Marry your Listeners

Marry your Listeners!
Build a winning franchise and increase TSL in your market.

By

Gary Begin
Sound Advantage Media
Jackson, TN.

Radio is an art form but also a business. Producing great radio involves both commerce and art. But more than art & business, successful radio stations are married to their listeners. When we fail to satisfy our listener’s needs and desires, we don’t meet listener expectations or revenue goals. As an industry we need to rejuvenate the creative spark in our radio product. Radio’s underlying sameness from market to market has created a homogenization in sound across the country. Our creativity has been stifled in the name of corporate profit. This is a problem, especially in small to medium markets.

In my twenty-five years experience as a Program Director and Air Personality in Large, Medium and Small markets across the country, and now as a consultant, I’ve seen great radio stations succeed because they foster a strong creative environment coupled with strong leaders who act as mentors. Station employees who tap into that well of creativity and apply it to their everyday craft, help build winning franchises. Radio works best when it connects emotionally with its listeners; just like good marriages. And satisfied listeners are good customers.

Here are a few examples of building that winning franchise and increasing TSL in your market:

BE LOCAL!
The more locally focused your presentation, the greater the opportunity to serve your community with excellence. “Local” should become your new buzzword. Great stations know one of the best ways to winning an audience is having an air staff that live, love, and play in the community. Become tapped into what’s going on in your town or city, and then deliver the information in a useable and interesting form to your listeners. Communicate!

KNOW THE MARKET!
Chain stations are programmed from far away and while everyone likes the “hits”, not every market has the same interests, hobbies, spare-time activities, etc. Do you and your staff understand what your target audience interests are? Do you understand their needs and wants? Are you listening to your audience or are you vulnerable to attack from the competition? If you don’t know the answers to those questions, you are vulnerable.
“Ask yourself, as if you were the competition: “where are they the weakest? “ Fix that area ASAP. Use research to benchmark your progress and determine if you’re cutting through the clutter, and how your target audience perceives your programming

PUT YOUR WEBSITE TO WORK
If you don’t have a web site; for shame, get one! Maintain a site where listeners can answer surveys and take part in special online-only contests. Make it fun and involve the listener often, at least twice per day part. And remember, stream, stream, stream your audio. This will allow you to pick up listeners in un-conventional ways. Do you really care where their listening as long as they’re listening? Go where your listeners are going. Today that often means the internet.

KISS (Keep It Simple…)
Great stations are simple stations. We never confuse the listener. This means not just playing the right songs, but playing them in the right order and giving your play list some expansion. On music stations, 70% or more of any given hour is music. Make sure your air staff’s comments reflect the music and image of your station.

CONSISTENCY
More than just needing to be simple, we need to be consistent and stick with a well thought out game plan. Worse than not sticking with your plan, is not having a plan to begin with. Inconsistency is frequently caused by:

Boredom
Impatience
Lack of commitment
Lack of confidence
Too many distractions

Today’s successful stations are not produced overnight.

FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION!
Don’t fail your listeners. If you are in a marriage worth saving, you go to counseling to see how to be successful again. Your radio station is no different. How do we often fail?

Lack of research
Assumptive familiarity
“Personal Favorite” of the PD or MD
To get the trip/concert/promotion
Rights Songs; Wrong Order
Someone called in a “requested song.”

START MENTORING
The encouragement of a strong creative environment begins with a mentoring program. Successful stations are professional, forward-thinking organizations which hire and train the very best people, and find a way to keep them happy! In the new millennium, it’s a much more difficult task to find a great air staff and productive sales people. We need to bring “communications” back into the communications industry.
Successful mentoring starts with: Leadership: Delegate authority and encourage teamwork. Be different. Don’t follow conventional rules blindly. Become passionate about your projects. When management is excited and enthusiastic, a trickle down effect occurs.

Involvement: Don’t reject ideas out of hand because they seem wild, crazy, or unproven. People who are involved in a decision making process participate much more enthusiastically than those who just carry out their
Boss’s orders. Help them contribute and show them you value their opinions.

Brainstorm: Something normally thought of as a group activity, is also a great area for private problem-solving. Do it away from the station. Find a quiet place; a park, someone’s home, a friendly restaurant with private meeting rooms; any place where management and staff can feel mentally and physically comfortable to talk
Incentives/Bonuses: Showing your staff you appreciate their hard work and good ideas with bonuses or incentives helps create staff loyalty, making it difficult for competitors to lure your best people away
Ford Motor Company claims “Quality is Job #1.” We need to think of our radio product in the very same way! Most families have a family physician and dentist, an insurance agent and your favorite hair stylist. Why can’t we also have a family favorite radio station? Any radio station can become wed to it’s listeners for life. You simply need to communicate with them and the desire to always keep them happy!

Congratulations! And may you both be happy and successful together for the rest of your lives.

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