How to Alienate Your Fan Base in Two Steps or Less: Iconic Radio Station Makes Mistake After Mistake

Change happens; I get that. Especially in the media landscape. TV and radio personalities come and go and, if they were popular, viewers and listeners mourn their departure and eventually find a way to move on. But that doesn't make it easy for fans and, as with most things in business there's a right and wrong way to do something. This month, popular LA-based radio station KROQ showed us the wrong way---and listeners are upset.

On Friday, it was announced on the station's popular morning show, Kevin & Bean, that they would no longer offer news and traffic. The reason supposedly being that people get current events from the web and traffic on their phones these days and it wasn't an important part of morning radio anymore. As a result, they said that long time newsman Doc of the Roq would no longer be giving news reports at the top of the hour. And, traffic reporter Lisa May would no longer be doing traffic. (In Lisa's case, she was an employee of a traffic service and the jocks said that the station's contract with the service was ending that day and, as such, so was Lisa's involvement with the show.)

Lisa May of KROQ
However, what long-time listeners know is that Lisa May was an integral part of the show. She didn't just tell listeners about traffic tie-ups twice an hour because she was employed by an outside service, she participated in celebrity interviews with the other morning show members, she was the anchor of several bits (Lick Lisa, anyone?) and recurring jokes, she made appearances at all the KROQ events, and was a major part of the station's four-and-a-half hour morning show.

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Kevin & Bean have been on morning drive for 25 years; Lisa has been a part of the morning show for almost that whole time (and Doc was with the station 27 years). She is a great ying to the yang of the two male hosts and Ralph Garman, the entertainment guy who is responsible for most of the voices and impersonations for the bits. Although the show is called Kevin & Bean, listeners fondly think of it as Kevin & Bean with Ralph and Lisa.

Listeners were devastated on Friday when they heard about Doc and Lisa. They took to Twitter and Facebook to demand the two be brought back. Many saying they would gladly listen to more advertising if it helped the station pay to keep Lisa May on the air. Neither Lisa nor Doc were given a chance to say goodbye to the station's fans and that made the loss even harder for long-time listeners (sadly, those of us who have been laid off know HR people don't want dismissed employees to ever have the chance to create a ruckus; quick and quiet exits are preferred over emotional goodbyes).

As is the case with most staffing changes, the bad news was announced on a Friday (Lisa's last show was Tuesday and listeners had been wondering where she was). No doubt the timing was strategic in hopes that everyone would simmer down over the weekend and the show could move on in a drama-free way on Monday.

Well, apparently the station's decision makers didn't want to give it's listeners a chance to grieve and slowly accept the fact that the morning show had changed. Instead, first thing Monday morning, they brought on a new female personality to join Kevin, Bean, and Ralph. Listeners know her as the occasional fill-in for show biz news when Ralph is out, so she wasn't a stranger to the K&B fan base. However, she was obviously brought in as the new female voice for the show and fans took to social media to voice their displeasure for the second show in a row. Many accused the station of censoring comments from unhappy listeners on the company's Facebook page.

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Yes, change happens. But smart companies know to minimize the fallout, especially in this age of social media where every disgruntled customer (in this case, listener) has a virtual megaphone. Fans were mad about Lisa and Doc's departure, but bringing in the new woman for the very next show added insult to injury. If there was money for the new person, why not money to keep the incredibly popular Lisa May by making her an official employee?

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Sadly, it's obviously not about money; it's about a new direction for the show. And, yes, it's every company's prerogative to shift course (I used to work at the LA Times, so I know of which I speak). But, what's the point of possibly adding new listeners as the result of a shake-up if you upset your current listeners enough so they start screaming boycott?

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The morning show hosts are under attack, the station's social channel's are under seige, and fans are angry that, as one tweet said, "the body isn't even cold yet and they bring in a new chick?"

This is a good case study for how not to change things up in any business. Be respectful of your talent/employees, be considerate of the fans, and, if you're in media, realize that listeners/viewers form real and powerful connections to on-air personalities.

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Making changes within any business always carries a certain amount of risk. However, smart leaders mitigate that risk and remember that without their customer, there is no product. In TV and radio, the personalities are the product. And, those personalities are real people who fans come to love.

* On a personal note, I have listened to Kevin & Bean since I returned to LA in 1991. I don't remember them not being in my world and throughout their tenure, I have always loved the show; it's the only good thing about the alarm clock going off so early in the morning. However, today when I listened to the "new girl" talking away, the enjoyment I usually get from the show turned to anger and annoyance. Yes, change happens. But that doesn't mean everyone has to like it. 

Bring Back Lisa May.

* UPDATE: Click HERE to read about the latest developments in an open letter to the Kevin & Bean Show. 

25 comments:

  1. Wow. I haven't listened in a while but this is a HUGE mistake! I love Lisa.

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  2. On Friday, everyone screamed there needed to be a female voice. Today there was a female voice with the new person, but it did NOT work. They don't need just any woman's voice. Everyone loved Lisa May and she made it work.

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  3. I agree 100% with everything you've said! I've been listening since 1994. :( I'm so sad.

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  4. It really IS sad. I loved starting the day with K&B and have done it since 1991. Now, it just makes me mad. :-(

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  5. Sent this to KROQ a while ago:

    Gentlemen,

    It is with a very heavy heart that I broke my long-time routine of listening to the K&B show while driving into work this morning. But I feel the dismissal of Lisa May and Doc was unwarranted and handled extremely poorly by the on air talent.

    At first, like others, I was very surprised to hear that Lisa and Doc were falling victim of a budget issue, which was insinuated on air last Friday. While we'd all feel bad about the loss of the two, if it could be justified on a cost-basis, it would seem less brutal. KROQ is no different from any other American enterprise; it's there to make $$. Besides, they weren't KROQ employees (and Beermug is?!, but I digress...). But those feelings of loss were erased Monday, when we learned that Allie would be replacing Lisa. The very brief information given last Friday was, in retrospect, disingenuous.

    Lisa provided the perfect counterbalance to a room full of "guys". But above all, she knew when to remain in the background and let you guys talk while only occasionally bringing the conversation into better focus. I think you'll find your new sidekick will be much more about remaking the show into the "Allie, with Kevin and Bean Show" Whether this resonates with the audience remains to be seen.

    I know that being a 20+ year listener places me into the "old" demographic the station does not care about. But being in first place as you guys are, I don't see what needed to change. This seems like fucking with the Beatles in their prime, just for the sake of change. There's no where to go but down when you're on top. And while in radio, and in life, it's sometimes necessary to step on some toes on the way up. But why lop of someone's head once there.

    Thanks for years of solid morning entertainment. I'm sincere about that. The hard work was appreciated by us early morning crawlers. But I'm out

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  6. This letter below was written by a listener named Rob. He had a hard time posting a comment, so he sent it to me to post on his behalf. He sent this to the morning show hosts. Here it is:

    Gentlemen,

    It is with a very heavy heart that I broke my long-time routine of listening to the K&B show while driving into work this morning. But I feel the dismissal of Lisa May and Doc was unwarranted and handled extremely poorly by the on air talent.

    At first, like others, I was very surprised to hear that Lisa and Doc were falling victim of a budget issue, which was insinuated on air last Friday. While we'd all feel bad about the loss of the two, if it could be justified on a cost-basis, it would seem less brutal. KROQ is no different from any other American enterprise; it's there to make $$. Besides, they weren't KROQ employees (and Beermug is?!, but I digress...). But those feelings of loss were erased Monday, when we learned that Allie would be replacing Lisa. The very brief information given last Friday was, in retrospect, disingenuous.

    Lisa provided the perfect counterbalance to a room full of "guys". But above all, she knew when to remain in the background and let you guys talk while only occasionally bringing the conversation into better focus. I think you'll find your new sidekick will be much more about remaking the show into the "Allie, with Kevin and Bean Show" Whether this resonates with the audience remains to be seen.

    I know that being a 20+ year listener places me into the "old" demographic the station does not care about. But being in first place as you guys are, I don't see what needed to change. There's nowhere to go but down when you're on top. And while in radio, and in life, it's sometimes necessary to step on some toes on the way up. But why lop of someone's head once there.

    Thanks for years of solid morning entertainment. I'm sincere about that. The hard work was appreciated by us early morning crawlers. But I'm out.

    Rob

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  7. So IF you are really upset and willing to put your money where your empty internet threats are, start letting the advertisers you will NOT be spending your money at their business beause of Kevin & Bean. For example let Galpin Motors know you will not be buying/leasing a vehicle from them. Tell stamps.com nope.com because of KROQ.
    Google Stephen Cohen World Soccer Daily and see how a highly rated show goes down faster than a Kardashian.

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  8. No threats here. Just stating the facts in an pretty objective manner, I think. I have no desire to destroy Kevin and Bean. I've enjoyed them for 24 years. This whole thing has just been handled beyond poorly and that could have been avoided with a little more honesty and respect.

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  9. Change happens in radio and when it does it's pretty rare that an on-air personality gets to say good bye. I grew up listening to a morning radio show in the San Francisco Bay Area called The Doghouse. The show was the dominate radio show for many many years. One day they got into some trouble and poof they were gone. No warning and no goodbye.

    When the station Adam Carolla was on was going to change formats the programming director wanted to announce it the day the format change was going to happen on Adam Carolla's morning show. The plan was for the station to change format at 5 pm. Adam pushed for the announcement to be made the day before so the night DJ who was a staple of that station and came on at 7 could have one last show and say his goodbye.

    Yes change sucks but I think people are just seriously over reacting. I think Lisa May was a staple of Kevin and Bean as well and I'm also going to miss her but this is radio and sadly that's how radio works sometimes.

    Who knows, Kevin and Bean might be taken off the air without a goodbye show or a warning.

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  10. On the Kevin & Bean show, countless long-time personalities got to say good bye. There were whole shows, even weeks of activities, around farewells to Jimmy, Money, even Psycho Mike. Saying "it's just business" and "it's just the way radio works" doesn't make it okay. We're not just going to go "Oh, yeah, okay then, dick over two iconic on-air personalities and then treat your listeners like shit after." There's no reason why we should have to.

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  11. Actually, I approve the change. I felt Lisa didn't contribute much to the show, besides giggles and jokes about her love for romantic comedies and bad TV shows. She wasn't a strong female presence. I have high hopes for Allie.
    On the other hand, I was disappointed to hear that Doc was let go as well. I enjoyed hearing brief news headlines before I headed into work, with of course his sly comedic commentary.

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  12. I think the objection of so many fans is HOW it was handled. Folks were led to believe the changes were made for one reason, when it turned out to be another. As for Doc, I just loved his sarcastic and opinionated way of delivering the news. I always looked forward to it!

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  13. Your opinion is exactly how so many fans feel. After 24 and 27 years sharing their lives with fans, Lisa and Doc deserved better. The fans needed closure and honesty. Instead, they've been ignored and blocked by Mr. Garman.

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  14. If a personality gets in trouble, sure, no goodbye for them. If the station's format totally changes, sure, no notice or goodbye. I think everyone gets that.

    I believe the primary objection fans have is how this was handled. They felt misled and deceived. And they feel like two members of their family were disrespected. I believe the fans would have been this upset if any member of the morning team was kicked to the curb and then replaced the next day.


    The station didn't think of this change in a strategic way. All of this could have happened, yet been handled in a better manner so as to not alienate longtime fans. It's my belief they all could have been smarter about this, and in doing so, fans would have accepted the end result in a more positive way.

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  15. The show was PAINFUL this morning. Lisa May had good chemistry with "the boys" and was honestly the only nice person on the show- Allie is WAY too pushy and aggressive. You cannot "work on" chemistry. It JUST is not there with Allie. The whole show was tense and awkward. I can understand change, but why throw Lisa May and Doc under the bus? Why the lies? 24 and 27 years. Not even a goodbye. The way things were handled, it makes it sound like they broke into Mr Weatherly's office and stole his first born troll.

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  16. I've tried all week to accept the change, but every time Allie opens her mouth it makes me tense up. It somehow seems like one of those obnoxious morning shows now with the mouthy chick who needs to get her airtime.

    I so wish the guys were handling the public relations part of this fiasco better. Their acceptance of people saying they're leaving the show is coming across as indifference (or hostility in Ralph's case). I have loved the show for years and wish they wouldn't just discount all the fans' feelings. I keep expecting them to wake up and realize they need to respond to listeners in an acceptable way, but they just won't fix this for some reason. :-(

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  17. I agree 100 percent. The show feels so very run of the mill now, like every other morning zoo show.
    It has such a scripted feel now. With no chemistry, it all seems like paint by numbers, with all the bits and segments forced to illicit the same response that seemed spontaneous in the past.
    The show just doesn't seem relevant anymore.
    More of a Walking Dead.
    Is this the beginning of the end?
    Thank you for giving loyal listeners another forum to express our opinion.

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  18. Hi Jim! Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts! I appreciate you visiting and reading. ;-)

    It's funny, how the feel could change so drastically. I have always loved the show. Loved. But Allie's presence just does something to make it seem like all the other annoying morning shows I can't stand.

    For some reason, they're acting like the fans are being unreasonable. Three changes all at once is too much. No Lisa, no Doc, and introducing Allie. All too much too fast. How could they be in the business so long and not get that????

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  19. Thanks for your coverage on this. It has really spoiled my enjoyment of this show that has been a constant in my life. I posted my letter in another part of your blog but if anyone has time please read it at my blog (usually dedicated to Japanese culture, that's how much this upset me)
    http://maru-design.com/nihomesick/?p=1218

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  20. Thanks for sharing your letter with everyone, Shawn. We share your pain, even all the way across the globe. ;-(

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  21. Millicent B AccardiMarch 3, 2015 at 9:26 PM

    I wrote and called Galpin, Nick Alexander and Hamer--Galpin and Alexander (family-owned businesses both expressed concern over what had happened)

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  22. Hey Brett! Yeah, I totally feel the same way about the show losing its appeal. However, K&B admitted on air that the decision to dump Lisa was theirs. They only have themselves to blame for the change to the show and so many long time listeners feeling alienated.

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  23. Did you know you can create short urls with Shortest and get money for every click on your short urls.

    ReplyDelete

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