Mike O’Malley

Consultant Mike O’Malley shares his thoughts with Country Insider on formulating and taking “strategically creative” actions.

I can’t recall a time in my radio career – as a programmer or a consultant – when I didn’t think that the PD’s chair was the best seat in the house.

The PD’s office remains the place where the magic happens (or should). It’s the place where the merging of analytic and creative thinking produces an offspring called “awesome radio.”

The best programmers make a daily tightrope walk between their right and their left brains. Too much left-brain analysis and the station is boring. Too much right-brain creative and the station isn’t strategic. It takes the proper balance to make “awesome” and “magic” happen with regularity.

Unfortunately time, budget, corporate, personnel and other pressures have a way of delaying or even derailing the best of programming intentions. Anecdotally this seems especially true when it comes to finding time for formulating and then taking “strategically creative” actions – the nucleus of a programmer’s job. Plus programmers know that it’s rarely “one thing” that creates sustainable “Must Hear” radio.

So what to do?

The adage about eating an elephant one bite at a time is helpful. So is a hack like a survey-response scale with you being the only participant. It’s a shortcut to finding ways to upgrade your product that you can use immediately. No need to head to Survey Monkey or find an online tutorial. You can pull this tool together using what you already know.

Here are two approaches:

Start by listing everything you believe is an important component of your station as you envision it, as well as the elements that will drive repeat tune-ins. You’ll take this step regardless of the approach you use.

Next, subject each item to a Likert (1-5) Scale. After giving each one an honest appraisal, the fun starts. That is, coming up with a list of actions that will improve the item’s number on your scale by one.

If you’ve included “Fresh,” “Surprising,” etc. your hack might look like this:

Alternatively you can use a Semantic Differential scale that uses dichotomous words at either end of the scale – such as “Cheap” on the left and “Expensive” on the right. Using the example above, we’re using “Boring” vs. “Surprise and Delight.”

Mark on the scale where you interpret this element of your station to be. Do the same for the rest of the items on the list you created in step one. Then, as with the Likert approach, list everything you can think of that will move your marker at least one place to the right.

Either way, have a to-do list that you can work on, one item at a time avoiding the “where to start?” question. And, since the “Actions” section is designed to be added to, you don’t have to waste precious time figuring what to work on, nor will you have to start from scratch when it comes to ideas.

After you’ve used it for a while, subject your annual events like “Stuff the Bus” or even your radiothons to the process.

The bottom line is that you’ll be making the most out of your precious “strategically creative” time by being able to immediately jump into the “pushing the station forward” process with more focus and without having to start your idea sessions from scratch.

Figuring out where to start while looking at a blank computer screen will be a thing of the past.

Mike O’Malley is co-founder of Albright & O’Malley & Brenner and has consulted country radio stations in the U.S. and Canada since 1992. Mike is a 2018 inductee into the Country Radio Hall of Fame. Reach him at Mike@AandOandB.com.