The Colbert Plan
I've just come back from my pre-Labor Day vacation and I realize how much I miss my Stephen Colbert fix. We members of Colbert Nation are a strange bunch, but a loyal band of followers who love and look forward to Stephen. As I was taking my last official hike of the summer, it occurred to me that there are a few lessons from this great Comedy Central brand that relate to the talent we hire for our radio brands.
1) Develop the "I can't miss a day" philosophy.
This strategy is central to Colbert and should be one that you ask your hosts to aspire to. While I was away, the Republican Convention was on and I kept thinking, What did Stephen do? What did he do about the Clint Eastwood chair? Your talent, particularly in the morning, should aspire to those heights. Settling for content that is just OK is not good enough...we need to aspire to excellence!
2) Develop a great team led by the vision of the host (or hosts).
Colbert's fingers are on this entire operation yet he obviously has a well-oiled team machine that has incredible depth.
The Colbert Team...
-- Helps fuel events. Colbert put on a concert event called "Stephest Colbchella 21012 Rocktaugfest."
-- Organizes capture-the-moment stunts. (He produced his own Super PAC commercial at a time that it was a newsworthy event.) And even cause-related activities. (His wrist-strong bracelets are sold to benefit the Yellow Ribbon Fund welcoming injured servicemen and women home).
Build upon your own team with your sights set on impeccably high standards. If you follow the Colbert storyline even further, the intern program at his show is a major source of inspiration. Your next great talent on your team might be waiting in the intern line.
3) Be broad enough in content that you appeal to multiple demographics and life groups.
Colbert is a huge hit on the college campus circuit, yet he does not exclude the upper demo crowd. His humor and approach is multifaceted in its mockery of the political system and is an equal opportunity offender. Keep your talent's pulse on broad appeal for bigger ratings.
4) Content length is not a "one size fits all" philosophy.
In a world of PPM, we are so used to the lessons of content-length management, that on occasion we have forgotten about what constitutes pure unadulterated great content. Colbert's show is fast paced, yet he won't shy away from longer content, as long as it passes his filter for excellence.
5) Colbert will go to any length, including putting himself in embarrassing positions, to yield a great bit. His barometer for "what it takes" doesn't shy away from those situations. We've seen him wear strange costumes -- he recently wore a horse head and danced in tights for a bit.
Does your talent do what it takes to win?
Buzz Knight is the Vice President of Program Development for Greater Media and he can be reached at email@example.com. Knight was named among “Best Programmers” by Radio Ink Magazine in 2007 and 2010. He has served on the programming subcommittee of the National Association of Broadcasters(NAB) and is currently a member of the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) COLRAM Committee.
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