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No Time for Radio to Be Silent

July 12, 2016

One thing that remains true to this day is the power Radio can have when present and engaged in what is occurring in and around our communities. With the recent tragic events taking place across our country, whether human or weather-related, the people need to hear from their local officials, police chiefs, community leaders, RADIO PERSONALITIES, etc. Listeners also need to hear from those directly affected so their stories can be heard and understood. This open dialogue, when done with respect, integrity, and compassion, can lead to a better understanding. It can also hopefully lead to what one can do as a concerned community resident. That can range from how can I help those in need, how can we hold those accountable, where am I going to get clean water, how can I get help for my displaced family, to how can I keep my children/family safe.

Oftentimes listeners may not know where to turn for help or solutions. This is where Radio can play a profound role in terms of on-the-spot programming greatly benefitting the communities they serve. It is your duty to do so. It is the Radio personalities’ duties to do so. And, yes, it does require people who are about the people. It does require those who are not afraid of the “what ifs” if they get too entrenched in the controversial issues we find ourselves in. Sure, Radio is here to entertain. But, let’s be clear that Radio is also here to inform, educate, and LEAD. You may have some listeners who will tune out. You may have community leaders attempt to silence you. However, to be silent while continuing to just play music or the gossipy segments would be a total disservice to the people who you want to tune in day in and day out.

I give kudos and acknowledge Radio One for taking a stand and publically informing all that they want to be a part of the solution in terms of the recent shootings. However, with words, consistency, and perseverance are required far beyond today, tomorrow, next month, next year, or five years from now. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/radio-one-media-statement-there-must-be-a-better-way-300296174.html

I remember years ago 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. So now I find myself listening more to the NPR stations in my area. Yes, syndicated shows 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. This morning I was listening to Steve Harvey on WHUR-FM in Washington, DC as he interviewed the Deputy Chief Police from Dallas. I must say that interview was extremely enlightening and informative. Steve admitted it himself. But, I also want to hear about what the DC and Prince George’s County, MD hired officials have to say and what initiatives they have going on to help combat whatever is happening in our communities. And, that’s difficult when many stations’ morning and afternoon drives (usually the most listened-to time periods) are loaded with syndicated shows. The solution there is perhaps, during each of those shows, to have a 15-30 minute local breakaway segment. However, owners may be too afraid to do so because they may feel that it is all about the ratings and not the actual people. I see someone already sweating bullets at the thought of allocating 30 minutes of their show.

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” Radio station/group in their perspective markets. And, I get it. It’s getting back to basics. This can, in fact, be a very attractive selling point to influence advertisers as to 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 in 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”). And, more important it means our communities can have more exposure to those topics and issues that matter most to them.

Community Involvement Builds Brand Loyalty
As I mentioned previously, listeners want to hear (beyond the jokes) from their local radio personalities. When a station and personality are devoted to their LOCAL community, there is an opportunity to get to know and hold accountable the community’s businesses, leaders, municipalities, dignitaries, and culture (e.g., local sports teams). They can support and advocate in order to be an instrumental resource for economic and commercial growth, as well as other important issues on the table. Radio stations and local personalities, along with, for example, a local automobile dealership sponsor, can participate in outreach programs/events, local charities or local chapters of bigger charities by having these radio personalities and sponsored business leaders take an active stand. This goes such a long way in getting listeners involved, engaged and knowing they matter. 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. You see how this all works? Again, it creates a win-win for all.

Source: USC, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, PSI Study released June 2012, Woodley, P. and Movius, L. People With a Favorite Radio Personality in Los Angeles; *Alan Burns “Here She Comes” 2012; Online Survey of 2,010 Women 15-54 in May 2012

Capitalizing on Your Gem with Customized Solutions
With so many other options for listeners to hear their old favorites, or to discover new musical/information options, Radio must continue to be the mass medium delivering relevant content to passionate, loyal, and craving-for-information 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? 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 because your community needs you.

Update: I awoke this morning to a local DC news segment on DJ Flexx and Tony Redz of WPGC-FM, leading a “Yo Listen Up” in the wake of violence in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas. Panelists included Mayor Muriel Bowser and they discussed police/civilian relations, law enforcement accountability, safety measures when dealing with police and more.  WPGC-FM aired this forum over the air live starting at 6pm.  DJ Flexx at one point during the forum made a point to say we are here for solutions.  This is what it’s about with Radio personalities taking the lead and utilizing their airtime with a sense of urgency.  It also looks like they had DC Lottery as their sponsor.  Win-win for all!  http://wpgc.cbslocal.com/2016/07/11/yo-listen-up-panel-addresses-police-brutality-and-accountability/

-Kathryn C. Boxill, Radio Sales Research Manager