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promotions for local radio station clustersA Loyal Reader writes:

“I work at small market group of radio stations, doing afternoon drive on the country station.

“We (the country station) organized a party bus to a country music festival. We had moderate success, but our bus could of been fuller.

“Our sales guy who helped us organize this now wants to promo this event next year on our classic hits station, thinking we’ll get more people.

“I have the belief that we should only run it on the country station because it gives listeners a reason to listen to the station, and that if a person likes country music they will listen to the county station. I’m just not a big fan of cross promotion… Any thoughts on this? Who’s right or wrong?”

Dan Replies:

It’s natural for a salesperson to assume that “casting a wider net” will attract more prospects.

It may reach more people, but you want to reach qualified prospects.

In this case, qualified prospects are people who are more likely than most to want to get on a bus filled with country music fans and ride for hours to see a country music concert.

Why would you search among a bunch of classic hits fans for qualified prospects when you haven’t fully mined those with whom you have daily contact?

You’re not simply trying to fill a bus.

Your goal is to fill the bus with individuals who already have a relationship with your radio station.

For the sales department, this is a sales promotion.

For the station, it’s an opportunity to build and strengthen a sense of community among your listeners.

For those listeners, it’s not “a bus that will take a bunch of people to the country music concert.”

For those listeners, it’s “a bus filled with people who share my enjoyment of country music. People with whom I have at least two things in common:

“1) We all love country music.

“2) We’re all part of the Radio X family.”

Those are the two things everyone on that bus should have in common:

They love country music, and they listen to Radio X.

What happens if you defy the odds and manage to lure a few classic hits listeners onto that bus?

You dilute the community. You weaken it.

Now it’s a bunch of people who love country music and listen to Radio X…plus some “outsiders” who are along for the ride.

You’re also diluting your sister station’s brand.

“The classic hits station that country music fans love, too”?

I don’t think so.

I’ll take a wild guess: Your account exec wants to attract more people in order to make the advertising client feel he’s getting his money’s worth.

If your station has 40,000 more listeners than the bus has seats, take a look at each element that had any impact on last year’s attendance and ask, “Why didn’t more of those 40,000 listeners join the party?”

Those elements include:

  • Experience
  • Value
  • Community
  • Clarity
  • Sponsor Involvement
  • Promotional Impact

The Experience

How compelling was the offer you made to your listeners?

Was it:

“How would you like to be one of 200 lucky Radio X listeners to ride in the Radio X Party Bus all the way to Nashville, Tennesee, to see Artist #1 and Artist #2 in concert, along with special guest Artist #3”?

Or was it:

“Artist #1 — sold out. Artist #2 — sold out. Artist #3 — sold out. Nashville’s Super Duper Arena — sold out. If you don’t already have your ticket, there’s no way you’re getting in see to see Artist #1, Artist #2 and Artist #3 at Nashville’s Super Duper Arena next weekend…

“…unless you arrive at the Arena in the Radio X Superstar Concert Vehicle, along with 199 other lucky listeners….”

Value

When promoting this kind of event, you’re not selling the total retail value of the package:

Bus ticket, $19; concert ticket, $75; party snacks on the bus, $8.35….

You’re not offering your listeners a bargain.

You’re offering them an experience that is exciting and unique…and to which the listener can’t assign a price tag.

Community

Does your station make sure the participants feel special even before the bus trip begins?

Is each of them given some cool swag that reflects the spirit of the adventure (rather than, say, a baseball cap with the station’s logo on it)?

During the bus trip, do they all share that sense of excitement?

Is it 200 individuals (or perhaps 100 couples) traveling by bus?

Or is it one group of people who “commune” (hence, the word “community”) with their fellow country music lovers?

By the time the bus rolls into Nashville, those individuals should have morphed into a team, a squadron that storms the arena as a single unit…rather than a bunch of tourists keeping an eye on the red & blue flag so they won’t get separated from the Group Leader.

Clarity

Did your promotional efforts present the experience, the value, and the community clearly?

Did listeners understand how exciting and exclusive every moment would be?

Or were they told to “see website for details”?

Sponsorship Mentions

The traditional term, “Sponsorship Mention,” means just that: a mention acknowledging or thanking a promotion’s sponsor(s).

“The Radio X Superstar Concert Vehicle, thanks to Ed Blauman Chevrolet and The Gringo Chinese Restaurant.”

Contrary to what the sponsor may wish, a “mention” is an acknowledgement, not a commercial.

“The Radio X Superstar Concert Vehicle, thanks to Ed Blauman Chevrolet, home of the Valley’s best deals on new and used Chevrolets. Remember, when it comes to prices Blauman Won’t Be Beat! For the 3rd out of the past 15 years, Ed Blauman Chevrolet has been named ‘Best Chevrolet Dealer in that Part of Town’ by Car and Automobile Magazine…and it’s no wonder! Family owned and operated, Ed Blauman Chevrolet offers its own in-house financing and same day repair on all vehicles that they can repair on the same day!”

That’s a commercial, not a sponsorship mention.

“But,” objects the salesperson, “the client wants…the client expects…the client insists…”

Clients can want, expect and insist all they want, but when they were offered the sponsorship package the account exec carefully explained everything the sponsors would receive:

  • Acknowledgement mentions on a certain number of event promos
  • “sponsored by” notices on the station’s Web page that touts the promotion
  • 4 tickets for staff members
  • (possibly) a specified number of standalone commercials for the sponsor that don’t refer to the promotion at all.

But they are not allowed to hijack or to destroy the in-house promos…

…no matter how many times they wail to the radio station’s sales rep, “But I want that, too!”

Tell your salesperson the solution isn’t to cast a wider net; it’s to cast a tighter net that’s irresistible to a larger number of your listeners.

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