(By Buzz Knight) The radio business is stuck without a unified message about the positive attributes of the industry. Competition for attention is fierce, and all generations have “go to” options besides radio when they seek entertainment. Some are paid and some have free components, but there are plenty of choices.
And those options are easier than ever — just plug in your phone and let your choice come to you, when you want it and how you want it.
Remember the days when a captive audience sat by the radio in the living room, listening to a show?
I don’t, and neither does the audience — but the business sometimes still behaves like we’re still in those days when it comes to content delivery.
I wrote 10 years ago that radio suffers from an inferiority complex that must be addressed. The business needed to snap out of it. Yet little has been done aside from retreating to a defensive position that only makes us smaller in the eyes of the advertising community.
In July of 2019, my late comrade Bob McCurdy wrote in Radio Ink that “Radio needs to show more swagger” when it comes to realizing and touting the benefits it provides to consumers and clients. Bob was a passionate advocate on behalf of the industry, but he wasn’t afraid to lay out the facts and advocate for change.
Standing still in the face of change will ultimately catch up to any industry, and radio is long overdue for creating a thoughtful, creative, simple branding campaign to promote the business.
Radio should run proudly with its strengths. It’s time to take nothing for granted and tout what the radio business means to all aspects of the value chain.
For listeners, radio is a source of constant companionship that creates a tremendous bond with brands.
Radio is the conduit for engagement in every community. A great radio brand represents the pulse and vibe of its community. Radio is always at its best when it serves a local community in times of need. This has been true time and time again, and it’s something that can’t be duplicated by other sources of content.
WMMR in Philadelphia exudes the heart and soul of the market. No station in America sounds like MMR, and its special sauce is a sense of constant imagination. Each daypart on the station is unique to itself; this is not a homogenized presentation that could be heard anywhere else. The talent at the station are united around specific goals: the love of Philadelphia and the love of music!
Radio has tremendous assets when it comes to personalities and what they do for their audience, their advertisers, and their communities. This is another unduplicated strength that needs to be touted.
Listen to great personalities like Chaz and AJ, who host mornings at WPLR in New Haven, Connecticut, and you’ll hear a show that is so dialed in to the market that it seems effortless.
They are remarkedly entertaining, but they also have the keys to the market through relationships key influencers spanning entertainment, music, sports, and politics. They have earned loyalty from their audience with many years of great performance.
Audience loyalty for the morning show at Mega 97.9 in New York City is another outstanding example of the asset radio has in its tremendous personalities. The show is EL Vacilón de la Mañana (roughly “The Morning Tease”), and its history of fan engagement and creative content has led the New York market (and the show’s other syndicated markets) for many years.
There are plenty of other great examples. Visit any large market and you can find them and hear the meticulous work they deliver day in and day out.
Look, if we are being honest, we know that in many cases radio’s strengths are being minimized — or eliminated — when financial cuts become necessary. Looking at radio’s strength in the community, I fear, post-pandemic, that the proper resources won’t be available to execute the best street strategy.
Maybe that is another important point for this branding campaign. If the radio business acknowledges the importance of its strengths, maybe it won’t eliminate so many crucial positions. In fact, maybe the business can recommit to its core values and principles.
Let’s advocate for all radio broadcasters to find common ground, putting the industry first and their own individual needs second, and unify around a brand messaging campaign.
It is more important now than ever.
Buzz Knight is the CEO of Buzz Knight Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]