(By Mike McVay) When your computer, your WIFI, your TV, or your cable service is disrupted and not working properly, you reboot. We all need a reboot as we wait for the Coronavirus Pandemic to become a thing of the past. Many businesses will need a reboot. We need to flip the off-switch of our radio stations, wait three minutes, and flip it back on. Now, we’re set to restart. Let’s take advantage of this moment to make radio better.
Start by asking yourself … What’s the benefit to an audience member by listening to your radio station? Is it to be informed, have fun, create interest, provide news updates, commentary relaxation, background music or “white noise” or is it simply for companionship?
We find a large number of Americans now listening and working from home … Every station in North America should consider Total Line Reporting with Nielsen. That is to say that I strongly believe you should be in full-simulcast with what’s over the air onto all other platforms where you deliver audio. It needs to be implemented, because you are otherwise missing out on the audiences that are hearing your station elsewhere. Your audience is listening to your radio station over the air, on-line, via smart speakers and on-demand via podcasts or digital delay. Get credit for the size of your audience.
Make The Product Better: Connect the dots between content and your rating results. There comes a point, among really good programmers, that research, marketing, contesting, building a strong format clock, are just a part of the cost-of-entry. I’ve sat in meetings, over the years, where executives demand that the ratings improve, but they’re unwilling to make the necessary changes to improve them.
Commercial Loads: Spot loads need to be lowered. We, as an industry, play too many minutes of commercials and we air too many units. We should give higher value to the live commercials we air and we should continue to sell and execute live appearances at a premium. Commercial production needs to improve. Promotional messages need to be viewed as if they’re commercials. Same as a promo for a podcast. The audience hears them as commercials.
On-Air Talent: They need to be personalities. No one needs a nice voice that lacks an engaging personality or strong content. Talent need to do better show prep, need to be aware of audience research, understand the art of performance as a personality versus being an announcer. Local versus national, as a debate, will continue to be argued. I can point to talent that voice-track into a market, from elsewhere, and they’re more entertaining and prepared than the locally live talent. It is a privilege to speak on the air today. Don’t take it for granted.
Air-Shifts: You should match the hours of usage during this pandemic. Morning shows could air 7:00am-11:00am or even until 12:00pm. Afternoon shifts could be adjusted to air 12:00pm-4:00pm. I am not trying to eliminate the middays show, but rather suggesting that stations look at their surge hours. When are the most listeners listening to your station during this time of social distancing? That’s when you want your best talent on-the-air.
Creative: “Spur of the moment” programming should be the norm and not special. We should always be prepared to break format and do something entertaining or informative that encourages a listener to repeat tune-in to your station or to talk about your station to another potential listener.
Unleash your creative animal. Create tribute songs. We’ve been doing that regularly with Benztown from Los Angeles. Develop unique ways to share messaging to the audience. Realize that we may have another year ahead of us that is most pandemical. Just because you’re tired of reporting on the pandemic, doesn’t mean that the audience is tired of hearing about it.
Promotion: On-air, and in your community, has to be with safety in-mind. If your air-talent are going to be on-location for a remote broadcast, wear a mask, use antibacterial, avoid shaking hands, continue to socially distance by 6’ or more. Prizes for contesting should be appropriate. What does someone need now? I’ve heard radio stations giving away concert tickets, for shows that are 6 months away, which is a double-edged-sword. While it gives the listener hope for the future, it also raises the question of whether the concert will take place or not.
Marketing: That connects to a community is most important. The message that you may have marketed pre-COVID 19 could be outdated or inappropriate during the pandemic. The way you reach a potential audience has also changed, but to eschew all marketing is a mistake, as it is times like these that leadership within a market can change. The product has to be on-target and better than your competitors, and if it is, scream it from the rooftops. The investment today may show dramatic returns in the future. The pandemic will end. Be ready for it.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]