An Open Letter to KROQ's Kevin & Bean Show

For fans of KROQ's morning show Kevin & Bean, today is day six of Lisa Gate (if you're not up to speed, check out this post on the dismissal of longtime radio personality Lisa May and newsman Doc on the Roq). Six days in which fans have been flooding, and I mean flooding, the station's social media channels with tweets and posts saying how upset they are with the show's recent changes. Six days of them asking for answers. Six days of them becoming increasingly suspicious of the real story (especially in light of the unannounced addition of Allie MacKay to the very next show). Six days of loyal fans getting blocked on Twitter by the show's entertainment guy, Ralph Garman, when they tweet supportive messages about the now unemployed Lisa May.

Alisa's tweet that prompted this block was "THIS RT @eliztesch @ralphgarman @kevinandbean #BringBackLisaMay" 

Frankly, I don't understand why the station is letting a bad situation get worse with every passing hour.

When the announcement was made on Friday that two of the show's veterans would no longer be part of the show, people immediately took to social media calling for a boycott until Doc and Lisa were asked back. Sadly, Garman's on-air response to this was "go ahead, leave." Those words were delivered not in a matter of fact way, but with anger as though fans were ungrateful, spoiled little children having a temper tantrum. Not only did Garman's words sting for many fans, but they alienated them even more.

The thing is, fans would have revolted if any of the show's personalities had so unceremoniously been let go. If listeners had received that same news about Ralph, there would have been an uproar. Because, it wasn't just about loving Lisa May, it was about loving the morning show family that so many fans have spent 10, 15, 20 or more years with.

It was about inside jokes (butthole week, anyone?) that go back 12 years. It was about routine, familiarity, and an on-air family that fans started each and every weekday with as they got ready for work in the morning or were stuck in traffic. A family who laughs at Kevin's "this is not how you run a life" goofiness, jokes about Bean's love of IHOP and his New Music Tuesday routine, cried as Ralph lost his son and marvel at his ability to do amazing impressions and hysterical bits, smiles when hearing Lisa's laugh and appreciates the sweetness, kindness, and balance she brought to the team, and looked forward to the biased and sarcastic news updates from Doc on the Roq that you can't get from any other news guy out there.

Regardless of whether fans had ever met them in person, these people were extended family to so many loyal listeners. Family that many folks stayed connected with long after they left LA, thanks to the wonderful invention of podcasts.

Despite six days of fans posting to Facebook, not one official reply has been given to any comment or post from an unhappy listener. Despite six days of tweets to the show's Twitter account and those of the other morning show members, fans still feel as though they're being ignored.

Countless listeners have posted to social media to say they're done with the show and will not listen anymore. However, the saddest part is that the morning team is just seeming to accept this. They're not fighting to keep their fans.

Tweet sent to Kevin after this listener was blocked by Ralph.

Unfortunately, that acceptance is only coming off as indifference. Indifference to the fans who have been with them through so much, the fans who wear their t-shirts, the fans who have their bumpers stickers on their cars and fridges, the fans who have bought every single one of their Christmas albums, and the fans who would slather their meals with Kevin & Bean Gravy if only the FDA would let them.

This problem, at its core, isn't that there was change. It is how that change occurred. Aside from three major bombs dropping all at once, which was horrible planning on someone's part, this problem is about the station not being upfront. Had they just said, "hey, we feel like it's time to start doing something different with the show so Doc and Lisa's last day will be in two weeks and we'll be bringing in Allie, who you guys know, to start doing more bits with Ralph, coming up with contests, and other cool stuff to make the show more fun," fans may not have been happy, but it would have been honest. Lisa and Doc could have gotten a proper send-off and listeners would have had the chance to transition to the new show without all the hard feelings.

For the record, I love Kevin and Bean. I always have. (And, yes, I've had a crush on Bean that whole time. Do not judge me.) I've listened for 24 years and stuck with them through the changes, but those changes were different; not like this. And, at this point, I fear the damage is irreversible.

I hope the guys can come back from this, I truly do. Please, give your fans a reason to believe in you again.

A Loyal Fan and Longtime Listener
(Ralph, you can block me now.)

* UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Ralph's rant about upset listeners on Friday was edited out of the podcast. Click HERE to access the K&B archive which has the complete show.

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. 

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