(By Loyd Ford) We all know that slogans are great, but the reality of radio is that if you don’t take very good care of listeners, they will leave you. At the same time, if companies don’t strike when competitors drop the ball, no advantage will come from saying you’re live and local. That’s meaningless unless you back it up with real benefits and clarity in communication with your local listeners. Here are five ways to make sure you are positioned to take advantage of what I will call generic disruption, and gain real advantage when competitors cut more corners and reduce attention on local radio.
1. If your station is a music station, make certain that the music on your radio station is really correct. This process doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars or involve intense testing of music if you don’t have the budget, but you do have to make sure your music is right because you have to assume your competitors will be using a well-put-together list of relevant and appropriate hits. Don’t simply think, “They don’t understand my market.” People don’t willfully cut corners unless they feel they are paying attention to what matters most. The job is to make sure you are better.
2. The old saying is, “Mornings, music (if you are a music station) and marketing.” Listeners have more options trying to grab their attention daily, hourly. Distraction happens, but it happens less to great brands. When a competitor takes their eye off the ball, it does spell opportunity if you know how to take specific advantage of it. To do this within an individual radio market, you must narrow your focus on these three M’s first and make sure you are performing at a high level in each of these important programming categories.
3. Great radio stations are built on specific content that meets and drives listener passions for what you are providing. Make sure your on-air messages highlight what you are doing in as close to local listener language as you can develop. This is largely done by talking to and interacting with locals regularly. You can find a way to do this by staging a weekly event (such as a local weekly business networking event for which your sales team can grab a sponsor). Structure the networking event to include a regular moment of listener-advisored engaging conversation. People will talk to you and each other about radio and give you their opinion. Figure out the right questions and listen. Speak back to them in their language.
4. Make sure your communication is clear. We are in the broadcast business, but often we think of ourselves as great communicators. This is rarely true and you can make missteps faster than you think. If you are not being specific enough communicating your differences to listeners, it becomes much more difficult to make progress, even against a more generic competitor. Review every piece of content on your station that describes brand and listener benefits on a regular schedule.
5. Place a strong focus on local relationships. There is real power in connecting with important key-holders at the local level. In the past two decades, radio has done a great job of focusing on low-hanging fruit (revenue), but key relationships among community leaders and even listeners has ebbed. Think of ways you can not only engage listeners and thought leaders in your market, but turn those things into revenue opportunities. Let’s not forget: people want to be heard. Be a way they can have their local voices heard and expand the revenue you make from doing just that. That’s much more than “live and local.” It’s taking advantage of what local radio is excellent at leveraging.
We all know on some basic level that when you “remote program” a station, or cut up stations in parts and “national serve” stations with generic programming elements, something is lost in translation. The challenge is to not adapt to what they are doing but to find efficient ways to become more valuable locally while making sure your programming is performing at the highest professional levels by 2020 industry standards. The biggest lie is to tell yourself that when a competitor makes their products more generic they aren’t thinking about how to maintain their market status. Trust me – they are thinking about that. Treat them with respect as a competitor and make certain to build your culture and strategy to defend the local ground in the most meaningful ways to listeners in your community, because that’s the job.
This article is designed encourage taking advantage of any competitor when they take generic steps in your market with their important brands. That’s opportunity knocking. So, this is about you and not about them. Saying, “live and local” will not be enough to help listeners see the difference between you and another competitor (no matter how generic they are or are not). Design specific steps you can take to create more meaningful local connections. It works if you focus on the things that matter most for your listeners.
Loyd Ford has programmed in some of the most competitive radio markets across the U.S. and spent over a decade as a ratings strategist working with today’s big companies and independents from coast to coast in both PPM and diary markets. Today Loyd consults radio stations, coaches personalities, and provides behavioral programming with RPC that produces results. Reach him anytime at 864.448.4169 or [email protected].