By Walter Sabo
1. The Radio Cathedral. In your listener’s mind, the radio station is a community cathedral. Recently I was talking with a Connecticut cub scout leader. She told me that she was about to take her troup on “their favorite trip.” She explained that they were going on a field trip to build their own radio sets. The kids loved it.
I asked, “At which radio station are you going to do that?”
She responded, “No, it’s at the Vintage Radio Museum.
Missed opportunity. Why aren’t the Cub Scouts building those sets at your radio station and learning about radio at your radio station? A field trip with a structured activity and result is a great way to introduce new listeners to the medium.
2. “Like” and “follow” your listeners. Michael’s Restaurant is the hot media joint in Manhattan. Every single time a customer walks in, they tweet it within seconds of the customer’s arrival. Diners are stars. But the true genius, one missed by all media, is that Michael’s FOLLOWS as many people as follow them. It is odd to go on the air and beg for LIKES and FOLLOWS. Why should a listener go through that trouble? On the internet, each listener is equal to your station. They can distribute audio and video. Many are looking for followers and fans. If you become a LIKE, FOLLOW on their social sites, you have engaged with that listener in a meaningful way. For free.
3. Maximize data and connections. What are you doing with the phone calls? Callers are your most engaged listeners. Do you take the call and then say goodbye? A caller to your station is a powerful evangelist. Do they feel welcome when they call in or is the phone answered… “Joe show.” At the end of the call are they given the option to share their address so you can send them a brochure about the station’s advertising power or facts about celebrities and contests? Do you offer them a prize for promoting the station on THEIR Facebook/Twitter/Instagram account?
4. Get to the toddler level. Giving away “$1000 a day” doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t make a station memorable and does not insert the name of the station into the lives of listeners. But a Onesie is magic. Put your logo on a Onesie and ask listeners to tell you about newborns. Ask for photos of the babies in your Onesie and you will REALLY have something for the website. The onesie will NEVER be thrown away. Ever. I learned this from 1010 WINS which sent our first kid a Onesie—we have about 50 snaps of her in the Onesie which reads FUTURE 1010WINS LISTENER. Or try, FUTURE NEWSMAKER.
5. Cover real sports. To see profound passion, go to a high school game of any sport. Watch a cash bowling league play. See the dads at the gymnastics classes with their eight-year-olds. Oddly these sports are almost never reported or discussed yet their community impact is profound. To hear about “your kid’s homerun” on the radio will deliver life-long listeners.
It is so important to examine every single second of our programming in every format and ask, “How can this be better?” Too much time is wasted on learning new rules from “corporate” and new organizational structures. If your company is “afraid” of Pandora and other web companies the solution is better programming. It’s always better programming. Fresh programming ideas come from external sources, solid research and by paying close attention to what audiences do. You know this. So, be the brave one and act on it. Too many stations are simply getting through the day. That won’t produce the desired results.
Walter Sabo is CEO of New York City-based consulting firm, Sabo Media. He can be reached at Walter@sabomedia.com. Meet Walter Sabo at TALKERS 2014 New York on Friday June 20.