ON-AIR PROMOS: WHAT'S REALLY "OFFICIAL?"
by Holland Cooke
Everything yo say about your sta tion on-air is intended to:
1. Cause listeners to listen more. Promos don't bring in
new cume. They can't. The only people who hear them are al ready
listening. Promos should stretch existing cume into longer time-spent-listening,
by telling people why and when they should listen.
2. Cause listeners to notice that they're listening in the
first place! After all, Arbitron doesn't measure what people
listen to. Its "unaided recall" methodology measures
what they remember. So your on-air marketing also
has to cut through all the mental clutter that crowds a listener's
head during the course of a day.
Therefore, whatever you tell your listeners about your station
Make sense. Too often, promo copy speaks in radio-ese,
rather than plain English. Instead, you should be selling benefits,
by telling people why you should be one of their buttons. Tell
them how to use the sta tion by telling them why they'd want
to. Ready for a consul tant buzzword? Promo copy should give
listeners "take- home pay."
Stick out. Promos are com mercials for your station.
Like a commercial for any product, you want your promo to grab
attention, not just blend into all the other blah blah blah that
goes in one ear and out the other. So, as with copy you write
for your advertisers, avoid cliches when writing station promos.
I urge commercial copywriters to avoid no-payoff phrases such
as "FOR ALL YOUR [product cate gory] NEEDS." Similarly,
I cau tion promo writers not to abuse the term "OFFICIAL."
I hear lots of radio in my travels. And I keep hearing stations
pro nounce themselves the "OFFI CIAL" station of something,
when they're not; or when there's a bet ter way to state the claim
they're making. Example: weather, ra dio's #1 information element:
In fact, the only official weather forecast comes
from the National Weather Ser vice. Who says there's no
more free lunch? The only of ficial forecast is the one you get
for free! Tip: If - rather than paying someone to dupli cate what
you can rip-n-read from Uncle Sam - you just rip-n-read, tout
that! Introduce and promote yours as "THE OFFICIAL FORECAST,
DI RECT FROM THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE."
Yet many stations who use commercial weather services, local
TV meteorologist, or don't identify NWS as their source pronounce
themselves listeners' "OFFICIAL WEATHER STATION."
Says who? It sounds like just another inflated product claim,
the kind of hollow BS that causes consumers to be skepti cal.
And the focus is inside- out. Instead, craft promo lan guage that
emphasizes what your audience gets from the station, rather
than simply talk ing about what the station does.
If you're got a popular TV face doing your forecast, tell listen
ers that they can hear his/her latest forecast "FIRST THING
IN THE MORNING, AND THROUGHOUT THE DAY." That's a benefit,
since other wise the only time they could get the forecast from
him/her is by watching TV in the evening.
I even hear stations calling them selves "YOUR OFFICIAL
TRAF FIC STATION." Who confers that certification? It just
doesn't ring true.
In the case of sports:
If you carry the play-by-play, you're the official station of
that team, and you should say so. If another team claims to be,
sic the team on 'em. You own that franchise.
If you're not the play-by-play station, but you still want to
get in on the fun, you might hire the coach to voice an on-air
feature, or you could stage a tailgate party, or give away game
tickets. Promos should emphasize what you're doing for listeners.
As for events: Negotiate to become "THE OFFI CIAL RADIO STATION
OF" a prestigious golf tournament, concert, festival, or
some other event in your area. Acquire that designation in exchange
for on-air promotion, etc.
Unless you are actually and specifically the "official"
station of something, don't say you are. You risk sounding bellicose
and unqualified, or not being heard above the din of other radio
Even if you are "THE OFFICIAL STATION OF" something,
is that the best way to describe your association with it?
Holland Cooke is News/Talk Specialist for Mc Vay Media
and B/D&A through its Advisor's Al liance. A 26-year radio
veteran, Cooke has performed, programmed, and consulted a variety
of formats, and he is best known as Operations Man ager of News/Talk/Sports
WTOP/Washington, DC. http://users.aol.com/cookeh
© 1997 by Holland Cooke