How To Get (Nearly) Free Research For Your Show or Station

How To Get (Nearly) Free Research For Your Show or Station

by Tracy Johnson

A free research project? Seriously? That price point gets even the tightest manager’s attention. But you can do it, if you are willing to invest a little time and creativity into a project.

First off, a couple of disclaimers.

  1. This is not market research that can be used to make format decisions.
  2. It’s not a replacement for a perceptual project or even a statistically valid tactical research study.
  3. And it’s not a surrogate for focus groups either.

But you can gather insight from the audience just by asking. This can a valuable method of collecting clues about how the audience perceives your brand.

A free research project works especially works well for measuring progress for air personalities and tracking growth in their Personality Success Path 

Set Goals

The first step in any research project is to identify and set goals. If you know what you want to accomplish, this free research project can be just what you need to track results from quarter to quarter and year to year.

Now, here’s a final warning: Results from this project will be mostly good news, because the survey is going to be tilted in your favor. The results will make you feel good, but projecting it to the entire population of your market is dangerous.

So learn to evaluate results based on what they are. That means learning to listen to the results over a period of time.

The score in any one survey is not important. You’re going to create a series of research projects to track progress for a specific goal over a longer period of time.

I go into detail on the value of this approach for air talent in the Audience Magnet course (check out the foundation module).

Your Free Research Project

The best time to gather answers is last year. Imagine if you had information on how listeners felt about your show, features and personality traits from a to compare with how they think of you now. That would be awesome, right?

But that doesn’t help much today, does it?

The second best time to start research is right now. The sooner, the better. So let’s get started. Here’s how to do it

Step 1: Set Up The Survey

If you don’t have the technology to build the survey and manage the information, no problem. Use one of the online services like Survey Monkey. You can launch a free survey!

We’re only going to ask a few questions to keep it short. This will get more responses. Long surveys cause lower response rates.

It’s easy to get reaction to 4-5 questions. More than that will cause some survey fatigue, so tread carefully. You may be able to stretch it a bit, but don’t put more than 10 in a survey unless you’re willing to pay for responses.

Most of the questions will be multiple choice. It’s fine to include 1-2 open-ended questions at the end, but too many open-ended questions add to the survey length.

The form should be as short as possible. Get some basic user information, including: Name, email address, gender, and birthdate. Resist the temptation to ask for too much personal information. Asking for too much will cause some to bail.

Step 2: Survey Questions

By now you’re thinking about what questions to ask in this free research project, right?

There are some basic questions that should be included every time to qualify respondents.

Here are three that should be sufficient:

  • What time of the day do you listen to the radio (choose all that apply)?
    Early Mornings before 6am
    Mornings from 6-8am
    Mid Mornings from 8-10am
    Mornings from 10-noon
    Afternoons from noon-3
    Afternoons from 3-6
    Evenings from 6-9
    Evenings after 9
  • (If you play music) Which of the following types of music would you listen to often?
    List several clusters of music genres that apply to your brand.
  • Overall, on a scale of 1-10 (10 10 is the best), how would you rate (show/name) on (station)

The Opt-In Question

And, don’t forget to include an opt-in to receive regular communication from the show or station. Ruth Presslaff, President and Founder of Presslaff Interactive Revenue suggests this language:

Would you like to receive exclusive information and regular updates by email?

This is an especially important question if respondents come from sources outside the existing station database. And as the database grows, there are ways to cash in that information for new sources of revenue!

The rest of the questions in your survey will depend on your goals. As you visualize reaching the next goal, you’ll adjust your thinking.

If the goal is to increase the familiarity and popularity of your main on-air feature, ask questions about that feature.

If it’s to increase your “like” score from 3 to 6, find out why listeners rate you the way they do. Or maybe you want to be known as a funny personality. Find out how you rate for that trait now.

Step 3: Add An Incentive

If possible, offer an incentive for participating. A $100 gift card as a prize drawing is usually enough to get participants excited about filling out the form.

But if you can’t afford it, you should still be able to get reaction. It just may take a little longer and you may have to settle for fewer responses.

But be sure to avoid promoting the prize as a main reason to participate. Putting the prize up front will attract prize pigs. They’re valuable, but many times, will tell you what they think you want to hear just for a chance to win.

Definitely promote the prize, but make it as “To thank you for participating, you’ll be entered into a drawing” type of message.

Step 4: Promote The Survey

Just because you built it doesn’t mean people will find it. Promote the survey to your existing audience and ask them for feedback with a link to the survey.

There are many ways to promote it:

  • Send an email to the database.
  • Promote it on your website.
  • Invite followers on social media pages.
  • Promote it on the air.

Think it through and you’ll find a ton of ways to promote the survey.

Step 5: Gather Results

Try to get at least 100 respondents in the survey. Get more if possible, but any more than 250 or so is overkill. The results won’t change that much.

It’s tempting to go for more responses because it feels more accurate, but the results will  normalize at a certain point and not vary much. Plus, you’re going to conduct more surveys in the future (hopefully quarterly).

Start a spreadsheet to track results. You’ll initiate another survey every quarter asking the same or similar questions to measure progress. Remember, this project isn’t to get a one-time snapshot of your brand. It’s to track growth.

Step 6: Apply The Free Research Results

Once you have gathered the information, study it for opportunities to improve your personality brand, show and station.

You’ve heard the saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, right? I’m challenging that concept. I want you to put all your eggs in one basket. And this project will help you choose the right basket.

Armed with objective data from the research, chart a course to become a powerful, difference-making personality. Choose your goal and go after it with a laser-focus.

Then don’t worry about ratings. Worry about changing listener perceptions in the next quarter. This gives you power and purpose. Instead of obsessing about what the ratings service reports, invest your time on:

What’s one thing I can do this week that can move me toward reaching my goal?”

For example, the desired outcome may be to double familiarity in six months. That’s great. Apply the ONE THING Question:

What is the one thing I can do to double my familiarity in six months so that by doing it, everything else is easier or unnecessary?

Now ask answer another question:

What one thing can I do to cause my current audience to take an action that moves me toward that goal?

There are many possible answers to this question. You could promote more effectively. Develop a new feature that gets attention. Promote and advertise your best content. Get rid of weaker content and spend more time creating stronger material.

But you’re still not there. Now ask yourself:

What one thing can I do right now-at this very minute-to help achieve that goal?

Maybe it’s a clever Facebook post to drive interest to your content, or a better promotional piece. Maybe you could tweet more often. Or use hashtags that spread your message.


Research is important. Budgets are tight. But free research is a prize point that fits every station.

Start with a specific, actionable and measurable goal to focus your free research project. Then apply some good old fashioned effort. You’ll be amazed at what can be learned.

And that will help move you from the stage you’re in now to the next stage in the Personality Success Path.

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