Anytime I run into a kindred spirit that’s spent most of their life in radio we can’t help but wax nostalgic about the good old days. Back when stations had more staff, advertising dollars were easier to come by, we had lots of direct relationships with the music industry and we created promotions so massive everyone in town talked about them (and some still do to this day). But, not unlike someone remembering an ex-flame from high school or college, we’re probably over-romanticizing the good times and failing to remember all of the challenges we faced. The truth is, those days in radio are not gone. While our industry has changed dramatically since I started in it, and much more so since my father did, some of those changes actually make it easier to pull things off without a massive staff or budget. Here are a few ways radio can still think big in 2023 to drive listenership and revenue.
Dust off those old school promotions and adjust them for our modern times and modern tools. As I go through my files of promotions I’ve done over the years, or ones I’ve watched others have success with, to see how I can make them fit for a client, a couple of things have surprised me. If we get creative enough literally ANY of them can fit on a station regardless of their market size, position within that market or the size of their staff. However, that’s contingent on them investing in a couple of new tools to help us pull it off. To date, knock on wood, I’ve yet to put together a major promotion for a client that they weren’t able to underwrite and profit from. There are a couple of tricks I employ to make sure that happens. 1) I push them outside of their comfort zone and past the ‘here’s the reasons why we can’t do this at our station or in our market’ statements. 2) I turn-key as much of it as possible at least the first time or two. 3) Do everything I can to convince them to invest in an outside marketing budget that includes a heavy dose of digital (all underwritten by sponsors since they get to go along for the ride). 4) Find ways to get the staff jazzed up about it, which is usually the easy part because big promotions are a LOT of fun! As you’re reading this I’m sure you’re thinking about some of the huge promotions you’ve done over the years and wondering which one’s I’m referencing and I’d love to discuss them with you in a free consultation sometime soon (shameless plug).
Another key to thinking BIG in my experience is to act like we’re in a bigger market than we actually are. I grew up in a small market family-owned station run by my father who had worked in major markets. He taught me many important lessons, but on the radio front few were more critical than the one I observed on nearly a daily basis. Although he took full advantage of the things that are easier to do in a smaller market, like establish relationships with virtually everyone in town, he NEVER acted like he was in a small market. He treated his station, and others he later ran, like they were major market stations that just happened to be located in a smaller town. I’ve always tried to emulate that philosophy, regardless of market size, because it makes you impossible to compete with. I know there are others who agree with it because some of the most innovative things I’m seeing lately are from radio people in small and medium markets. As even the major markets are now seeing the massive staffing and resource cuts other markets have been dealing with for years, it’s now imperative that they also get creative and use new tools to come up with ways to still pull off the big things they used to do constantly. Some groups in major markets are doing just that, others desperately need to.
The final thought on ways we need to be thinking big in this blog that’s already gone longer than I prefer is this, we HAVE to make engaging and interacting with our audience our highest priority. This is STILL our major advantage over outside competitors, but we’ve deemphasized it to a point that it’s nearly killing us. Any hour that our on-air talent are compensated to be live in a studio, they should be IN that studio and using ALL of our platforms to interact and engage with our audience. Soliciting and answering phone calls to capture/edit/air audio (quickly becoming a lost art), posting and responding to comments on social media (including utilizing live and recorded video), working the station app (if applicable), and posting on every station’s most valuable digital asset… their station website.
What do you think? How have you thought BIG recently. Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.
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