40 Most Powerful Tips To Program A Great Station


(By Mike McVay) The Radio Ink 40 Most Powerful People in Radio issue is a little more than a month away. That realization led me to think about those things that are commonalities among successfully programmed radio stations and to share 40 Tips to Program a Great Radio Station. There are many more suggestions that could be offered, but these are the basics that are often overlooked, forgotten, or somehow deemed no longer important. They’re basics … but valuable as a way to check the health of your radio stations’ programming.

My belief is that if you master the basics, you are then enabled to focus on the creative. Every building needs a strong foundation to support it. The design follows the completion of the foundation. That’s where a home or building becomes unique. So it is with the design of any structure, business, or in this case, content platform. Start with a strong foundation.

40 Tips to Program a Great Radio Station: 

  1. A PD should be responsible for EVERYTHING that comes out of the speakers. 
  2. Identify the station with name and frequency often – in both PPM and Diary markets.
  3. Promote on-air EVERYWHERE your content can be heard. On-Air, online, on demand, etc. 
  4. PPM Markets; check your audio enhancement unit daily to see that it’s active (CBET).
  5. Play the Biggest Hit Songs Over-and-Over … Repetition builds Time Spent Listening.
  6. Spoken Word stations; The BIG stories are the Hits. Play them Over-and-Over.
  7. Look for “Spice” songs to play unexpectedly and occasionally. It creates variety.
  8. Respect the music; don’t talk over cold end songs or over vocals.
  9. “Boxcar” the segues; play song-to-song, talk over the intro of the next song, not over both songs
  10. Back announce the new music you play to make it familiar to the audience.
  11. Promote upcoming music by highly popular, well-known artists, as a way to enhance your brand.
  12. Design your clock where every quarter hour is consistent and balanced with music or content.
  13. Audit your music scheduling system weekly to check rotations for proper weeklong balance.
  14. Review your library for title/artist duplication and incorrectly spelled/typed title/artists.
  15. Use special programming (weekend or daily) to call attention to your station
  16. Tease powerfully – But not far ahead … only 10 minutes ahead at a time.
  17. Tease with an incentive to listen. Think about what you’re teasing and how you’re teasing.
  18. When air talent read a promo, understand its meaning before you deliver the content.
  19. Apply the 5 W’s and 1 H to writing all promos, live or recorded, for clarity.
  20. Create fantasy with excellently written and descriptive produced imaging or sweepers.
  21. Be sure the production value of your promotional messages fit the stations image.
  22. Use a voice talent who sounds appropriate for your station and makes it memorable.
  23. If you utilize jingles, create a memorable audio signature that serves as an identifier. 
  24. Air-talent should be well prepared before a show. Twenty minutes of prep for each on-air hour.
  25. Talent should be highly aware and informed about what’s important to their target audience.
  26. Be conscious of how the audience uses your radio station. When, where and how do they listen?
  27. Coach talent to be efficient when they speak. That means use only the words needed per/break.
  28. Work with talent to sound natural. We’re living in a genuine fiber’s world. Fake personalities fail.
  29. Cross Promote daypart-to-daypart. Give your audience a reason to return to the station often.
  30. Contests should be designed to build cume, TSL or both – Never contest “just because.”
  31. Contest rules should meet all FCC requirements and be easy to understand. 
  32. Contests should be easy to explain and win.
  33. Prizes for on-air giveaways should be desirable. Experiences are the new HOT concept. 
  34. Play winner audio on the air as it provides the audience with the payoff. It builds credibility.
  35. Weather should be short and focused on Present Daypart + 1. The exception is the weekend. 
  36. Traffic should be presented with Location before Situation. Calls attention to the problem spot.
  37. Positioning statements need to be Credible, Easy to Understand, and Based in Benefit.
  38. External marketing messages should match your on-air positioning statement.
  39. Be everywhere and be seen everywhere. The cluttered audio market requires you to be present.
  40. Great air talent are important and precious. Provide a creative environment where they can flourish. Guide them. Coach them. Respect them. Encourage them. Enable them to be successful.

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]. Read Mike’s Radio Ink archives here.


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