Salespeople: Here’s How To Make Live Reads Work

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(By Gary Berkowitz) If you were to ask any successful PD what the secret to their success was, I am sure they would tell you that being sales-friendly is one of them. I certainly believe that, and continue to be sales-friendly myself. Which takes me to live reads, arguably one of the most requested and successful tactics for today’s radio advertiser. To get some solid advice on how to make live testimonial reads more successful, I spoke with Peter Connolly. Peter owns LIVE, The Personality Advertising Specialists in Detroit. He creates and manages live local radio endorsement campaigns all over the U.S.

GB: What are the most important strategies for a live read, testimonial spot to be successful?
PC: An AE, PD, or any manager should be able to do a marketing gut check and immediately tell if this is the right customer for a live read campaign. Only start a live read testimonial campaign if you believe the results will be dramatically better versus a recorded :30 or :60. The client must have a strong story to tell in two short sentences.

Focus on the client’s needs. A few years ago, while working with Steve Marx (our sales consultant), he became frustrated when he realized we ditched our customer focus and had a one-size-fits-all “live read” solution to everything. We went from highly customer-focused to a “live read drive-through” — and the first step was skipping over the critical step of understanding customer’s unique strategic and tactical needs and challenges.

GB: When you book airtime on a radio station, what is the first thing you expect the salesperson to do?
PC: They must take the live endorsement work seriously. Get me as close to the talent and any other resources they have for maximum return on investment. I want them to make sure their talent has all the tools necessary to win for our client. If there are any problems or issues, bring them to your agency or account’s attention at once. All of us want client success.

GB: What is the biggest mistake a salesperson can make that will get in the way of a successful live read?
PC: If a salesperson does something that loses our trust, we are probably done.

GB: If you cannot coach the talent, what are some tips you would give the local salesperson for coach?
PC: We never start a campaign without meeting talent in person. If our talent is in Rough and Ready, California or Two Egg, Florida, we go there. How can we expect talent to have clarity and belief in our client’s product and goals, and most importantly, to be personal with our client’s messaging as a partner if we don’t take the time to meet them in person?

GB: Can a PD be helpful with a live campaign? How?
PC: Yes. PDs are the best asset to a client and AE, especially for a live read campaign. We know PDs are the ultimate marketer and primary talent coach at a radio station. Often, we reach out to a PD to use their relationship and expertise to fix a delivery issue. PDs can have exposure to research, ideas, and events we need.

GB: How long should live reads be to be effective?
PC: We only do :60s, and we have many campaigns that span six to eight years. We never expect a live read to go longer than one minute (some PDs think we do). Often, some of our best live reads are less than 60 seconds. It’s most important that they be very personal, clear, and well prepped units. We want these to be longterm, multi-year campaigns with key accounts. Unfortunately, some customers are not set up for long-term annuals.

GB: Should they have music under them or not?
PC: Never.

GB: How should the salesperson manage the client’s expectations?
PC: We have some clients that have tethered us to digital performance metrics. Radio and especially live read results are far broader than digital metrics and lead generation. For strategic and tactical battles, radio and live reads are still an incomparable tool for providing far deeper, longer-lasting results. Make a list of results that you can track over a continuum.

We also do a lot of agency work. Agencies are expert at looking more deeply at sales results that are far broader than those of a digital vendor. These campaigns have resulted in and contributed to staggeringly higher market share, far higher web sales, far higher phone metrics, and have made unfair gains in market share at a far lower budget. Finding these results is very tough, as we’re dealing with humans. I always ask the clients’ salespeople, who interact with actual customers, for their input.

In conclusion, as a programmer, I like live reads. They help a person’s personality come out, and if done right (and not overused), can form a strong bond with the listener. It can be useful content as it’s (hopefully) helping a listener solve a problem or need. I’ll take a sincere live read any day over a loud, screaming recorded spot or senseless talk for talk’s sake.

Gary Berkowitz is president of Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting. Contact him at 248.737.3727, [email protected] garyberk.com, or www.garyberk.com.

Peter Connolly of LIVE can be reached at (248) 757-2650 or [email protected]

1 COMMENT

  1. Gary is a pro who has credibility, and I agree how providing “live” reads CAN be a terrific strategy.
    Some other “yahbuts” to be considered:
    Can the Talents get through the spot without blowing up, falling apart or setting themselves on fire?
    If the Talents come to their shows with an “attitude”, would they have to step out of character to make the spot seem credible? If so, would the, even subtle incongruencies generate a negative response from the audience?
    Would the Talents be congruently believable in their descriptive pitches?
    Is there a risk the audience will hear a stage-whispered comment along the lines of, “Who wrote this?” (There was a time when fully a third of the spots went “live” and there was, indeed, a good chunk of garbage that we had to foist on the folks. Plus, at the time, it seemed funny. It may not have been.)
    Are the spots linguistically secure enough to generate worthwhile responses from audiences, or is the reliance on a somewhat unique “live” delivery?
    If those elements are being appropriately addressed – and they can be – then, by all means – give ‘er.

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