It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (Already)

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(By Loyd Ford) You have a big, fat Christmas station that is set to launch in your market. Or you don’t have one. You have thought about how your station might benefit or you haven’t. One thing we know is 2020 isn’t like your average year and we already see spikes in streaming of Christmas music.

It’s really time to have a strategy. So, let’s begin. Speaking of beginning, you’re seeing this now because now is exactly when you should be planning the perfect execution to cap off your year and set your station up for a better 2021.

Decide if you want to be the Christmas station in your market, if you want to be the alternative to Christmas, if you want to blunt a Christmas station competitor or if you want to simply take the wind out of the sails of a station that has taken advantage of the Christmas tactic for years in your market. Build your strategy to leverage Christmas for the results you are seeking for your brand.

If you are set to play some Christmas music (but not go all Christmas) or you are intending to flip 100% Christmas, here are some critical key points to consider:

  • People will be seeking relief from the darkness of 2020. We will have just passed through a frustrating election (no matter which side you liked more than the other).
  • More people will not be traveling to visit family this holiday season (including both Thanksgiving and Christmas).
  • People are going out of their way for nostalgia.

Start with your format and look at successful stations in your format that have leveraged big wins using a Christmas strategy.

Playing The Best, Most Mass Appeal Classic Christmas Songs Is The 1st Key
Consider carefully the consequences of every individual Christmas song you choose to play. The old rule is still the best: It’s not what you play – it’s what you don’t play. Understand that there are three (3) kinds of Christmas songs:

  • Filler being sold by record companies (product)
  • Recognizable, classic Christmas smashes*
  • Legitimate superstars in your format with credible versions of Christmas songs that will keep your Christmas format interesting and tied to the format expectations of your listeners

Resist filler at all costs. We don’t work for a record label. The more you stray from the biggest mass appeal classic Christmas songs, the more trouble you are likely to encounter.

Treat your classic timeless Christmas songs like pure gold. (You can easily identify and secure these songs through a variety of sources today).

Use your smashes (known to your Christmas format as POWERS) almost as currents with significantly higher rotation than any other category of Christmas music on your station.

Utilize your Legitimate superstars with credible versions of Christmas songs to fill out your music. Of course, if you are not playing that much Christmas music, stick to the smashes/Classic Christmas songs almost exclusively. Big hits everyone can sing win the day.

Remember this: Listeners will seek a flight to quality during the upcoming holidays. They will do that when choosing which station to listen to for Christmas music, too. This has been such an unusual and unsettling year. They are ready for and seeking comfort. Give it to them and be rewarded. Remember: The best radio stations figure out how to give listeners what they love faster and with less frustration.

Significant Critical Ingredients
Don’t just play Christmas songs. Build an emotional connection with your audience and prep your staff to share what Thanksgiving (on Thanksgiving) means to them and what Christmas means to them (leading up to and on Christmas). Set the tone, the mood, the hopefulness that Christmas brings by crafting imaging that elevates your stationality, connection with the audience and specialness of the season. You do this best with sincere staff messaging and special Christmas imaging.

People want to connect with vulnerable humans and they really appreciate and are likely to reward you if they feel you care about them and their community. So, try to use your holidays on the air to connect with causes that matter and community. A station celebrating the spirit of these holidays with no heart is not a station to attach yourself to this year.

Let’s also not forget what kind of year this is for radio. The need for revenue is intense, especially in the final quarter of the year. November and December are two months where you can craft special sales opportunities that are affordable, easy and tied to Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Many times in this column we have talked about how money doesn’t stay idle. It moves. If there is a crisis, that money goes somewhere. One thing it doesn’t do is stand still. Our job is to be a source for helping business people connect to our audience and get the consumers they need to survive and thrive in any economy. Your sales team also needs opportunity that is easy for clients to buy into. Christmas music is an easy to understand concept in an average year; this year you can see how it makes even more sense.

Consider hourly sponsorships of Christmas music on holidays (Black Friday and Christmas) or as the 24/7 Christmas station in your market.

Consider A Special Heart String Promotion
Consider creating opportunity with your morning show surrounding emotion tied to Christmas this year and giving a family or families a special Christmas and giving your station special sponsorship opportunities. The bottom line is this: The mood this year cries out for connection, warmth and giving local businesses affordable options to bring more consumers into their businesses.

No matter what you choose to do with Christmas music in your market and on your station this year, your eyes should be on the mood of the people and positioning yourself (if you can effectively do so) to take advantage of this temporary gift of circumstance. You can carve out leverage for yourself, your brand and your sales department. Is this also where I mention how you will look if you build a strategy and launch something that creates significant revenue for your cluster as we roll up on 2021?

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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