Today's guest blog is from our own Keith Cunningham who provides great tips on how to promote and grow your morning show.
Once again, we can learn something from David Letterman, CNN, Katie Couric, and even Saturday Night Live. Jacobs Media clients might recognize these goal-oriented phrases I’ve used in past advisories:
1. “Every Show Needs An Oprah”
2. “Every Night is Election Night”
Both are based on creating those big, game-changing moments that lead to unusually large (and sometimes new) cume sampling.
The first stems from that December night in 2005, when Oprah Winfrey was a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman. Thanks to her appearance, Dave handily beat Jay in the ratings – a rarity, as Leno consistently dominates Letterman.
The second dates back to Election Night ‘06, a night in which CNN, the perennial second-place cable news outlet, had their “Oprah Moment” and beat Fox News among 25-54s.
It’s time to add a third and fourth installment to the series:
3. "Every Show Needs A McCain”
4. "Every Show Needs A Palin”
You know about the Palin phenomenon which has catapulted SNL back into the race for creating America’s biggest water cooler moments. Further, Palin’s recent interview with Katie Couric gave the struggling CBS-TV host a much needed, albeit short-lived audience surge.
And here’s a short blurb from Bill Carter, which I spotted on the New York Times’ website, which supports my theory:
"An appearance by Senator John McCain on Thursday night boosted David Letterman to his best ratings in almost three years. Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, returned to Mr. Letterman’s CBS show after several weeks of battering from the host for his abrupt decision to cancel an earlier appearance. According to initial overnight ratings, the Letterman show attracted 6.53 million viewers, well above Mr. Letterman’s usual total of about 3.5 million viewers and the best he has scored since Dec. 1, 2005. (That night’s guest was another noteworthy figure with whom the host had had an on-and-off comic feud: Oprah Winfrey.) Mr. Letterman, who usually trails Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” by a significant margin, easily eclipsed that NBC star; Mr. Leno had 4.57 million viewers Thursday night for a show whose guests included Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic vice presidential nominee."
There are a few takeaways here:
Relationships: The reason Letterman, CNNand Katie Couric didn’t go on to retain the #1 slot after their big nights is because viewers have a relationship with much of their media. Many Leno fans may have switched over to Letterman on the night he had Oprah. And even though Dave’s interview with her was fantastic, it wasn’t enough to get Leno loyalists to truly break-up with the host for long – they were back in their comfy relationships almost immediately. It was like a one night stand.
Image Representation & Usage Patterns: Not everyone watches cable news on a regular basis, but most have a sense of where they’ll turn when looking for it. On Election Night '06, more people than usual tuned in to cable news (I suspect it’ll be the same two weeks from now), and many chose CNN over Fox News channel because of the positive and historic image the CNN brand holds in their mind.
The Big Get & Topicality: Truly capturing the moment (topicality) and landing that big guest can drive new and large samplings, which can lead to ratings and revenue. Understandably, many shows have trouble booking that “big guest.” But it’s worth noting, in public radio, they have Producers and Bookers – two very different jobs. The Bookers spend all of their time developing contacts and having a massive Rolodex that is sorted by topic/expertise, so when a specific news story breaks, they're ready to go. That's why you always hear the best guests on public radio the day news breaks - they're prepared and in position.
Consistency: It’s not enough to just cause lightning to strike on rare occasions. Letterman will only have a chance of unseating Leno if he follows “McCain Night” with a string of stellar shows that rise above expectation, and include big guests and other content that’s viral, controversial, press worthy, and laugh-out-loud.
Pre-Promotion & Marketing: All these case studies were preceded by relentless pre-promotion and marketing. If we weren’t bombarded with promos and press for McCain’s appearance on Letterman, Dave surely wouldn’t have received such a huge increase in viewership. The same story could be told about the pre-promotion efforts of the hilarious Palin content on SNL, and the interview the Governor did with Katie Couric.
- PPM: Early PPM data supports all of the above principles.
This is what we’re up against when trying to grow a morning show (or radio station). Shows (both new and old) must get cumers to break up with the show they love, and listen to them instead. Secondarily, they must attract people who aren’t regular listeners to morning radio, and get them to break their normal routines and tune in.
All of this is doable. But it requires great content every day (not just on occasion), a lot of patience, capturing those important moments, getting “the big gets” (whether it’s a celebrity or a local who’s embroiled in a hot story), and effectively pre-promoting and marketing so the audience knows about the great stuff they’ll miss if they don’t tune in.