Back in March, Westwood One promoted Kelli Hurley to Vice President of Digital Sales. She was the company’s Vice President for National Partnerships and Digital Activation in the Midwest. Hurley now oversees all sales efforts for the company’s portfolio of digital products, including streaming audio, on demand, and podcasting. And she continues to develop new content partnerships for the company. We recently spoke to Hurley in depth about radio’s challenges of selling digital without losing focus on the most important radio revenue stream, spot sales.
Radio Ink: What digital services are having the most success for radio stations/companies?
Hurley: Digital streaming (whether live broadcast stations or pureplays) are still the largest sources of revenue opportunities due to scale and engagement with consumers. We can now consume content at all times of the day across multiple devices, and audio is a critical part of that experience, be it music, sports, news/talk, weather, traffic, entertainment, etc. Audio is at the forefront of our daily content consumption through a multitude of digital audio streams
Podcasting is a rapidly emerging audio platform and one we are seeing a lot of success with. While the scale is not there (yet) of streaming, there are lots of opportunities for audio to experience exponential growth within this vertical. There are still many challenges, but it is an exciting and evolving space, and one to keep an eye on.
Social media is becoming more and more important to brands. Having a broadcast personality align with a brand via social media is a powerful tool and an incredibly unique extension to an audio buy.
Radio Ink: What is the best way to train AE’s and managers?
Educate – Educate on not just your platform, but the industry as a whole.
Resources – Ensure your team is armed with compelling marketing materials that tell a story, and one that they can understand and feel comfortable selling.
Examples – As a Digital Sales Manager, it’s important my sellers know where other sellers are finding success. Sharing those successes is critical to training.
Positioning – How to properly and effectively position our platform versus the competition and show how it complements our larger menu of broadcast assets.
Hands On – I make sure I take the time to explain, answer questions, and dedicate my time to making a seller feel comfortable pitching digital. I need to build a strong relationship with each individual seller to ensure there is trust, not only in our assets, but in me, that if they make the sale, I will deliver for them.
Radio Ink: Can the existing sales department be depended on to monetize this, or is yet another hire to sell only digital products needed.
Hurley: I believe existing sales departments can absolutely be depended on to monetize this, but I do see a lot of success with sellers who have had experience selling digital or who show a strong passion/liking toward it. I think anyone can agree that you have to enjoy and have passion for what you are selling. I believe in audio. The way in which we consume audio delineates whether it is a broadcast or digital sale, but that doesn’t change that it is still audio and we are telling a brand’s story, just within different platforms. I think we as an industry, and as sellers, need to start telling this story more often and truly believe it. Audio is audio no matter how we consume it…we still hear it.
RadioInk: What is the best way to sell digital: on its own, or bundled with our traditional radio offerings?
Hurley: That will always depend on what is best for the client. However, I do believe that most of the time digital audio is a natural and seamless extension to a broadcast buy. It is there to enhance and extend the audio to consumers who listen on their computers and devices while at work, while commuting on public transportation, working out, etc. Consumers are not always in their cars to hear an audio spot, so it is critical to deliver that message to them at all points throughout their day. As we know in audio, frequency sells. Digital audio also has the opportunity for more flexibility outside of the traditional radio clock which makes it a very exciting platform for advertisers.
Radio Ink: Are stations just moving dollars around, or are they bringing in real digital revenue?
Hurley: They are creating real digital revenue. I am still of the belief that in order to effectively buy digital audio, there should be a separate digital audio RFP/budget/negotiation. It should not take away from traditional audio budgets, it should enhance and diversify an audio buy with a real strategy behind it.