Four Ways to Fire Up Promos With Content

Four Ways to Fire Up Promos With Content

by Tracy Johnson

The world moves fast and listeners have high expectations. That alone should be enough to reconsider how a station brand is promoted. Every element is an opportunity to entertain, and promote. But most stations keep running out the same old audio. That needs to change. We need promos with content.

This is important! Imaging promos that simply repeat a positioning statement or yell at listeners with hype fall on deaf ears.

Does saying “We play today’s best music” 14 times an hour cause reaction? Does building a promo around “Keep listen for the next chance to qualify for a trip” truly drive tune in?

I don’t think so. In fact, I know so. Positioning is important, of course. Communicating the value proposition is a key part of a promotion strategy. And driving tune in occasions to specific times? Definitely a good idea.

But most of those promos that hype listeners are a waste of time. And stations can’t afford to waste even a moment.

Here are four ways to fire up promos with content.

Sell Content Emotionally

Get rid of claims built around positioning. Yes, I repeat: positioning is important. But we’ll deal with that later (point #4).

Promos built around positioning are generic. They don’t inspire action. And they don’t cut through when thousands of messages compete for limited attention.

Here are a couple of examples of generic, ineffective promos:

Peppy and Zippy, with the most fun in the morning. Miss a day, miss a lot. Weekday mornings from 6-10 on (station).

Did you hear Peppy and Zippy this morning? If you missed it, you missed this (out-of-context clip that doesn’t make sense unless you heard it). Peppy and Zippy in the morning, with the most laughs and (city’s) best music on (station). Home of the All-Request Workday.

The promo copy is mostly positioning messages, but will not inspire listeners to take action.

Instead, find a way to insert content into the promo and provide a specific time to listen.

Listener Nicole has a problem and needs your help. Her boyfriend was away for two months, and now he’s back. Should she tell him about her affair while he was gone? Or ignore it and hope he never finds out. Your calls and Nicole’s decision on Group Therapy at 7:40 tomorrow morning with Peppy & Zippy on (station).

This promo demonstrates what Peppy & Zippy actually do. And, there is a chance to win a quarter hour or two tomorrow.

With a little preparation, it’s easy to craft messaging that direct listeners to tune-in moments.

Focus The Message

Most promos try to do too much. We want to give all the details about the upcoming concert. Or provide instructions on exactly how a contest works.

Long lists fall on deaf ears. The audience doesn’t have the patience or attention span to get the message. They are confused and tune out.

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Don’t try to communicate nuances of a campaign in one promo. It won’t work.

Instead, create a series of messages, with each focused on a specific aspect of the promotion. Add a call-to-action and you’ve got it!

For example:

The $10,000 Secret Sound is on Mix 100.3. What is this sound? (play sound). Think you know? It’s worth Ten Grand. Listen to win at 11:15…and get details at

Playing the $10,000 Secret Sound on Mix 100.3? And it’s driving you crazy? Here’s a tip…check out all the incorrect guesses so far at Then listen for a chance to win $10,000 at 3:15 today on Mix.

See what these promos do?

In the first, all that matters is getting the listener to the next tune-in occasion. This is much more powerful than a list of all the times to listen. For those that want more, there’s a way to get it.

In the second promo, the goal is more participation through the station’s website.

Side note: Stations should get a unique url for promotions. It sounds bigger and is easier for the audience to remember. You can always redirect it to a landing page on the station website.

Focus each promo on a key goal. Such as:

The next time to listen.
A specific content-based reason to tune in.

Here’s another example. This promo is a tease played during the show:

This happened on Ellen’s show yesterday (play audio). What was she doing to Tom Hanks? And the behind-the-scenes firestorm that started. Zippy has the inside scoop in 12 minutes on Hollywood 360.

How To Create Promos With Content

Following this advice takes time and resources. And that’s in short supply at most stations. Don’t get frustrated that the production department can’t handle that many promos. They should be creating new concepts anyway. Take matters into your own hands.

Have the production genius create production parts or shells. Then write, voice and produce the promos yourself. You may even be able to produce it on your home computer and bring it in the next day, email it or insert it directly into the system.

Create Urgency and Relevance Through Scheduling

Once promos with content are on the air, make sure they’re actually heard!

Figure out where specific promos should air to be most effective. Then develop a system to manage the promos. Some stations set up a rotator cut with a series of promos that run at random times. This is easy to manage, of course. But there is limited control over the specific promos.

Instead, create multiple rotators, each airing at specific times. Then populate the rotator with promos designed to run only in that position. It’s a lot more work in the beginning, but once it’s set up, it’s just as easy to manage. And it sounds great.

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Here’s an example of how it might work for a contest with multiple tune in times:

Rotator 1: Runs at 10:20. Content: Directs listeners to tune-in to win at 11am. Promo targets just this one tune in.

Rotator 2: Runs at 10:50 into spots: Content might be: You’re less than 10 minutes away from winning $10,000.

Rotator 3: Runs at 11:20: This resets the promo and references the 11am game: Do you know the $10,000 Secret Sound? No winner at 11. Direct tune in to 2pm.

Be sure to include several versions of the message in each rotator and update them regularly. It’ll sound immediate, urgent and great.

Position the Station

Finally, I promised to reveal how brand values are positioned in promos with content. No problem. It is folded into messages in a natural way.

Most promos are about the station with a message of listener benefits added on.

Turn that around. Build the promo about the benefit, and tag station values to an active message.

It’s much more effective.


Promos are essential to forward momentum on stations. And, promos can direct the audience to increase listening occasions.

But generic promos don’t work. Specific promos do. And specific promos infused with content is highly effective.

Your next step? Audit your station. Get rid of everything you don’t need and replace it with content-based messages that inspire action. And have fun doing it!

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