Updating Radio’s Visuals Is Code Red Critical

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(By Loyd Ford) I encourage you to do a Google search for ‘radio.’ Look only at images. By the way, this is a great way for you to see how consumers see radio. Pitiful. Why? Because we are essentially an industry that functions on 1980s visuals. Yet we live firmly in the 21st Century.

When Bill Gates looked into nuclear power technology with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they found that the technology largely used around the world for nuclear plants was based on 1960s technology. So, this happens in a variety of industries, but I believe the leaders in our industry should be code red worried about these outdated images representing radio in today’s more technology look-and-feel world. Our visuals tell our story in today’s world with listeners and advertisers. That story is faded and needs a paint job.

While focusing on profit is important, too narrowly focusing on cost cutting as the driver to get to the promised land and not thinking about how our industry is perceived by listeners and advertisers has created conditions that are simply too easy for the world to overlook and move past radio on the way to so many shiny new entertainment options. After all, today we all live in a smart phone, streaming world where entertainment is at our fingertips 24/7 and society largely places a higher value on easy-touch technology.

For over sixty years, TV game shows had the basic concepts we all know too well. Institutions like Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy have dominated the landscape. Do yourself a favor and Google Ellen’s Game Of Games. See for yourself what she and her team have done to essentially present game shows in a more modern way visually.

They have placed a premium on “fun presentation” for viewers in a world that craves escape and fun. It has essentially freshened game shows with fun we love today. This is the kind of shift I am recommending we think about for radio’s more appropriate 21st Century visual images. If we don’t think about how we are viewed, someone else may determine the narrative around the future of our industry.

We must get out of our own way.

What I am suggesting is an overhaul of our consumer-facing images to place radio rightfully in a 21st Century view for consumers to see radio as now.

  • There should be an overall industry focus on elevating and modernizing the visual images of radio and placing a premium on the surrounding visuals radio uses to present itself (not just station logos)
  • At a time when consideration is being given to reducing footprint for station brands, perhaps pause should be given to think about how to reimage radio with a more modern technology-based framing to look like today
  • Creativity is sorely needed today to set radio alongside today’s tech-based shiny attention engines of the 21st Century
  • Personalities (especially morning shows) should shatter their connection to the past and work hard to redesigning how they visually look for listeners today; comparing yourself to what your competitors are doing today is nothing

Personalities should consider work beyond only prepping shows and we should seek personalities who are on the leading edge of how they present themselves visually, especially creating real value for their listeners
(see https://www.youtube.com/user/hot97ny or https://www.youtube.com/user/breakfastclubpowerfm). The examples here are great for their listeners and advertisers. Consider how to create value that reshapes how you visually appear in the digital spheres of influence where millions of listeners spend a larger part of their time.

Much of what we have seen certainly since 1996 is ‘good enough’ science in much of corporate radio and they are leading the industry because of their size, resources and structure. Look at radio websites. ‘Good enough’ visuals offer opportunity to tread water while the rest of the world has sped up for the past twenty-four years. That is a recipe for disaster. At the same time, radio seems to accept that it should give up significant profit margin to move a good percentage of our business to digital.

Perhaps the need to visually update our consumer (and advertiser) valued images and an overall philosophy shift so we create more radio-owned digital opportunities that take us out of ‘code red’ and into higher digital profit margins for the 2020’s. This means rethinking how we create and offer digital opportunities that strengthen our profit margin and grow how we are perceived to take our place beside any of today’s technologies because of our power to connect locally. This is all a desperate need to retrench around a new visual impression for our products that essentially updates our brands and radio for the 21st Century.

It all starts with this question: What is the visual purpose of your images facing both listeners and advertisers in the 21st Century? We are in charge of what happens next. Continuing to avoid addressing the overall images of how radio is presented everywhere (and in digital spaces) could be our way out the door. Maybe you’ve even heard people say that what lawyers talk about in a courtroom isn’t always even the truth: It’s who tells the best story. What is your story in your market and what is radio’s visual story for the 21st Century?

Creating visual opportunities for us to compete and connect with our creativity and local engagement will give us better placement beside the shiny technology distractions of today. That important focus could generate the next wave of critical revenue and increased profit margin to drive radio for another hundred years.

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]

1 COMMENT

  1. All great thoughts, my friend! Another point I would like to make is that way too often I see images of outdated microphones and radio equipment on station websites. For goodness sake remove those! We are in the business of people connecting people.

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