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Talk Radio Weekends: 2 Sure Shots

| September 13, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, R.I. — With radio so financially challenged, continued employment is earned by leveraging your personal craft skills and your station’s assets.  Want to keep working?  Be revenue, not expense.

Thus my recent TALKERS column “21st Century Swap Shop” (, which acknowledged three realities:

  1. Antique and/or tedious programming is toxic when we share listeners’ attention with new-platform competitors.
  2. Stations are under hellish pressure to monetize the new platform.
  3. Stations have lots more 60-second avails than 60-minute avails.

Keep thinking of ways to connect those dots, and (forgive me) “do more with less,” and you’ll be handy to have around.

That previous column recommended a makeover for a common weekend talk radio programming fossil; and offered the larger strategy I have observed at successful stations, and which I have ripped-off…er, “implemented,” at stations I work with.  ICYMI:

‘NOT making this up: I read an Arbitron diary comment, about a news/talk station: “On the weekend, it sounds like they think nobody is listening.”  Mathematically, the diary keeper was almost literally correct, as the station squandered daylight weekend hours re-running dated political weekday shows, and naïvely calling them “Best of.”

More-successful stations create appointment listening and premium sales inventory by giving the weekday “I’m right, you’re wrong” narrative a rest, and programming topics more-in-sync-with what people are doing on the weekend.  Picture a homeowner who’s out running errands.  Which is more compelling radio?  A home improvement show describing how a $3 replacement part can save a $1500 repair?  Or yet-more about the president’s birth certificate?

Not surprisingly, successful stations’ weekend topics are the obvious buff stuff: automotive, consumer electronics, health & fitness, home ownership, lawn & gardening, and personal finance…all of which are well-acquitted by national syndicated shows.

Two other topics are well-suited to brokering longform time to local professionals: Law and Pets.

Attorneys and local radio can be a great marriage.

  • About marriage itself:  There will always be divorce.  And bankruptcy, and tipsy driving, and Personal Injury, and other legal gifts-that-keep-on-giving.  Law is recession-proof.  And demographically opportune, as Boomers confront ageism and other employment issues.  And as their elderly parents pass-on come Trust Law issues, real estate transactions, etc.
  • Law doesn’t syndicate as well as consumer electronics, because laws vary from state-to-state.
  • Lawyers “get” billable hours.
  • “The lawyer is in, the meter is off” is an engaging proposition.  Callers’ relatable situations resonate with other listeners, who hear the attorney’s comforting manner, competent counsel, and ability to translate Latin-to-English.  Done right, these shows humanize their hosts way-beyond their competitors’ gaudy Yellow Pages ads, hokey TV spots, or highway billboards.
  • They don’t need or want their in-show inventory.  The show itself is the marketing message.  So you can sell the hour twice.
  • They do need out-of-show weekday inventory – so the weekend show isn’t a well-kept secret – and the weekday inventory they want most is plentiful: Monday verticals.  WE think Friday is prime time, because the logs get busy by week’s end.  THEY get more value from Monday, the beginning of the week during-which they want to book “sits,” those no-cost, no-obligation free initial consultation visits during-which prospects become clients.

And about those highway billboards: Their appeal is as obvious as the Yellow Pages’ appeal: ego, which both media feed when they sell to lawyers.  If you’re pitching attorneys, you should remind your prospect of two things:

  • If that billboard is hanging his King Kong-size face over an INTERSTATE highway, many, possibly most, who see it aren’t prospects, since they’re not locals.
  • And ask ‘em about the last time the new Yellow Pages book came: “Have you done this?  You took the new book to the drawer where you’ve kept the old book, and realized that the last time you touched the old book was when it was the new book?”

As for pets, my spiel is lots shorter: Last year in the USA, over $40 BILLION dollars was spent on pets, more-than-twice what was spent on radio advertising.  Those aren’t animals, they’re family members.  Their owners are guests in their pets’ homes, and spending thousands on hip replacement and cancer surgery and other elaborate veterinary procedures.  Find a kindly-sounding vet, and the phone will explode.

If you work on-air, and think all-of-the-above is for sales, you’re sleepwalking.  If you’re in radio, you’re in Sales.  So how many of the following can you do with lawyers and veterinarians?

  • Identify them.  You yourself may patronize one or both.
  • Sign ‘em.  And if your station won’t let you, personally, write the order, vector your most supportive rep.
  • Teach ‘em how to do good longform and shortform radio, something I do with weekend warriors at my client stations.
  • Hand-craft their commercial message.
  • Give their on-air work a sponsorable second life online.

What the first sentence of this article called “your personal craft skills” can help your boss save HER job…which sure won’t hurt you.

See/hear/read more from consultant Holland Cooke at; and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke.  He will present “Database Your Tribe…NOW” at the Talkers Los Angeles New Media Seminar.

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