(By Mike McVay) When your computer, phone, WiFi, TV, cable, or smart speaker is disrupted and not working properly, you reboot. We all need a reboot as the COVID-19 pandemic has officially become a thing of the past. Many businesses need a reboot. We need to unplug our radio stations, wait three minutes, and plug them back in. Now, we’re set to restart. Let’s take advantage of this moment to improve radio and create content attractive to a nomadic audience searching for audio satisfaction.
Start the reboot by asking yourself … What’s the benefit to an audience member by listening to your radio station? Is it to be entertained, informed, have fun, create interest, provide news updates, commentary relaxation, background music, or white noise – or is it simply for companionship? Why should someone listen to your station? Don’t point to a liner or sweeper used in content as that benefit. What is it really? What would a focus group participant say is the reason that they listen to your station?
We find a large number of Americans now listening and working from home or in transit. Consider turning to Total Line Reporting with Nielsen. That is to say that I strongly believe you should be in a full-simulcast with what’s over the air onto all other platforms where you deliver audio. The reason is otherwise you are missing out on the audiences that are hearing your station elsewhere. Fewer people have a radio in their homes than ever. Your audience is listening to your radio station live over the air, online, on mobile devices, and via smart speakers. They also listen on-demand via podcasts or delayed products. Get credit for the size of your audience.
Make The Product Better
Connect the dots between content and your rating results. There comes a point among really good programmers, that research, marketing, contesting, and building a strong format clock are just a part of the cost of entry. Over the years, I’ve sat in meetings where executives demand that the ratings improve, but they’re unwilling to make the necessary changes to improve them. Always remember these words … it is not your birthright to be number one. You have to earn it.
Spot loads need to be lowered. No one has the stomach to take the revenue hit, especially not in this economy, but as an industry radio plays too many minutes of commercials. We air too many units when we do play commercials. We should give higher value to the live commercials we air and we should continue to sell and execute live appearances at a premium. Commercial production needs to improve. Promotional messages need to be viewed as if they’re commercials and counted as a part of your spot-load. Same as a promo for a podcast. The audience hears them as commercials.
Unleash Your Creative Animal
Surprise the audience in a positive way with ear candy. Develop unique ways to share messaging with the audience. Encourage your personalities, producers, and sellers to think as if they’re on a different platform. Eliminate the shackles of traditional OTA radio and imagine that your station is a streamer first … that is also heard Over The Air. It’s a place to start the creative process.
Don’t Hire An Announcer
Hire a personality. No one needs a nice voice that lacks an engaging personality or strong content. Not in this era. You’re worried about Artificial Intelligence? Then your talent need to do more show prep. Their content needs to be better. Talent need to be aware of your audience’s tastes and likes. They need to understand the art of performance as a personality. Put on a show. Connect to the market and the listener. Be efficient. Know how to get to the point without being too abrupt. Conversely, don’t be verbose.
Local Versus National
I can point to talent that voice-track into a market from elsewhere who are more entertaining and prepared than the locally live talent. It is a privilege to speak on the radio today. Don’t take it for granted. Know what matters to your audience. It’s not always the same thing as what matters to you. I’ve run into talent who are proud of the fact that they don’t watch the shows that their target watches, see the same movies, or do what they do for fun. That’s a failure on the part of the talent. You don’t have to like the same things, but you have to be aware of those things and know how to truly communicate them in a way that’s connecting.
Creative, “spur of the moment” programming should be the norm and not special. It has to make sense and have a purpose, but we should always be prepared to break format and do something entertaining or informative. What can you do that encourages a listener to repeat tune-in to your station or create word-of-mouth buzz? There is value in bringing back radio features and unique weekends. These make your radio station a destination.
It’s Not The Prize, It’s The Experience
Promotion on-air and in your community must be unique. Research always shows that money is the #1 prize desired by listeners. How do you compete with Powerball? Deliver to your audience the chance to win experiences, concert tickets, theatre, and sporting events. Make fantasies a reality. Enrich their life experiences. Promotions at this level need not be expensive. Think of it … then create a fantasy around it. Experiences have longer-lasting value and can create listener loyalty, more so than awarding prizes that have no residual word of mouth.
Marketing that connects to a community is most important. The pandemic changed where people listen and how they use radio. The way you reach a listener has also changed. Social media can be used effectively to reach potential listeners. It should be a part of every marketing message you deliver. Social media alone is not enough. Direct marketing as a part of mass marketing is very effective. In times like these, when an audience is searching across multiple platforms, leadership within a market can change. The product must be on-target and better than your competitors; if it is, market it. Scream it from the rooftops. Invest now and increase your chances to realize dramatic returns in the future.