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Rebooting Radio; Starting Over

When your computer, your Phone, WIFI, TV, Cable or Smart Speaker is disrupted and not working properly, you reboot. We all need a reboot as the Coronavirus Pandemic has officially become a thing of the past. Many businesses need a reboot. We need to flip the off-switch of our radio stations, wait three minutes, and flip it back on. Now, we’re set to restart. Let’s take advantage of this moment to make radio better and to create content that’s attractive to a nomadic audience searching for audio satisfaction.

Start 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 to 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 because you are otherwise missing out on the audiences that are hearing your station elsewhere. Fewer people have a radio in their home than what was once the norm. Your audience is listening to your radio station over the air, on-line, on mobile devices, via smart speakers and on-demand via podcasts or delayed as an on-demand product. 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, building a strong format clock, are just a part of the cost-of-entry. I’ve sat in meetings, over the years, 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.

Commercial loads … 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.

Surprise the audience in a positive way with ear candy. Unleash your creative animal. Develop unique ways to share messaging to 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.

On-Air Talent … you need personalities and not announcers. No one needs a nice voice that lacks an engaging personality or strong content. Not in this era. You say you’re worried about Artificial Intelligence (AI) … then your talent need to do more show prep. Their content needs to be better. The talent need to be aware of your audiences tastes and likes. They need to understand the art of performance as a personality. That is to say 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, as a debate, will continue to be argued. 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, don’t see the same movies, don’t 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 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 to talk about your station to another potential listener. There is value to bringing back radio features and unique weekends. These make your radio station a destination.

Promotion on-air, and in your community, has to be unique and different. Research always shows that money is the #1 prize desired by listeners. The question is “How do you compete with Powerball?” Deliver to your audience the chance to win experiences, concert tickets, theatre, sporting events. Make fantasies a reality. Enrich their life experiences. Promotions at this level need not be expensive. Think of it … and create 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. It is in times like these, when an audience is searching across multiple platforms, that leadership within a market can change. The product has to be on-target and better than your competitors, and if it is, market it. Scream it from the rooftops. Making an investment now increases the chances to realize dramatic returns in the future.

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