Friday, October 30, 2009

Lessons I learned from behind the mic

My first real job was working at my local radio station. I started my broadcasting career as a disc jockey at the end of the glory days of local, live AM radio. There were no computers. Creating a live show involved vinyl records, tapes, teletype machines, and a damned fine sense of timing. It was great fun.

When I began, I had little idea what I was doing. But 33 years later, when I finally hung up the headphones, I had changed, just like the radio business that had changed around me. I had learned a great deal, too -- the kind of stuff only people who have spent years in the business truly know. And the learnings that really mattered are ones that don't just apply to radio, but to any communications pursuit:

  • You'll never hear from your audience when you do things well, because that's what they expect you to do. But screw something up, and they're on you like flies. Learn to understand the audience feedback you receive, and the feedback you don't.
  • When you're on the mic or when you're writing copy, talk like you're communicating to just one person. When you do, the result will make your audience feel a much deeper sense of connection to you.
  • Think ahead. Anticipate what's just around the corner. If you don't, you'll come off sounding like an amateur.
  • The same goes for show prep. Spend the time to be fully prepared before you go on the air. Do your homework. Get your reading done. Prep spells the difference between a great show and one that sucks.
  • No matter where you are, you'll never have the perfect equipment, the perfect staff, or the perfect studio setting. Be really creative with the resources you do have, and you can still win awards.
  • You've got to stay up-to-speed with technology. If you don't, no-body will hire you.
  • Likewise, things will change: technology, trends, tastes, and the competitive environment. Learn how to adapt and stay ahead of the curve, or you'll find yourself flipping burgers before you know what hit you.
  • Ratings, resumes, money, and prestige are all important. But in the end, building relationships is the single most important thing you can do. It's all about relationships.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Marketing Starbucks Via

I'm a marketer and a coffee aficionado. Because of this, I'd make a lousy coffee marketer. In Starbucks' early days, I was a member of their elite mail order club. I got special coffees in the mail, plus other perks. It was expensive, but darned, it made me feel like a Starbucks insider.

Then Starbucks announced it would sell its coffees in grocery stores, including Walmart. Walmart? Wait! Starbucks is special! I'm special! You can't cheapen the brand by selling in Walmart! But the experiment worked. I was forced to accept the fact that I was too drawn into the Starbucks brand to ever really give it good marketing advice.

You've gotta love Starbucks' latest marketing move: to sell instant coffee (Via) in many of those same outlets. My heart says, "Please, Starbucks, no..." But my brain says Starbucks is probably poised to capture an even larger share of the coffee consumer market.

Here's a great commentary on Starbucks' marketing genius behind Via by Kate Newlin.