Here’s my strategy:
1. Develop a show with a name brand talent carrying instant awareness not just with Howard Stern’s audience but with listeners outside his audience
2. Create show elements now – a virtual highlight reel
3. Formally announce the heir apparent and the official launch date for his show, and do it now
4. Treat this event like the coming opening of a big Summer movie. Get his face all over TV, all over the late night shows, all over the magazines. And do it now. The vast majority of Howard’s audience knows he’s going to Satellite in a few months. What fraction of his audience should know what’s going to replace him?
5. Don’t worry about whether or not Howard disses this new show prior to its debut. In fact, encourage this dissing. Let Howard rant. The new host is free to call in and engage Howard in any discussion on the matter. All of this debate and discussion will create the precious commodity of intrigue, curiosity. It will make people want to sample the new show when it’s born. Buzz is good.
6. Take those show elements in the can and run them in promos around the clock on every station where you’re replacing Stern.
7. Do it all NOW.
If we wait until Howard’s off the air or until the dark days of December to make our announcements and plug our new show we will add months or years to the timeline for success. First impressions count. And if we “soft launch” a show designed to replace the best known one in Radio we are likely to get a soft start and possibly a soft finish.
There are more steps in my plan, but since I know of one station in a similar situation with a different morning show already taking those steps I won’t share those with you. Suffice it to say, success does not come to those who keep secrets.