Get Rid of the Crappy Stuff

Mark Ramsey is one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter (@markramseymedia); not only does he blog with great insight about the media business, he also consistently links to fantastic articles from various disciplines.  Today, he turned me on to a great article by Carmine Gallo at FastCompany.com:  “Steve Jobs’s Strategy? Get Rid of the Crappy Stuff” (click here to read article).

This article is an excerpt from The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, recounting advice Jobs gave new Nike CEO Mark Parker:  “Nike makes some of the best products in the world.  Products that you lust after.  Absolutely beautiful, stunning products.  But, you also make a lot of crap.  Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”  Parker’s response was simply, “He was absolutely right.  We have to edit.”  In the context of Parker’s speech to the 2010 Innovation Uncensored conference, “edit” was used to address business decisions and focus on a smaller product line that can receive the full resources of a company rather than a wide array of products that become neglected.

The same business principal can be easily applied to the way we program a radio station, build a website, and produce a morning show.  Edit is a term we understand.  Edit is a term hammered into our brains from thousands of aircheck critiques.  Edit is something we program directors yell at the radio far too often.  It’s easier not to edit.  It’s even easier to lose focus and edit poorly.  PPM is forcing radio to re-learn this most basic and valuable skill … and learn when not to edit

Yes, it’s easy to improve ratings if we:

  • coach talent on how to edit their content;
  • massage copy to edit better imaging, promos, and commercials;
  • critically review every piece of content before it makes the air – contests, appearances, chatter;
  • edit our day to get the most work done in the most efficient manner.

But, I also think it’s possible to edit too much.  You can make your playlist so tight your music becomes repetitious and predictable.  You can muzzle air talent so restrictively they’re no longer entertaining.  You can reject so many promotions that your station becomes unexciting and invisible.  By removing all the negatives, you may enjoy short-term success on the way to making your brand irrelevant.  The challenge – edit, in moderation – common sense tactical editing within your overall strategic plan.  Every once in awhile, that well timed risk will have a huge payoff.  Innovation, cautiously and carefully integrated, can separate your brand from the crowd.

I actually read the Steve Jobs article during last night’s Monday Night Football game between the Vikings and Jets.  I found myself completely in agreement, thinking my next radio station would be stripped down and simple … until the last twenty minutes of the game … that’s when Brett Favre exploded.  Ignore his personal issues right now, and think about his career:  Brett Favre owns the career record for most regular season victories, consecutive wins, career passing touchdowns (502 – almost 100 more than second place Dan Marino), more than 70-thousand passing yards (almost 20-thousand more than fourth place Peyton Manning), and dozens of other NFL records.  But, he also owns the league record for most interceptions (318) – in other words, every other time he throws for a touchdown he’s just as likely to throw an interception.  THAT is true risk-versus-reward over his twenty year career.

I know, Brett lost the game last night (with another interception).  Sometimes, you’ve got to take a chance and do what you do best for the chance of a big victory in return.

Mike Markkula once wrote a memo to Apple’s staff about focus saying, “To do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all the unimportant opportunities, select from the remainder only those that we have the resources to do well, and concentrate our efforts on them.

The bottom line for radio programmers is to look at your team, look at your skills, look at your brand profile compared to the rest of the market.  Then, concentrate on what you do best.  Look for a way to make it better if you can edit.  Recruit the best players, create the best game plan with your available resources, coach them to perform beyond your expectations, make adjustments when necessary, review the game film at the end of the day … and, when the game is on the line, you’ve got to trust your playmakers to pull out a win. 

Oh, and get rid of the crappy stuff.

In closing … I promise this will be the last sports analogy I try to use for awhile.

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