How to Win the Ratings – The Breakfast Show Blueprint – Part 5

Greg Smith is a Director of Radio Today.

In this series of articles I wanted to explore the key ingredients of a top rating breakfast show.

I’ve enlisted the help of prominent programmers & researchers, people much smarter than me, to tell you how to win the ratings in radio’s most important daypart.

You can read part 1 with Jon Coleman, part 2 with Todd Wallace, part 3 with Randy Lane and part 4 with Brad March. Today we get insights from Rad Messick (left) – Regional Programming Manager at Clear Channel Media + Entertainment.

Rad is a custom audience researcher and consultant, providing actionable insight/guidance from qualitative and quantitative data for domestic and international clientele. Experienced broadcast professional including management/programing across multiple formats and delivery platforms.

Zero-base and Reset the Morning Playbook

Pro sports franchises take advantage of the off-season and coaching/personnel changes to update their strategy and playbook. Similarly, morning shows can put on a fresh coat of paint following staff changes or shifts in the competitive environment by zero-basing. Even the most successful teams can benefit from periodic clean sweeps.

The morning playbook should provide a combination of strategy, guidance, and tools that drive recurring success through repeatable behaviour. Zero-basing can be distilled down to a few key components.

  • No sacred cows. Treat the zero-base experience as day one. The slate is clean. All components are fair game – casting, clocks, benchmarks, and content are on the table for examination.
  • Update the show’s vision. This is the big picture overview and foundation. Involve all the key players (talent, producer, PD, coach, etc.) to generate complete buy-in and thorough shared understanding of the roadmap for success.
  • Revisit the mission statement. Identify the show audience, its daily contribution, and distinctive attributes. (Ex: ‘The Good Day show will be the top weekday morning destination for women by playing today’s biggest hits and providing fun, engaging content. Good Day will relate to their busy life style and include entertaining topics along with interesting content that makes them feel smarter.’)
  • Define the target. Utilize fresh research, ratings, and qualitative to update the audience ‘face’. Total focus on and commitment to super-serving the target is essential.
  • Create ratings objectives and timelines. Assemble up to date, concrete goals and a real, accountable timetable for achievement. Cast members don’t need to fixate on ratings but will benefit from understanding their quantifiable expectations.
  • Review and redefine cast member roles. Evaluate unique qualities each cast member brings to the show, what they’re known for, and how each fits the fresh vision.
  • Encourage players to work within their roles. Engaging books, movies, and TV shows portray character evolution but maintain solid grounding in their primary definition. In season seven, Seinfeld’s George Costanza became engaged to Susan – but his wedding invitation envelope pettiness led to the end of both the engagement and Susan.
  • Identify content categories and evaluate benchmarks. Re-examine the types of content most important and engaging to the target (local flavour, reality/water-cooler talk, pop culture, gossip, music news, etc.) via brainstorm sessions. Determine the validity of existing benchmarks; look for new, sustainable ideas and optimal exposure frequency. Don’t forget to integrate key station features and information.
  • Optimize clocks. Deconstructing a typical morning moment by moment can be a real eye-opener and will no doubt uncover a few surprises. Involve all cast members in that discovery process and solicit their feedback when updating clocks.
  • Redefine content delivery and flow control rules. Identify clear guidelines that allow talent to determine execution ‘best practices’ for what works and what doesn’t, i.e. cast member identification, bit execution, phone and digital integration, ‘taste’ guidelines, pacing, mood and momentum, etc.
  • Prepare to win. Take advantage of available resources, put in the homework necessary, and manage/map content to continually guarantee consistent ‘A’ quality execution.
  • Review game film. Regular show meetings provide idea forums and allow team members to evaluate progress, develop momentum, and grow collective confidence. Champion wins and develop alternatives for performances that fall short. Maintain focus on the show vision.
  • Grow and evolve. Don’t allow the new playbook to sit on the shelf and collect dust. Utilize research tools, ratings analytics, and monitor audience feedback to identify key trends and stories. Keep direction fresh and relevant. Revisit and zero-base regularly. The best teams make timely course corrections to improve their odds for success.  


Rad can be contacted here.

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