The art of breakfast radio
As someone who has launched and presented numerous breakfast shows across different markets, believe me, it is the toughest thing to get right. The competition is enormous, more so today than ever before and while you have to market the hell out of it, what comes out of the speakers over a long period of time is the ONLY thing that will decide if you win or lose.
In Manchester, the marketing war has really stepped up. It is good to see Bauer showcasing their new offering well, from front-page wraps of the local newspaper to street furniture and outdoor vehicles, so it will certainly be noticed but the only thing it will do is to drive trial not just once but maybe a couple of times over the coming weeks. They might start off as light listeners to begin with but the hope is they become loyal fans so when they tune in you want to ensure the team is at the top of their game from day 1. Few are, because in reality, the pressure is so high, all you want to do is get through the first show without cocking it up.
A launch campaign is also vital to provide current and potential advertisers with confidence that you believe in what you’re doing and thus encouraging them to spend big on your newfound vision. Most will come along on the journey with you but they are listeners too and will have strong views on whether its working or not, especially those clients based within the locality. Whether or not The Hits is good enough just yet, only time will tell which is why it is dangerous and foolhardy to decide on just one listen. Throwing people together does not guarantee an instant chemistry and you have to accept and prepare for the inevitable backlash from those who loved the old and won’t accept the new under any circumstances. The truth is, KEY 103 was badly in need of a shakeup, listeners were bailing out in their thousands for years so something had to be done. This does not mean it's the presenters fault, very often the show just becomes tired or the competition has got a lot better so while you may wish to launch something new, you also have to refresh the backroom team making sure they also have new ideas to bring to the party. It is a team effort after all.
The world has changed since I was on the air every day; social media, for example, can be very unkind and having looked at Twitter and the Hits Facebook account, many of the comments are destructive bordering on vile even, mostly from those who loved the old as highlighted above. This must be an uncomfortable read for the presenters which is why I trust management will be all over the ‘talent’ to ensure they feel loved, respected and valued. Everyone connected with the station will have worked hard towards this big day from dry runs to thinking about breaks and features etc and importantly, what each persons role is within the overall mix, but it is tomorrow and the future where the hard work will really begin. Are they putting the work in beforehand, do they prepare to win and are they willing to learn?
I would hope they are having daily reviews of the shows so they are clear about what’s working and what isn’t. Sadly, many managers today have little experience of what a winning breakfast show sounds like and very often, there are too many people adding their voice when it's not required. This is why stations bring in outside consultants to give them a proper perspective and for good reason but as this is one of the largest radio groups in the UK, I would expect they have this sorted.
Like many, I tuned in today but could never and would never be able to say if the show will work after just one listen. As with Absolute, there were some good moments and many things to work on, but it will take months before it really gels; or even longer. The original line up of a launch team rarely lasts, that’s part of the deal, tweaking and changing in order to get it right. If a boss wants to be loved, the show will fail, instead, all shows in competitive markets need strong direction and a level of honestly that is sadly, not very common. Coming up with client led promotions, giving away thousands of pounds in cash or holidays galore without due consideration to the mechanic, is no longer good enough.
Whatever they do, I wish them all well. Radio is the best medium in the world and like most things, the best team with the best ideas will win but only if they are real, different and likeable!