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The Radio Advantage: Live, Local & Part of the Community

February 13, 2014

Old_Time_RadioOnce upon a time in a land far, far, far away radio was very unique. The theater of the mind was in full swing where radio personalities pulled out all of the bells and whistles (no literally they used bells and whistles) in order to entertain their audience. There would be dedicated family time, when all members of the household would gather around the radio to tune in to their favorite radio personality or show. Shows like Amos & Andy, Old Gold on Broadway, War of the Worlds, and The Saint to name a few.

Back in the Day as They Say

The old-time radio era, sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Radio, refers to a period of radio programming in the United States lasting from the proliferation of radio broadcasting in the early 1920s until the 1950s. During this period, when radio was dominant and filled with a variety of formats and genres, people regularly tuned into their favorite radio programs.  In fact, according to a 1947 C. E. Hooper survey, 82 out of 100 Americans were found to be radio listeners (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old-time_radio). So even then, radio was a huge lifestyle choice for many.

Not Your Grandfather’s Radio Station

So fast forward to a time of perhaps bell bottoms, free love, and now twerking. Radio stations became more musically based, but still had their own brand. Their own niche. Their own home-grown DJs sending out their message to the locals who hung onto their every word. They were Donnie Simpson, Robin Wood, Frankie Crocker, Dusty Rhodes (who first got the Beatles to the states), and Frank Ski (whoops hold on, word on the streets is he’s looking to syndicate too). Now don’t get me wrong, I can be an EEOC type of gal, so the likes of Tom Joyner, Delilah, Steve Harvey, Rush Limbaugh, Rick and Bubba, The Free Beer and Hot Wings Show (now that would distract anyone from caring about who’s local) add great value to radio and the stations that they broadcast on. But what they don’t offer is that local voice. Someone who is actually in tune to what is going on in your town USA.

I remember the first syndicated show I was really exposed to was Tom Joyner. At first it was new and interesting, but then at some point I wanted to hear about what was going on in the Washington, DC metro area in terms of news and pop culture and what the former Mayor Marion Barry was now up to (did she really set him up?).

Live & Local Is Becoming More and More Important

One valuable benefit I am hearing more and more, especially from our newer clients, is their desire to be known as the “Live & Local” station/group in their perspective markets. And, I get it. It’s getting back to basics. This can be a very attractive selling point to influencing advertisers why their station is important to reaching their target consumers. When a station has a local structure, it means brands can focus on key marketing segments to that area. “Radio continues to be perceived as central to people’s lives, especially when contrasted with the precipitous decline by other traditional media” (Nielsen Audio/Edison “Infinite Dial”).

Community Involvement Builds Brand Loyalty

When a station and personality are devoted to their LOCAL community there is an opportunity to get to know the community’s businesses, leaders, municipalities, dignitaries, and culture (i.e. local sports teams). They can support and advocate in order to be an instrumental resource for economic and commercial growth. Radio stations, local personalities, along with, for example, a local automobile dealer can participate in local charities or local chapters of bigger charities by having radio personalities and business leaders promote and present at dinner auctions, blood drives, charity golf tournaments, and charity walks and runs. This goes such a long way in getting their listeners involved and engaged. And here, not only the radio station wins but also the sponsored advertiser, showing that they are involved in public service.

Having a Relationship with Personalities Is Still Important

Based on a survey of Women 15-54, it was found that listeners still find personalities to be an important factor in why they choose to listen to a particular station. For example, nearly eight out of ten of them listen longer to radio stations because of their favorite personality. It is a known fact that when listeners feel an emotional connection with their preferred radio station, also known as First Preference listeners, they are actively involved with their favorite station, they participate in the station’s events and promotions, and they support the businesses that advertise on their station. A local on air environment offers several components that are important to listeners. When listeners trust, feel comfortable, and are familiar with their station’s personalities they become more active listeners and loyal listeners create the environment for advertisers’ messages to be actually heard and heard frequently. When listeners see themselves as “friends” with their favorite DJs and consider them to have celebrity status, when the personalities, for example, take part in remotes or live reads, it has the potential to bring credibility, believability, and an invitation to buy an advertiser’s products or services. And, you enable yourself to better service your clients by designing and executing marketing strategies that engage consumers, enhance market visibility, and improve market share.

Personalities

Capitalizing on Your Gem with Customized Solutions

With so many other options for listeners to hear their old favorites and discover new musical options, Radio must continue to be the mass medium delivering audio content to passionate and loyal listeners.  And, one way to do that is to make sure your station is in tune with what is important to listeners in your local community and keeping them engaged.  And, who better to do that than the live and local radio personalities.  Shout it out loud that you are LIVE & LOCAL and keep telling that story over and over again.  And, take advantage of what these amazing people have to offer to your station, the listeners, and ultimately the advertisers by creating their niche and exposing them.  So get to work.  You have some brainstorming to do (be sure to invite the personalities because they can also add unique ideas and perspective) in order to create the next marketing strategy that will impress and drive in sales for your station and more importantly for advertisers.  But, don’t get too comfortable because someone will be waiting in the wings to steal your idea (you know how radio folks do).

-Kathryn C. Boxill, Radio Sales Research Manager

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