Thoughts On Branding And Avoiding Becoming A Bad Morning Show


I went on a long drive yesterday, and spent much of it hitting the scan button on my FM radio. I was largely unimpressed. I was on my way to a new media conference, at which I was very impressed, and gathered some thoughts on branding.

This is written from the perspective of repulsion from the plethora of yucky, one-note, corporate boot-camp inspired, samey radio morning shows you hear up and down the country, in every country, across the Western Hemisphere, but just as easily translates to all sectors, people, and industries, who have something to sell. And literally everyone has something to sell. Even if it’s just your skills at a job interview.

I’ve done morning radio. I did it for ten years, in various formats, under a wealth of cheesy pseudonyms, to a range of markets – large and small, and across multiple platforms. FM, DAB, Satellite, internet; you name it, I’ve had my voice reach out to all levels of technology. I’ve also co-hosted, produced, written and  talent-managed them. So I feel qualified to make the suggestion and observation that the one mistake they all make, is they focus on the substance, rather than the perception.

all new

When a pioneering new station launches, the management gets so wrapped up with their own achievements, they often forget about the very person they’re trying to sell it to. You hear this all the time on FM. “The All New Blah FM” tends to sound exactly the same as the same old “Bluh FM” which was on the same frequency about a week ago, except now, the zaps on the jingles sound slightly newer, and they’re playing much more Katy Perry, and less Elvis. Over to the internet we go.

“But the internet stations are so amateurish, and the quality isn’t as good.” That’s the usual argument. Little do they think that most listeners AREN’T consultants from some company full of Australian radio analysts, with a business plan based on making thousands per day inventing problems for naive radio station managers and programmers, so that they can then profit from offering the solution.

Most listeners don’t even know where the radio station comes from. It’s your job to fill-them-in on that. That’s exactly why, no matter how much the men who are paid to cut costs and create network brands TRY to kid themselves that it doesn’t, being relevant is what creates the audience which you can then have your sales team retail their product out to.

I opened this whole thing by telling you this isn’t about radio, and it isn’t. Most of the principles here will apply to you whether you’re a tee-shirt company, a small brewery in Carmarthen, or a man who sings people’s dumb ‘vaguebook’ posts for $5 on Fiverr. But it just so happens that radio is something we are all exposed to in some way, so I figured I’d use it as the template for my points.

Sue me.

Selling Your Brand: You should never assume that everyone instantly knows who you are. Having a catchy biog on your Twitter feed, or directing your Facebook likers to your webpage is only going to expose you to the few people who will actually bother reading and clicking.

sale_1You need to sell your brand to those who don’t follow you, or even know you exist. If you think everyone who’s even in the market for your product knows all about you, you’re going to very quickly be hosting the overnight ‘love show’. So, engage with people on their level. This might mean you have to leave the cosy confines of your studio, but hey, if you want to be one of the people, you have to live like them. People don’t often sit in soundproofed closets and play music all day while hitting on the chick who sits opposite them.


Packaging Your Product: One of the things I noticed at this conference was how many people just walked past stalls and representatives because what they were trying to sell offered nothing new. I heard so many “they did this last year” comments, it was ridiculous.

golden_turd_2010What a lost opportunity. In morning radio, I learned early on that you have to keep ‘changing it up’. The prank phone call  is funny the first time, but four years later, it’s been done better by the competition.  Making a small adjustment to your  presentation, or changing something will always make the same people stop and engage. People love surprises. After all, look at this article. Did you ever see this coming from me, in a million bloody years? If you want to know more about how to effectively position yourself, without spending thousands on an effective branding consultant, I recommend this excellent ‘covers the basics’ book, which I still use as a handy reference guide:


Make Your Point, Today: As a face for your brand, you can’t fart around making your point. Radio research suggests you’ve got ten minutes TOPS to cast out the hook, and that’s with the added bonus of music and bad jokes. So you have even less time if you’re presenting without the added gimmicks. In a cold, white room, everyone in the place is thinking of when they’ll get to the coffee machine, so if you have an attractive hook, you might get a bite.

Engage: Every day on TwiStop-Watch-EC-8071-tter, I see wannabe internet famous writers, comedians, and all round pseudo celebs with thousands of followers posting nothing but lame joke, after lame joke, with nothing in between. Why? Because they’ve deleted their replies to others. The mentality of that, is that people will see their ‘hilarious’ tweets without any distractions, with the idea that their relationship with their follower becomes something of a textual coitus non-interruptus. Well, guess what? They’re idiots. Which is exactly why they’ll never be successful in life, and if they have any milage at all, they won’t convert those followers into success on Twitter, which is kinda of a waste of time, and cannot really be justified with the age-old “it’s just a bit of fun” argument. You want to know why most of them don’t get that writing job, or land that new sitcom? It’s because it’s impossible to gauge who they are, as a person. Anyone can be funny, but it’s down to the uniqueness and individuality that lies within all of us, to be interesting.  I know it sounds crazy, but TALK to people.

At this conference, I watched people banging on and on about what they were selling, but never once ask their potential buyers what kind of needs they have, what they would use their product for, and how they would help them make the best use of  it. I, on the other hand, made time to go chat with people, about what kind of business they were in, and how we could mutually benefit each other, and strangely enough, it led to a couple of ad and sponsor sales for my podcast. I sold my product to the people who were in the audience to be sold to by a competitor.

Honestly, I don’t care who you are, or how big you think you are, you still need to engage. Nothing is more of a turn-off than someone who is arrogant enough to think we don’t offer any value to them.

Credibility: Don’t be ashamed to tell people why you’re there. The most successful stalls at this conference were the ones that had “As seen on TV” or “Winner of the 2012 Podcast of the Year Award”  on their stands. Some even went a step further and had their actual episodes running on an iPod docking device. Don’t assume everyone knows your story.  If you’ve won an award for being brilliant, announce it. If you’ve won a Sony Award for your radio skills *cough* or taken away a Grazia Magazine “Best Boobs In A Blouse” nod this year, TELL PEOPLE. There are few better examples of that than my good friend, and the extremely delicious Debsy Lee, who’s listed on the Forbes Top 50 Global Social Media Influencers, and Top 20 Women Social Media Global Influencers.


Neal Mayhem
By Neal Mayhem

One Response to Thoughts On Branding And Avoiding Becoming A Bad Morning Show

  1. Amy Vansant says:

    Another thought provoking article. You better cut it out before someone thinks you're more than just a pretty piece of fluff. :)

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