by Tracy Johnson
In the never-ending dialogue surrounding the perfect formula for winning radio, the concept of live & local is always looming. It almost always ranks right behind, “How much should we talk?” and “Where should we schedule the stop sets”? And some stations even run promos to tell the audience that they’re live & local. But saying you’re local and being local are two different things.
Managers who are paying a live & local staff brag about being local. Managers who import voice tracked personalities brag that they sound better. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What works? What doesn’t?
Guess what? If you have to run promos to prove it, chances are you don’t sound local enough to matter.
So what is it to be local, and how can radio stations reflect their communities? And does it really matter?
There are dozens of ways to localize your station, including:
Features: Local features like Hometown Hero can show your heart and demonstrate that you care about the city.
Ize-ing Content: Inserting content additives to your station provides opportunities to reference local landmarks and celebrities.
But more than listing things you can do, it’s a mindset that should permeate the entire radio station.
Some stations think it’s about their contests. They battle national contests by promoting that “we have local winners”. That doesn’t move the needle either. But challenging your staff to constantly reflect what’s happening in your town right now today can be transforming.
But what’s the impact? Do listeners care? What is the big deal if they’re talking about the local events? I’ve heard a lot of stations that are all live & local but you’d never know it. They sound as distant as a voice-tracked show piped in from 1,000 miles away.
And I’ve heard shows that ooze local flavor. They’re immersed in the market. They relate to the audience in ways outsiders couldn’t.
Local is important. Connecting with a community of listeners and becoming “one of them” is charming, endearing and forms a strong bond.
But by itself, it’s just not enough. Live doesn’t matter nearly as much as entertaining does.
How important is it? Well, let’s put it into perspective with the Hierarchy of Ultimate Awesomeness.
Local is good.
But local and entertaining is better. Entertainment is far more important than simply reading a list of things happening in your market.
Entertaining wins over local every time. It is a broad term, and rightfully so. Entertaining can encompass a multitude of styles and personality types. It’s a matter of being engaging, charming and interesting.
But if it’s a tie, entertaining and local will win.
Local, entertaining and relatable is better still. It’s really good. Relatable air talent that truly connects with audiences make them feel like friends. Convince them that you’re “one of them” and they accept you, whether you happen to be local or not.
What if we add funny? Local, entertaining, relatable and funny is king. This is the whole package. Make them laugh and they love you. Entertain them and they like you. Just be local and they are proud, but kind of yawn.
Funny is by far the most important aspect listeners recite when describing what they want from air personalities. If you can make them laugh, you’ll keep them coming back.
A very close second: Be Funny. In many cases, this may actually be #1.
Third: Entertain your audience. Though if you achieve the two items above, this is probably set.
And fourth: Be Local
Strive for all four attributes. They’re all desirable. But at the end of the day, local is the least important. It falls behind being relatable, funny and entertaining. And it’s a distant #4.
However, local is a great tie-breaker. Take equally interesting, relatable and funny shows and the local one should win.
But a show that builds it’s reputation primarily on being local will lose to the one that makes them laugh-every time.Broadcasters are really resourceful. As natural advantages are compromised by new competition, we find new ways to claim relevance. For the last few years, the term “Live and Local” has been part of the mantra. But making the local claim and actually being local are two different things.
It doesn’t matter where your broadcast originates. Your studio could be on Main Street in your hometown or in Dubai. It’s all the same to the audience, except when they’re asked to come to the station in person to pick up prizes, which is one of the most annoying and outdated policies at many stations.
In fact, many stations that are technically “local” sound disconnected from their community. There’s nothing that reflects the local mood. There’s no content that could only be relevant here. And good luck figuring it out by visiting their website. Chances are it’s full of repurposed content widely available virtually everywhere else
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