Not enough benefit driven re-cycle mentions to “listen at work.” Use the morning show to get them into listening during the most important daypart, at work.
  4. Being an “Island” from the rest of the station. Not promoting what will happen later in the day on the station.
  5. Laughing at everything said. Laughing when it is not funny.  Nervous laughter (especially with sidekicks).
  6. Bits that go too long. In focus groups, most listeners “zone out” after about 20 seconds (unless it is really good).
  7. If you’re still doing news. Stories that have no interest whatsoever to the target listener. Use of words like “officials” and “authorities.”
  8. No promotion of what is coming up next. No appointment setting.
  9. Weather teases that give away the forecast.
  10. Talk for talk sake. Music is still a very important reason that people listen in the morning.
  11. Failing to sound warm and friendly.
  12. Weak or old fashioned benchmarks. Drop the weakest one.
  13. Too much reliance on pop culture, show business, entertainment “blocks.” Most AC listeners rate this very low in importance.
  14. Companionship. Are you good companions for your listeners?

OTHER DAYPARTS

  1. Jocks who sound stiff/formal and un-natural.
  2. Not promoting the stations unique benefits enough.
  3. “SAYING” liners versus “SELLING” them.
  4. Not promoting tomorrow’s morning show.
  5. Sounding bored and un-interested.
  6. Failing to realize that you are their workday companion.
  7. Use of DJ Crutches such as:
    • Good Afternoon
    • Good Evening
    • With You
    • Thanks for listening “Everybody”
    • On a (day of week)
    • “Everybody”
    • Hump Day (if your jocks use this PLEASE eliminate)
    • Saying goodbye at the end of the shift

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

Fall Book Prep: 10 Areas to Review for a Strong Ratings Performance

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

(The Fall book starts September 14th)

Hard to believe, but in diary markets, the fall book starts in one month. Since I am a big believer in “being brilliant with the basics” here are 10 programming musts if you want a good outcome when the books are released.

1. Keep the music familiar and focused. Take no chances on unfamiliar music. Check the log carefully daily for balance and flow. Avoid clumping of any same sounds. Keep the tempo “even.”

2. Sell the music position and the benefits of listening to the station. Music is the #1 reason people listen to the radio. Sell your music quantity and quality benefits. Specific music quantity benefits work much better than generic. Example: “Continuous Half Hours” and “7-In-A-Row” is better than “Long Sets.”

3. Own AT WORK. Promote the benefits of listening at work. Especially in AM Drive.

4. Morning fun! Keep the morning show bright, up and most important, loaded with interesting, fun, compelling material. Remember, there is a difference between “fun” and “funny.” If your morning show is music based, make sure to keep the music as the star.

5. Branding. Make sure to attach your calls to all services and features. Make sure it’s not “traffic” versus “WXXX Traffic.” Sell your positioning statement & key benefits. Always when going back to music from spots. Always on the end of Weather when going back to music.

6. Use as much “Appointment” promotion as possible. Keep em coming back for more. Make sure each morning show promo has a specific reason and time for tune-in. Same applies to the morning show. Pre-promote ahead to take the most advantage of content breaks.

7. Keep listener testimonials fresh & real. Listener testimonials can be very strong weapons to credibly promote the key station benefits. Make sure all testimonials talk about a specific thing such as morning show, most music, Best Music etc. Avoid “stroke” testimonials such as “we love you.” Live testimonials versus those done on the phone sound and work better.

8. Watch the talk. Keep the personality but also keep a lid on extra, non-essential talk. It is amazing how much unnecessary talk happens on radio stations.

9. Sell “More Music Weekends.” Many stations have a much more music intense sound on the weekend. Take advantage of this and promote as a benefit. “Weekends always mean more music” or “It’s a more music weekend.”

10. Production elements. Make sure all liners and sweepers clearly promote the strategy. If it’s more music, focus on it and sell it hard. Work in some jingle cuts you have not used in a while. Look at prior packages that have not been used recently. If re-writing liners/sweepers be careful not to lose the basic point; listening benefits.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

Are your ‘Personalities’ difference makers for your station?

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

Some new tips for programming and management:

There’s a lot of noise out there in radio-land these days. Digital. Internet advertising. Podcasting, Apps, Alexa and many others. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that’s all important. Very important. But, we may need to slow down for a second and look at an area that is a key reason listeners listen and that is the on air personality. Whether you have talk show hosts or DJs on a music station, listeners enjoy and more importantly want their local radio stations to have personalities.

The other day I was scanning through Rick Sklar’s “Rocking America.” It’s the story of what is arguably one of radio’s most successful radio stations ever, WABC in New York. In his book, Rick details what made WABC so successful. He devotes a full chapter to the on-air personalities and how important they were the the station’s success.

I would like to share just a few of his quotes from “Rocking America.” After you read them, ask yourself: How is my station with our on air people? Would my listeners think of our personalities like New York listeners thought of WABC’s? Could this be the missing link for greater success on my radio station?

From “Rocking America …”

  • The impact of WABC cannot be summed up in a corporation’s profit and loss statement. To the listener, radio is a personal medium.
  • During the dozen years of its heyday, WABC, its music and its air personalities became an intimate part of the lives of tens of millions of people who lived in the Northeast.
  • Mornings without Herb Oscar Anderson or Harry Harrison, afternoons without Ron Lundy or Big Dan Ingram, evenings without cousin Brucie were unthinkable to WABC listeners.
  • Those voices, each so unusually amiable and delivered with the warmer than life resonance of the WABC sound, were friend, family and counselor all in one.
  • The songs they played were so popular that they became the national hit music for America. Their appeal crossed every demographic barrier.

Think about it. Can you say these things about your on air personalities? I believe that on music driven stations we sometimes focus too much on content and not nearly enough on how our jocks sound and come across to the listener.

Let’s discuss this. I’d love to know what you think. Call me (248) 737-3727 or email gary@garyberk.com .

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

Station Information Packets, Old School Marketing Techniques That Still Work and Show Your PD Some Love!

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

Some new tips for programming and management:

Fill out your Nielsen SIP (Station Information Packet). They may say you don’t have to, but I say do it. Make sure your SIP is correct. You never know when an editor may need clarification. Why take a chance that your information is out of date? You need every quarter hour you can get!

Do you have a “relationship” with your P1’s? This the #1 and most important way to achieve strong ratings. You can play all the right songs; have all the right sweepers and the best jingles in the market, however, if you’re missing that hard-to-describe link that bonds the listener to your station, the ratings will most likely not be there. Remember the old saying “People Listen to People They Like.” Is your station likable? P1’s always fuel their favorite radio station with lots of 1/4 hours.

Listener databases still work.  A little “old school” can go a long way. Take advantage of technology that is sitting on your desk today and is free. A listener database is a great way to speak to listeners and thank them with special offers that mean something to them. Many stations are wasting this by dumping worthless promotions into these databases. “Here’s what’s happening at WAAA” does not mean anything. It sends out a message that communication from my favorite station is really spam.

Better: Send out an e-mail blast on Wednesday that says when you will play a secret song on Thursday. Give a “special number” to call to win $100. Make sure they understand that this contest is only for them. For $100 a week (less than some spend on lunch) you could set yourself up for a ratings spike.

“Change” is not AC’s friend.  About to make an adjustment? Think about them carefully. When changes in programming are made on a whim it could ultimately hurt or even worse, open up an opportunity for a competitor. By the way, listeners are more aware of on-air changes than we think, so yes, they do hear that “extra spot.”

The earlier the better with marketing. If you are marketing for the book, starting early in the book is preferred. Many believe that it takes 60-90 days for changes to affect a rating book. By starting early, you allow the cumulative effect of your marketing to affect the book.

GM’s & Owners: Programmers need love too! Have a weekly meeting or lunch out of the station to catch up and allow your PD quality time for important matters. Tell a jock you heard a good break. Send a note after a jock does a nice job at a remote. Walk by the studio and give thumbs up.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

Gary can be reached at (248) 737-3727 or gary@garyberk.com.

Remotes: Make ‘Em Great

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

From radio’s earliest days, remotes have been a part of our landscape. Today, they still cause much talk at radio stations. Should we do remotes or not is the most commonly asked question (especially among programmers).

At many stations, remotes are necessary, especially this time of year (summer).  So, with that in mind, here are a few tips to make them work for the client as well as your station.

MAKE SURE YOU SOUND GREAT!

Avoid having talent remotes or call in’s on the telephone. Listeners are used to hearing them over the air with finely tuned audio chains. Years ago, getting a good remote phone line was complicated and costly. Not the case today. If you do remotes, invest in one of the many systems that easily produce digital quality over any type of phone.

If you are going to have a PA at the remote, avoid feedback. While PD at WJR in Detroit, we did many remotes and always seemed to have a PA problem. Our Chief Engineer, Ed Buterbaugh, came up with a great solution. Instead of having one or two large PA speakers (that usually cause feedback) he bought 10 smaller, high quality speakers. He would surround the remote site with these. Each had a separate volume control so we could adjust each individually. Since there were many speakers, they did not have to run at high levels. We never had feedback on remotes again.

SOUND GREAT: LOOK GREAT

The fact that listeners cannot see us is a great part of the radio mystique. When we go out on remote that goes away. It is for this reason that we must look great with equipment and sets as well as talent. If you use a van, make sure it is spotless and always polished. It should not have body damage and the inside should be neat and clean.

Leave the “card table” home. Get an impressive looking “set” to bring on remotes.

All station personnel should be “dressed for success.” Some type of “station wear” should always be worn. Unless you are at a pool/beach/summer outdoor promotion, T-shirts are a no-no. The station should invest in contemporary outfits. Remember that first impressions are lasting ones!

PREPARATION EQUALS SUCCESS

1. Have a plan. Know who is responsible for what. Review and go over the day before. Load the van the day before. Make sure the van is neat and clean inside out.

2. Make sure the account executive is at the remote. Since this is their account, they must plan to be there for the entire event to make sure that client relations are handled in the correct way.

3. Get to the remote site at least two hours ahead of the event. Have plenty of banners and giveaways at the site. Balloons are great. They are inexpensive and kids love them. Do not forget the helium tank. Having some type of gimmick can also be most effective. Some stations have a mascot that hands out pictures. Some have the Money Machine. The more you have to offer the more attractive you are to not only the client, but to perspective listeners.

4. Test the connection to the studio. Make sure you have a good line, and the board op can hear you and you can hear them. In this day and age of advanced technology there is no excuse for the first breaks to be sloppy and all over the place.

5. If you are going live, make sure there is good communication from the remote to the studio. The talent at the remote site must have working headphones to hear.

6. Have a plan/script for all drops/call-in’s. Keep remote drops to :60. Write it down so you do not end up repeating yourself repeatedly. Pre-plan each drop with the client so they will know exactly what they will be getting.

7. Do an email blast before the remote. If you have a database, send out e-mails to the database letting them know that you are coming to their neighborhood. Invite them to come and meet you. Won’t you look great to the client when you load the place up with people!

Finally: Record the drops

When you are doing one or two drops an hour, many stations find that recording the drops is more effective than doing them live. This way if an error is made, it can be re-done. Over the years, I did many a remote this way and listeners never realized the talent was recorded. This also allowed talent more time at the remote site to meet, entertain and talk to listeners.

Hopefully these tips will help you turn your next remote into a win-win for everyone!

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

Gary can be reached at (248) 737-3727 or gary@garyberk.com.

All Things Christmas

garyberkowitz_275
Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of the above article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
President, Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting
gary@garyberk.com
http://www.garyberk.com

“It’s all about how you decorate your station for the holidays.

Here’s a programming checklist and suggestions as we approach Christmas.

Programming checklist/suggestions as we approach Christmas:

  1. The on-air presentation should remain up and contemporary. Sometimes when stations go to all Christmas music, the jocks tend to “soften” or bring the presentation down. The on-air delivery should be up, fun and exciting.
  2. When opening the mic, the jocks should always open with a line like: B106.1 The Christmas Music Station. (Please do not refer to the music as “Holiday Music” always call it Christmas music).
  3. Other key Positioning lines to consider:
    • 100% Christmas Music
    • All Christmas Music, All The Time
    • Non Stop Christmas Music
    • All Your Christmas Favorites all Season
  4. Reinforce these lines every time. Not just sometimes. It’s critical to drive home the “All Christmas” message. It will not get tired.
  5. The goal is to “dress up the station” with Christmas cheer. This is a six-week tactic. Sound great and get all the ratings credit.
  6. The right music list repeats a lot. You may get some complaints. That’s ok. Wondering about your list? Call me and I’ll tell you.
  7. Dress the website for Christmas. Use the line “The Christmas Music Station.” It’s very important that when a listener goes to the website, it reflects what you are doing on the air. Same for Facebook pages. Do what you can with them to make it look like Christmas.
  8. Have high production values. Use lots of holiday jingles. If you cannot get new Christmas jingles in time, take your current ones, and be creative. Add bells, chimes, and ho-ho-ho’s to make them sound Christmas.
  9. It’s all about Christmas. All live liners and recorded sweepers refer to Christmas.
  10. Get involved with as many Christmas promotions as possible. Local sings, shows that are coming to town (Radio City Music Hall Christmas, etc). Look at a contest tactic like “Christmas Song of the Day.”
  11. Attention diary markets: No matter what the Arbitron, Ooops, I mean Nielsen people tell you, change your Arbitron SIP. Make sure it says “Christmas Music” “Xmas music” etc.

Before his current tenure as President of the company that bares his name, Gary Berkowitz spent many years being involved in every aspect of the operation and management of some of America’s most successful radio stations. Gary was the first Program Director at the legendary PRO-FM, Providence. He transformed WROR, Boston from an Oldies station to what would become one of the first AC’s in the US. Gary then went to Detroit for Capital Cities Communications to program News-Talk powerhouse WJR, and WHYT. Under Gary’s leadership WHYT experienced the highest ratings ever as a CHR. The next step was when Gary launched one of the first Hot AC’s, Q95, Detroit with another #1 success story.

Gary started his Detroit-based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting in 1990 and has been helping AC stations grow and achieve higher ratings ever since. Results driven, attentive and highly passionate best describes his style. In 2012 he was inducted to the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame as well as the WERS (Emerson College, Boston) Radio Hall of Fame.

Editorial: Station Information Packets, Old School Marketing Techniques That Still Work and Show Your PD Some Love!

Gary Berkowitz_300By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting
gary@garyberk.com

The Nielsen reporting process with SIP’s (station information packets) can affect your ratings. Return your SIP every book. Make sure air talents are not rushing through or not selling calls and frequency. The #1 goal is to do everything to insure listeners know who they are listening to for increased recall.

GM’s & Owners: Programmers need love too! Have a weekly meeting or lunch out of the station to catch up and allow your PD quality time for important matters. Tell a jock you heard a good break. Send a note after a jock does a nice job at a remote. Walk by the studio and give thumbs up.

Do you have a “relationship” with your P1’s? This is the #1 and most important way to achieve strong ratings. You can play all the right songs; have all the right sweepers and the best jingles in the market. If you’re missing that hard-to-describe link that bonds the listener to your station, the ratings will most likely not be there. Remember the old saying “People Listen to People They Like.” Is your station likable?

Loyal listener databases still work. A little “old school” can go a long way. The days of unlimited marketing budgets are long gone. Take advantage of technology that is sitting on your desk today and is free. A listener database is a great way to speak to your best listeners and thank them with special offers that mean something to them. Many stations are wasting this by dumping worthless promotions into these databases. “Here’s whats happening at WAAA” does not mean anything. It sends out a message that communication from my favorite station is really spam.

Better: Send out an e-mail blast on Wednesday that says when you will play a secret song on Thursday. Give a “special number” to call to win $100. Make sure they understand that this contest is only for them (those who received the email). For $100 a week (less than some spend on lunch) you may set yourself up for a ratings spike. Don’t forget to start asking new people to sign up for your database.

“Change” is not adult radio’s friend. This is especially important with female based formats. When thinking about adjustments, think them over carefully. When changes in programming are made on a whim it could ultimately hurt or even worse, open up an opportunity for a competitor. By the way, listeners are more aware of on-air changes than we think. Yes, they hear that “extra spot.”

The earlier the better with marketing. If you are marketing for the book, starting early in the book is preferred. Many believe that it takes 60-90 days for changes to affect a rating book. Whether or not that is true, it makes sense to start early, and allow the cumulative effect of your marketing affect the book. This is especially important in one or two book markets.