The Live Action Broadcast


(By Mike McVay) The world is starting to open its doors, and the humans who ride on her back are peeking through the slightly ajar opening, preparing to head back to what we all hope will eventually be the lives we knew pre-pandemic. Perhaps the world will be even better. Different, yes. Possibly better.

A part of that return to a non-quarantined world will be the on-site appearance by personalities. The appearance may be to welcome an audience that has assembled to see a band or solo artist on stage for a performance, maybe an appearance at a sports event, visiting a school for Safety Patrol or on-site for a charity. The most likely return to public appearances will be for remote broadcasts.

The mere mention of a remote broadcast makes the hair on the back of one’s neck bristle. We immediately think of a folding table, with a folding chair, and a tablecloth that might have the stations logo and frequency on it. Maybe there’s a PA system that’s blaring the station or maybe you have a roulette wheel nearby where attendees can spin-and-win a prize and who hasn’t had the Golf Putt-Putt set-up at a remote?

Almost all of us have experienced a remote broadcast at one time of another. There are those that see it as an opportunity to generate revenue. There are those that despise them as they view the remote as a nuisance or potentially damaging to one’s ratings. In reality remotes generally generate revenue and yet, if executed poorly, they will definitely hurt your ratings.

If executed at the level that is professional and respectful, the remote can generate both revenue and ratings. The live sixty-second cutaways need to be sixty seconds in length. Should be entertaining. Need to be more than an interview with an advertiser. Need to contain an incentive for a listener to stop-by and are most successful when there is an element of entertainment to the message.

I view the remote as a form of marketing and I see it as a positive way to attract an audience. We know from research that those radio stations that are most visible, are seen everywhere and are in fact truly everywhere, have a higher level of top-of-mind-awareness that reinforces listening and repeat tune-in. Remotes should not come back as they’ve been executed in the past, though. They need to change.

The first step is to get rid of the name “Remote.” One of my radio clients changed the name of these paid appearances to “Live Action Broadcasts.” That name immediately upgrades the image in your head. Do away with the folding card table. Replace it with a folding Counter Top, Purchase a Step-and-Repeat, good looking speakers on risers, and equipment that is free of duct tape.

There are companies that specialize in selling on-site performance spaces. I’m sure you remember the Giant Boombox. The rolling radio studio pulled-up to an appearance and the show was ON. The cash box where money floated in the air and you grabbed as much as you could during an allotted period of time. The Secret Safe with a combination that one had to figure out to win the prize inside of the safe. Don’t forget about Insured Contests. Those have always been crowd-attractions.

The point being that you need to have activity on-site that involves more than a radio personality sitting behind a table. To that end, the talent should not be sitting there, doing nothing, but rather meeting the folks that show-up at the broadcast. Thank them for coming. Engage with them. Represent the station. You want the visitors to walk away thinking “She or he was really nice.” Think about the marketing aspect of the meet and greet. The more people you meet, the more likely it is you convert them.

Several of my clients, in large and small markets, present their version of the Live Action Broadcast as three different packages for sales. The Live Action Broadcast consists of the on-site set-up, the air talent, two cut-in messages per/hour and an activity on-site that engages the audience with the personality. The Broadcast Fair is an upgrade from that package that has the cut-in messages and all that was mentioned previously, a popcorn machine or hotdogs and pizza, along with games of chance where prizes can be won. The Grand Opening Package is all of that an a live performance from a format appropriate band to perform.

The price increases with each package. The number of promotional messages need to be managed so they’re not decreasing the audiences time spent listening. The length of commercials delivered by the talent, during the Live Action Broadcast, need to be sixty-seconds maximum, and they all need to count as a part of your hourly commercial load. The listeners hear them as commercials. You’re being paid for them. They’re commercials.

My favorite strategy for maximizing the effectiveness of an appearance campaign is that they all point back to a charity as the reason for being. We Know that you’re at a car dealership for the purpose of helping them sell cars, but you could also be collecting donations for a charity and/or collecting new stuffed Teddy Bears for a charity like The Teddy Bear Patrol. Using the charity as an “umbrella” for every on-site appearance across the year, gives you a reason in the mind of the listener for being at the sponsors location, in addition to spreading the message that the advertiser has a great product or service for potential customers.

One more thing. Remember that we’re in show business. Put on a show. Be memorable.

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at  [email protected]


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