The Case for Termite Marketing


(By Deborah Parenti) I have always believed that small things, multiplied over time and spread by the masses, can make a difference. A manager I once worked with held a similar philosophy when promotional dollars were in short supply. He would call a meeting to strategize what he referred to as “termite marketing.” For the uninitiated: this tactic employed resources that did not involve fiscal investment but took advantage of promotional opportunities in the community, attaching the station’s presence in some form or fashion.

As we head into a new year filled with multiple challenges that could not only impact but alter the radio landscape and its ability to compete in a crowded and competitive environment, the industry might benefit from a little “termite marketing.”

Before you laugh, hear me out. There are issues being faced today, like the American Music Fairness Act, that will no doubt continue to dog the industry on a regular basis until or unless some acceptable compromise is reached. That this proposed act has nothing to do with “fairness” all around the table and takes into account none of the benefits radio promotion delivers artists is a discussion for another day. We’ll also leave out all the other service radio provides to so many communities, which include artists and their families, in times of disaster and other horrific events.

Suffice to say, radio is faced with not only a potential revenue hit that could put some smaller stations and groups in further financial jeopardy, but one that might also reduce the number of stations that play music and as such, provide artists with exposure not tied to algorithms that are the product of some interesting arrangements between various streaming service and labels. Arrangements that seldom truly spotlight new music or artists, by the way.

The NAB and state associations have pulled out all the stops at the government level to protect stations from more burdensome taxation and even the playing field. But the all-star attraction of well-known and beloved artists being showcased by labels to plead the case for adding another cost to radio stations is hard to compete with, not only in the halls of Congress but on Main Street where the fans live and read the slanted press releases.

Coupled with another issue facing broadcasters, that of attracting younger listeners who enjoy a sea of alternative choices to pick from, and it brings up the question: what more could radio be doing to promote itself to the masses and to elevate itself in the hearts and minds of its listeners?

This is different from the ongoing arguments about stopsets and music rotations. As important as those items are, let’s focus here on public relations and “termite marketing.” And let’s remember that, like a favorite uncle who comes to the family dinner with the same old stories, people tend to overlook some flaws when they love the character behind the repetitious tales.

Once upon a time, personalities visited schools and Kiwanis Clubs, addressing assemblies and answering questions about their chosen career. Of course, those were the days when studios were live with funny, engaging, people more hours than not. It’s harder to do that today, but does that make outreach impossible?

There are hundreds of social media posts, especially around the holidays, sharing photos and captions showing stations out in the community. So there must still be stations with warm bodies in the building. Could we encourage some of them to share their enthusiasm with young listeners who might be intrigued enough to follow in their footsteps?

And are we using the airwaves to raise awareness of our support for artists? And in turn, do we ask our listeners for their support, including with their representatives? Can we transfer some of the love they have for musicians to the local personalities and stations in their own backyard? Maybe it’s a stretch, but are we trying? Anything?

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at [email protected]



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