In the never-ending dialogue about the perfect formula for winning radio, a discussion on the value of Live & Local is always looming. It ranks just behind, “How much should we talk?” and “Where should we schedule stop sets“? Debates rage about the value of being local.

Being local has nothing to do with geography. It has everything to do with relating to an audience that shares interests and values. Yes, some of that can be geographical, and that is an advantage.

This is particularly important in times of emergencies and tragedies. But aside from unusual events, how important is it? Some managers pay the local air staff and brag about being “live and local”. Some stations even run promos about being “from here”. Other managers import voice-tracked personalities and brag that they sound better. Some stations promote local contest winners, while others offer bigger prizes in national group contests.

Here’s the thing: Stations that have to run promos to convince listeners they are live and local almost never sound like it. At least, not enough to matter. And stations that really do have roots in the community don’t need promos to prove it. They demonstrate it.

Listeners don’t really care if a show is live. Do they care whether Kimmel is actually saying the words in real-time? Of course not. And they care much more about being entertained than simply listening to a show that originates in their city.

Live & Local or Good & Not?

At the end of the day what works? What doesn’t? Fortunately, there’s a supreme authority on such matters. The audience.

Do listeners care if radio stations or shows are local? Does it matter that they talk about local events? Do they want to know about a Bridal Fair at the Convention Center? Probably not. Building a break around a community calendar doesn’t make a station relevant or relatable.

Here’s some perspective. I call it the Pyramid of Awesome.

  • Local is a nice attribute. I’m all for shows being the voice of their community and talking about popular celebrities, teams, and issues.
  • But being entertaining is better. Entertaining beats local every time.
  • Local breaks ties. Being entertaining plus local beats entertaining.
  • Relatable is the secret sauce. Connecting on a personal level on topics of common interest is a winner.
  • But the biggest factor: Funny is king.

Make them laugh and listeners will love you. Connect personally and they get to know you. Entertain and they like you. Be local and they feel a sense of pride. Local isn’t the most important thing. It’s actually the least important. However, it can be an advantage.

3 Keys To Being Local

Here’s the thing: Building a strategy around geography demands a full commitment driven by entertaining personalities.

Challenge the programming, on-air, and promotion teams to constantly reflect the market. It must always sound like what is happening right here, right now – today. That’s a tall order, but you can start the process by collecting references as a resource for talent. Details are found here.

Then work on how to leverage an advantage:

Features: Regular segments like Hometown Heroes show heart and demonstrate pride by focusing on difference-makers in the community. This is a strong segment that acts as a content container for telling stories. Just be sure it’s entertaining and doesn’t turn into a PSA for charities.

Ize-ing Content: Localizing personality breaks is one of the four IZES of personality radio. Nearly every segment should reference landmarks, events, and celebrities. It doesn’t have to be a full segment around local activities or events. Just infuse existing content to sound local. Here are examples.

Promotion: Look for ways to reflect core values in promotion and positioning by planting a flag in the community that demonstrates the station is “from here”. This can be more valuable than listing things the station does because it comes from a deep connection that permeates the entire brand. Here’s a great example from legendary voiceover artist Nick Michaels.


Broadcasters are constantly looking for a natural advantage, and with the trend toward syndicated and network programming, it’s easy to understand why “Live and Local” has become a mantra for some.

But is it really an advantage?

Dominant stations should try to excel in all four aspects of the Hierarchy of Awesomeness: Local. Entertaining. Relatable. Funny. Local can be an advantage, but it’s the least important aspect.

Local shows win only if they are equally interesting, relatable, and funny.

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