by Andy Capp

Howdy partners! Ya know, livin' out here on the lone prairie, this ole Prod Poke don't get to the big city much. So, when the chance came to belly up to that radio Rendezvous in Minneapolis called the Upper Midwest Conclave, I took ta the idear as quick as a hog afire!

Me and the missus loaded up the wagon (read: Caravan) with travelin' rations (read: Ho Hos and Cheetos) and with the youngins hit that dusty trail (read: Construction laden interstate).

Keepin' the hostile children at bay with threats and chocolate, seems like it weren't no time at all but what we were sittin' in front of the biggest danged General Store I ever did see (the Mall of America), where my good wife and offspring would shelter (and spend) whilst I joined the jamboree.

I'm here to tell ya, that there Conclave were the ding dangest gatherin', worth a whole peck a words itself, but fer now I'll tell ya my head were as filled as a ten-pound sack stuffed with twenty pounds of taters as I headed the wagon back to that there big ole General Store to round up my herd. My head were so full a radio, in fact, that it musta been emptied of directions, cause it 'peered it were taken a site lot longer gitten back to that there mall as it did leavin' it.

Times like that there, I always remember the three laws of the West my ole Pappy teached me: one, keep the wagon over half fulled; two, treat salesfolk exactly like they treat you; and three, never, ever, ask for directions! Course, it ain't cheatin' ifin you stop fer a map, which I did just ahead of the Canadian border.

The preceding story is more or less true, the exceptions being that even though I live in the sticks, I rarely talk that way unless I'm trying to lose a recording tape salesperson from the coast on the phone, and I didn't get all the way to Canada...though only because Minnesota reaches for miles north before the land of Bryan Adams and donuts.

The point I wanted to make (Yes, Virginia, there is a point!) is that maps are important tools when heading down unfamiliar roads. Maps can even point down the right path when you reach a fork in a familiar road.

The most helpful map I've ever owned (other than the one that said, "Mall this way!"), was drawn at a staff meeting for our FM station last summer. The map has no lines or rest stop diagrams, but it charts a course for me daily as far as my promotional spots for the station are concerned. It's a map of our target listener.

My ever wise and insightful Program Director (hey, get off my back; my review's coming up, okay?) came up with the idea. Adults twenty-five to fifty-four are the broad target of the station (who's aren't?!), but we've always leaned toward a female audience, thirty something. Our PD reasoned that mapping out an "actual" person would make it easier for everyone concerned to take more accurate aim at that target. He brought the idea to the table and we spent the remainder of the meeting brainstorming.

Enter Lorena (yes, named after "cross-your-legs-here-comes" Mrs. Bobbit). Lorena is thirty-five, married (the second for both her and her spouse), three kids--high school, junior high and kindergarten. Lorena and her husband have white collar mid-management jobs. Both are involved in community service groups. The kids are involved with sports, including softball, soccer and basketball. Lorena's whole family also enjoys pro sports, especially the semipro baseball and basketball teams here in town. Lorena is media savvy, up to date on both local and national news and trends. Her tastes are contemporary. Lorena and her husband own two cars, a mini-van and older model sedan that's "nickel and diming" them with repair bills. Lorena and her family are health and fitness conscious. Lorena and her husband rarely get a night out alone together. Lorena enjoys theater and music. Lorena reads the youngest child a bedtime story every night, just as she did with the two older children. Lorena and her family enjoy learning their new personal computer...and on and on.

Lorena is a map of words, all painting a picture of the lay of the land of our target listener, complete with road signs pointing the right direction for jock talk, music selection, promotions, and production for the station. Like a real person, Lorena grows and develops constantly, the new traits always added to the list.

With Lorena, each new production journey can lead in a relatable direction for our listeners. I often look at my Lorena map when working on a promo idea and wonder what's going on in her day. I once decided that with five family members, there must be plenty of trips to the dentist, so I did some dentist "shtick" on a promo. I've twisted around several familiar fairy tales that Lorena must have read the kids a million times to suit my production needs. The guy that's always fixing the family "clunker" car even popped up in a commercial a couple of weeks ago.

It's one thing to say, "Our station is heading to number one!" It's another thing to find a way to number one without some kind of direction that points the target listeners to the station, that makes them say, "This is my station!" The map of the composite listener has become a simple but powerful compass in the growth of our station imaging, not only pointing the direction all programming elements should take, but also providing an off ramp to a mother load of creative ideas that our target audience can relate to.

With that, now it's time to say good-bye to Andy and all his kin. Ya'll come back now, ya hear?!

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