If It’s On The Air, Promote It

If It’s On The Air, Promote It

by Tracy Johnson

In today’s super-competitive media world, radio stations can’t afford to waste a single moment. Listeners have hundreds of choices competing for their attention. That’s why I often recommend a Zero-Based Programming exercise to focus attention on the most essential elements of programming. But here’s a shortcut if you don’t want to go through the whole process: If it’s on the air, promote it! If you don’t want to promote it, take it off.

This simple formula can clean up a radio station and make everything left on the air more important.

As I demonstrate in my Double Your Ratings seminar on demand and in the eBook The Ratings Game, nearly every radio show can double their ratings by gaining just one more quarter-hour of listening per day and one more day per week from each listener.

And the most effective way to earn that gain in shares is by promoting specific content with great teases. Some stations have seen shares explode with an intense focus on mastering this technique. Yet most stations could do much more to take advantage of their opportunities.

If It’s On The Air, Promote It

Focus is a core discipline of success that has proven successful in every industry, from restaurants to technology to radio stations.

If a programming element doesn’t fit the core essence of the brand, there are three options:

  • Improve it to make it more exciting.
  • Re-invent it with a different approach to make it fit.
  • Take it off the air.

The result will be a clean, focused station. Specializing in fewer things allows a brand to concentrate force to increase impact.

Many of you are reading this now, thinking:

Sure. That makes sense. But I run a music station and we have to run information elements like news, weather, and traffic. Surely you don’t mean we should promote those disruptions. Right?

Wrong. Anything that’s on the air should be promotable. Even the news. It’s not unusual for a successful morning show to feature the following elements:

  • A 2-minute news report every half-hour (2 per hour).
  • A 60-second traffic report every quarter-hour (4 per hour).
  • A 20-second weather report every quarter-hour (4 per hour).
  • A 3-minute entertainment Report every hour.
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Add it up. That’s more than 12 minutes of information per hour. That’s equal to three songs-or more!  That makes it prominent, if not important.

Yet those segments are rarely promoted. Sometimes a station will toss in a promo for an Entertainment update, but talent and programmers tend to ignore information segments.

Finding Time To Promote

Some programmers say it’s hard to find time to promote each element in their format clock. But with a little creativity, there are more than enough opportunities. I worked with one client to identify 21 places in each hour that could contain a tease.

Here are some suggestions for teasing information segments:

Before the Update

Tease a story (or two) a few minutes before the report with a tune-in invitation for the exact time:

Did you sleep with the windows open last night? Then you’re waking up to the smell of smoke this morning. And you won’t believe what caused this fire to break out. (Name) will tell you at (time).

Notice how this promo is active and listener-based. It doesn’t sound like a boring, fact-filled newscast, does it?

At The Beginning Of The Report

Don’t lead with a story. Start with a tease for the top story, which will be presented at the end of the report:

When can you get that new iPhone? Apple just announced it, and I’ll tell you when and where to get your hands on it in less than a minute…but first…

After the tease, read two or three other stories before presenting the featured information. This gets them through the newscast and adds energy, pace, and momentum. For details on how to format the segment, go here.

During A Story

Most stations include too many details in news reports. Cut down on facts and include clever copy points to get another tune in occasion:

The principle at (school) says all is back to normal this morning. Classes start in 20 minutes after yesterday’s bomb scare. It turned out to be a hoax, but 7th grader Amanda Jones says it’s not a normal day at all. She tells us what it was like when the panic set in at 7:45.

This sounds like a story, and it does have information value, but it’s mostly a tease to listen more.

You might also like:  A Much-Needed Primer on Teasing

At The End

Never end a segment without providing a reason to come back. The end of a newscast is the perfect time to promote an Entertainment Report, and vice-versa:

In the next update, the real story of why you’re paying more for gas this week. That story at 8:12…and, Taylor Swift just broke up with her boyfriend in the worst way possible. Find out what happened in her relationship with (name ) in (Entertainment Report) at 7:55.


Effective on-air marketing comes in many forms. The best teases are subtle, not obvious.

Embedding a tease into the format takes time and planning, but it pays off in quarter hours! Apply these ideas to every aspect of the station. Even information elements!

If it’s on the air, promote it.


How To Tell If You Should Drop It: Zero-Based Programming

The Ratings Game eBook

All About Teasing The Right way

Art Of The Tease Seminar on Demand

This Station Doubled Their Ratings-And You Can Too

When To Tease Is As Important As What To Tease

The Concentration of Force Unlocks Your Power

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