Expert Columns

I used to work in an office where the guy in the next cube over was always talking about some new idea, gadget, or technology that had no relevance to my life. Or so I thought.
He was, it seemed, always surfing the web, reading Wired magazine, and watching some YouTube channel about the latest and greatest gizmo...and then he'd tell me all about it and find some way to relate it to my job.
Sometimes it was interesting stuff. But most of the time I was annoyed that he was interrupting my intensity, forcing me off-track when the deadlines were at their tightest. There were some days I wish he'd just stop and recognize that I was being an adult...working hard to keep things going. Somebody had to be dependable, and doggone it, that was me.
But I recently thought back about something he said. I don't remember what triggered it, but there I was, wishing I could lean over the cubicle wall and ask his input on the latest, greatest software.
I didn't stop to realize it at the time, but he was the guy who fed my curiosity. He kept up with all the little things that made life interesting. And I miss that.
This isn't meant to be a negative article. Not at all. It's more to encourage you to stop and do what my work neighbor did: Feed your curiosity.
His greatest gift was in in staying curious. And it was his greatest gift to me. Now that we're not working together, I miss finding out about the newest updates to iPads, what's the best free animation software, and where to find the coolest geek gizmos known to man. Although I didn't realize it at the time, those little things added up to make me more aware of the world. I was more interested in what was going on because he took the time to update me.
In this business, we all get busy. Sometimes we're all acting like “adults,” like the world depends on us. And eventually, we sound like adults. The kind of adult we dreaded as a kid.
So today, here's my tidbit of advice to “throw over the wall”: Stay curious. Put the little things back in your life. Even for five minutes. You can spare five minutes. Take five minutes to learn something new, read some goofy story on the web, or talk to the gadget guy in your office. It will keep you fresh, and keep you interested in what's going on around you. Your listeners will notice the difference.

Easter 2014 falls on Sunday, April 20, this year. That gives you a full month to start planning your promotions and imaging.
But that brings up a question: How do you approach the Easter holiday? Do you approach it with quiet reverence...or as a fun and joyful celebration? (There's no wrong answer.) More importantly, does your Easter celebration reflect your station brand?
This is one of the best times of the year to remind listeners that Christian radio is different. That it has a purpose and a reason to call itself “Christian.” It's also a time to make the most of the station's family appeal, because Easter, like Christmas, is one of those “big family meal” times.
Here are a few thoughts on how to make the most of Easter this year:
1) Prep your team. Give them guidelines on how to talk about Easter. Encourage them to share the significance of Christ's resurrection.
2) Bring in the family aspect. What family events are happening this Easter weekend? Is it ok to talk about Easter egg hunts? Can you give away chocolate rabbits? Where are families hanging out this weekend? This is a good time to remind mom that you're thinking about her family and that you've screened some local events and given them a family-friendly seal of approval.
3) Maximize your online messaging. Encourage your staff to start collecting images, quotes, posts, recipes, and graphics that they can share with online users. This is a time of year to take advantage of Facebook posts. If you have a Scripture verse couple with a photo/graphic, share it online. Make it compelling and it will be passed around.
Don't be content to let Peter Rabbit have all the fun this Easter. It's not his holiday anyway. Make the most of the Passion Week and share hope with your listeners. He is risen indeed. Let's celebrate it!


Why we listen to some people more than others? What makes their stories more interesting? How is it that some people just seem to captivate our attention? And in an age of keywords, search engine optimization, pick-your-own music web sites, does good storytelling even matter?
Storytelling does matter. Perhaps more so today than at any other time. People bounce back and forth between multiple media options, hoping to find something, anything that captures their attention and feeds their need to connect.
So how do we become good storytellers who are able to capture people’s attention and connect to their hearts?
First, realize that storytelling is a craft. As with any craft, we invest time and effort into becoming better at it. Do you make time to hone your craft? Do you practice telling stories? Do you listen and learn from others? Do you ever read the same thing over and over until you understand what makes it a good story?
Secondly, remember that good stories communicate ideas. President Ronald Reagan summed it up by saying, “I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things.” Quite often, the more powerful the story is, the less we have to explain the idea we are communicating. In the story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus never comes out and says, “This represents a father’s unconditional love.” We know it because the father’s love is demonstrated throughout the entire story.
Finally, learn that the best stories echo in our hearts. Why do you remember the stories your granddad told? Why do we repeat the same movie lines over and over? Because there was something in them that echoes in our hearts and leaves a mark on our souls. From the “Earn this” line in Saving Private Ryan to Farm Boy Wesley’s, “As you wish” in Princess Bride, there’s a part of the story that stays with us, that reminds us of the bigger picture in each tale. Do you tell stories that stay with the hearer long after the story is over?
If this all sounds like a tall order, well, that’s because it is. Good storytelling is a commitment to honing a craft…to sharing big ideas…and to sharing stories that people will remember. But the reward is this: You’ll be able to connect with and engage listeners in ways your competition can’t. Your listeners will share those stories with others. And you’ll create an audience that keeps coming back for more.

Remember Kevin Bacon? The guy who starred in Footloose, Apollo 13, and just about every movie in the 1980s. Then maybe you’ve heard about 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the game that links the actor to just about everyone in the known universe.
The game is now 20 years old…and it’s still going strong. The premise behind it is that we’re no more than six personal connections away from anyone else in the world. Sounds a lot like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter!
Kevin Bacon and the creator of 6 Degrees is speaking this week at the South by Southwest Conference (SWSX), and in a pre-conference interview with BuzzFeed.com, the actor had something surprising to say about links, connections and audience engagement. It’s something we can all use as we talk with our audiences:
“There is this idea that your social media platform is the secret to success, but no one has quite proven that to be true if you ask me. Somebody with a billion followers can tweet, ‘See my movie,’ and it can still tank. Followers don’t always translate into success because I think people are too savvy. When something takes off, it’s because people are connecting to it; not because someone with a lot of followers says to care about it.”
(Source: Buzzfeed.com)
Good advice as we’re all working to engage audiences. It’s one thing to have a presence. It’s another to engage with people who care about you and your message. Engagement is hard work and it takes time…but as Kevin Bacon knows, it’s worth the investment.

It used to be that the in-studio audience for a Late Night TV show was just a part of the set. Lights, Camera, Audience. They would cheer, laugh, or clap depending on the mood of the moment. And occasionally, the host would venture out into the crowd to rub shoulders and talk with one or two people.

Not any more. Now that Jimmy Fallon is host of the Tonight Show, he's inviting the audience to not just watch, but to help write part of the show. If you've watched Fallon before, you've probably seen his Hashtag segment, the part of the show where he posts a topic on twitter and asks people to send in their short thoughts. As you can imagine, he gets a wide range of responses – everything from laugh out loud funny to stuff that shouldn't be repeated. It makes for an zany slice of television that's truly“audience generated” - something we haven't seen since Art Linkletter's, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”

There's nothing unique in Jimmy Fallon's Hashtag segment. David Letterman has done the “Mail Bag” routine for years. And so have other talk show hosts. We've even done it on radio. But what makes Fallon's approach successful is that none of the other late night hosts (with the exception of Jimmy Kimmel) were tapping into the social media conversation the way he's doing it. And not only that, but by showing a person's Twitter handle on screen, Fallon also invites you to continue the conversation by joining that person's Twitter feed.

Why is this important to you? Social media has been around for a while. We're all using it. But here's the benefit: Traditional media is taking notice. Newspapers have been highlighting the Tonight Show transition from Leno to Fallon, and each article mentions Fallon's success with social media. He's seamlessly incorporating new media tools into his traditional media show...and the audience love it because a national TV host has joined in THEIR personal conversation. They are no longer a faceless background audience. In effect, THEY become part of the show. They are not just a part of Jimmy Fallon's audience...HE is part of their audience.

It's a subtle shift that traditional media has been slow to realize, but those who do are miles ahead of the competition. Here it is in a nutshell: It's no longer about the audience tuning in to your show. It's about YOU tuning into the audience's life and becoming part of THEIR conversation.

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