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Radio Show Wrap-Up

| September 23, 2016

By Holland Cooke
Media Consultant

cookewriterNASHVILLE – 2,272 of us came to Music City, up from the 2,170 attendees at 2015’s Radio Show in Atlanta, the biggest crowd since the RAB partnered-into NAB’s event in 2010.

If you missed them, here are:

Below: My notes from sessions I attended on Thursday.  And first things first.  Want some money?

“It’s very easy for a marketer to say, ‘We tried it and it didn’t work.'”

Lifelock VP/paid media Lina Calia appeared at the Radio Show Advertiser Breakfast, and explained that her company is “not spending to build brand awareness.  We’re a performance-based company, and we look at results on a granular level every single day.”

How granular?

  • “We listen to airchecks, everyone” of the 35 syndicated hosts and some 35% of local markets where local talent does endorsement spots. If necessary, “we can call and course-correct.”  At company headquarters, “one person’s job is to listen,” Lifelock radio consultant Kathryn Kercher disclosed.
  • Unlike too many advertisers who bail if they don’t get instant ROI, Calia will probe disappointing results: “What am I missing? How do I make it work?”
  • Syndicated Premiere host Bobby Bones, also appearing, says he appreciates the support: “It didn’t go as well as we hoped at first. They let me make a change, to say things in my words and my language;” and he’s been on the buy ever since.  It’s music to a consultant’s ear to hear such an accomplished host volunteer that “sometimes we need to be taught.”

Another common mistake Lifelock avoids: Insufficient frequency.  “We have to give things a shot to win,” Calia says.  Kercher added, “it’s all about test-and-learn, test-and-learn, test-and-learn, test-and-learn.”

Clearly it’s working, if, as RAB’s Erica Farber disclosed, Lifelock has had “40 consecutive quarters of double digit growth.”  Although Lifelock uses various media, Calia says “radio is a huge component part of what we do;” Kercher saying the company “built the business on radio.”

“We measure everything.”

“You are our sales people,” Calia told rapt attendees.  “We look at a cost-per-member-acquisition.”

Farber asked her advice to stations eager for the business, and Calia offered a fundamental that reps should apply to all development effort: “Act like you’re a client.  If it was your dollar, why would you to put your dollar there?  Be your own worst critic,” and fashion the pitch from that starting point.

“Talk is a ‘hot’ format,” Kercher says.  “It hits numbers. Music is a ‘softer’ format;” but she likes music stations’ morning shows, because, like talk, they’re personality-driven.  “We don’t ever coach anyone to ‘do it this way.’  Do it in your own voice.”  Bones related various breach problems he, personally, has suffered; and how he uses that story-telling in the on-air pitch.  Kercher says “we give them a tight script and allow them to go off it.”  Spots run one minute.  “There’s a lot you can do with a 60s.  We don’t do 30s.”

Podcasting?  As many advertisers are now, Lifelock is curious, but Kercher says “podcasting right now for us is not big enough, but it’s a good ground for new talent, and that’s good for radio now.””

Want the business?   Send your “thoughtful” plan to this special address:

Most Radio Show attendees I chatted-up surmised, as I did, that the mood was upbeat here, “LOTS better than” the dog days of The Great Recession.  And many remarked about something else I noticed: How broadcasters embrace the inevitable, unlike newspaper people I witness in my travels who seem dug-in, naïvely waiting “until things get back to normal.”  It was encouraging to find so much here about Digital.


That’s not a typo.  The hashtag was how the title appeared in the conference program.  And if allowed just one sentence to distill what this session detailed, I’d quote Cumulus Media VP/social Lori Lewis, among its presenters: “The essence of Social Media is reminding people that they matter.”

Few I’ve met in radio “get” Social better.

  • Lewis urges that radio “rethink the ‘prize wheel’ approach” that’s gotten stale and noisy.
  • Understand that, via Social Media, “the audience is creating their own content; their own experience.” Join – don’t try to control – those conversations.
  • “Choose words wisely. Come at Social from the fans’ point of view.”
  • Remember that we’re in show business. Use Social Media to show listeners what it feels like to be where we are.  She told stories of how stars use Twitter to figuratively – sometimes literally – take people backstage.  And in a webinar she did a while back, Lewis offered a suggestion I’ve been repeating ever since.  When prize winners come to the station, let ’em grab a selfie with a personality, at least with the station logo visible, ideally in-studio.  “They’ll put it on Facebook before they leave the parking lot” she quipped.
  • Goal: Reckon “how can you use Social each week to make someone say ‘Holy crap!’”

Also appearing in this standing room only session: ABC News chief women’s health correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, and another familiar “Good Morning America” face, Lynda Lopez, now also heard on ABC Radio.  And Stephanie Ramirez, senior manager, social media, The Flama, who, based on experience, outlined these best practices:

  • Dedicate at least one person to the position.
  • Keep an eye on competitors in the space.
  • Create a brand voice and content signature to your brand.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Be knowledgeable in native advertising and algorithms.
  • Transparency is key.
  • Think Mobile first.

“What I Wish GMs Knew About Digital”

Saying “Let’s assume we all know enough to be dangerous,” witty Emmis SVP digital partnerships Angie May Yarusso ticked-off a whole list:

  • Digital success is driven by your ability to lead change.
  • Growing metrics is part of digital strategy, not the strategy itself.
  • Digital starts in content and ends in distribution.
  • You need third party partners to create scale and engagement.
  • You need to hire digital talent to create digital content.
  • The right people won’t succeed in the wrong environment.
  • Digital talent has to be empowered to change the way we think.
  • Your radio personalities are valuable influencers and taste-makers in digital.
  • Make sure your digital success stories get to sales.
  • Your digital impressions are valuable assets. Manage them the same way you do radio inventory.
  • If sales managers don’t know how to sell digital, their sellers won’t sell it.
  • Significant sales will be led by digital products. You CAN sell more digital than radio.  Be OK if they buy is more digital than radio.

If you’re the boss, here are Yarusso’s “5 Recommendations to Amp Your Digital Performance:”

  • Start your meetings with digital.
  • Know your digital inventory.
  • Walk in your Sales team shoes to optimize a digital campaign.
  • Observe the content creation process.
  • Dive into audience data.

This new-platform stuff isn’t just for big market stations…

Texting for Dollars

As we chase money moving from radio to the array of digital competitors, some broadcasters don’t know where to start.  “Pick one product and do it well,” recommends Rob Meisse, president/GM, WMFD/Mansfield, Ohio.

Based on his experience, these money-making tips for monetizing text messages:

  • Take your content, repurpose it, re-deliver it, and resell it.
  • “Remember that texting is a very invasive product. Send only what they asked for.” If not, you risk Telecom Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) issues, “and subscribers will leave.”
  • Keep your promise. “If you promise gasoline prices at 7AM, send ’em at 7:00 am.”  (He’s making money by selling sponsorships for information from
  • Breaking news is popular opt-in feature.
  • Ditto severe weather alerts, which can be automated. And closing announcements.
  • One deal he disclosed bills $1200/ month to reach 70,000 people, opt-ins, in Mansfield.
  • “Pollen Alerts!” See  To take ownership of this image, Meisse told us his station’s weather forecasts include pollen count
  • When it’s necessary in your area, consider Water Boil Advisories. “Sell to Culligan” or other pertinent prospects.
  • Don’t figure that high school sports scores are already done by others. Coach and parent and fan-generated Tweets aren’t consistent and dependable.

“Apparently the entire audience for sports talk radio is men with erectile dysfunction.”

Dave Ramsey warned Radio Show attendees of “a recoil against brands that are cramming” messages at listeners.  Calling this “the most-marketed-to culture in the history of the world,” he described what he called his own two-prong “tribal marketing” approach.  And he credits Rush Limbaugh’s success to the same method: Earning trust from listeners whose mindset he validates, then being “the guide” to products and services he advertises.  “This is where Rush excels, and some of the people who want to be Rush don’t.”

To understand the strategy he describes, Ramsey recommends:

  • Seth Godin’s book “Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us,” and
  • “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World” by Gary Vaynerchuk.

“The Local Media Company of the Future”
Each year, there’s one session I reckon that – alone – was worth the trip.  Researcher Gordon Borrell nailed it this year.  He began with a-whack-on-the-side-of-the-head, saying “It’s as if it’s 100 years ago, and we’re blacksmiths, watching our customers ride by in cars.”  Instead, “Be in the transportation business.”

Specific action steps he detailed flowed from proprietary survey data including interviews with 7500+ of the small businesses radio wants on-air.  One problem: They’re moving that money online.  In 2016, digital advertising surpassed all tradition media advertising.  “They don’t care about CPM, they care about ROI,” he told us, as $65 BILLION in local advertising is being spent on digital in 2016.

And at the rate dollars are going-digital, he urged radio: “Don’t be happy with 100% digital growth.”  The specificity of his data – and verbatim comments from advertisers surveyed – is as chilling as it is useful; and I’ll detail it next week here.


Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and his “Grey is Gold” video is this month’s feature on TalkersTV..

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Category: Analysis