(By Joel Raab) Hundreds, if not thousands, of employees were fired by iHeart last month. Staff reductions are reported at Cumulus and at other groups as well. With more programming coming from centralized hubs, the radio industry struggles to
maintain its local identity. Some will debate the importance of localism. I maintain that it continues to be one of the pillars making radio relevant in a digital world. Local doesn’t always have to be live. It just needs to be relevant.
One thing is certain: localism alone will not carry the day. Local air talent need to “bring it,” and avoid offering the same generic content executed by national talent. One thing I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) is that national talent will win in local markets if their content is more compelling. The listener wants to be entertained. Want to beat Bobby Bones in your market? Have a better show. Work harder.
Air talent should keep the following points in mind when show planning:
Remember that “local” is what’s of interest locally, whether or not it happens in your town. But do find a local angle to a national story. If someone is having a tailgate party at 25,000 feet in the air, 2,000 miles away on a private plane (as in a story I heard just this morning), make a reference to your local team or airport. If there’s a shooting in
California, have your local chief of police talk about how to stay safe. Keep a list of local experts and influencers you can call to provide commentary on any number of topics. When the Grammy Awards are announced, what local character can comment on them?
Are you out and about? This sounds obvious, but too many talents do their shows, track a few stations, do their production, and go home. I know you’re wearing a lot of hats, but if we’re going to survive as an industry, we will have to work that much harder. Where can you be a few days a week to be seen and to make a difference for a good cause? One of my clients is doing a karaoke event for a local charity (which makes for
great audio as well).
If your competitor is doing a St. Jude’s radiothon, design a similar promotion for a local children’s hospital. Most people love pets. Sponsor pet adoptions on Saturdays. They provide great visuals for your website, provide many sponsorship opportunities, and help you to connect with your listeners in a personal way. Find causes that your talent are personally invested in.
Country radio has traditionally had a strong connection to the community. In every focus group I’ve ever conducted with Country listeners, they want their favorite on-air personalities and stations to be good corporate citizens.
If you are voicetracking, wherever possible, visit the city for which you are tracking. Take a tour of the town. If that’s not possible, learn as much as you can about the area — especially how to correctly pronounce words that have a special meaning in the area.
Don’t be intimidated by radio’s national stars. Sure, they’re great at what they do. But when you combine local appeal with entertaining and informative content while being seen around town, you will win.