How do you sustain a hit TV show for a decade? Two decades? OK, 46 years and counting?
Simple. All you have to do is ask Lorne Michaels, the guy behind “Saturday Night Live” since it debuted 4+ decades ago. He'd be happy to tell you his secret:
“If you're not about what people are thinking about that week, then I don't think you have any relevance.”
Simple, right? Except that so many programmers and radio air personalities often fight (or tune out) the tidal wave of pop culture. And keeping up with “what's happening” has only intensified, thanks to the advent of the Internet, and its offshoots YouTube and social media.
These mass tools have amplified our conversation, speeding up the cycles, and giving seemingly everybody a piece of those “15 minutes of fame,” a term coined by pop culture “weatherman” Andy Warhol.
But to be effective as both a marketer and a content creator, Lorne Michaels' charge continues to hold water. The more in-step you are with pop culture and what people are talking about, the better your chances of expanding your mass appeal.
That premise was supported in a recent think piece by Cory Treffiletti in MediaInsider. His advice is summed up in the title:
Of course, there are many ways in which to identify trends. For immediate feedback, studying what's trending on Twitter is always a nifty one-stop social stop. So is YouTube's trending features where you can check out the most-watched videos – and you can organize them by topics like News, Music, etc.
Whether it's the disaster in the Bahamas or “Sharpie-gate,” what people and the media are talking about only requires a few keystrokes. And no budget.
It's not about the standard issue coverage of Dorian or even altered weather maps – it's the human side of these stories that keep the pop culture engine tuned and humming. Like the guy in Florida (of course!) who drove his Smart Car in his kitchen so it wouldn't blow away during the hurricane.
There are numerous websites that do a good job of connecting us with trends. I like TrendHunter, a gadgety, fun site that doesn't take itself too seriously. While cruising through a list of toys and trends people are talking about, I happened across these transparent speakers that are yet another indicator that audio continues to be a hot topic.
And then there's TED Talks, which you've likely run into. These well-told stories – usually by interesting people – run the gamut. But more often than not, they make you think, they move you, and they often get you focused on people and topics that are often out of your orbit – but that are almost always relevant to the mood of the moment.
A TED Talk by hotelier Chip Conley took on the relatable topic of what happens when an old school middle-hotelier takes part in a brainstorm run by the founders of Airbnb.
In just 12 minutes, in a talk titled, “What baby boomers can learn from millennials at work – and vice versa,” Conley takes on the electric issue of how workers of different generations get along in the workplace.
Yes, it could be a great bit for a morning show that will most definitely get the phones ringing. And it's also a wonderful blog topic. Thanks to TED, a concept launched in 1984, there are thousands of these videos under the umbrella of “Ideas Worth Sharing.”
That's what memes are all about – current ideas that are passed along organically from person to person. Thanks to social media, GIFs have become another tool we can use to be in the present – talking about what people are talking about.
Social media wizard Lori Lewis sums it up this way:
“Gifs are life. They allow us to quickly express a visual emotional response or quickly reference pop culture.”
A trip to Giphy takes you right to the memes that are trending now – always a helpful way to check in with what the masses are into, talking about, and sticking on their Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Instagrams, and Snaps.
Are these memes overused and cliché? Of course they are. That's the point.
As Treffiletti reminds us, “A marketing strategy is most effective when you take the time to create a story and message that taps into the mindset of your audience and delivers as message in a creative emotional manner…If you know what is motivating the masses at the moment, you can create a message that works.”
Obvious? Of course. About as obvious as Lorne Michaels, Andy Warhol, TED Talks – marketers who always had their fingers on the pulse of what's happening now.
Tuning into what people are buzzing are about – often referred to as the zeitgeist of our times – is the key to relevance and resonance, whether you're the morning show producer, the PD, but also the DOS and the CEO.
You don't need a “Saturday Night Live” budget or an entire team like Elvis Duran or Ryan Seacrest have to tune into the zeitgeist of the moment – or even more importantly, in your market.
But you have to get out of the “set it and forget it” mindset that often permeates the radio business, especially as companies cut back on staff and look for so-called “efficiencies.”
Pop culture transcends it all, keeping traditional media, grizzled morning hosts, and even gold-based radio formats relevant and in the center lanes of our minds.
The yogi philosopher from way back in the late '60s – Ram Dass – coined the phrase, “Be here now.”
There's no other place to be.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.
Latest posts by Fred Jacobs (see all)
- All The World's A Vertical Stage – Especially On Instagram - September 13, 2019
- Can Radio PDs Program Anything? - September 12, 2019
- Happy Birthday, Dear Walkman (Where's Your Radio?) - September 11, 2019