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RADIO LESSONS LEARNED FROM SECRET SOCIETY MEETING

I belong to two groups. One is the Automobile Club. The other is a top secret group of People Who Think They’re More Important Than They Are. We meet twice a year and share “Best Practices” (i.e., lie to each other about how much we really accomplish).

At our most recent meeting, last month, I found myself making a number of notes and thinking, “I should share this with my blog readers.” So here we are. The first of several random thoughts and observations.

Mary Ellen Tribby

Mary Ellen Tribby

Mary Ellen Tribby is Publisher/CEO of Early To Rise. In addition to taking a merciless drubbing from a few of us over dinner the last night, Mary Ellen shared some of the practices that have made her company so successful.

Two questions they always ask before they embark on any project:

1. “Is it good for our customers?”

(For a radio station, “customers” = “listeners.” And “customers” = “advertisers.”

2. “Is it good for our company?”

(Please substitute “radio station” for “company.”)

She also included one declaration that needs no rewriting for radio:

“Everyone in the company is a marketer.”

Your radio station’s every employee, volunteer and/or intern is part of your Marketing Department. Every touch any of them makes with anyone outside the station is an opportunity to win a new friend — or strengthen an existing friendship — for the station.

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  • Mitch April 4, 2009, 4:50 pm

    Here is my different interpretation of 'customer' from yours. You indicate a radio station has two customers. I disagree. It is the core of the state of radio today. There is only customer. It has with a wallet.

    In a sporting event, just like a radio or TV event, you have sponsors, audience and competitors.

    Is your advertiser the customer or is the audience?

    In sports your $50 ticket will not keep the team afloat. It is the sponsors that do that. Sponsors are sports customers. Everyone else is a fan.

    The only customer a radio station has is its advertisers, too. Proof. You can run a fully crewed radio station that no one listens to if you have sponsors. The converse is not true.You can't keep a station alive, even with 10 million listeners without sponsors.

    Public broadcasting turns audience into sponsor/audience, but they still rely on contributions & grants from big spender sponsors to survive.

    Here is the key. To get advertisers you need to have listeners. Why? The listeners are your advertisers' customers, not yours. They need your listeners and are willing to use your station as a medium to reach them. (just like it works for a magazine, newspaper or web host)

    Your station is competing with all other stations on your broadcast band, and now with all other forms of listening entertainment available in their environment. (It is different at home, office, car or in an airplane). Those are your competitors. In sports, competitors are all the teams in their league, plus all the other sporting events and venues at all levels appealing to the attendee.

    What does radio give the listener? You are providing personalized entertainment, advise, relationship, news and/or information to listeners-local listeners. The people tuning into Radio Disney will not be the same as those listening to Adult Contemporary. When you stop connecting with your listener, they stop connecting with you. It is all about relationships and rapport that attracts and keeps them there. This is why demographics have always played a big role in media. Know your audience and play to them.

    Like you, your competitors are doing what they can to attract listeners and will even do what they can to take them from you. That is life.

    The only thing you have to differentiate is your on-air personalities' ability to connect, your station's clock, format and your station's identity with the community.

    The station/medium acts as a broker between advertiser (your customer) and listener (their customer). For that you get paid a brokerage fee (advertising dollars, event sponsorships, give-aways, promos etc.)

    When you fail to do this trifecta than your competition steals your business away and you begin to go out of business.

    So you adapt or fade away and the cycle of life continues.

    What corporate conglomerates all claim is that you should still be able to do this andd save money in this mix by centralizing facilities & management, nationalizing station identities and turning on air personalities into faceless syndicated robots. This will attract mega-advertising accounts with cross market buys.

    Great for the Fortune 1000 companies who can get it all in one simple buy. Great in theory for the station owners.

    How does that help the 10s of millions of medium to small companies in local communities? Not a whit.

    Does the average listener care, really, which national ad sponsors your station? Nope.

    What conglomerates have failed to take into account is that the local advertiser is the life blood of a local station. Local advertisers want local customers. They want local talent to build up local commerce and local loyalty.

    Instead of mass customization of radio, conglomerates have muddled it all together into mess media.

    Conglomerations of business failed in the'70s. And consolidation of media is failng now.

    People in the local community don't care much about national advertisers. They advertise on everything so what loyalty does that bring to radio and your station? Nadda. There is no unique selling proposition.

    Locals want to see their stations helping with community events, grand openings, schools and emergencies to prove they are relevant to their lives. Sorry, but you can't be involved like that from remote controlled studios and suits in ivory towers. And thus, we have the sorry state of mass media in this nation.

    FWIW Newspapers are not going out of favor. In England there are dozens of dailies thriving in London today.

    Magazines are not dying. There are hundreds of new titles launching every year.

    Print will be dead when you throw out that printer on your desk. Not likely to happen any time soon.

    Radio is not dead. It needs caring parents who understand how to raise their families back to high prominance.

    Radio has too many advantages. It transmits through the open air. It does not require plumbing you have to get from third parties. All people own already radios. Sound quality is reliable and high.

    It is up to local talent and local management to get relevant again to its listeners. When the listeners return, the advertisers will again open their wallets. Everyone wins.

    Mitch Krayton

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