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(DIGITAL) It's Time To Put Digital In Focus?


One of the most exciting things about digital technology is the creative flexibility it affords us in serving the needs of our listeners and advertisers. However, that flexibility often leads to a problem many station PDs and sales managers grapple with: What do we do when we can do anything?

The obvious answer is to focus on what delivers the most balanced benefit to the station while providing the best value for our listener and advertiser customers. But how do we do that? And how do you create a system that your organization can follow, to identify the projects that are worth doing as well as measure their results for future improvement?

To help plot a course your stations digital department can follow to success, I tracked down digital media consultant Rockie Thomas (pictured to the right) in the hope shed share her insights on how to shape a winning strategy.

MAGNUSON: Rockie, what can radio stations do to build a better system for digital success?
: First, it helps to identify the problem, so you can understand it and avoid it. What I see most often are companies blindly jumping into digital programs without first defining their goals. They try to start 10 different programs in different departments, creating digital silos with no real direction or long-term strategy. And weve all seen what happens next: The staff gets frustrated, declaring XYZ digital product sucks! The project isnt implemented completely because the staff didnt believe in it, or didnt understand why they were doing it. Then that cycle continues from one project to the next until everyone is burnt out, secretly wishing the clock could go back to when we just sold spots.

MAGNUSON: So what can a station do to make sure theyre picking the right projects and following through to create wins and a sustainable strategy that leads to long-term consistent success?
THOMAS: Focus and innovate in threes. I call it the digital trinities. Develop three new digital programs on a three-month cycle, one for each of these three areas: sales, content, and marketing.

MAGNUSON: Can you give us an example of a different program for each area?

THOMAS:  Sure. Sales: Incoming lead tracking, proper client databasing with relevant email/website touchpoints, and even advertiser training. We have to remember clients are equally new and sometimes overwhelmed by digital. Content: CMS <content management system>: Is it creating a funnel or colander in terms of content production? Audio/video player strategy, content distribution strategy, to name a couple. Marketing: Pinterest, mobile data collection for event marketing; using social media as station brand marketing; Twitter, is it really necessary?

MAGNUSON: Great, so how does a team go about identifying specific programs for their station?
THOMAS: First thing you do is follow the three Is, which are Inspect, Innovate, and Implement. Inspect: This means you take a hard look at your current digital efforts, look at your metrics, the human capital it takes to create each one, and your sales. Then ask, Is it worth it? If not, get rid of it. The law of attraction also applies here: Clutter will attract more clutter; you do not want digital clutter. Think of how Apple presents itself and its products. Its always clean and minimalist yet beautiful. So be ruthless when it comes to clutter, and dont be afraid to cannibalize established digital offerings if they can be replaced with something better that produces more revenue for the station.

Next, Innovate: Get the smartest group of people you know in a room together. Folks from all parts of your station, along with advisors from outside the station. You might also think about including agency people and your big advertisers; theyll be flattered and appreciative you asked. Brainstorm digital programs for sales, content, and marketing. Radio has no shortage of ideas; our creative ability is our strength. The next step is the challenge. Implement: Before you leave the room, decide on one digital program for each department and assign a project owner. The owner doesnt need to be the manager.

Also, offer some form of bonus for successfully completing the project. Sales people arent the only ones who like goals and bonuses. A paid day off, a night out on the town, a weekend getawaywhatever gets the team excited. Then decide what the end goal will look like and assign three-monthly milestones you can measure your progress against to make sure youre on track to reach each of the three goals. Then repeat the Is. Inspect: Three months later, what has happened? Were the goals met? What did you learn?  And so on.

MAGNUSON: So, not only does the three Is plan break down the digital strategy into manageable pieces, it continually self-reinforces as long as youre following the plan.
THOMAS: Exactly. As this short-term digital strategy, focusing on three months, gains traction, it will help your long-term strategy come into focus as well. And the revisiting every three months will keep you from getting lazy or complacent. In digital, concepts change too quickly to assume you have your strategy figured out for a year or two from now. A good example is Pinterest. I guarantee you have listeners all over that site, and it was basically an unknown three months ago.

MAGNUSON: Excellent point. Any final thoughts for those of us tasked with big digital responsibilities?
THOMAS: Yes! Recently, author Malcolm Gladwell was quoted as saying, Dont give me more. Give me less and make it good, and youll be in business forever." This is great advice for our digital people to keep in mind. Even though digital moves really fast, remember BSF: Breathe, Smile, and Focus. Digital and radio are supposed to be fun! Slow down and keep your eye on the goal. Listen to your gut, and if something doesnt feel right for your station, dont do it. Focus on being remarkable with what you can do remember the rule of three projects and dont get overwhelmed thinking about all the things you could do. Create a system that works for your stations, formulate the plan, and implement it. Remember the 3 Is!

Rockie Thomas is a digital media consultant and thought leader. If youd like to ask her for more details on how to get your digital department in shape with the 3 Is, please reach out to her at 303-910-2000 or

Carl Magnuson is an online contributor to Radio Ink and the Co-Creator/Director of Sales for Social Radio, an interactive, personalized content player for radio station websites. He can be reached at

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