Insulating Against Ratings Ups & Downs By Andy Meadows

We’ve all been there, the sleepless nights before the book comes out, refreshing your screen the day of anxiously awaiting the arrival of new numbers, praying to the radio gods that they’ll take pity on you. Hoping against hope that management won’t overreact to an estimate based on a handful of listeners. On top of that, this year has been especially stressful with covid causing major shifts in listener habits. But, there are things we can do to make our stations less vulnerable to fluctuations in the numbers. 

Here are five steps to help insulate our stations from ratings ups and downs. 

#1 Air talent that out-perform the music. The success of all music formats are directly tied to how popular that genre of music is as a whole within our community at that specific time. The peaks and valleys are especially noticeable at times when music genres are transitioning from one style to another and the torch is being passed from one set of leading artists to a new set of artists. However, hiring air talent, or training existing air staff, to create compelling on-air content that sets daily appointments with listener will help weather those weaker times within the format. 

#2 Building strong social followings. A bad book performance is a lot easier to defend when we have big social stats to fall back on. But building those platforms from scratch now takes daily content tailored to each platform and a marketing budget to help new stations get over the hump thanks to the algorithm changes that went into place when each social network started trying to monetize their own advertising. Creating well produced podcasts that attract lots of local downloads are another good ratings insulator. 

#3 Contests are still king. One of the major advantages local radio has over Spotify, Pandora or any other digital platform is that local people have a chance to legitimately win a prize just for tuning in. However, thanks to the impact on revenue and the restrictions caused by Covid, many groups have gotten away from contesting. That has to return in 2021. Well planned and executed on-air contesting is still the best way to convince a potential new listener to give our station a try and drive new cume and carry existing listeners over to increase TSL. 

#4 Getting in front of listeners at events. Sometimes we’re too close to it to remember how big of a deal it is for people to meet that familiar voice from the radio. When you listen to non-radio people talk about some of their favorite stations, they almost always reference some radio event they went to where they got to directly interact with their favorite DJ or they just had a fun, memorable time. Events are what makes radio tangible to people and, as soon as their safe to do again, regular recurring and big annual events, should be a big part of our strategic plans. 

#5 Interacting and engaging with listeners on air and potential listeners on social media. I’ve literally listened to thousands upon thousands of airchecks over the years, especially over the last two when I started coaching air talent on creating better aircheck demos. Hands down, the main thing I’m listening for is how well they connect, engage and interact with listeners. I’m somewhat of an introvert so I get the desire to just go into a room by myself and create content. Having a good voice and the ability to deliver well structured breaks with a funny out will help keep an on air talent employed. But, the ones that truly dominate markets are all masters of connecting with their audience through interactive and engaging content, features and benchmarks. 

Need help insulating your station from ratings ups and downs, email me at andy@radiostationconsultant.com. Comment below with your thoughts. 

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