Expert Columns

A goldfish listens to your station longer than the average person. By one second.
Not a lie. Not an exaggeration. The latest brain studies show that the average attention span is about 8 seconds. A goldfish has a 9-second attention span. Don't believe me? Then check out the National Center for Biotechnology, the National U.S. Library of Medicine, and the Associated Press. They confirmed it.
Did you read that last sentence? Probably not. Because it has long words. Oh, and the average person only reads the first 100 words of an article, then clicks away. I just typed 100 words.
Are you still here? Awesome! Because here's the point I want to make: You only have seconds catch my interest...convey an idea...and make a call to action.
After that, I'm distracted. By kids. By stupid drivers. By monkeys.
So...use those seconds wisely. Pull me in. Make me want to give you another eight seconds. Or tell me where to click online so I can scan another 100 words before the monkeys steal my attention. Again.
Sound impossible to get people to pay attention? Not impossible. But it takes a lot of work on your part. It means you have to find the MOST INTERESTING WAY to tell your story. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Or the monkeys will steal your listeners. Or was it the goldfish?
If you don't read anything else, read this: People only have an 8-second attention span. So be interesting. Make your words count!'ve stuck around for over 250 words! You've got a huge attention span!
Hey, look...a monkey!

“If you don't disrupt yourself, someone else will disrupt you.”
Ouch! Those words – from a friend – challenged me to start looking at ways to innovate, reinvent, and grow. They also made me take a good, hard look at the communications industry. So much has changed. So much has been disrupted in the past three years. But even three years seems like ancient history. Try the last three months: Google disrupted the web with its push to mobile-friendly sites. Facebook is again disrupting publishers with new content posting guidelines. Radio got a wake-up nudge when NPR's Serial became the first podcast to receive a Peabody Award. And there's more to come. The latest report from Pew Research Center's Journalism Project (4/29/15) shows that “more than a third of U.S. adult cellphone owners (35%) have listened to online radio in the car.”
Where do we need to disrupt ourselves and learn next generation communications trends?
I can't answer that for you. But for me, I'm challenged to become a better storyteller. Not just in the craft of storytelling...but in the distribution and syndication of stories. How do I get a message to the market...and where are people listening, reading, or watching? Here's what I'm doing. Maybe it will help you:
1) Praying. God, what stories do you want me to tell, and how do I tell them?
2) Learning. What apps, techniques, programs, and tools do I need to use? How can I learn to use them? Do I set aside time to learn them? (That's the biggest challenge!)
3) Meeting. This one is tough for me. I'm an introvert. But in order to grow and serve God in today's culture, I need to push past my tendencies and grow my network.
4) Being willing to stumble and make mistakes. I'm re-learning project management and content creation techniques. I've botched a couple of projects and missed deadlines in the past week. But being willing to stumble means being humble enough to ask for help getting back up. That's hard for any of us to do.
How are you dealing with disruption? What are you learning? Our story is worth telling. So my challenge to you is to take what you've learned so far, build on it, and find even more new ways to share it with those who need to hear.

Back when my wife and I were dating, we went to see the Walt Disney World on Ice production of Beauty and the Beast. The production itself was top-notch – what you'd expect from Disney – but what I remember most happened before the show. Before we even entered the building. As we were walking up to the ice arena, we passed an old man handing out silk roses. When we passed by, he stopped us, handed my wife a flower and said, “A rose for the young lady who brought you.” The man was part of the show. His job was to welcome attendees, engage them, and create a memory that people would always associate with the event. In a sense, his job was to create an experience. It worked. Over 20 years later, that interaction is the one thing I remember from the show.


Over the years, I've learned that part of the Disney “magic” is their ability to create experiences. They're more than a theme park and a film company. They excel at creating memorable connections – part of the reason for their enduring success.


You and I may not have Disney-sized budgets. But we can create experiences for our audiences. It's easier to do than you think. But it takes planning to do it well. And it needs to be part of your big picture strategy if you want to be successful in the new media world.


As you plan your next promotion, ask yourself and your team this question: “What memory do we want to leave with people?” Maybe that memory looks like a conversation with a listener. Maybe it's the backstage pass for a handful of concert attendees. Maybe it's a brief interaction – recording a voice mail message for a listener, taking their photos at an event and tellimg them where to find it on Instagram. Creating an experience means taking time to be intentional and personal – just like handing out a rose.

It was an H.R. Rep that spilled the beans. How do you announce changes in your organization? Her answer: A) Send a top-down memo from the CEO or B) Tell a smoker.
Guess which one is more effective? Yep. The smoker.
The answer seemed odd until she explained the logic. An executive memo is pretty cut and dried. Everybody reads it, but it can take time to get around. But not so with smokers. Why? Well, for one thing, there's a small group of folks who go outside for a cigarette break...and they all have a common purpose: smoking. And while they're out puffing away (at designated break times), the tight-knit community talks among each other. Sometimes about life. Sometimes about family. But a lot of times about work. And those conversations have a way of making it back into various departments, eventually spreading around the building. The rumor mill. Or the communications hub. Depends on how you look at it.
There is a time and a place for official announcements. But the H.R. Rep who shared the secret had discovered the key to office communications that go viral. She identified the influencers, shared the message, then let casual conversation do the heavy lifting.
What does that have to do with your station promotions? don't have to give out branded cigars. But you should always remember the power of word-of-mouth advertising. It's the most powerful promotions tool available. How do you start capturing the conversation? Start by identifying your key influencers. Who are you “smokers”? Or...put it this way: Who in your audience has the biggest mouth? The biggest social media reach? The biggest platform? Start developing relationships with these people. Make sure it's an authentic two-way relationship...but find ways to share sneak peeks and ideas with this group. Invest in those relationships and encourage your “smokers” to spread the word. You might be surprised at what they can do!

Before you know it, we'll be celebrating Memorial Day. As you're planning the summer kick-off celebration, here's something to think about: Memorial Day is about those who've served our nation and are no longer with us.
The last members of the Greatest Generation – World War II vets – are passing. But their stories shouldn't pass with them. You've got the equipment – the recorder, the editing software, the on-air signal, the website – why not capture their stories and share them with your audience on Memorial Day.
What if you don't have the time or manpower to capture those stories? There are a few new college grads who might be interested in volunteering their time to do something that builds their portfolio.
While you're at it, maybe you can snag a few stories from Korean War vets. Viet Nam vets. Or from the Gulf War. Heroism isn't limited to just one time period, but we do have a limited time left to gather those stories from our World War II heroes.
Regardless of your format, our heroes have some important things to say to your listeners. Share their stories and celebrate their lives once more.

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