Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Polishing the Brand with Shared Values

"Does this polish the brand?" 

That's a question we encourage our stations to ask themselves as they consider any additions (or subtractions) to their products.

It's a good question that encompasses:
  • Is this “on brand” (i.e., consistent with the station/brand values?)
  • Does it match the values and expectations of the audience?
  • Does this enhance or detract from the brand?
  • Will this surprise and delight users?
  • Is this the best ‘camera angle’ or execution we can use?

A&O&B has always been a believer in paying serious attention to listener values. Understanding these values is a key to connectivity.

For a non-radio example of in-sync product and consumer values, visit and you’ll see a tab for ‘Responsibility.’ 

The drop down menu includes Community, Environment, Ethical and even a Global Responsibility Goals andProgress Report.

So it was no surprise to see this on a recent Starbucks visit.

On brand.  Value-appropriate. Enhances. Delights. Doable.

It's a good example of how to evaluate an opportunity based on values as well as inspire thinking that can polish your brand.

Have a story about something you've done to polish your brand? 

We'd all love to hear about it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hearing vs. Listening: Providing Quality Feedback to the Question, “Did you hear the show today?”

“Did you hear the show today?” is an oft-asked question talent poses to programmers, managers and consultants. Their expectation is usually for a “yes” followed by some feedback.

It sounds nit-picky, but the better question would be, “Did you listen to the show today?” Hearing is passive but listening is active and Critical Listening involves thinking about and evaluating what you heard.

We do a lot of Critical Listening at A&O&B and if you’re a programmer you no doubt do as well.

A while back I spoke to a group of GMs and Market Managers on “how to critically listen to your radio station.”  The goal was to help these GMs and MMs be better critical listeners of their stations by identifying key programming elements and creating a framework to help them evaluate what they heard. 

This could then be turned into a coaching tool for their PDs as well as helping the sales department better communicate the station's benefits to clients and prospects.

Of course these ideas are appropriate for programmers as well.  If you’re a long-time programmer, you’ve probably internalized much of this making your critical listening and feedback more ‘automatic’ than a step-by-step process. 

However if you’re new to critical listening or have moved to a new format, you might consider developing a joint GM/PD plan to help insure you’re both on the same page.

STEP 1: Create a listening roadmap.

“Critical listening” means evaluating what you hear. But because there are so many components to the final product, your critical listening will be more effective if you have a plan that will serve as a reminder of what’s important and help you focus your listening. It will also keep you from becoming sidetracked by any single thing, good or bad.

Later the plan will help you assess what you’ve heard and discuss it with the talent.

Start your listening road map by completing the following:

1. Broad and narrow target demos and ratings goals

2. Lifegroup values and interests

3. The needs/wants/likes of the station’s cumers vs. partisans

4. Unique value positions or advantages of the talent and the station and how these are leveraged (keep the list short)

5. Music position and focus

6. Most important activities going on at the station this week

7. The big 'talk-abouts' for listeners

STEP 2: Record specific evaluations and observations as you’re listening. Make notes on how closely the on air product matches each of the items in your listening plan. Consider:

1. Overall, how aligned is the product to the target listener’s tastes and values?

2. Are the music position and music focus clear and reflective of the overall strategy?

3. Is the talent content and focus in sync with the target and ratings goals?

4. Does the imaging reflect the right attitude and communicate relevant messages?

5. Can you readily discern the station’s unique advantage(s) and core benefit(s)?

6. Are today’s most important station elements and tactics receiving the most attention?

7. What other factors (service, community commercial load, imaging, etc.) are important to consider in your competitive environment?

8. How organized did the show sound? Was the content spread evenly throughout your listening? Were there quality teases that made you want to hear the pay-off? Were there social components?

9. If you’re listening to a morning show, how well did it help define the station?

10. If there were multiple players on the show, how was the chemistry? Did each get to stand in the spotlight?  Was it easy to understand each player’s role and why they are important to the show?

11. Did what you heard meet the three major wants of country users: 1) plays the best music, 2) makes me feel good when I listen, 3) has talent that sounds like my friends and not like disc jockeys?

12. What did you hear that would make you want to listen again tomorrow?

STEP 3: Using specifics from your listening, discuss what you heard and take any necessary actions.

If the listening met or exceeded expectations, can the envelope be pushed further? Can what we did well in one area be applied to another?

If the experience didn’t match the expectations, did the disconnect stem from a lack of knowledge, difference in vision or interpretation, action/execution, or something else?

Write a few sentences to summarize what you heard and the actions you’re taking; this will be useful in your next critical listening session.

If you’re going share the results with the talent in a formalized setting, it’s always helpful to have the audio available to play.

Have some tips on critical listening? Feel free to share them here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Music Discovery Spans Country Demos Though Who Is Being Discovered Varies Considerably

A & O & B’s Roadmap 2014 - our just-released annual online perceptual of some 9,000 country fans – included an in-depth look at music discovery.

Nearly 58% of the 18-54 respondents said they had “discovered a new artist in the past 12 months that is becoming one of their favorites.” 90% said they had discovered a new artist via FM radio though discovery via social is certainly trending up.

It gets quite interesting when you break out discovery by demo.

Discovery is higher among 18-24s with nearly 70% saying they’ve discovered a new artist in the past 12 months vs. 52% of 45-54s. 52% is no small number but 70% is big.

Who listeners have discovered also looks different by demo.   

Luke Bryan, The Band Perry and Florida-Georgia Line have some pretty significant discovery differences 18-24 vs. 45-54. 

These differences are less dramatic but they certainly exist for Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell and Jason Aldean. 

There are many other examples.

A take-away for programmers is, given country’s wide demos, that while listeners may be on the same page for things like artist discovery, they are not necessarily reading the same paragraph.

A &O & B’s annual Roadmap online perceptual is a free service to clients who also receive a separate, local report with feedback from their market’s listeners. For information, contact or  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Quick Tips to Get the Most Out of CRS from A&O&B and Lori Lewis

New to CRS this year? Perhaps you haven't been often or been in a while? How about a few tips to get the most out of your visit?

That was the question that CT Weekly put to a few of us.  Here's how Jaye, Jacobs Media's Lori Lewis (Lori also works with A&O&B stations) and I responded.

Jaye Albright:

Be sure your mobile phone's batteries are fully charged and prepare to grab audio and video with artists you run into and at their shows. Tweet and Instagram the photos and short video. Make all of that available each day on your station blog and Facebook, etc  too.  

Buy all of the sessions (it's not that much more expensive if you buy the whole package).  That way you can make networking your #1 priority.  You can listen to the sessions later when you get home, but you may NEVER see label execs or major artists so close up ever again.  Build relationships and preplan who you need to see - ie your regional reps for every label - and make sure you do that.

Don't skip all sessions and just go to the entertainment.  Yes, it is possible to go 24/7 at CRS and have a great time getting really drunk, but the sessions attract the people you really want to get to know if you hope to grow your career.  

Prepare a GREAT question to ask in every session you attend and ASK it.  One, you'll learn a lot from the answers, but maybe even more importantly, there will be people you don't even know you need to know in the session too who say to themselves "wow, that was a good question.  who was that?"
Relax and have a great time.  There is no WRONG way to do CRS!

Lori Lewis:

Carry your phone charger with you, everywhere.

Showcase Country radio, the music and CRS by using the event’s official hashtag, #CRS2014, with every piece of social communication on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Follow the #CRS2014 stream on Twitter. This is opportunity to meet other CRS attendees and discover nuggets of knowledge you may have missed out on.

Retweet others using #CRS2014 when appropriate. This is opportunity to raise the profile of country radio to those not attending.

Be positive socially. There’s enough anger and trolls online – let’s have a higher standard for our community.

Mike O'Malley:

Identify the sessions you feel will help you grow the most/learn the most and make those a priority. There are lots of great sessions, but 'coming back smarter' should be your number one goal.

Plan on buying audio from sessions that are going on concurrently with those on your list. Also you can share notes with someone you know that is attending a conflicting session. 

See as many new acts as you can. You'll be ahead of your competitors who didn't attend.

Target new friends and mentors. Make a list of people you would like to learn from/share knowledge with and introduce yourself. Putting yourself in the midst of smart people will pay dividends now and down the road. 

Share what you've learned with others. We'll all be better as a result.

You can read CT's other tips here. And of course feel free to share your own suggestions by leaving a comment below.

PS: At the risk of a little self-promotion, we hope you'll be able to join us for our 20th annual Pre-CRS Seminar, Tuesday afternoon from 12:30-4:30 at the Country Music Hall of Fame's Ford Theater. We'll have presentations on hosting and making money with your own music festival, the art of negotiating, Lori Lewis with social media advice for country, a conversation with the great Gerry House and a performance from Republic Nashville's Eli Young Band. Plus we'll reveal top line data from A&O&B's online perceptual Roadmap 2014. It's free and open to clients as well as those in markets that don't compete with A&O&B but you'll need to RSVP: Just let Becky Brenner know. 

And you can still register for CRS here.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Being In Sync: Taking Advantage of Events that Bring Us Together.

If you need any extra encouragement to "capture the moment" at your station, here’s a timely read from Seth Godin's blog.

It's about the dwindling number of "group mania” events like today's Super Bowl and how they serve as vehicles to helps us prove to ourselves and others that we’re in sync and “belong.” We may watch even if we don't care just to be able to talk about what everyone else is talking about.

Similarly, stations demonstrate that they "belong" (or not) in part by the level of attention they pay to these sorts of things. Imaging, content, social, promotions - how far we choose to go will do a lot to determine our perceived like-mindedness.

Crain’s predicts 110-million will tune in for this year’s game. But don't worry if you didn't think you scored a connection touchdown this time. There will be plenty of event opportunities in the coming months starting with the Olympics.

Take time this week to consider all the celebratory/talk-abouts that are coming up in your market and how many ways you can use them to help remind listeners that you're both on the same page.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gerry House Joins Us at A&O&B's 20th Pre-CRS Seminar

With our announcement today that Gerry House will be part of the 2014 A&O&B Pre-CRS Seminar, I thought it would be OK to re-visit a couple of blogs I wrote. 

They're about being a great talent.

The first from December of 2010 was penned after Gerry’s last day on the air at WSIX. There’s no way of course to sum up Gerry’s contributions in a blog – let alone from someone who never worked with him nor even got to hear him on a daily basis. I was instead like many radio folk who came to Nashville in the pre-streaming days;  we considered listening to "Gerry House and The House Foundation" a "must have" experience.

It was a beautiful thing to hear: a balance of humor and heart-tuggers, country and mass appeal content, insider authority and self-deprecation, personal and universal stories, and a feeling that you were among good friends, all riding in a carpool and doing your collective best to face each day with a sense of humor. 

Shows were peppered with memorable stories and improbable characters that sprung from stereotypes of real people we’d either encountered or imagined we might encounter.

It was funny and fun to listen to. At the risk of sounding a little gushy, it was an awesome, one-of-a-kind piece of art.

Last year I wrote about what listeners say makes a talent great: having a sense of humor, being real, giving the audience the sense they as listeners were understood by the talent, and that the talent was interesting simply in and of themselves outside of anything else going on at the station – even the music. 

There are a dozen more points listeners made (here) and again you could have checked them off one-by-one listening to Gerry House. 

Our most recent Pre-CRS gatherings have featured at least one session on talent growth. Over the previous 19 years many of the industry’s best talent coaches have generously shared their thoughts with us.  

As a performer and writer however, Gerry is in a class by himself (he’ll probably have a line for that). 

Spending time with great talent is inspirational. 

If you’re coming to our Pre-CRS Seminar, this might be one of the sessions that will stay with your throughout your career.

Gerry we're honored you'll be joining us.

You can join us for Albright & O’Malley & Brenner’s Pre-CRS Seminar Tuesday, February 18th, from 12:30-4:30pm at the Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s free and open to clients and those in non-competing markets, but you will need to RSVP to or #AOBPCRS2014 If you have not yet registered for CRS you can do so here.  Order or get information on Gerry's just-released book "Country Music Broke My Brain" here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Fine Line Between Relevant and Ridiculous

We could be polite and say it was just one of those embarrassing moments. 

But the truth is, many listeners this morning probably judged the quarter-hour a lot more harshly.

As they should have.

It had already been snowing for an hour. And for the past 30 minutes it was coming down pretty good. And it was sticking on the roads. 

That was when the live talent informed us that the snowfall would begin later today. 

This of course sounded beyond ridiculous to those of us in our cars, navigating through the snow that was now coming down hard enough to make it obvious - even to fellow lead-footers - that driving conditions were rapidly deteriorating. 

Surely, I’m thinking, the next time the talent came on there would be a correction, an update, a ‘report’ – something to save face.

I waited through a song, a commercial set, a discussion on an unrelated topic, and a phoner, but there was to be no face saving this break. 

So I hit a button. 

This show on this morning was clueless (side note: How many times would I put up with this before I removed them from my morning station "buying set?").

That the show originates from a remote studio is no excuse in the mind of listeners. Without a plan (or with a plan but with a failure to execute said plan) the talent sounded foolish.

That snow (or name your local event) is coming is fairly predictable. When it will start is probably less so.  Which is all the more reason to have a plan that covers common contingencies.

Everyone looks bad when this sort of preventable thing happens: the talent, the station and radio.  It supplies more fodder for our critics.

Situations like this usually have only two outcomes: your talent and station come off as relevant or ridiculous.

Have you reviewed your response and information plans recently?