Attention! It’s all about attention

A recent piece from Fast Company highlighted the work of US public radio station WNYC and how they are finding innovative ways to push the medium forward. It’s a great read.

For me though it reinforced the challenge facing radio, with one word jumping off the page.

“ATTENTION”

As audience behaviour changes and becomes more fragmented, you as a broadcaster are now in the attention game, not the radio game. Listeners don’t have time for you unless you bring some value to their lives. You’re background noise.

According to Dean Cappello, WNYC’s executive vice president and chief content officer “You have to fight every moment of the day for somebody’s attention,” Cappello said. “And if you’re not doing that, they’re going to move on to something else.”

He’s right. If you don’t stand out, grab attention and be memorable, it’s over. Forget your closest FM competitor. That doesn’t matter anymore.  You’re up against Netflix, Snapchat, Spotify, You Tube, World of Warcraft & thousands of other outlets fighting for attention.

The positives? In a world of distraction you can be the curator that pulls the best from all the noise. You can be the broadcaster or podcaster that illicit those ‘Me too’ moments that really strengthen that bond between you and the listener. Look at Snapchats biggest stars, they are playing the oldest radio tricks in the book. Storytelling, entertainment and authenticity on a one to one basis. They are grabbing a big % of that attention through building a traditional relationship with the viewer.

So when preparing for your next show, think ‘Attention’. Forget the long rambling links, add some structure and get to the point. Spend that extra hour working on your prep, finding those features that will make you famous for doing. Call a random listener after your show and ask them what they thought, build those relationships. Go deep with your data, use your analytics, what streams worked best, what podcasts got the most downloads, what tested well, you’ll see pretty quickly what’s working and what’s not. How responsive are you? Can you put unique spin on a breaking story? Put aside a day for planning for your next quarter, spending those hours ripping your show apart, amplifying the really great bits and coming up with the ideas that will get you your slice of the attention. I assure you that if you do even a quarter of those things, your show will be instantly better for it.

Now, have I got your attention?

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ. 

Photo: Attention! by msmornington

For a radio duo who know how to grab attention, read my recent post on Hamish & Andy

 

A free content creation masterclass from Hamish & Andy

If you’re a broadcaster or a producer, actually if you’re any type of content creator the 47 minute talk below is essential viewing. It’s a masterclass in content creation and broadcasting from Australian duo Hamish & Andy recorded by Commercial Radio Australia, the national industry body representing Australia’s commercial radio broadcasters.

Hamish & Andy are an Australian comedy duo formed in 2003 by Hamish Blake and Andy Lee. They currently host the radio program ‘Hamish and Andy for The Drive Home’ which airs in Australia nationally on the Hit Network. Masters of grabbing attention and creating a unique connection between them and their listeners, the duo mix traditional radio techniques with sometimes off the walls ideas. When it comes to content creation nothing is impossible.

Grab your favourite beverage of choice, a notebook and take an hour out today to watch this. It’s that good.

2 key takeaways for me. I love their thoughts on being authentic.

“Really the number one critical thing that we always try and make sure we hit and are in check with is that level of authenticity. If, this is just yesterday, sure it’s not the greatest example of all time. I have a chicken suit built that I was very passionate about, but I really wanted that first moment when Andy saw it to be authentic because he … That’s the real reaction. What we’re trying to give, what we try and do in our show in every afternoon is to try and hit that level of authenticity so we’re all enjoying the same moment as the listeners at the same time”

Hamish adds.

“I think, again that the trap to just make sure that nothing goes wrong with it you can fall into is over preparing something and then having to fake or reenact a genuine reaction when it comes around to 4:00 in the afternoon. Trying to keep that authenticity and that realness as a present really that you’re giving the other guy on the show because they’re the funnest moments. When something happens for real, we take that really seriously. I know when I get kicked out of the meeting for half an hour it’s a good thing because I’ll be given some sort of present that afternoon. There can usually be a highly embarrassing situation, but that’s the fun. We know that when 4:00pm happens, we’re not just trying to recreate something funny that happened in the meeting. We’ve saved the fireworks for the afternoon”

According to Andy when it comes to being prepared you have to have balance.

“It’s about finding that magic balance between prep and leaving enough spontaneity in the show. For us, we’ve found there’s sort of 2 ends of the spectrum, over-prepared and not prepared at all. Not prepared at all is also …”

Hamish “Dangerous.”

“Just sailing the ship. It’s about going, and so for our show, and this is different for every show, but for our show, as Sammy would know, you know every mic break, we’ll just have one word or one line of what we want to do in that slot. For us, that works, about 1 sentence to describe 5 minutes of content seems to be about the right ratio for us, but it took a fair bit of trial and error to figure that out”

One of the most inspiring teams in the radio world, I can’t wait to hear what they create in 2017.

A creative lesson from my wonderful 2 year old daughter

Finding it hard to be creative? Stuck in a rut?

Yesterday I spent the afternoon blowing bubbles with my daughter. It still is one of the simplest ways of keeping my little one amused, she loves it. After much running around my daughter reached for the bottle of soapy water and proceeded to put tiny pebbles from the driveway into it. I immediately scolded her, “Serena, please don’t put pebbles in the water, you’re not meant to put stones in there”. Her face dropped and instantly I regretted telling her off. It was in that moment that I asked myself “Who was I to say whether it was right or wrong to put pebbles in the bottle?”. So I called her back and let her work away. She stayed putting pebbles in the bottle for almost 20 minutes straight, shaking the bottle furiously and laughing away. To her it made complete sense. To her it was the most natural thing in the world.

It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a 2 year old. At that age nothing is right or wrong. You experiment and it’s in those moments you discover new fun possibilities. When we get older you worry about what people think, you fear it mightn’t work out, you sometimes get stuck in tried and trusted ways. You stop being creative.

Today why not drive to work a different route? Why not read the news from a different website than your usual source. Why not have chocolate for breakfast? The list of things you could do differently are endless, you just have to let yourself go and have some fun. These different experiences often end up helping to reignite your creative fire.

So today why not put some pebbles in a bottle. As Serena will tell you, it’s great fun.

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ.

Improve your show prep with this dinner party trick

Are you struggling to get the best out of your show prep? Finding it hard to get your team to reveal some great stories?

There is a wonderful lifestyle blog called a ‘Cup of Jo‘ which I like to browse through every now and then when looking for inspiration. In a recent post author Joanna Goddard described how while at a dinner party it’s host requested that all diners partake in a round table ‘Ice Breaker’. Initially they all shuddered at the thought but surprisingly it would reveal a whole host of conversation starters.

Goddard revealed.

“She asked us to go around the table and share three fun facts about ourselves. Sitting to her right, I was the first person to go. I scrambled to come up with offbeat stories and ended up spouting random things: “Um, I have a twin sister… Uh, I don’t drink coffee?”

She added.

“But by the time we got halfway around the table, people had warmed up and were telling EPIC tales. One woman could remember everything she’d done every day of her life (but never realized that was weird until she saw a 60 Minutes piece on endless memory). Another woman had married her husband twice — first at 20, then they divorced at 21, then re-married at 22. A third woman revealed that she had spent years working as the personal assistant to a major celebrity. The party was a huge success — we were laughing so much, and people shared things that would have never otherwise come up. It was the ultimate conversation starter. Every contribution sparked a dozen more questions, and the game lasted the whole night”

Who would have thought something as simple as a quick ice breaker question would reveal so much about the company that Goddard was keeping. Sometimes in the daily grind of things you forget to sit around as a team and ask some simple questions.

So in your show prep team meeting tomorrow why not share three fun facts about yourself. You never know what might be revealed?

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ.

Photo by Kevin Curtis.

How to deal with silence from Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong is one of the most controversial figures in the sporting world. His recent interview on Newstalk’s Off The Ball revealed a fascinating insight into his character, but the 30 minute interview also showcased one incredibly important lesson that has put the fear of god into broadcasters over the years. The fear of silence.

In the clip below listen to an absolute stunning moment (at 11min 40 secs) where interviewer Ger Gilroy asks Armstrong a well researched, smartly constructed, hard hitting question. Armstrong answers, Gilroy not satisfied with the question continues to probe and is greeted by silence.

Now for what feels like an eternity the interviewer could have panicked, broke the tension and tried to approach the question from another angle but didn’t. He was brave enough to use the silence to his advantage and put Armstrong on the back foot. It’s a broadcasting masterclass from Ger Gilroy.

Next time you’re faced with an uncomfortable silence, enjoy it. The world hasn’t stopped, you haven’t committed a broadcasting sin. In fact used sparingly, silence can grab attention and make the listener turn you up. Everyone loves a little bit of tension and in the case of this interview there was only one person who didn’t enjoy the silence and that was Armstrong himself.

Photo by Sebastian David Tingkær

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ.

Radio, Snapchat and Instagram’s ‘Stories’

Recently I had a lengthily conversation with an experienced broadcaster who was surprised about the amount of attention certain snapchat influencers were getting and what did they had to do to increase their own views.

I politely suggested that why not try and do what worked for them on the radio. Why not be themselves and be completely open with the audience? For that’s why certain Snapchat stars are blazing a trail online.

Snapchat and now Instagram’s ‘Stories’ are truly a platform for authenticity. Just like radio it’s a real personal connection between you and the viewer. You can use cool filters and face changing accompanying apps but it’s real hook is that the content is ‘in the moment’ and then disappears. Listeners can get a real sense of a presenters life, a real relatable view and isn’t that what we strive for on-air?? It also doesn’t waste your time, one tap of the screen and you move to next snap. Like a good link you just get straight to the point.

To cut through on social you must speak in your true voice. Like radio the broadcasters who really stand out are those who put it all on the line. Are you willing to do that? Because if you are, you could be the next great radio star.

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ. Photo by Maurizio Pesce

@alanswan

The Crystal Ball of Content

One of my favourite podcasts is “An Irishman Abroad” produced and presented by Jarlath Regan.

His recent interview with comedian Dylan Moran really struck a chord with me and revealed a wonderful obeservation of what content makers should be looking for when seeking inspiration on what to talk about, what to write about.

“The universals are indeed the universals. They apply everywhere. What obsesses everyone is the same stuff. You know what? The best guide to … if you’re thinking of … sitting around thinking about what to write about. What can I talk about? I mean the what is a lot less important than the how most of the time anyway, but you know what the stuff that gets people directly? Or what engages nervous people is? It’s everything that someone would go and ask a fortune teller about.

What are they gonna ask an old lady with a crystal ball in a tent? It’s love, family, health, death, illness…  They’re all the things that the big engines turning in people”

And it’s true. The primal topics of family, relationships, love, death can provide so much content. It’s a brilliant yet simple observation from Moran. So what would you ask a fortune teller? That question could provide you with the inspiration for your next big piece of content.

Jarlath Regan’s full podcast is available here. I recommend his conversations with writer Louise O’Neill, broadcaster Baz Ashmawy and sportsman Ronan O’Gara.

Picture: The Amazing Zoltar by Nancy – I’m gonna SNAP! https://flic.kr/p/pPFjYg