7HO FM Hobart – From Worst to First – Part Two
For decades no star was ever brighter than 7HO. It was the dominant commercial radio station in Hobart. In part One of From Worst to First, Greg Smith covers the history of the once dominant station, that by 2003 was on the slide.
So how did Grant Broadcasters’ Ross Turner engineer the station’s massive turnaround by beating Southern Cross Austereo’s Sea.FM & Heart.FM in the ratings in 2014?
Greg Smith: Ross, What kind of shape was 7HO FM in when you arrived there?
Ross Turner: It was fine. The vibe in the building was great, it just had a couple of months between PD’s so there was a few of the one percenters (PD’s obsess over) that slid off the radar a touch. All the elements were in place, the only thing 7HO FM had to do was to re-define its target, super serve it and tell the market.
GS: Take us through your early thoughts on what was wrong with the station?
RT: Again, nothing was wrong, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest it was. 7HO FM is the heritage station in the market, and with a lot of new staff in all departments it was just about reminding everyone about the strengths and opportunities we had.
GS: Did you make up your mind very quickly on what had to be done?
RT: The market dictated what was needed. There was the young station (Sea) that was doing a great job, and the older one (Heart) that was looking after the 45+ males.
We just needed to freshen ourselves a tad and worry about 7HO FM only.
GS: What weaknesses did you identify when listening to the competition in the market?
RT: Metro formats still don’t work in regional markets and that was the hill we could, and did create. Local knowledge and a more market focussed playlist was always going to be our point of difference. Add to that a breakfast show with a national identity, a really strong anchor and a co-host that could hold her own. We were starting the day in a really strong position.
GS: You obviously needed a strong breakfast show. How did you go about building one? And what were the attributes you were looking for?
RT: After Seeing Mick Newell (and his son Matt) on My Kitchen Rules we instantly knew this bloke was a great bloke, a true Tasmanian, a brilliant storyteller and someone we should meet.
Once we did, we knew a 52 year old newcomer to the industry was going to be a good choice. It certainly was! His ability to connect, and say it as it is, is his strength. / He’s the ultimate lovable larrikin, with a one-eyed love for everything Tasmania. And one thing I learnt in my time in Tas…they adore and look after their own exceptionally well.
GS: Musically where was the hole in the market.
RT: Honestly, it was the local touch. We had 100% control of the format and the playlist. A great thing that is allowed and encouraged by Grant Broadcasters.
Once again, another reality TV show introduced us to “The Wolfe Brothers.” We added them to the playlist, and also supported many other local artists with our local drive show.
These seemingly small differences really did resonate with the market.
We had our own music position and we stayed focussed on it.
GS: You’ve always been strong promotionally. What tactic did you run during the survey period?
RT: We gave away a family holiday to Hong Kong. With 7HO FM’s Hong Kong for a song. Nothing new in it, and it was just a winning song of the hour type contest, but it resonated nicely with Hobart.
We also had local OB’s in breakfast and Drive. Being able to do this on the workday bookends helped the overall picture. Drive was a great result for us. We lost 10+ by 0.2 but won overall cume.
GS: You worked previously with Southern Cross Austereo so they knew the way you liked to do certain things. What moves did they make to block you?
RT: Whilst there may have been some similar holiday ideas, and a really strong play on social media, I honestly couldn’t see any evidence they were worried about us and didn’t develop any form of strategic blocking plan. They appeared to run their own race and both companies just left each other alone.
GS: Do you think the opposition under estimated 7HO FM?
RT: I’m not one to speculate, so that’s probably a question to ask them.
GS: When did you realise that you had a chance to take 7HO FM to number one commercial station 10 plus?
RT: From the first day I got there! The team was well and truly up for it, the support from upper management, in particular Tim Holder, David Rogerson and the Directors, was something that reminded me of my time back in the RG Capital days. A leadership group of people that actively encouraged its staff to grow, have a go and make mistakes.
In my 3 years there, we only made a couple of changes to the on air line up and that’s because Moorie retired and Wolfie was promoted. There were a few tweaks to the music, a more disciplined approach to messaging and I worked a lot closer with all the on air personalities to ensure we were on brand and in touch.
GS: Will 7HO continue to do well now that you have left Hobart & are working for Grant Broadcasters on the Sunshine Coast?
RT: Of course it will, we are one company, and we are one family. Col Taylor is now there as GM, and he always plays to win. Allan Cameron is our New PD and he’s a top bloke and a great PD for us. The rest of the team that made it a ratings winning station is all still there.
It was never ever a one person result. It was the whole team that got 7HO FM to number 1.