by Tracy Johnson
There’s no doubt that phone response on radio shows has declined. There are many reasons, but the problem is compounded by changes in listening patterns that have yet to return to “normal” levels (pre-COVID). But some shows are finding creative ways to get listeners on the air. Here are a couple of tactics to cross-promote topics and generate great callers.
It’s pretty common to post what has already happened on the air on social media. But that isn’t always the most effective way to promote.
This may shock some programmers and personalities who believe all content should first be heard on the air, then promoted online. But I can make a strong case that the opposite approach would drive more attention and response to the on-air content. Plus, it would make social media more interesting. And, it’s a free source of pre-testing content before using it on the show.
Start a topic online with a simple question. The GetUp Crew on Hot 96.9 in Boston asked this question in a Twitter poll:
When reaction blew up, they realized how passionate the topic might be. So they started the debate on the air which led to a spirited topic that drove more response to the poll.
The topic worked on the air because:
Perhaps best of all, it worked because the show had confidence it was going to succeed because they saw the amazing reaction. In this case, it worked to cross-promote online content before taking it to the air.
For time-sensitive topics and breaking news, it makes even more sense to start the conversation online and continue on-air. The online audience is not the same as the listening audience. That represents an opportunity to expose the brand beyond the on-air cume and potentially turn them into listeners.
NPR even publishes stories (including audio and sometimes video) on social sites before airing the exact same segments on over-the-air radio signals. Think of it as pre-purposing rather than re-purposing content. And the audience duplication is likely minimal, considering the average listening levels of even the biggest listeners.
Creating online content first has another benefit. It can make the on-air conversation more compelling.
Many shows get fewer calls because they fail to invite participation effectively. Cross-promote topics online to screen responses and find great calls to launch a topic. Here’s how The GetUp Crew started a topic on Facebook and used the comments to screen callers for the show.
The single best way to get calls on the air is to actually put calls on the air. That’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg challenge, but social media is a great place to create interest and anticipation. It’s also effective to cross-promote the on-air topic for the following morning.
This requires shows to plan content in advance. But doesn’t it make sense to build a content calendar for several days, then adjust as needed? We recommend our clients show prep a full week of show content. This allows more time to plan execution, ideas, and promotion. It can also help the folks that manage social media stay on top of your content.
Great radio shows don’t have to have callers to be successful, but it helps to have the option of using listener input for topics. This is just as important for solo shows as team shows. Try these techniques and experiment a bit. Cross-promote from on-air to social media and back again. It may be just what is needed to get those phone lines ringing again!
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