Archive for September, 2010

Radio Reunion Reveals Passion Amid Change

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

CommunityRadioCartoonWaking up this morning, after last night’s 2010 Motor City Radio Reunion, I was confused about what I dreamed and what I really experienced. It took a few seconds to realize it but yes, it was all real.

There they were – among a sold-out crowd of nearly 400 communicators who worked in Detroit radio from the 40s until now – the heroes of my youth, many of the pros who led me to want to be a broadcaster. Milling about the room were Dick Purtan, Tom Ryan, Bill Bonds, Erik Smith and many of the legends from “The Big 8″, CKLW. Also present were several of the many people who served as mentors for me early in my career – the professionals who believed in me and mentored me even though I was just a kid with a dream – Frank Beckmann, Gary Baumgarten, Gary Berkowitz, Sonny Eliot, Murray Feldman, Jeff Gilbert, Bob Hynes and Ron Wittebols. All of those people responsible for all of those memories – in one room. Forget about 50,000 watts. Last night was its own kind of powerful. Don and I consider it a privilege to have attended.

The evening’s program was hilarious and touching at the same time. But one thing stands out. We all know that radio can be a tough industry. But there is perhaps no business that attracts people with passion quite like what we all still refer to as “The Business.” And radio roots – which required a professional to be creative, self-starting and hungry for excellent – have paved the way to countless successful communications careers.

The event was organized by Art Vuolo, whose pioneering “Video Airchecks” (he used to videotape radio personalities on the air, in studio, so you could see them practice their craft like never before) captivated me as an aspiring broadcaster. Art says last night will be the last Detroit radio reunion. If so, that would be a shame. There is so much history to celebrate, so many people to thank and so much fun left to be had.

If there will be another reunion, it would have to be soon. It’s tough to picture what a 2050 gathering might be like. Instead of honoring greats like Specs Howard, Sonny Eliot and Ernie Harwell, would we pay tribute to the hard drive that 100% automates one Detroit radio station today? Of course not. It’s the personalities we remember, the people we treasure and the passion that brings us together. Hopefully, all three will endure the modern media change.

Motown Radio Reunion Brings Tanner Friedman Back To Media Roots

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

istockphoto_3525927-retro-radio-microphoneTruly there is only one thing better than listening to your favorite radio personality on the radio: seeing them in person. And tonight in Novi, the stars will be out in all their brilliance at the 2010 Motor City Radio Reunion. Matt and I will both be there reliving our roots and reconnecting with old friends.

If you know us, you know that we both began our careers in radio, overlapping very slightly at WWJ Newsradio 950 in the early 90’s. In what was a more than 12 year “first career” that began in college, I donned the headphones and took to the microphone as a disk jockey, newsman, radio programmer and traffic and weather reporter. For the latter, I had the privilege of reporting in Detroit over WWJ (with Joe Donovan, Roberta Jasina, Greg Bowman, Bill Stevens, Jayne Bower, Sonny Eliot, Bob Dustman, Sue Carter, Don Patrick, Pat Vitale and my partner Tracy Gary); WXYT (with Bill Bonds, Denny McLain, David Newman); WLLZ (Ken Calvert, Jim Johnson and Dick the Bruiser, Sherri Donovan); CKWW, WGPR, Young Country and even a fill-in stint on Q-95 with Dick Purtan. I hope to see many of these individuals there tonight.

Dick Purtan will, in fact, be emceeing the event which will feature special tributes to: Robin Seymour, Sonny Eliot, Specs Howard, the late Ernie Harwell and of course Dick Purtan.

Also there will be a member of the planning committee who called me this past week to make sure I would be in attendance. Who was it? Only the legendary Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor, one of if not the first female airborne traffic reporter in the business over CKLW Windsor/Detroit in the station’s heyday. ‘Would I be there?’, I answered, “Was there ever any doubt?”

A New Media Buzzword You Need To Know

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

www-standardPlease consider this a brief introduction to a new media buzzword that you’ll need to know in order to keep up with the changes. At Tanner Friedman, we’re on top of this trend and on this blog, we’ll share what we’re learning with you.

The word is “Hyperlocal.” And basically, it’s what we used to call “local” – but now it refers to online and very close to where you live or work. We’ll share examples as we get them, but the first is an emerging Web presence about to roll into the Detroit market, as it has in other regions across the country.

It’s called patch.com. It’s owned by AOL (remember them?) and it’s growing fast. To fill the void left behind by community newspapers and local bureaus of regional newspapers (not to mention feature and other reporting by TV and radio stations), community-branded websites will employ professional journalists to cover news in neighborhoods and within suburbs. We hear a team is already being assembled in Metro Detroit, filled with many veteran newspaper journalists ready, for some, to go back to their roots covering community news.

As the traditional TV newscast caricature might say, “Stay with the Tanner Friedman blog for continuing coverage and more details as they become available.” But, seriously, this has potential to help deliver the content news consumers still want but over a platform that fits their lives in the modern age. And remember the buzzword, you’ll hear it again – “Hyperlocal.”

From Perceived Adversity Can Come Opportunity

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

imagesIt’s not every day that I start my morning in a bar but 8:00 a.m. on this particular morning, I was at Gus O’Connor’s in Novi at the invitation of the City of Novi to speak to a group of area business owners. The topic of the meeting: the Novi Road Link Construction Project.

I, more specifically, was asked to talk about communications considerations to a group concerned with the ramifications of the soon to commence year and ½ roadway project on their respective businesses. In a way, the presentation was an adversity management session of sorts as we talked about being prepared and proactive (as well as promotional).

Rather than looking at the situation as a challenge, I suggested to the group that they look instead at the opportunities to engage and communicate with both existing and potential customers—first and foremost, that they remain open for business (Pardon Our Dust!). From there, it will be important to provide on-going updates on detours and changing traffic patterns (with help from the City of Novi) as well as continuing information on why their establishment (from sales to special promotions) remains worth the trip.

We also discussed bringing out a creative side to marketing. Why not if you are a restaurant, for example, inaugurate construction-themed menu items such as the “Barrels and Barricades” Burger or “Jackhammer” Jambalaya. Hair salons might consider offering discounted “Construction Crew Cuts” and/or “Cement Dust Highlights.” Media often finds such initiatives newsworthy.

And, when faced with possible adversity, I suggested, it is always good to circle the wagons en masse; to join forces and pool resources. This could include looking for cross-promotional opportunities such as “buy a pizza and get a free car wash” or a customer loyalty incentive card shared by retailer neighbors in a particular strip center.

Where there’s a will, I always say, there’s a (road) way.

What’s New In Crisis Communications? Everything (and Nothing)

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Police Car Lights - GOODFor the second time in a year, I was very flattered to be asked to serve as the featured speaker at a meeting of InterCom, a group of professional communicators from a variety of disciplines in West Michigan. The topic was “How To Communicate Effectively In a Crisis” – I was asked to present on what has changed and what hasn’t changed in communicating “bad news.”

I’ll share a few of the “takeaways” from the session, which sparked a lively discussion among the members present. First, even in the age of the Internet and instant, personal communications, the fundamentals of adversity communications are perhaps more important than ever. If you nail the basics and apply them across every platform, you put yourself in a position for success.

Also, the internal audience has never been more important. If you deliver your message effectively to the audience closest to you, you stand the best chance of having the right message emanate from that audience. Right now, the organizations that get into trouble are those that ignore the internal audience or miscommunicate in that part of the equation and then are doomed by negative or inaccurate emails, texts or phone calls that taint the communications chain.

As for the public, it’s worth remembering that the days of “put a statement on the wire and go home” are long over. The Web has added a new dimension (and more work) to navigating crisis communications. It’s important to remember that the public will look to your website for updates and information during a bona fide crisis and your Social Media presences for your organization’s take on other “bad news.” Of course, audiences like journalists, government officials and close business contacts must still be communicated to directly.

One member of the audience asked a good question – how should the growing number of sole proprietors heed this advance? I suggested the example of the lone entrepreneur getting sick with the flu. That could mean days of delays on deliverables to customers. In that case, customers and others need to know, in clear terms, what to expect, as well as reassurance. Like the factory that would be temporarily closed because of a chemical spill, the flu could cripple a “single shingle” business. The same communications rules apply.

Even with fewer journalists digging for scoops and fewer newsroom ears listening to scanners, crisis communications is still a hot topic, as evidenced by the well attended meeting last week. For communications professionals, the good news is that you don’t have to relearn what you already know. But you need to add to it to be most effective.

Which News Stories Really Click? You Get To Decide.

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

hand_and_mouse-775263A Sunday story in The New York Times confirms, with great detail, what we have been hearing anecdotally from journalists for the past few years – it really does matter which online news stories get the most clicks. Online news is, essentially, a democracy. The most clicked stories win in the minds of editors who shape news coverage.

Those editors are looking more closely than ever at which stories you click the most when visiting news sites online. Of course, the most popular news sites are operated by newspapers, which are still largely struggling, at least financially, in the transition from paper to pixels. Once upon a time, editors would put together a “news product” (a paper or a broadcast newscast) and think they knew what would interest you. Now – they can know with certainty, right down to the click. Similarly, with radio’s Portable People Meters (PPMs), broadcasters can now measure listener behavior minute-by-minute.

What what does this new level of measurement mean? I depends on “where you sit.” For example:

-For journalists – what will happen to the reporting that used to win awards? That was always news the public “needed” to know, rather than what maybe it wanted to know. If long-form reporting doesn’t get the clicks, but “Top 5″ lists do, how can that form of journalism continue to be funded?
And headlines are so important to the clicking process. Could a good headline (which reporters typically don’t write) make or break a story’s “clickability” and future? Also, the Times’ story said that some staffing decisions are being made on click measurements. That’s scary stuff for journalists.

-For advertisers – knowing who is engaging in which paid content has many positive benefits. Expect more detailed information about who is clicking on what and when to be provided in the short term.

-For consumers – you really do have the power. If you like a story and think news organizations do more like it – click it, share it and encourage others to consume it. If online news really is a democracy, you are the registered voter.

Skype More Than Just Hype In National News Game

Monday, September 6th, 2010

imagesA soldier serving oversees is able to witness the birth of his child in the states. A young couple keeps their long distance relationship alive in real time. Both are facilitated by Skype, the free online service that allows for free 2-way audio/video communication via the Internet. But Skype isn’t just for personal use any longer.

Most of the major television news outlets, including ABC News, are utilizing Skype more and more for their newscasts, ala the satellite phone feeds oft seen in reports from overseas correspondents in war torn countries. And, in an era of constricting resources, a technology that lets a news source be virtually anyplace at any time at the click of a mouse, Skype would appear to be something of a godsend; allowing correspondents to interview sources across the country when it is not possible to get there for in-person interaction.

Beyond TV our agency is seeing the use of Skype more and more from national print media. Recently, a financial news outlet located out of state interviewed one of our clients online in this way. The interaction allowed for an interview as close to face-to-face as possible with the end result both a print story and accompanying video interview.

We expect we will see even more of this type of interviewing by national and local media alike. Where once a lunch introduction between a client and a one-story-a-day reporter might be as simple as picking up the phone  and asking, most reporters today are virtually tethered to their desks covering multiple beats and breaking news through the day.  In such times, Skype would seem to be the next best thing to being there.