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Sponsored Radio Station Email Campaign Tips

sponsored-radio-station-email-campaign-tipsA Loyal Reader Asks:

“We have been getting really good response from email blasts.

“Obviously when we do a promotion there is a sponsor attached most times. What are your thoughts of the sponsor being mentioned in the Subject Line?

“Opinion 1: The sponsor will get more bang for their buck if they are seen in the Subject Line right away.

“Opinion 2: Grab the listener with a short and sweet subject line so they will read the email and see the sponsor mentioned there. And putting a sponsor in the Subject Line makes it feel ‘spammy.'”
— Todd Steinkamp

There’s no guarantee that the sponsors will get more bang for their buck if their name is in the Subject Line.

In fact, most of the time it will have the opposite effect. As Opinion 2 states, “Putting a sponsor in the Subject Line makes it feel ‘spammy.'”

If Opinion 2 is accurate, then ultimately your sponsors receive less bang for their buck, as recipients increasingly associate those sponsors’ names with spam.

Your station simultaneously is squandering its good will by sending emails that “feel spammy.”

Naturally, sponsors think their names should be in the Subject Lines…just as they think their names should be in the first sentence of their radio commercials.

That’s why we hear so many terrible, money-losing spots that begin, “Sears proudly announces its annual once-in-a-lifetime sale…”

How to Get People to Open Your Radio Station’s Marketing Emails

The first line of a radio advertisement has just one goal: to cause the targeted listener to listen to the next sentence in that spot.

An email’s Subject Line has just one goal: to cause the recipient to open the email.

In email marketing, including the sponsor’s name in the Subject Line rarely causes more recipients to open the email.

If it’s not an email they’ve been waiting to receive (“XYZ tickets available NOW”), to generate the largest possible “open rate” (which I hope you’re measuring), your Subject Line needs to be either

A) Irresistibly beneficial to the recipient


B) Irresistibly intriguing.

Most email marketers are thrilled to achieve open rates (the percentage of people who actually open an email you send them) of 25% – 30%.

I, on the other hand, am disappointed in an open rate below 50% and downright unhappy with an open rate below 35%.

Here are the Subject Lines of emails I sent during the past year that achieved greater than 40% open rates.

Let’s see how many of them are either Irresistibly Beneficial or Irresistibly Intriguing…or both.

(First Name) – Will you be with us?

Will you be with us…for what?? The success of that Subject Line was almost entirely due to Intrigue.

I say “almost entirely” because it also invokes a powerful psychological motivator called “Fear of Loss.” Although they don’t yet know what event is being referred to, part of them can’t bear the possibility of being left out of something that might be really good…

…so they read the email to find out what they might otherwise miss.


* (as promised!) Your advance notice (69.00%)

That Subject Line combines Benefit (here’s that thing I promised you, and you’re getting the information before the rest of the world”) with Intrigue (most likely they don’t remember or aren’t sure just what it is I promised them).


VO Mktg Class Registration is NOW Open (68.47%)

That’s 100% Benefit…when mailed to a list of everyone who expressed some degree of interest in the Voiceover Marketing Class.


Here’s the VO class info I promised (65.96%)

That’s strictly Benefit…to the list of people who asked to be put on my Starting Your Voiceover Business class Alert list.


Audiobook Q&A 1 hr from now (65.48%)

Once again, strictly benefit. This email doesn’t attempt to “sell” the Q&A seminar. Its sole purpose is to ensure that interested recipients don’t inadvertently miss the event.


(First Name) – Please don’t share this (54.19%)

While on a subtle level that Subject Line uses another powerful psychological trigger, Scarcity, on a conscious level 54.19% of recipients opened the email to find out what I’m sharing with them while urging them not to share it with others.


Advance warning! (51.68%)

Intrigue (warning about what?) followed by Benefit (I’ll learn about something before other people do).


Interested in joining us in October? (44.61%)

The Subject Line doesn’t say what we’ll be doing in October.

It doesn’t even reveal who comprises the “us.”

Motivation to read the email: Intrigue.


Final free voiceover Q&A tomorrow (43.91%)



Audio replay enclosed (audiobook Q&A) (42.06%)

Benefit, with a little bit of sly Intrigue thrown in: How the heck do you “enclose” an audio replay in an email?


Here are 48 audiobook videos (40.29%)

100% Benefit (to a list of people who’ve expressed an interest in narrating audiobooks.

Here’s How to Achieve a Strong Open Rate While Guaranteeing a Poor Result.

If your Subject Line succeeds in involving recipients but the actual message doesn’t deliver on the implied intrigue or benefit, you’ll fail.


Your Subject Line is, “5 strokes off your golf game — guaranteed!”

Your body copy, however, continues: “We can’t guarantee our Miracle Golf Club will take 5 strokes off your golf game, but we do guarantee you’ll be amazed at how much farther you can drive the ball…”

That’s not clever. That’s dumb.

It’s the equivalent of rookies whose Subject Lines consist of “Sex!” and whose email body copy continues, “Now that we’ve got your attention….”

Sorry, that’s not clever. It’s not original.

Worse, it’s not effective. It actually annoys and alienates your prospects.

Understand this:

You’re Trying to Entice People into Opening Your Email…Not to Trick Them into Opening It.

With that all of that as background, let’s look at a few of the emails Todd sent me.

I’ve replaced the names of the actual sponsors with “XYZ Co.”

Where you see “Todd” in the Subject Line, that represents the individual recipient’s first name.

radio-email-marketing-1The Subject Line is good if the mailing list is comprised largely of racing enthusiasts. For a radio station’s entire database, it’s weak.

A word about punctuation and Subject Lines: Punctuation isn’t important, but communication is. In this example, the missing comma slows down the reader’s eye.

Let’s look at the first line of the Body Copy: “Iowa’s Best Country, KIX 101.1 and XYZ Co. want to send you to…”

Comment #1: The majority of the recipients of this email can see the first line or two in “Preview” mode before deciding whether to open the email.

How enticing is that preview? It virtually shouts, “Here’s a commercial announcement!!!”

Comment #2: The entire email is presented in the style of a bad 30-second spot written by a station account executive.

Think about the emails you’re most likely to open and to read. At the top of your list undoubtedly are emails from people you know, written to you in a naturally conversational style…hopefully about a topic you’re interested in.

Just as a successful radio commercial is a conversation between the advertiser and the targeted consumer, to succeed your marketing emails need to be conversational.

That’s conversational, not informational.

This email is filled with information: Name of radio station; name of sponsor; names of the two events; dates, prize; how to enter…

Recipients who might actually care about the information aren’t going to wade through the clunky verbiage that surrounds it.

If you’re sending an informational email to people who want that information, make it easy for them to find and digest.

Hint: Nobody wants to read your radio station’s emails.

Recipients who are interested in the contents want to scan the message. They want the info to jump from their computer screen into their brains without their having to do any work at all.

radio-email-marketing-2The Subject Line clearly identifies and sells the benefit.

Recipients who love the Iowa State Fair are likely to open that email.

Is the Subject Line creative? Witty?

No, but it should result in a decent open rate.

radio-email-marketing-3That Subject Line won’t generate a lot of opens.

Although it asks a question, it doesn’t intrigue the recipient…because it asks a question about the recipient that the recipient isn’t already asking himself/herself and that doesn’t create curiosity.

The open rate could be improved a bit by involving the recipient more or by injecting a modest amount of intrigue:

“Here’s how you can win a Patio Party”

“How did SHE win that patio party??”

“Magic Formula for FREE patio parties!”

KXIA’s marketing emails end with:

radio-email-marketingAlthough they include an “unsubscribe” mechanism, the emails are not compliant with CAN-SPAM (a U.S. law that regulates commercial email).

CAN-SPAM requires commercial emails to include the sender’s “physical postal address.” Usually that’s a street address (along with city, state and Zip Code), but it can be a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service or a private mailbox that’s registered in your name with a commercial mail receiving agency.

I realize it’s not a very large town, but “Marshalltown, IA” doesn’t contain enough information to qualify as the sender’s physical postal address.


Last week’s piece about the Michigan radio station that got caught illegally using a Meghan Trainor song in a commercial generated quite a bit of interest and response.

A few days before it appeared, Tim Edwards wrote to me:

“We all know you can’t use a popular song in a commercial — unless you secure all the necessary rights. And of course you couldn’t use clips from a TV show in a commercial as well, but this question was raised to me this morning:

“Why is it legal to use TV and movie clips within a radio show? My answer is ‘fair use.’

“But why then is it legal to use them in station promos and imaging? Darn near every station I’ve ever listened to has TV and movie clips in show promos, montages, and other imaging pieces. How many times have you heard that woman yell ‘Wow, it sure doesn’t taste like tomato juice’ from the old V-8 commercials? How many morning shows rely on random TV and movie clips?

“I’ve got one guy who insists that’s exactly the same as using a popular song in a commercial. I told him no, but I don’t know why.

“What’s the difference and what’s the law?”

I told Tim I’d address his questions here but that “every instance you cited is illegal; ‘Fair Use’ doesn’t apply to any of them.”

I’d estimate that 90% of the time I hear someone defend their unauthorized use of someone else’s intellectual property as “Fair Use,” they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

“Fair Use” doesn’t apply simply because someone declares it does.

I wrote an entire book about what’s legal and what’s illegal when broadcasting copyrighted material. The book isn’t lengthy. It’s not difficult to read. But many radio people prefer to believe that what they want to be true is true rather than to do even a tiny bit of research.   

Technically, one cannot accurately state, “This isn’t copyright infringement due to Fair Use.”

As the I.P. attorney I interviewed for the book says, “If you’ve gotten yourself into a situation where you’re saying, ‘Oh, but it was Fair Use,’ then you’ve really dug a hole for yourself. Any good intellectual property or copyright attorney would try to keep it so you wouldn’t have to fall back on that.”

The guy who told Tim that using pieces from copyrighted commercials, TV shows, movies, etc. is “the same as using a popular song in a commercial” isn’t that far off…but in the wrong direction.

Using a popular song in a commercial without obtaining a license to do so is a copyright violation. Using drop-ins, wild tracks and musical themes from TV shows, films and commercials is, too — unless you’ve obtained a license to do so.

If your station pays BMI/ASCAP fees and you play a TV theme song from an album of TV theme songs whose copyrights are administered by BMI or ASCAP, you don’t have a problem…unless you use it in a commercial. Your station pays those fees for the right to use the material in its programming, not in its advertising.

If that V-8 commercial still is copyright protected and you haven’t somehow obtained permission to use it, you’re violating the copyright. Just as you are when you play Clara Peller demanding, “Where’s the beef?”

“Somehow obtaining permission” can include collections assembled specifically for broadcast use, for which the collection’s publisher has secured the necessary permissions.

If someone obtains permission to provide radio stations with drop-ins from TV shows, licensed for airplay, you’re in the clear.

But if you record Homer Simpson directly from a broadcast of The Simpsons and use it as a drop-in, you’re courting two types of trouble:
1) Copyright violation
2) Violation (for U.S. stations) of the FCC’s prohibition on rebroadcasting other broadcast stations.

Tim responded:

“So you’re saying that when ABC Radio sent us a three hour feed of holiday themed clips from various TV shows (certainly not all ABC shows) to hundreds of radio stations, with holiday themed clips for Christmas, Halloween, 4th of July, etc., this was illegal? And they sent hundreds of clips, drops, TV themes, etc, with no holiday theme, all of which are illegal for their stations to use?”

If the person in charge of that 3-hour feed was smart, ABC obtained any necessary licenses for rights they didn’t already own.

If ABC Radio provided stations with hundreds of clips from movies, TV shows and music which are under copyright and those copyrights aren’t owned by ABC, for it to be legal that would’ve had to obtain the appropriate licenses.

Cartoon Medley - Cartoon Network

When the Cartoon Network published, via Rhino Records, a “Cartoon Medley” of theme songs from 36 programs that aired on their network, they owned the copyrights to many of them (“The Powerpuff Girls,” “Dexter’s Laboratory,” etc.).

Other songs on the CD, however, were “used by permission” or “courtesy of” the outside copyright holders. “Underdog,” for example, was used by permission of Loramu Music.

On the other hand, “Tom and Jerry” was licensed from Turner Records and “Animaniacs” was licensed from Warner Brothers. “Licensed from” suggests that payment of some kind was made.

Whoever produced that CD for the Cartoon Network understood the necessity of obtaining permission from the copyright holders.

Hopefully ABC Radio (which, remember, is quite different from and has fewer resources than ABC Television) understood it, too.

“I listened during the mid day today, to about 8 different FM stations and every one of them were using bits and pieces from TV, movies, news, TV commercials, etc. and they’re all illegal?”

I have no way of knowing what percentage is illegal. Perhaps some are obtained from show prep services that obtain the appropriate licenses before providing them to radio stations for airplay.

This is the First E-Book I Ever Published.

Using copyrighted songs in radio commercials

I published THE ULTIMATE, NON-LAWYER’S GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IN RADIO COMMERCIALS…And How To Avoid It because I couldn’t go a week without receiving a phone call from someone at some radio station who would begin the conversation with, “I wonder if you can settle an argument here…” 

It’s sold pretty well since then, people seem to find it helpful…and now I respond to those phone calls and emails by saying, “Here. I wrote this book for you…”


Meghan Trainor Slams Michigan Radio Station

radio station copyright infrigement Meghan Trainor

The wheels of justice grind slowly, but recently they reached a Michigan radio station that thought, “So what if we’re breaking the law? They’ll never know.”

An advertiser wanted them to run a commercial for a local burger joint, complete with their own rewrite of a Meghan Trainor song.  

The station management either didn’t realize that by running that spot they’d be violating the song’s copyright
…or they knew and didn’t care. After all, someone was offering to pay them.

And who would know?

One of the market’s radio stations (“Station A”) refused to air the radio advertisement, explaining to the client, “Sorry, but that would be illegal. You can’t use a copyrighted song in a commercial that way.”

Station B, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate to accept the advertiser’s money.

Recently Station B received a Cease and Desist order from Sony Music.

Station B Was Lucky.

Sony could’ve sued them for damages, rather than just tell the radio station to stop.

Here’s How Station B Probably Reacted to the C&D Order.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Powers That Be at Station B said, “Hey, we got paid. The money we made was worth more than a lousy C&D order.”

Here’s How Station A Could React.

Account Exec: I’m sorry, but using that song in your commercial would be illegal. It would violate the owner’s copyright.

Client: But Station B played that commercial with the Meghan Trainor song…

Account Exec: Yes, they did. And they were lucky. When Sony Music found out, they fired off a Cease and Desist order to Station B.

But Sony could just as easily have sued both the radio station and the advertiser for copyright infringement.

Because that commercial unquestionably constituted an illegal infringement, they each could have ended up paying 5-figure settlements.

Having to write a 5-figure penalty check probably would hurt a local small business, don’t you think?

In addition to causing financial damage to Station B — which obviously needs the money in the first place, or they wouldn’t have agreed to help the advertiser break the law — it also might raise an eyebrow with the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC considers “the citizenship, character, and financial, technical and other qualifications…to operate the station” when license renewal time rolls around.

Here at Station A, we’re dedicated to helping our advertisers accomplish their goals. But we won’t break the law for them, because it could hurt us, it could hurt them, it violates our own principles…and we don’t need to cheat in order to succeed.


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How Do You Write a 30-Second Radio Ad?

There is no formula for writing a 30-second radio ad. There is no one “right” way.

Here is a bare bones, 7-step structure that will enable you write a serviceable radio commercial quickly…assuming you have adequate knowledge of the product or service being advertised.

Step 1: Identify the Call to Action.

The Call to Action is the one action you want the targeted listener to take as a result of hearing your ad.

Because the Call to Action almost always belongs at the end of the spot, with this method you’re beginning by writing your ad’s ending.

In fact, when writing radio copy, I almost always begin with the Call to Action and then work backward.

Step 2: Determine Your Approach.

My favorite approach is Robert Collier’s copywriting dictum that successful advertising enters a conversation the targeted consumer already is having.

Why is it my favorite?

Because it’s easier to quickly establish rapport by going where the consumer is, rather than trying to coax the consumer to come to you.

With certain campaigns, you need to start the conversation. This most frequently occurs when introducing a new product or service…which may require you to make the listener aware of a problem they didn’t know existed.

Step 3: Establish Empathy.

Radio advertising solves problems.

Those problems are the consumers’.

Make it clear that you really do feel their pain, that you understand the problem and its ramifications.

Step 4: Amplify the Pain.

After you’ve identified the targeted listener’s pain point, don’t move on to your sales pitch. Instead, build upon that pain.

It’s not enough simply to identify the problem.

Remind the consumer how serious that problem is to them.

Step 5: Offer the Solution.

There’s no point in highlighting the problem without making it clear that you have the solution for them.

Step 6: Write an Opening Line that Reflects Your Approach.

Most copywriters begin with the first line of the commercial.

Step 7: Make Sure Your Story Flows Naturally and Easily.

Even a 30-second, single-voice radio spot that speaks directly to the consumer needs to be a story.

If you were to break up your copy into paragraphs (as you’ll see in the example below), each paragraph is the equivalent of a chapter in a book or a scene in a story.

The story isn’t stitched together. Instead, it flows easiily and naturally.

Let’s Put This All Together.

Here’s a sample commercial script that took me 10 minutes to write.

It took me twice as long just to describe the process for you.

Can you spot each of the 7 copywriting steps?

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Toe Fungus No More neutralizes the smell and gets rid of the itching. And when used as directed, Toe Fungus No More helps you keep the rest of your toes.  

So if you’re ready to leave behind the pain and embarrassment of Toe Fungus forever, go to ToeFungusNoMore.com for a free month’s supply of Toe Fungus No More.


Radio Remote Broadcasts guidelinesOur theme this week appears to be “Lessons Radio Stations Can Learn from Sloppy Real Estate People.”

On Sunday I looked at a few “Open Houses” in the Los Angeles area.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, Investopedia defines “open house” as “a scheduled period of time in which a house or other dwelling is designated to be open for viewing for potential buyers.”

At one of the houses I visited, when I walked in a smartly dressed woman separated herself from the man and woman (apparently prospects) she was speaking with, introduced herself as the real estate agent, and handed me a flyer that described the property for sale.

Then she returned to her conversation with the couple.

The house wasn’t occupied. No furniture. Hardwood floors.

With nothing to absorb sound, the resulting acoustics made it so a normal speaking voice could be heard throughout the house.

The agent and the couple were talking and laughing so loudly that, with those acoustics, I literally couldn’t hear anything the person who accompanied me said to me.

We wandered around the house for a couple of minutes and then gave up; the noise was unbearable.

As we headed for the door, the trio turned to me and the man jovially said, “We accept cash, y’know!”

It was then I understood:

They weren’t a real estate agent and two prospects.

They were three real estate agents. Colleagues. Co-workers.

When I realized I was being driven away by the overbearing sounds of 3 representatives of the same agency, my astonishment quickly was followed by anger.

It was only with great restraint that I refrained from saying, “The three of you are here because you’re representing the seller of this house and instead of speaking to prospects, you’re talking only to each other? In voices so loud that potential buyers can’t hear themselves think??”

Instead, I just started at the 3 of them and left, shaking my head.

I won’t identify the real estate company. Let’s just say those 3 agents didn’t represent the pinnacle of professionalism.

What Does That Have to Do with Radio?

How many radio station remotes (aka “Outside Broadcasts”) have you seen where the station’s promotional staff (yes, some may be interns) stick together in a tight cluster — a closed circle that excludes the listeners, the fans, the P1s who cared enough to come to that live event?

Each time you’ve witnessed that, you’ve seen the results of a promotions director not doing his/her job.

If you’re in charge of promotions at your radio station (Promotions Director, Program Director, etc.), it’s your responsibility to make sure that all onsite representatives of your station understand that they are doing just that: representing your radio station.