What “Back To School” Means This Year


(By Loyd Ford) Back to school. Even the words traditionally make parents smile. In a normal year, this is a game changer. It means fall is here and adult attention can return to more dependable routines. But in 2020, back to school means so much more to your radio brand, your cluster, company and your community than it does in a normal year.

Great programmers, market managers, sales managers and salespeople should be focused on this if your brand or brands are involved in adult targeted listening today. Why is it more important this year?

  • Back To School means money. Parents spend a lot of money when their children go back to school. Nothing is more important to them and there are natural occurrences that develop and that means money. This year it likely means new categories of money for radio. We just have to identify and capture unique revenue opportunities. That means ideas and creativity will turn into extra revenue this fall. Be alert and opportunistic, including areas like tutoring and education extenders.
  • Back To School means opportunity. And radio needs all the opportunity we can get or create this fall. In fact, I would go so far as to say we need to be creating opportunities that are attractive to advertisers beyond the regular avails and standard promotions of fall. In situations like those created by Covid-19, you really see how this time in your professional life is about choosing to wait for regular cash register business (which in many cases has gone missing) or becoming more engaged in the communities we broadcast to today and following the money. Other businesses need to make money, too. In a capitalist market, money always goes somewhere. Money does not stand still. Standing still in capitalism is death.Stations that are truly engaged stand out to listeners, to buyers and in participating in the local economy. Those are the radio stations and companies that will continue making financial progress.
  • Back To School means connection. Think about how connected your brand is to what is really important to your local audience. A lot of radio pros think they are really connected to local, but many are not involved with even one teacher, local firefighter or so much as a local police officer. There’s never been a better time to really be connected. If you don’t think people will respond to you being interested, you’re wrong. Radio traditionally had roots in local community. At the end of the day, if you are looking to matter to listeners or clients, being truly connected pays dividends in any crisis.
  • Back To School means you have unique opportunities to dig in to community in meaningful ways. Is someone on your staff connected to the parent teacher organizations in your market? Do you know the important dates in the lives of young mothers, fathers and families this fall? Do you really know what is happening? Powerful local radio isn’t saying, “Live & Local.” It’s being there for community, knowing the players and learning what is important to them so you can arrive first over the air with the heart of what your community and listeners care about today.
  • It likely means drifting habits. We’ve all gotten an up close look at how listener habits have been disrupted with Covid-19. Many are lulled into thinking the disruptions are short-term. Maybe they are. But if you think it’s over, you could be dead wrong. Fall may bring more disruption and you should be very wary of what I call ‘drift.’ We must focus our communication on simple, easy to rapidly understand listen benefits.

This article isn’t just for sales, or market managers. This is about retaining and growing your value in the face of a chronic pandemic. Share this in any conversation that concerns targeting adult listeners, developing sales ideas that can result in new defining revenue, being opportunistic or simply trying to get people to focus in on some of the biggest potential shifts in behavior we’ve seen in multiple generations.

These opportunities are now and missing them could have a highly negative impact on your local business or simply your business in general. Paying attention and acting on these things, on the other hand, could power your share of audience and share of revenue in a tough period of time.

We say this all the time: “Radio is uniquely positioned among all media to take advantage of a highly mobile audience in today’s world,” but that’s only true if we act with the wisdom of being what our communities want, need and expect in this new normal.

Loyd Ford consults radio stations, coaches personalities, and provides behavioral and strategic programming to radio with RPC. Reach him anytime. 864.448.4169 or [email protected].


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