5 Things to Keep in Mind When Bad Books Happen to Good Stations

It’s the most stressful time of the year! Well, one of the most stressful, as ratings are delivered, budget strategies contemplated and futures plotted. When the “report card” comes in, how do you respond? Most CD/PDs I know are generally optimistic and hopeful, eagerly anticipating positive results.

So what happens when a bad book strikes? How do you handle it? Do you scramble for explanations, justification and rationalizations? How do you address the team? Each situation is different, of course, but I’ve had my share of both good and bad ratings periods in my career. Here are some things I’ve learned in dealing with it:

1: Realize that ratings are a reflection of what has already taken place, and often not a particularly accurate one. If you have the right strategic plan, maintain commitment and focus. It usually takes much longer than we would like for the audience to respond to programming adjustments. That’s frustrating, but don’t allow it to take you off course. There’s nothing you can do to affect the current ratings, but you can impact the next one. Move forward

2: You cannot control what other stations do to impact ratings. You can only affect your actions. We don’t operate in a vacuum. Analyze what competitors have done, and objectively critique what worked and why. Don’t react to other stations, but do pay attention to how those stations have affected your audience. Then, make plans to appeal on a deeper level to your listener.

3: Don’t allow your staff to obsess on ratings. Share the information, point out positives and negatives, but instead, focus on doing great radio and impacting the audience’s life every day. Sometimes you get kissed, sometimes you get screwed. In the long run, it works itself out. Great stations have a way of being rewarded with more good books than bad. Stations that focus on last quarter’s ratings always struggle.

4: Analyze and learn. A bad book, or series of bad books, could point to a legitimate problem. But ratings aren’t research. You can’t program your station or adjust your show based on GfK results . Use perceptual research, focus groups and other forms of analysis to understand how and why audiences are behaving as they are. Drawing conclusions based on ratings lead to flawed strategies.

5: Be a leader. Your staff looks to you for leadership. Be a leader. Admit station weaknesses, and have a plan that involves your team to move forward. Commit to excellence and a strong strategic vision, then communicate it clearly and with confidence. Take the focus off a bad book and direct attention to the future.

Bad books happen. Good books happen, too. Be prepared to manage through the ups and the downs while focusing clearly on how to make a difference in the life of your target audience.

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