Want to strike fear into the heart of a promotion person? Mention the IRS? Bring up a rumor about a significant other? Talk about the record company going out of business?
All of these are workable.
Try this one: “I heard your record isn’t researching well.”
Short of a real heart attack, nothing stops the blood flowing to a record executive’s brain quicker.
Because there is very little a promotion person can do to rationalize a bad research report card.
No sales? “Hey, stock isn’t in the market yet.” No requests? “It’s a passive adult record.” Poor research? “Ah, um, well…”
What’s a mother to do?
It’s difficult, impossible even, to spin information over which you have no control. Promotion people are paid to provide answers…to programmers and to their company. There’s no accurate answer to the question: Why isn’t the record testing well?
Programmers are constantly searching for pieces of information that will give their station an edge. There is more information available now than ever before. Stations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to research everything from commercials to records. This information is dissected and dissected again until a programmer has distilled all the exact information needed to make decisions that will eventually effect the ultimate success of their station.
Unfortunately, programmers are often looking for excuses…reasons not to do something. Too many programmers have a difficult time just saying, “No.” This is particularly true in dealing with record company executives. If a programmer tells a promotion person a record isn’t right for the station, there immediately follows a lengthy diatribe on the record’s attributes…complete with more information.
However, programmers can stop a promotion person cold with the statement, “It isn’t testing well.”
Are there any viable responses?
“Ah, you haven’t played it long enough.” “Well, it’s a bit early for positive research, don’t you think?” “If you up the spins, the research will turn positive.”
The problem is that promotion people are dealing from a defensive position. Any time you’re hit first, it makes it more difficult to recover with a snappy comeback.
Columbia’s Charlie Walk is especially tuned in to the research “problem.” In discussing this subject last week, he stated the importance of knowledge in dealing with a programmer’s use of research as a weapon.
Promotion people should be ahead of the curve. Too often, a promotion person relaxes when a record is added. To many, their job is done. Oh, there’s some thought to increasing the spins, but that’s down the road. In today’s word, your job isn’t done when a record is added…in reality, that’s when your job really begins.
A good record executive will chart the progress of records with all the stations that are playing it—especially records by new acts or acts that haven’t attained superstar status. These records are in particular jeopardy and need the most special care.
Instead of waiting for a programmer to tell you a record is testing poorly, you should already have a feel. Find a programmer who adds your record early and also does extensive research. Network with this programmer to get an early reading on the research. If, indeed, your record tests poorly out-of-the-box, share this information with other programmers. Let them know that the record doesn’t test well initially. Explain when (if you have the story) the record begins to pick up speed in the research race. This way, a programmer can’t use the research club against you. You’ve already shared this information before the programmer begins
Programmers believe promotion people have limited knowledge about radio. In too many instances, programmers are right. Promotion people are sometimes too busy doing their job to find ways of doing their job better. The more you know about radio, the more interesting you are to programmers. They expect you to know about your records. They expect you to bore them about your records. What programmers don’t expect is a promotion person who has knowledge about radio.
What does this do?
It gives you an advantage when you don’t have a slam dunk. And how many uncontested layups do we have today?
Do you know what kind of research your radio station does? Do you know how many records your radio station researches in a week? How many people are in their panel? Who prepares the hook tapes? Is the research in-house or does the station use a service?
How do you find out the answers to these question? You ask. Programmers are only too happy to discuss their jobs. Promotion people should spend more time listening. A great sales person once told me, “If you’re trying to sell your radio station to the Coca Cola distributor, you don’t talk about your radio station…you talk about soda pop.”
The same is true for promotion people. Don’t be afraid of research. Embrace it. Find out about it. Then, use it to your advantage.
You can’t always have a good research, any more than you can always have good records. But with a little work on your part, you can find good answers.
You might even find great ones!