Wordsmith Rix Quinn delivers a unique mix of creative writing and a down-home vocal presentation to any station’s local marketing arsenal
By Jeff McKay
Special Features Correspondent
NEW YORK – Budget cutbacks are not only limiting the resources of radio programming departments – they are squeezing station sales and creative marketing efforts as well. Concept development and simple copywriting take personnel and time – something in short supply these days on the radio front. Add the potential of literally limitless internet real estate to the mix of radio’s marketing possibilities and the frustration of having limited man/woman-power only grows.
In a recent report on the top-billing radio stations for 2013, BIA/Kelsey wrote of Washington, DC’s all-news WTOP-FM (103.5) that the top-billing radio station in the United States “WTOP is morphing into a digital media company by providing access to its audience in many different ways beyond over-the-air.” Mark Fratrik, senior vice president and chief economist for BIA/Kelsey concludes, “Its approach is serving them well and its model demonstrates that as the industry continues to adopt a multi-platform approach, it will engage audiences and sustain growth.”
The multi-platform approach that Hubbard Radio-owned WTOP-FM embraces has allowed it year-after-year to bring in more overall revenue than Clear Channel and CBS Radio-owned news and music powerhouses in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. A key component to that revenue stream is their extremely strong digital presence and the creative use thereof.
Companies large and small right now are executing plans to create revenue from both the internet and smartphone apps, and contemplating how to create even more revenue from a technology that a generation ago did not exist in the radio world. Some plans are extremely complex, while others, like several being initiated by Ft. Worth, Texas–based multimedia storyteller, biographer and marketing strategist Rix Quinn, are simple, extremely cost effective, and can straddle multiple platforms for a radio station’s sales department.
“I used to do filler features. I come from the trade magazine side, but I’ve always believed a one or two-minute filler feature could be paired with an advertiser, something that’s definitely viable in the local field,” says Quinn, whose smooth, down-home Texas-flavored “twang” makes him sound like a credible friend you’ve known (or known of) for years.
Quinn has come up with a technique that taps into his long-time experience as a story-telling biographer and brings it into any radio local sales department’s bag of tricks.
“Think about it – you have a furniture store that’s been around 50 or 100 years. They might have a story to tell. So, you take that story and put it up on your station website and add some of it on the radio. Now you have an ad product that can be enhanced to reach listeners on a radio and listeners online,” Quinn explains with the kind of confident, grass-roots wisdom displayed by Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry.
Quinn’s strategy helps radio stations take a local advertiser that could be found in any market from New York City to rural Alaska, and instead of just putting together a 15, 30 or 60-second advertisement, they can enhance the spot to not just give an advertiser’s address, phone number or email, but to tell a rich, detailed story about the advertiser’s personal and community history and use a digital platform to make a stronger connection between that advertiser and the station’s listeners.
“One of the big problems in local advertising is they can lose their niche among small businesses. The service I provide is to help small businesses tell their story in features that run 250-300 words, which is fairly short, focusing on the unique experiences of the owner-manager of the business or the unique product or service that the business provides,” explains Quinn. “That can also include short-form generic features that ‘celebrate’ the tradition and community service of general local business categories such as stand-alone ice cream parlors, mom & pop hardware stores, garden supply centers, independent book stores, jewelry stores… the list is endless. At the conclusion of each feature, the station tags it with individual examples of the category that are non-competitively located in different parts of the coverage area and makes them available to the advertisers at a very reasonable cost.”
Quinn believes that this approach can open up a number of doors to radio sales on the local level not just in small and rural markets, but also large and major market stations that desire to reach out to local advertisers. This also opens creative opportunities to create a “spoken word” ad with one that can be spoken and visual on the station’s website.
The approach Quinn is taking seems to create an opportunity for his service and product to traverse multiple sales platforms, and if done properly, can allow a radio station to sell both its radio and internet space together in a very personal way.
“Local is the engine that makes radio work,” says Quinn, who knows that local sales can take a much more personal approach than a national spot buy.
Quinn says his emphasis is in local sales, understanding that many companies have a personal story to tell that can provide information to a listener or website visitor that a simple short ad cannot. His “short story” approach to sales carries both a “down-home” feel as well as an opportunity for small businesses to become very personal with potential customers.
“I was trained as a biographer to find the unique traits that fit the featured subject in terms of what he does or what their business does and why that is a benefit to the customer,” says Quinn. “As an example, if I’m working with a dentist who has come up with a new product, say an invisible brace system that aligns a person’s bite, then I can bring out something personal about the dentist that may connect with the listener and form a unique bond. I’m trying to uncover features or benefits that the advertiser hadn’t even considered – in print, and in audio – even in video.”
Quinn offers two services to radio advertisers. He can help them write brief personal biographies that vividly describe their unique attributes and credentials to local customers. He can also pair small businesses with his aforementioned “generic” features.
Despite a distinguished career in the magazine trade field and as a writer who has a specialty in business-to-business features, Quinn easily took to radio. In a short time, Quinn (and his distinctive Texas drawl) have done regular features on the national Doug Stephan morning show among other venues.
“It would be a unique package to offer local radio that goes way beyond cold-calling at a bicycle store, diner, jewelry store or repair shop. My product can bridge that gap, asking how they got into that business or what makes that business so special and unique,” says Quinn. “I can tell that story in words and it can be told visually on a website, giving the advertiser a sales tool that others might not have yet even begun to explore.”
When asked how a radio station’s digital sales team or a radio station’s sales department can benefit from this kind of service and approach, TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison believes there is definitely room to grow when it comes to any radio station’s digital domain.
Harrison says, “In spite of all the talk you hear in radio about digital this and digital that, no radio station is fully taking advantage of its digital space — especially when you consider how infinite their potential digital space actually is and how limited their budgets have become. Rix Quinn offers both an idea for stations to stimulate sales as well as extremely good creative support in the execution of the concept.”
“Simply, recommend me to a local advertiser and let me work with them to find the unique pitch,” says Quinn. “This is something we can do that no other local radio station is even thinking about – using the service of a biographer who approaches the advertiser as a unique individual or entity, rather than just another business on the street.”
As for growing this concept, Quinn believes the unique nature of this personal sales tool will sell itself.
“If I can pair working with the individual with this generic storytelling, the radio station can sell that unique service on multiple platforms, rather than just a 30-second commercial which you know cannot fully convey something personal. That’s what will make it unique and effective. Local means personal…or at least it should!” says Quinn.
Jeff McKay, a veteran New York-based operations manager, newsman and traffic reporter, is a special features correspondent for TALKERS. He can be emailed at McKayway@aol.com.