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Your Station Promos: “Blah, blah, blah?”

| May 6, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Nothing we say about the station on-air adds listeners, because the only people who hear promos are already listening.

The goal of on-air promotion is to add Time Spent Listening (TSL) by existing cume — specifically adding additional occasions of listening — with messages which suggest why-and-when to come-back-for what-promos-promise.

So who are we talking to?  And what do we want to tell ‘em?

Station imaging shouldn’t be about the station.  It needs to be about them, and how the station fits-into their lives.

So who do local retailers want to meet as-a-result of advertising on the station?  Why would

they listen more?

Busy people in-car 

Radio is the original mobile medium.  And radio still comes closer-to-the-cash-register than any other.

  • That’s not a car, it’s “a radio on wheels.”  You can’t even special-order one from Detroit without a radio.
  • Every time she stops it, she takes money out of her purse.
  • How can we offer the station as a handy dashboard app?”

Families with children – of any age – living at home

They’re retail super-consumers.

  • That kiddo?  Every stitch of clothing he’s wearing won’t fit in six months.  And the older he gets, the more expensive he gets.
  • And Boo-Boo?  NOT “an animal.”  Americans spent $41 BILLION on pets last year.
  • To these people, weather is survival information.  Ditto news (that matters).  And funformation.
  • Want to be their habit?  Be uber-relevant, the opposite of blah-blah-blah.

Radio’s natural constituents, 50+

Our longest-TSL users grew-up with a radio habit.

  • Baby Boomers are lifelong experimenters, NOT set-in-their-ways brand loyals.  And empty-nesters and new-or-soon retirees spend big as they “play the back nine.”  Retailers we want as advertisers know that 25-54 is a myth.
  • 50+ are grown-ups who’ve heard-it-all and don’t want to be barked-at through reverb…or EQ that sounds like announcer-in-a-box.

Does your on-air imaging play Arbitron’s game?

Loud-and-clear message from PPM data: THE – repeat, THE — quickest path to Share growth is to get people-who-listen-to-us-most (so-called First Preference or P1 listeners) to listen even more.  Mathematically, that’ll move-the-needle quicker than TV spots or billboards.

Think of it this way: Your listeners already know you and use you.  With promos, we’re “buying a spot schedule on our own air,” the most-efficient medium for reaching our own listeners.

In “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – that muted trombone you hear when the grown-ups talk?  That’s how most radio promos sound to real people.

Typical station imaging is a caricature.

  • For starters, copy tends to be station-centric.  Because promos are commercials, remember Commercial Copy 101: “Sell benefits, not features.”
  • Much of what I hear in my tireless radio travels is boastful.  Pronouncing yourself “Theee” anything sounds dated now.  The allure of authority is dated to today’s crowdsource culture.  Rather than deferring to movie critics and Consumer Reports, we read each other’s reviews.  Heck, crowd photos helped catch the Boston bombers.  Rather than talking-down to listeners, stations should make them feel like part of something.
  • And talk-about talking-down!  What’s with the barking announcer delivery, and 70s-sounding whizzers?  Too much radio imaging sounds like an-imitation-of radio, hokey to grown-ups who are heavy users.

Give a listen, outside the station and outside the box.  Every time you hear your station say-something-about-itself – live format language, or produced promo — ask yourself: Will THAT cause a listener to come back again another time?


Read/see/hear more at, and follow @HollandCooke on Twitter.  And meet HC at Talkers/New York, June 6.

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Category: Advice