Dealing With A Public That Is Checking Out In 2021


(By Loyd Ford) People are turning off, checking out. That’s a bad sign if your job is to encourage listeners to participate with your product…unless you use it to your advantage.

Listener choices today are determined largely by ‘their own time’ and ‘their own space.’ This means that people are holding choices to a higher standard and they don’t want to be challenged with your differing opinions on politics, religion or other polarizing subjects. More than this, COVID-19 has accelerated change or speed-of-change in behaviors.

As a result, it is more important than ever that local personalities (and radio brands) have certainty about being on-point with content that reflects the values and expectations listeners have for your local brand. Otherwise, they will leave you in bigger and bigger ‘chunks.’

Listeners crave authenticity (because they rarely receive it) in what they hear from our personalities (and our advertisers).

What do listeners want?

  • Immediate gratification on music
  • Companionship with someone they trust
  • Quality of life (how to get it)
  • To belong to something that allows them to feel they are becoming their best selves

People feel more isolated than ever. They need connection and need to feel that someone cares about them. Is this you?

If listeners don’t get these things from you, their search will move on. There are simply too many distractions trying to grab them to think they will stay dissatisfied and keep hanging out with you.

In 2021, our on-air and in social media lives have to be focused on:

  • Supporting listeners
  • Helping them and their confidence to redirect their lives and thrive

So, here are some important questions for your radio brand (and for your personalities):

  • Are your on-air personalities friendly, sincere?
  • Is your brand making people feel better right now?
  • Are your sales manager, your on-air, your AEs thinking about how consumers connect with content and products through positive experiences?
  • Broadcasters often think listeners know how to ask for help. What if they don’t? Go out of your way to help them ask for help. Be there for them.
  • Are your advertising campaigns based on being understanding, helpful and empathetic with listeners and their lives?

Local radio simply must develop deeper relationships with listeners. This includes being smart about your on-air content AND your social media life. I will also go one additional step and say that if you are on the air and have the ability to launch a podcast today, don’t just launch a podcast. You should put very significant thought into the podcast looking at the points of this article. How will your podcast be intensely interesting to locals? How will you make sure your podcast has a purpose for your audience instead of being only something for you to say you are doing a podcast?

As we move fully into 2021, local radio needs to be the best local connector. We need to refocus our efforts on trust, being authentic and being a truly helpful voice in the community both on-air and in digital and social media.

Local radio brands that really focus on what your audience wants and needs and giving it to them in a way that is easier and easier for them to engage and take part in during “their time” will be the winners when we look back in a year. Those that keep doing the same thing they have always done are likely to be left behind.

It’s time for your close-up. Are you ready? Have you really planned for the accelerated future? You hear that sound, right?  The sound of businesses facing downward pressure from technology changes being sped along by technological time-shift? It’s time to remind everyone in your market how connective radio is right now to the local pulse. Once you have a radio station, you can get anything else you want.

I promise that once the vaccines do their work and people have the opportunity to engage in live events, vacations, socializations, your listeners will do it with a vengeance you’ve not ever seen. No one knows the future, but the current “money” is on July 1 being a meaningful date to a faster return to “normal.” So, we must be preparing to take advantage of that on the local level. This might sound like “hurry up and wait,” but it is coming sooner than you think and it takes time to plan events and opportunities with creativity and the right strategy.

Nothing has changed; Brands that have real reasons for audience to trust them will win. Personalities that can communicate trust and are reliable will win. Brands that don’t offer real value, falter. Forget about all the noise and serve the local listener better than anyone else. Give them what they crave, what they want and what they need to feel safe, happy and to enjoy their lives in complex times.

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


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