We’ve all been to a neighborhood bar that’s filled with regulars taking up the best seats. Sat there waiting while the bartender, who of course knows them all, hangs out across from those regulars, laughing, yucking it up and handing each of them another drink without even being asked. Meanwhile we’re staring a hole through the bartender hoping they’ll eventually make eye contact and notice that our drink has been sitting empty for the past fifteen minutes. It’s not something that makes us feel very welcome and generally leads us to go elsewhere. Well, that’s how some radio stations make new listeners feel when they solely cater to their P1s and ignore the P2s and anyone stopping by for the first time. Here are a few ways stations, and individual on-air personalities, can fall into the trap of being more exclusive and cliquish than inclusive and welcoming.
1) Assuming everyone listening knows everything there is to know about the music and artists our stations play (Or our teams if it’s sports talk). I’m sensitive to this because I’ve spent a lot of time working with personalities in niche formats over the years that do a great job getting across the point that they have vast inside knowledge of the station’s music but do a very poor job being patient enough to educate new listeners coming into the fold. A listener who requests a song the station doesn’t play shouldn’t be chastised for it by the air talent and when other listeners do it in online comments, or in person at events, the air talent should jump to the new listener’s defense.
2) Not coaching our on-air personalities out of the inside baseball stuff that existing listeners may enjoy but new listeners find annoying and confusing. Some simple examples of this are inside jokes that aren’t setup/explained again, talking or complaining about inside the room stuff (temp in the studio, pot on the board not working, computer or phone issues), the inner workings of a contest or spending more time explaining the behind the scenes of why we’re doing something than actually doing it.
3) Doing only surface content. For the most part, we can all identify the things our core listeners are most likely to be interested in and make sure we touch on those over the course of our shows. But that’s still just surface content if we don’t reach past the first thing everyone thinks of when you bring up that topic, which is exactly what many shows do. Surface content will NEVER appeal to a wider audience. However, if we dig just a little deeper and put in the extra effort to go past the initial thought we can come up with an angle that’s much more likely to have broad appeal. Here’s a recent example. The college national championship was this week and the broadcasters are well aware that they’ve got every TCU and Georgia fan listening, as well as all the truly die-hard college football fans. Those groups are essentially the games P1s. But, especially on a big game like a national championship, that’s only a very small portion of the overall audience tuning in. So, the announcers dig deeper to come up with a few angles that will draw in that broader demo and get them more interested in the game (Which helps a ton when it’s a blowout like it was this year). Here’s two I heard them run with. The TCU QB who had heart surgery being benched at the beginning of the year, but putting on a good face (“I’m gonna be the best backup QB in college football”), then going on to have a Heisman-finalist season. Similarly, they informed everyone that Georgia’s QB was a walk on that nobody in the country wanted, and even the Georgia coaches didn’t think much of him initially, but he battled his way up the depth chart to lead his team to the National Championship two straight years. It’s cliché, but usually things are cliché for a reason, they work and next thing you know the casual fan has a vested interest in a game where they don’t have a dog in the hunt.
There are a bunch of other things stations do to sound less inclusive, imaging that’s more focused on being cute than actually pointing out the reasons why people should listen, letting a small group of vocal P1s dictate programming decisions, and only using the station’s own platforms to market and promote it’s brand. All of these combined create a great recipe for sustaining a passionate but limited audience that never grows.
What do you think? What have you done to make your stations more welcoming and inclusive to new listeners? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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