By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Before all the firings radio has suffered since, it might’ve seemed overstated when – four years ago — I wrote here: “tough decisions are being made, in meetings you’re not invited to. Possibly in meetings your boss is not invited to.”
My column then declared that, “if you’re in radio, you’re in sales;” and offered tips for improving the endorsement spots that only local personalities can deliver, and other ways to become a more conspicuous contributor to your station’s revenue. ICYMI: http://www.radio-info.com/2012/11/02/now-that-youre-in-sales/
Cutbacks since then – and, likely, still to come – only underline the need for on-air talent to be as sales-supportive as possible, if not actually carrying a list. To that end, this guidance about writing effective commercial copy, a task talent is often better-at than station reps, whose time is better spent pounding the pavement.
The Six Most Dreaded Words in Sales: “We tried radio. It didn’t work.”
Oh, they TRIED it. The discouraged prospect might’ve even bought the right station(s) and had adequate frequency. But the buy didn’t R.O.I. Why? Copy went in-one-ear-and-out-the-other. Or worse, it was annoying.
Why this happens:
- Cutbacks: At many stations, including some in major markets, there’s no creative department. Reps write their own copy, a task that’s not sellers’ core competency. THEN…
- Logjam: Just three months from now comes that special day: The Blitz. Reps schedule no in-person calls, and come to work in jeans. It’s festive. Wolfing stacks of pizza, everyone works the phone like a one-arm bandit. There’ll be a special prize for whoever rings the bell the most. Lots of long-term deals get written during the notorious January telemarketing marathon. Copy needs for cut-rate ROS tonnage that’ll run as-long-as 52 weeks overwhelm the system.
Memo to Management (and hint to talent): How to fix it…
…if hiring a creative person just isn’t in the budget; and because good ones are hard to find even if it is:
- Consider bribery: Said more politely: “teamwork.” Bring the whole staff into the loop. After the selling blitz, conduct a creative blitz. One of my client station GSMs brainstorms spec spots with his station’s employees, and gives cash awards for the spot that closes the sale. Even an award you trade (i.e., dinner for 2) would be a much-appreciated gesture that causes everyone to think “SELL!”
- Buy better spots: Consider a syndicated package of creative spot templates/jingles/etc. that you can customize with sponsors’ fill-in-the-blanks copy. Or ask the umpteen station imaging guys who nag you to do promos if they have a spot reel, and if they’ll work on spec. But before you spend a dime on these options, are you making-the-most of an investment you’ve already made?
- Steal ideas that’ve already worked. Understand the mindset of a retailer. He/she is:
a) hungry for ideas; yet…
b) wary of experiments; and…
c) lonely. Those 16-hour workdays don’t afford much time for shoptalk with others-who-do-what-they-do.
So use spec spots that you can assure prospects “have already produced results for a business just like yours” somewhere else. Whenever I visit a client station, my sales meeting leave-behind is a thumb drive of spots I’ve gathered in my travels.
GREAT source: RAB.com, which many members under-utilize. Assets you’ll find after you’ve logged in and clicked “Creative” include:
- RAB’s Audio Library of some 1000 spots, mp3 files you can download;
- Click “Copy Ideas” to explore a searchable database of 1,600+ scripts in 160 client categories;
- The 7 page “RAB Guide to Writing Great Radio Copy” is worth passing around. Solid fundamentals, useful tips.
- Use a temp during The Telemarketing Blitz? I’m scheduling station visits in January/February, during-which I’m going to camp-out and bang-out spots as the bell rings and the pizza disappears. Heck, on an ongoing basis, I tell all my clients “I’ll help you write the spot!” if you’re staring at a blank page. I do so much of this that I’ve probably already got a proven script we can quickly adapt.
Is there a creative person you wish you could afford full time, who can temp, possibly on a piecework basis?
And as for endorsement spots: Don’t assume they believe you.
DONE RIGHT, personal pitches from station personalities can be powerful. But too often, they fall flat…and that’s not an opinion. You may be startled by the results of a national research survey I conducted.
Hit www.HollandCooke.com and click “For Sales” in the menu atop the page. Scroll down for the numbers, and click-to-download my white paper “Important Tip for Endorsement Spots.” No charge, no login, no spam.
Holland Cooke (www.HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of radio and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke