Connect With Your Audience!


(By James Bahm) Listen to a local radio station for a few days and, if you know what to listen to, you will get an idea of what they think about their audience. This is heard in the station’s imaging, the types of commercials you hear from local businesses, and what you hear in the halls and offices around the station.

In this column, I’ll focus on imaging/positioning: the liners you hear between songs, what the on-air personalities say, and the phrase that gets repeated most often. AKA: Your Marketing Strategy!

Here are some reasons why some companies miss the mark, while others consistently hit the bullseye.

Imaging and Positioning: What you want your audience to think about you!

Every station has a positioning statement — that one phrase that you always hear. Some that I can recall throughout my career include, “New Country and More of It!” “Your News, Weather, and Traffic Station,” “Your Music, Your Life.” These are repeated so consistently that (when done correctly) listeners will identify with the station’s positioning statement as much as, if not more so, than the frequency on the dial.

Companies that do this well are Walmart (Save Money, Live Better), Cotton (The Fabric of Our Lives), Hallmark (When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best).

Imaging, on the other hand, are the liners you hear between songs that reinforce the positioning statement. These are always prerecorded. Here is where some stations fall woefully short. If you respect your audience — and for that matter, respect your competition — you’ll write great copy and consistently update it so you sound fresh.

Some of the best imaging I’ve heard: “What are the four types of rock? Sedimentary, metamorphic, igneous, and CLASSIC!” “Louisville is home to many greats: The greatest bat (Louisville Slugger), the greatest race (The Derby), The Greatest of All Time (Muhammad Ali), and the greatest music ___.” “There are many Country Stations in town, just remember: We’re the one with feathers on our Ass: New Country 98.9 The Hawk!” “Hey Third Shift, thanks for spending the night with us… and we’ll still respect you in the morning!”

Sadly, there are stations that offer no imaging between songs, save a station liner that says your name. I’d like to say that this is reserved for low-power, automated stations; however, I’ve heard it in markets across the country like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Louisville, Chicago, in addition to Small Town, USA.

Stations, if you aren’t going to invest in making your station sound better, why do you presume that your audience will want to continue listening?

Even if your station is fully automated with no live personalities and the same bland liners are being repeated throughout the day, how can you expect your audience to want to listen? Granted, most listeners are not trained to listen the way we are. Yet, the locals I talk with consistently tell me what they think of various stations and it invariably comes down to this very topic.

“That station is so bland,” “The music is all right but it’s boring to listen to,” “The station never changes,” are some of what I hear. I get that programming a station this way is a cost-saving decision. However, with voice-tracking capabilities, it’s easy to hire a few part-timers to do the shows, isn’t it?

When I hear these stations, I have to wonder if it’s run by individuals who are okay being mediocre. I may listen through a stop set, but after that I can’t waste my time listening to a station that can’t put forth the semblance of an effort to entertain and engage me — and many other consumers won’t either.

If you want to grow your listening audience, show them you respect them with your imaging and positioning statements.

Bottom Line: If you do not show respect for your audience, how can you expect them to remember who you are and want to listen longer?

James Bahm is a 25-year broadcasting professional, an advertising and marketing resource, and owner of The Bahm Consulting.


  1. Truth be told, I had the hots for Miss Helfinger.
    (I’m feeling much better now.)
    Strange that we would have to harken back 50 years and more (Stan Friedberg) to establish the histories, and the following colossal gap since, of great radio creative.
    Of course, fantastic radio creative is still being generated, but not enough to start a fad or anythin’ like that.

  2. It’s not just the imaging that is bland. A station near where I live, in a medium market, used to run automation with no jocks outside of morning drive. But the processing on the station and the tempo of the classic hits format, showed me the GM of this station, which was the lowest rated of the cluster, really wasn’t putting effort into this station. It is also said that the corporate owners might have been having some financial difficulties. The ads on the station were not impressive either. The station eventually flipped to a “Jack” format delivered off the bird. (the issue with processing extended to the fact that the previous format was soft AC). The PD at one point was also responsible for the market’s Country leader. Guess which got the most attention.

  3. It was explained to me, and I don’t believe it, that the station is making the same amount of money. Truth is they don’t care.

  4. It’s simple,
    Broadcasting is no longer run by Broadcasters. Automation makes it so……so….easy to fail today. Don’t give me that live assist junk either. Voice tracking is not radio, if you think that it is, I have Bridge that I would like to sell you. Bring the imagination back to radio again. Why would a client want to advertise on a Radio station that has no imagination? Radio is or was at one time a very respectful profession not a hobby. It is only Bland if the station management allows it to be. In that case sell your station or fire your management. Listeners deserve better. Radio is not an absentee ownership option. If something isn’t done soon the only radio you will find will be in a museum.

  5. So long as station reps are consistently being bruised and abused – “bland” is quite acceptable.
    Given the lack of effort being put forward, maybe “bland” is preferred.
    Up for consideration: “It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere!”

    • Actually, I heard that on Chickenman! (He’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!…followed by trumpet flourish). But Radio Ranch was the go to place for creativity.


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