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Chriss Scherer Scherer has been the editor of Radio magazine since 1997. His experience in radio includes work as chief engineer at stations in Cleveland (WMMS-FM, WHK-AM, WZJM-FM, WJMO-AM...more

Archive for June, 2009

During an emergency, turn to Twitter?

I received a press release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region VII saying that the agency is now using Twitter. Why not? Everyone is using some form of social site to post information. Region VII administers FEMA programs and coordinates disaster response in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska, by the way.

According to the release: “The Web-based, social-media tool will allow FEMA to instantly communicate with emergency responders, citizens, and members of the media to gather and disseminate important disaster-related information.”

More from the release: “Regional staff will post on Twitter details about FEMA’s disaster-response, the progress of recovery efforts, and links to press releases or other documents that explain our mission and current efforts. When logged into a Twitter account, users can also make statements or ask questions. Some examples of how Region VII plans on using Twitter include:

  • Tweeting messages regarding situation reports in an active disaster (in coordination with appropriate state agencies).
  • Retweeting official announcements from local, state, and other federal agencies.
  • Notifying users when press releases or officials statements are issued.
  • Providing links and information on recently released video and photos.

    Want to follow it? www.twitter.com/femaregion7.

    I suppose there’s some value to this. If it’s easy to create the fed, why not, right? The more info that can be sent the better. I’m not sure who is going to turn to Twitter when a crisis occurs, but apparently Region VII thinks it’s a good idea.

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    Mr. Grammarman

    This relates to with radio, but bear with me.

    We all have pet peeves. Some of my peeves deal with English. I’m not perfect, but I think I’m pretty good.

    This time it’s about “you.” Or as I keep hearing more and more, “you guys” and “you all” (or “y’all”).

    I find it funny that so many people try so hard to make “you” an obvious plural. “You” is singular and plural in modern English, and except in rare cases, it’s obvious when “you” is meant to be singular or plural. So why do so many feel the need to use “you guys” so often?

    What’s ironic about the forced plural is that historically, “you” was only plural. (“Ye” was also used.) The singular was “thou” or “thee.” Over time, “you” become a formal singular usage and then finally replaced thee/thou for familar usage.

    Back to the present, the most absurd use of “you guys” is when it is made possessive. “Is this your guys’ store?” where it sounds like “Is this your guises store?” Just today i saw someone write “What is your all’s preference?”

    The connection to broadcasting? Listeners hear language misused on the air and tend to repeat it. While colloquialisms and regional speech are part of localism, broadcasting should set an example. It’s almost to the point where non-native English speakers speak English better than the native speakers.

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    What to do with multicasts

    HD Radio has taken hold in many markets. That’s not to say that everyone can hear the digital signals, but they are there. I’m looking forward to getting a portable HD Radio so I can listen to HD Radio signals when I travel. For now, I scan the stations in Kansas City where I live.

    The FM multicast capability is still one of the highlights of HD Radio. As a straight replacement technology (digital for analog), HD Radio has a challenge. Adding additional program streams adds new revenue streams, which I would think any station would welcome.

    But maybe not.

    I talked to a radio colleague the other day about his station. He works on air, and while his FM station transmits an HD Radio signal, the station does not have any multicast streams. I asked why. He told me the program director does not want to erode the primary listening audience on the main signal.

    I can appreciate not wanting to harm the prime revenue source, but this kind of short-sighted thinking does nothing to help HD Radio acceptance, let alone grow a new listening audience or create a new revenue stream for the station owner.

    With a little creative thinking, that program director could create a specialized format that would complement the main channel rather that erode it.

    Multicast streams often do this quite well. If the main channel is a classic rock format, make the HD2 a deep cuts format and the HD3 a live cuts format. The multicast streams can reinforce the main channel rather than detract from it.

    And when a listener doesn’t want to hear what’s on the HD1, instead of forcing him to the competition, let him turn to the HD2 or HD3.

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    Sales Pitch or Education?

    You know I’m active with the Society of Broadcast Engineers. I’m the newsletter editor for the Kansas City chapter 59. I also often help arrange meeting programs for my chapter. I have helped arrange chapter programs for nearly 20 years, and I’m still surprised that engineers and manufacturers too often mismanage the symbiotic relationship. Many manufacturers still want to provide a straight-out sales pitch. Many engineers accept these programs or give away even more excusive access to the qualified audience than they should. By working together, the needs of the manufacturer and the chapter can be accommodated with better results for both.

    Recently, I had to prepare a chapter meeting announcement. I worked with the chapter member assigned to arrange the program. After multiple requests for information about the meeting, I was finally given a program topic and nothing more. I asked for a description of the topic and the name of the presenter. I received a definition of the key term in the topic, and name that included a job title a “bio” that read: “[Name] has 35 years of broadcast industry experience.”

    Obviously I pushed for more information, and I tempered that request with some of the points I list below. The next item I received was a flyer about the company’s touring road show. The flyer basically said that this company was the leader in several aspects of broadcast technology, and all its products would be on display.

    Again, I told the coordinator that this was worthless for a meeting announcement. The coordinator went back to the company one more time, and the manufacturer replied that he would like us to promote the company’s road show, which is why he was in town in the first place.

    How nice. The manufacturer expected the chapter to do his PR work for him. He never provided any additional information about the original program topic. The end result: the meeting announcement was weak, few members attended, and the manufacturer was dissatisfied with the turn out.

    What could have changed? Plenty, but mainly, an educational topic with a clear description would have attracted more attendees. I have my own method of arranging chapter programs, and there are a few regular steps I take. While I don’t expect to arrange all the programs myself, I am working with this coordinator to improve the methods he uses.

    Here are my tips on getting the maximum effect for both manufacturers and chapters.

    Manufacturers:
    Teach us first.
    A chapter meeting provides a captive audience. This audience knows when the program is pure pitch and when it’s is truly educational. If you start with a pitch, you lose them from the start.

    Avoid the sales pitch.
    If possible, eliminate the sales pitch. Like I said before, teach us first. Now we also know that there is a cost involved in this process. Companies exist to make money, and they make money by selling equipment and services. Save the sales element for the end. Better yet, once you have taught the audience something, tie it into your product to show a real-world example.

    Put yourself in the audience’s place and consider the program.
    Would you sit through the presentation on why you should buy the condominium? Even if it’s the best condominium in the world? Unless you really wanted a condo, probably not, and even then, if the presentation only covered how great that condo is, you probably would not want to hear it. Chapter meetings are the same way.

    Provide a detailed program description that encourages people to attend.
    Write the description so engineers will feel they are missing out if they are not there. Include why the topic is important. Don’t assume the potential attendee knows the topic in-depth.

    Chapters:
    A chapter meeting delivers a prime, targeted audience that has value to the presenter.
    Don’t give it away. I hear lots of chapters rejoice that they have a program, yet the program itself may have no real value to the chapter. Chapter members can read a product sell sheet online. Don’t waste time by bringing a group together only to be told how great a product is.

    Define the chapter’s expectations.
    Be careful not to demand too much, or the presenter will either decline or expect just as much in return.

    Suggest providing a meal, but don’t require it.
    It’s no secret that feeding an engineer increses the chances of him attending. If the chapter requires the presenter to pay for a meal, it makes the presentation a sales effort from the start. The presenter is there to promote his company and product. If he has a mandatory cost involved, he wants something in return.

    Beware of claims that a program is purely educational.
    Just because the presenter says it’s not a sales pitch doesn’t mean it’s not. I know of one presenter who says he doesn’t know the price of the equipment, so it can’t be a sales pitch. Not true. It’s still a sales pitch, but it also makes that presenter a bad sales person. And honestly, if it’s the greatest technology in the world, it’s still useless to a station if it costs $100 billion.

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