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Monday Memo: Promotion, Now More than Ever

| April 29, 2019

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — On a sales call while visiting a client station, the prospect asked how many listeners we’ve lost “now that everyone has SiriusXM.”  Although we could easily demonstrate satellite radio’s actual penetration, and that our cume is actually up lately, perception is reality, eh?

One of radio’s enduring and painful ironies is that we sell advertising, but many stations DO none…which advertisers notice.  And, conversely, they view stations that do promote as “big;” and they feel that stations’ off-air promotion supports the schedules we’ve sold them.

Attrition is a fact of radio life.

So we cannot just mine our internal cume, without inviting new samplers.

Every day, people:

  • Move into the area…
  • Move out of the area…
  • Age into the demographic…
  • Age out of the demographic…
  • Change jobs, have children, or experience some other routine-altering experience…
  • Are born…and…
  • Die.

Adding cume (listeners) should yield more Average Quarter Hours (listening).  Or, as retail advertisers might say, “If you get more people into the store, you’ll probably hear the cash register ring more.”  So promotion is imperative, to keep the stations top-of-mind, to keep “driving shoppers into the store.”

It’s not just about the money.

Extending the analogy: If shoppers don’t like what’s on the shelf, you won’t hear the register ring more.  And that’s the most common promotion mistake many stations make.

It’s not that these stations don’t spend.  But many squander thousands and thousands of dollars, sometimes actually hurting themselves, by:

  • Promoting a product that’s not ready to be sampled.
  • Offering a vaguely-stated message, possibly risking confusion with another station, or confusion generally. Some GMs are curious when I suggest putting the word “radio” in billboard copy.
  • Using inefficient promotional media: Often stations can trade for spots on over-the-air TV; but if you’re paying cash, would cable deliver more bang-for-the-buck? Including cable carriage, the TV station’s footprint is probably bigger than the radio station’s pattern, so you’re talking to some viewers who can’t hear you. But the news/talk/sports stations I work with often use news/talk/sports cable channels, on systems well-within the pattern.  Billboards? Advertisers notice them!  Street-level poster boards might be a better value than big paint or digital boards over the interstate, because it’s…the interstate. Many, possibly most, who see the message don’t live here.

As for TV spot creative, there’s the old gag that many of us “have a great face for radio;” and some GMs gag at the cost of slick syndicated TV spots.  You might – as advertising guru George Costanza would say – “Do the opposite.” Rip off an idea we’ve used at several client stations, what I call “the Marcel Marceau technique.”  You will see it demonstrated in the short video “WHAT IF you did a spot like this?” in the right-hand column at

What’s coming out the speaker?

Regardless of how much or little outside promotion we can afford, much of what we can do to boost share, and deliver better results for clients, costs nothing, as we outlined in last week’s Monday Memo. ICYMI:

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the meaty and resourceful “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books.  Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Read HC’s Monday Memo each week at, and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice