Don’t Let PPM Affect Brand Imaging

Don’t Let PPM Affect Brand Imaging

by Tracy Johnson

Has PPM changed how your station sounds? Probably, if only in small ways. But many stations have allowed PPM measurement to affect brand imaging on their stations, and that’s a strategic mistake.

Now that the larger markets are well into the PPM Era, with ratings measured by meters rather than the old diary methodology, it’s clear that stations sound different.

In some ways, it’s an upgrade. We’re tighter and much of the fat has been trimmed. In other ways, not so much. We’ve sacrificed branding in the interest of keeping the momentum moving forward. This is most evident in how stations are imaged.

In many cases, producers have been reduced to creating a package of short, generic positioning statements that do little more than repeat the station’s name. That’s not branding. And it’s not imaging.

Brand Imaging Should Target Emotions

Proper imaging through production i the art of communicating an impression through a carefully crafted sound. How do you want listeners to know you? Are you hip? Smart? Irreverent? Funny? Whimsical?

A well produced station sends subtle but important messages that form audience impressions.

Is your show funny? Imaging elements should have a sense of humor.

Are you a political talk station with an attitude? A rougher, edgier approach is in order.

Are you the family-friendly, community involved station? Design your elements to support the position.

Do you play Today’s Best Music? Then don’t use music beds from 3 years ago. It makes you sound too old! Find music that makes a statement and adds to the personality of the show/character/break…or don’t use a bed.

Do you fit sound bites into your promos? Use relevant drops that fit and sound like today.

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Imaging paints a picture of who you are, transcending the words chosen in the message.

You don’t have to say you’re the station for local music and concert connections. Just be it and demonstrate it cleverly and creatively. This is powerful, and it’s enhanced with production and imaging.

As programmers and consultants analyze ratings data, breaking it down into 5 minute increments and fine tuning the science of ratings manipulation-(Side Rant: Yeah, great idea to jam 8 minutes of commercials in the last quarter hour. It’s unlistenable and advertisers get almost no value, but we score a few more occasions in the front half of the hour)-imaging has become sterile, another element in our creative palette diluted and dull.

Many stations have become a collection of facts, information and teasers that add no color to the listening experience. We aren’t allowing our creative types the freedom to be vibrant, bringing our brands to life.

Brand Imaging Is Marketing

Imaging is marketing. All great marketing campaigns stoke the emotions with provocative imagery. Budweiser connects their brand to your experience, whether that’s  horses playing football or nostalgic feelings about your youth. It’s all to position their beer.




Dove doesn’t try to sell you soap. They show women how to be embrace their inner beauty. Campbell’s Soup taps into the feeling of safety and comfort of home.

What if Coca-Cola promoted their soft drink like this:

 It tastes great because it’s made with vanilla extract. We put in just the right amount so it works at cookouts in the backyard or on the go at the beach. Try some Coke today and share it with a friend. We know you’re going to love it”. Or, to PPM the message: “More vanilla extract than Pepsi..that’s the secret of Coke.

Yet that’s how radio brand imaging sounds. We promote “90 minutes commercial free starting at 9am” or “The perfect station at work”. But it’s boring. And it’s not effective. Because it’s factual and not emotional.

Effective imaging of a radio brand is an art. It requires these four things:

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The Path To Better Brand Imaging

Every station should constantly evaluate how their production supports strategy. Here are some steps to get you started on the right path:

Creative, Clever Writing

Notice I didn’t say writing  long copy. You don’t have to sacrifice brevity for effectiveness.

Colorful Voice Talent 

Ditch the big voice and find a voice actor that represents your brand values in tone and personality.


Everyone on your team must share the vision of your brand’s desired personality. When they do, they’ll all contribute to brand imaging.

Active management 

You can’t set it and forget it. Imaging adds stationality, and that demands constant attention.


Imaging is an opportunity, many times per hour, to influence listener perceptions, to implant your brand any way you want. Don’t waste it.

Author: Tracy Johnson

Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.

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