The death of a raving fan
I was fortunate in my time in radio to work with some excellent programming minds. Without wanting to play favourites, Dean Buchanan and Eriks Celmins were two people who would brilliantly articulate a consistent mantra about listeners which despite first hearing some 10+ years ago, I was reminded of in a very poignant way today.
You probably have never heard of Linny Boyette. But I can guarantee you if you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit New York and stand outside the NBC Today show studio in 30 Rockefeller Plaza you’ve certainly seen him. The reason I know that is that every single day (except Sundays) for nearly two decades he followed exactly the same routine.
Linny would rise every day at 3:30am, have a shower and a shave, and be on a train from the Bronx into Manhattan by 5:30am. And there he would stand, behind the railing on the plaza watching the Today show in its entirety. That’s over 3 hours. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall. Every day for nearly 20 years.
He became known to the cast and crew, met their families. He didn’t get in their way; he just sat and watched the show. Instead of in his living room, he decided to do it in person. And before you go down the path of thinking he must have been a little, shall we say, lonely and strange – consider Linny’s answer when he was asked why he did it, from this New York Times piece a few years ago.
Mr. Boyette was first drawn to the show's summer concert series. After seeing Al Green years ago, he was hooked, he said.
Last year he missed three days because of the transit strike and "I was out of my head, all out of sorts," he said. In 2001 a collapsed lung landed him in the hospital for 35 days. When he returned to the plaza, he said, the "Today" gang had a special chair and an envelope filled with donation money waiting for him. "I thought I was dreaming," he said, still a bit incredulous. "I still have the chair at home."
Over the years some people have tried to discourage Mr. Boyette from his daily "Today" visits, he said. "My sister thinks I'm a bit mental," he admitted. "She can't believe I come down here in the winter."
But he's glad he's ignored the naysayers. "The show has been wonderful for me," he said. "Most of my friends are dead or divorced, and I'm still standing."
Linny’s reasons for going to see the NBC Today show are personal to him, but they are the same reasons we regularly tune into our favourite shows. Habit and routine is a functional reason why we do it, but emotional ties are the underpinning behaviour that keeps us connected.
Sadly, Linny passed away over the weekend, so will no longer be high fiving the cast and crew at Rockefeller Plaza. You should Google or YouTube his name and see the profile pieces and tribute tweets from the current cast and crew.
Here's the tribute the Today Show aired about their 'Superfan'
However Linny is a great example to all of us who, either still in radio or in any field involving the need to attract audience, proves completely wrong the mantra of people who choose to regularly and consistently interact with our programs as an annoying waste of time.
Converting cume into loyal listeners is a basic premise of radio. However the astute and insightful Dean and Eriks both spoke regularly about the need for shows to have ‘raving fans’. And the difference between a loyal listener and a raving fan is immense.
The excellent Sam Cavanagh from SCA talks a lot on this topic, particularly how to convert listeners into raving fans, and it’s certainly one to engage him on should you have the opportunity. (Editor note: Sam will speak at tomorrow's National Radio Conference)
In the meantime what can you action right now with your existing raving fans?
First – recognise who your raving fans are. I’m always amazed that people don’t know who their listeners are. I mean, you know who they are by numbers or demographics or by made up names, but who are they as real people? Because they are not a number, they are actually a person who is making a conscious choice to like you or your show. They can easily choose not to like you.
Consider how you talk to that caller you just placed on hold. You know the one that calls in at the same time every day with something they think is funny but will never make it to air. Did you acknowledge their contribution? Did you even say ‘thank you’ for their loyalty? Remember they could easily give that loyalty to someone else who will thank them for it.
Consider the person who is standing front and centre and your next OB. The guy who is wearing the well-worn radio station cap while the tech’s are setting up, and is still there after the promo guys have bumped out. Did you offer him a cup of coffee or a quick hello with the team?
And especially consider the raving fan that is standing front and centre at every OB and attends every one of your events. You may just have a Linny Boyette on your hands. Someone who will be endlessly loyal to your show or station, and spread your praises to their own social network. And be interviewed by another major media outlet about how much they love your show.
Rewarding a raving fan’s loyalty with little more than polite and respectful acknowledgement is free and easy to do. And it is also something that the vast majority of businesses and brands around the world (maybe with the exception of Apple), strive to have but will never be able to do.
Wade Kingsley spent 16 years at DMG Radio in various senior Programming and creative led roles including launch Promotions & Marketing Director for Nova 106.9 Brisbane, Group Integration Manager and most recently Ideas Director. He is now the Head of Business at Vizeum, a communications and advertising agency in Melbourne.