10 Common Traits Of Winning AC Stations


(By Gary Berkowitz) Have you ever looked at the ratings and wondered: How do certain ACs always come out on top? There is a reason. Do a “programming X-ray” on the most successful and consistently high-rated AC stations, and you quickly see the common elements that make them winners.

After years of working with ACs around the country, here’s my top 10 list of the common traits of winning AC stations.They understand their listeners’ music taste.

  1. They know that if the music is not right, their ratings will not be right. To them, music research is like a utility bill. It always gets paid. Successful ACs don’t want their “lights turned off,” so they do the research (you know what I mean!).
  2. The golden rule is “win at work.” Everything rallies around 8 a.m. to 4 p. m. Sure, the other dayparts are important, but 8 to 4 is where you will get the majority of your quarter hours. When the book comes in, that’s the first place they look to see how they did.
  3. They are “brilliant with the basics” and understand how to combine them with a fun, congenial atmosphere. They don’t read liners. They deliver them in a warm, natural, friendly way so the listener feels good about listening to their station. They do an amazing job of making sure their listeners always know who they are listening to, whether it’s a PPM or a diary market.
  4. They have personalities who are more concerned with being likeable than funny. In sales, the line is “People buy from people they like.” In programming “Listeners listen to people they like.” Are your personalities likeable?
  5. They follow a conservative road. “When in doubt, leave it out” is their rule. Whether it’s a bad spot, or bad lyrics, they don’t overthink it. They just leave it out. As the great Rick Sklar once said, “You only get hurt by what you play.”
  6. They position themselves with true listener benefits. They ask their listeners why they listen, and they mirror that. They forget the useless language. They sweat the small stuff. Like not talking about listening at work at 5 p.m.
  7. They are not concerned with content as much as they are with companionship. Often, content causes talk, and that can be a negative. The big ACs have personalities who understand what it is to be a listener’s friend. To a listener, having their favorite, comfortable AC station on is as important as anything in the work environment.
  8. They have a phone app. It’s tough to buy an AM-FM radio these days. If you don’t believe me, go into a Best Buy and try to buy one. The world revolves around the phone (especially for women). If you’re not there, well, you know the rest! Get that app today!
  9. They make effective use of Facebook and e-mail marketing and do not abuse it. Successful ACs know that Facebook is still the 500-pound gorilla with their base, and they post often with information that is useful to their base. E-mails to listeners always contain a strong reason to open and read them (like secret contests and giveaways only for them).
  10. Consistency is job one. Day in and day out, they sound the same. Always smooth. Always warm and friendly. Everyone does formatics the same. It’s smooth. Winning ACs are like the restaurant that has mastered great service, fabulous food, and a great environment.

Gary Berkowitz is president of Detroit-based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement and programming content for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com He can be reached at 248.737.3727 or [email protected]


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