Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered pot holder." Raymond Chandler

"Art is the only thing you cannot punch a button for. You must do it the old-fashioned way. Stay up and really burn the midnight oil. There are no compromises." Leontyne Price

"Employ in everything a certain casualness which conceals art and creates the impression that what is done and said is accomplished without effort and without its being thought about. It is from this, in my opinion, that grace largely derives." Baldassare Castiglione

The blog! The blog! How could I have forgotten about the blog?

My sincere thanks for all the emails. Much, too much, going on these days. All of it good. Lots of learning in progress here. Standby for email responses, still getting caught up. Again, thank you very much.

Each year at this time we are involved in several big projects. Personally, the count is now down to three talks remaining in my 2007 tour but, still, that's three more talks and each requires days of prep. Then there's the creation of our annual ad spend projection. The projection, alone, a full-time job for a bunch of people. It is also an honor to be invited to participate in the planning processes of clients and friends of the firm. Then, our little company is also in the middle of budget hell. Finally, the plan calls for me to write my new 2008 brief over six weeks beginning the first of December. The dear person who is booking the 08 brief talks (five or so engagements beginning in the winter) awaits the one-sheet, it remains in draft. Add time off for the holidays (and a short fall trip to the city is becoming a maybe). Which leaves, uh, less than the time needed to get everything done this year. The take away is homework matters.

Homework separates the winners from the losers.

Related - On reading plans: It is a joy to review a plan where the team has done their homework. Where the budget assumptions have full and credible support. Where every possible question is anticipated. The plan where nothing is left to chance. A plan that offers a fresh, positive view of the possible. It's not the plan, the end product of the activity that's important, it's the work obvious behind the planning itself, the activity.

The contrast between a team serious about doing the homework and a team that is serious about nothing more than delivering the paperwork on time could not be more blatant. The former are thinking, imagining, pushing to get the most out of next year. Their plans offer up more than one crazy idea, a long shot, a flyer, these folks are coloring outside the lines. The latter are going through the motions, they are driven by compliance, the narrative is flat, the numbers are just what everyone expected.

Wait a minute, why are we doing this?

For decades we have enjoyed the benefit of this exercise. Ask the staff to provide answers to the important question of WHY. An expense, once approved, rolls on and too often without question. It takes on a life (and inclusion in the budget) thanks to spreadsheet math.

One employee at a client was awarded a check for a serious amount, it represented 10% of the annual savings in our client's 2005 year-long Wait a minute, why are we doing this? program. The math works. The winning employee suggested management look into expenses that saved the company about $37K a small percentage of the program's total savings. However, that one employee's winnings provided the incentive for every other non-management employee to get involved in the 2006 program. And, it worked! 2006 year participation and suggestions were outstanding. This year the program is, again, doing great and next year our little project is being budgeted for company wide adoption. Get the troops into thinking "If this were my company..." and then reward them. They see things your managers are no longer able to see. They have great ideas, all you need to do is request, respect, recognize and reward.

Thanks to the wisdom of our clients we do compliment the savings program with an innovation program. Our counsel is we invest, redirect or reprogram a significant percentage of all savings into new initiatives. These are also the product of team suggestion and collaboration.

Homework. Engagement, creative collaboration involving every team member. No better ROI.

My most sincere thanks to our client for giving me permission to blog about this very successful ongoing program. (NOTE: I made changes in this post at the request of the client).

The soft stuff is key: CBS programming ace Mark Edwards weighs in via email...

"We don't manage ourselves nor our time as well as we should. We need to get better at that so we can make time for the stars of our show. Bottom line - we need to invest more time in our talent. The potential payoff is huge."

A very good point and excellent counsel. Thanks for sharing, Mark!

Congrats to Superjock: Uncle Lar to be inducted into the NAB's Hall of Fame. Robert Feder, Chicago's official media scribe headlines today's writing "Hats off to Larry" and shares the thoughts of Mr Lujack...

"As this will be my third and probably last Hall of Fame induction, I've decided, in my acceptance speech, to dump the phony gracious and fake humility bit and just be truthful for a change," he said Tuesday.

"I was, still am and always will be incredibly good, and frankly, I'm more than a little disappointed that it took the NAB this long to recognize that fact!

"Further, I am deserving of this honor because I've always subscribed to the NAB Code of Responsible Broadcasting. I have no idea what it's about -- but I've always subscribed."

Thanks Robert.

In the last century I once served as EP of the Windy Awards. The local radio association gave the awards to recognize excellence in radio creative. I took the one-off assignment with the condition that our MC would be Lujack. He killed, totally rocked the ballroom. I had the good sense never to accept the assignment again.

Reminder: We still need to get Bill Drake and Rick Sklar into the NAB Hall.

Quote worth thinking about, again: David Kilcullen military strategist. Smart guy who said "It's not engineering. It's extreme sport." Spot-on. That is exactly the pov. Ask yourself two questions, every single day, without fail:

What is happening now?

What do we do next?

Congrats & cheers: Programming ace John Mainelli tells it like it truly is, to wit...

"It is critical to coach, support, run interference for, critique and defend true talent every hour of every day. This is not a hobby. This is not for PDs who always go out for lunch, obsess with e-mail and message boards, meld with their telephones, or feather their nests with meetings and cronies.

It’s for the PD who is really the executive producer, 24/7, and who spends as much time in the studio, control room and producer pit as he does in his office.

Most importantly, this PD really has to like talk radio. It’s my opinion that too many talk PDs don’t really enjoy and/or understand the format they’re working in. Frankly, you have to be slightly unbalanced to really get into talk radio – to where you listen to it because you want to. And, yes, I am unbalanced, as many of you know."

More via Inside Radio here. Bravo, John! Well said. In my experience your show is only as good as your talent and your show runner and if you don't have a serious, obsessed show runner chances are you ain't got a show. Talent need directors (and a PD that serves, the great PD understands they work for the talent and are required to act as defense attorney from time to time. Being the advocate for talent is a very important additional duty). We still offer a one day workshop based on the monograph A Great Program Director. I am always amazed when someone walks up during a break and asks me to explain the slide that reads

"You're running an opera company, you don't tell Pavarotti to sing better"