By Stan Main
Changing formats to Christmas music 24-7 for four to seven weeks is an exceptional ratings opportunity AND challenge for adult stations in the US and Canada. Two things happen for most stations, especially those lucky enough to be in markets where they are the exclusive Christmas music station:
1. The cume increase can triple for your station
2. P1 TSL can be significantly damaged during the same period
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR TRIPLED CUME AND GET YOUR P1s BACK IN JANUARY
Listeners from most every radio station in your market will sample your station, sometimes more than their normal P1 favorite station during your “Holiday Gift of Music.” This presents a unique and powerful marketing opportunity that’s potentially more valuable than hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside marketing.
You literally have thousands of listeners who never listen to your station visiting your frequency during Christmas music. Many of these listeners have outdated or just plain misinformed perceptions of your station.
Here’s how to take advantage of your giant cume invasion AND keep them in January:
1. Run hourly imaging with the regular format’s best-testing song hooks to break down any misperceptions of what your station is today.
2. Use branding promos to promote the highlights of your morning show.
These imaging promos can convert many listeners who have misperceptions of your station and help mitigate most of the potential cume decline in January.
3. The 2014 Songs in a Row promotion is the most impactful device to maintain your holiday cume and get your P1s to return in January. Using this type of promotion requires your sales manager to give up 5.5 days of inventory. However, if ever there is a time to free up inventory, January is the month. Sample promo: “When we come back from playing Christmas songs, starting with the New Year, you will have a FREE SAMPLE of Today’s Soft Rock… 2014 Songs in a Row with no commercial interruptions!”
If you can’t make commercial-free work, brainstorm for a music promotion that the P1s will respond to.
4. Contests can get some listeners to return, especially if they are grand enough, like We Pay Your Holiday Credit Card Statement. The caveat is that contests inherently only appeal to typically less than 20 percent of your audience.
Notes on doing 2014 Songs in Row type promotions:
1. Listeners don’t count. If you get close to 2,000 songs, no one will likely ever know.
2. Listeners will tolerate “This hour of 2014 Soft Rock Songs brought to you by “McDonalds…I’m lovin’ it.”
3. Traffic sponsorships don’t seem to get anyone’s ire up.
4. Clearing network spots and specialty programming can be challenging.
Notes on Christmas Music:
1. Changing formats to Christmas songs does not make everyone happy. Many people won’t complain, fearing a scrooge label, yet they will listen less or stop listening to your station for weeks. You will get a few Facebook posts, emails, and calls complaining and taking out much of their early retail Christmas angst on you. Be sure to thank complainers for their feedback and give them a good reason to come back in January.
2. The late US Thanksgiving this year works against doing all Christmas music in diary markets. Typically, if your station starts the promotion the Friday before Thanksgiving week, you have three solid weeks in December to boost ratings. This year, Thanksgiving falls late, on November 28, so you will only get two weeks in the fall Arbitron report, assuming a start date of November 22. That’s a 33 percent loss of potential Holiday ratings hype. Starting on Black Friday this year will give you only one of 13 weeks in the survey which limits the promotion’s ability to impact the Fall book considerably.
3. You will get complaints from listeners when you start Christmas music programming before Thanksgiving. At the same time, it is not unusual to see the best week of Christmas music during the first week, providing the station does a good job promoting the start date. Starting later, on Black Friday, will reduce the complaints, yet you will likely leave significant AQH on the table.
4. Starting Christmas music on a weekday rather than the weekend gives you the greatest ratings opportunity since you can get the word out during the heightened workday listening period.
Stan Main is the Talent Coach for The Randy Lane Company. E-mail him at Stan@randylane.net.