How Important Is Being Local?

How Important Is Being Local?

by Tracy Johnson

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“? Debate rage about the value of being local.

This has been particularly important in the first half of 2020. Emergencies and tragedies are opportunities for radio can shine. But aside from these unusual events, how important is it?

Some managers pay air staff and brag about being 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 their local contest winners, while others participate 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 planted in the community don’t need promos to prove it. They demonstrate it.

A strong local presence can be a big advantage. But saying it and being it are two different things.

Live & Local or Good & Not?

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What works? What doesn’t? Let’s ask a supreme authority on such matters. The audience. Do listeners care if radio stations talk about local events?

Do they care about a Bridal Fair at the Convention Center this weekend? Probably not. Other than brides, of course. Building a break around the community calendar of events doesn’t make a station relevant. Or relatable. And it may be boring.

Truly connecting with a community of listeners is charming, endearing, and forms a strong bond. And local is good. But local is not enough to overcome weaker content.

Entertaining is more important.

The Hierarchy of Awesomeness

Here’s some perspective. I call it the Hierarchy of Ultimate Awesomeness.

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  • Local is a nice attribute. I’m all for shows being the voice of their community.
  • Adding entertaining is better. Entertaining beats local every time.
  • But entertaining plus local wins.
  • Add reliability to the mix. Connect on a personal level is a tremendous advantage.
  • But the biggest factor: Funny is king.

Make them laugh and they will love you.

Connect personality and they get to know you.

Entertain and they like you.

Be local and they may feel a special sense of pride.

But don’t disregard the importance of being local. It’s a terrific advantage and fairly easy to perform.

3 Ways to Carve An Advantage By Being Local

Many stations are technically local, but it’s impossible to tell. They sound as distant as a voice-tracked show piped in from 1,000 miles away. And other shows ooze community flavor. They’re immersed in the market and relate to the audience in ways outsiders never could.

Challenge the on-air and promotion teams to constantly reflect what’s happening right here, right now – today. Make it a mantra.

Start the process by collecting references as a resource for talent. Details on what to include are found here.

Then work on these three ways to ramp up the 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.

Ize-ing Content: Local-izing personality breaks is one of the four IZES of personality radio. Insert comments in every break to reference landmarks, events, and celebrities. You don’t have to build a break around it. Just insert the content into breaks.

Promotion: Look for ways to reflect the city in promotion and positioning. This may happen in small ways (referencing the neighborhood a winner is from) or formally in an ad campaign.

A Great Example

Here is an amazing promo from news-talk KPRS in Houston. It aired after devastating floods in the area.

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This is a terrific example of planting a flag that demonstrates the station is “just like me”. There are no claims about programming features. It simply connects emotionally and personally by capturing the mood of the city.

This promo is more valuable than listing things the station does. It comes from a deep connection that permeates the entire brand.


Broadcasters are resourceful folks. As natural advantages are compromised by new competition, we find new ways to claim relevance. That’s why “Live and Local” has become a mantra for many stations.

Great radio stations strive to excel in all four aspects listed in the hierarchy of awesomeness above. It is behind being relatable, funny, and entertaining. But it can be a great tie-breaker. If shows are equally interesting, relatable, and funny, the neighborhood show wins.

It’s Time To Get Local Seminar

How to Get More Local

6 Ways to Determine Talk Break Length

Relevant vs. Relatable

Funny is the Most Important Trait

How To Sound Local in Group Contests

Great Local Feature: Hometown Heroes

6 Ways to Determine Talk Break Length

How To Localize Your Radio Station

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