Vanna White’s Advice for Christian Radio || Mark Ramsey

Everybody knows Vanna White. She has been turning letters on Wheel of Fortune since 1982. For those of you keeping track that was almost 40 years ago.

Technically, however, she hasn’t been turning letters since 1997. That was the year the letters went digital. From then until now it would take only a touch from Vanna to make the letters appear.

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First, if the letters don’t need to be physically turned, then why do we need Vanna at all? Second, if we have Vanna, then why do the letters ever need to go digital? Why not stick with analog – the way it had always been done before?

This is an example of a brand sticking with what works but continuing to update with the times.

It’s not good enough to stick with one thing forever – time marches on. Something always needs to evolve and change.

At the same time, however, tradition and comfort matter. Don’t throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater in the pursuit of change for its own sake.

Wheel of Fortune strikes that balance by retaining the co-host that viewers have grown up or grown old with, while at the same time bringing the technology up to date so that the show doesn’t appear to be a relic from 40 years past.

Whenever you hear a radio station justify doing something because “that’s the way we have always done it,” you should run screaming. That’s because tradition must meet progress in the middle. If you deny progress – if you deny change – change will swallow you whole.

Everything your station does should balance tradition and progress. 

Tradition is only important if valued, not if it’s simply old. That’s the difference between a classic car and a junker, right?

Progress should be a constant effort that keeps things fresh, compelling, and surprising. You want listeners to look forward to listening because there’s something new to listen to.

Let’s take traffic as an example. There’s a tradition for traffic on the radio. People expect it even though they know there are far more efficient ways of solving their traffic problem than the ill-timed and over-broad traffic casts on the typical radio station.

But…in an era when traffic on the radio is less useful than ever, a little bit will go a very long way. Too many stations seem to believe that traffic on the radio is as useful today as it was in 1982. It is not. Just ask Vanna White.

So the right move is to run your traffic, but don’t run very much of it. OR…what new features or solutions can your traffic provide that will save listeners time or trouble (after all, nobody really cares about the traffic report – what they care about is saving time on their journey).

Not long ago, I was driving with my wife in one market listening to the local Christian music station during afternoon drive. The station was INCREDIBLY cluttered, and most of that clutter consisted of constant and comprehensive traffic reports. I asked my wife, “would it surprise you if I told you this station was non-commercial?” She replied, “it is?!”

So the Vanna White lesson is this: Don’t throw away what isn’t broke, but make sure you’re keeping it for the right reasons. And always ask how you can make it better, fresher, newer.

Mark Ramsey
President of Mark Ramsey Media

Mark Ramsey is president of Mark Ramsey Media, strategic research provider to many Christian music stations including K-LOVE, AIR1, KLTY/Dallas, WPOZ/Orlando, KTIS/Minneapolis, and many others. More information about his services is at http://mrmchristian.com. Sign up for FAITHBRIGHT, his weekly email of smart and actionable ideas for Christian broadcasters here: https://goo.gl/2hJMCG. Reach him at 858-485-6372 or mramsey@markramseymedia.com.

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