by Tracy Johnson
Radio stations generally miss opportunities to win listeners and build fans at public appearances. Too often, we view sales promotions, weekend events and charity appearances as a task to check off the list and move on.
Roy Laughlin, former GM of KIIS/Los Angeles, is one of radio’s most quotable people. He once told me:
Radio is the only industry that parks a van in the parking lot, throws up a tent and calls it promotion.
Classic. And true.
How many times have you seen a radio station at an event with a handful of part-time promotion assistants sitting behind a card table under a tent, usually bored and lonely. They’re usually chatting about something that is completely irrelevant to the event and the station. Or they’re on Social Media. Or playing games on their phone.
Every moment in public affects your brand, your perception Yes, even those Saturday afternoon remote broadcasts at the tire store with a half dozen people wandering by your table wondering if you have any T-shirts or hot dogs.
It’s time to change the way your brand engages listeners at appearances. There are dozens of ways to do it, and many of them are free.
When you’re at an event, or even a remote broadcast at a tire store, you might as well make the most of it, right? The audience sees your brand and has an expectation. Why not give them a show and harvest the opportunity.
Every smartphone is a studio. Use it!
This is also an ideal time to get testimonials from listeners. Prepare a variety of scripts so listeners don’t have to think too hard. It can be as simple as having them say their name, where they live and your positioning phrase. If they’re animated and well-spoken, ask them open0ended questions about your station.
Or, just ask topical questions that can set up topics in the next week or two. Oh yeah, that means you need to plan your show in advance.
Note: There’s an app that not only records audio, it captures video, gets you in the listener’s social media streams and puts them into your database. Contact me for details.
Some of the games you play on the air work great at appearances. For example, Thousand Dollar Minute and One Song, One Second, One Thousand Dollars are ideally suited for on-location execution. Other features like Would You Rather or The Uh Game also play well in public.
Chances are you have the PA equipment you need, and the games attract a crowd.
While it’s best if the games you play in public are on-air (it’s a natural cross-promotion), but if you don’t have a feature to adapt, create a new one just for events. Trivia games on topics that support your brand (music trivia, sports trivia, etc.) are fun and easy to prepare.
These games are always best if played on the big screen (see Use Video). They look bigger, better and add a sense of Show-Biz to the occasion. Plus, they’ll attract others to come find out what’s happening.
Set up a big screen and a camera. If your budget allows, have a giant screen built into a vehicle that can transform into a crowd-gathering event. Produce the video with personalities on the air, your station’s music, live video from the event, reactions from those gathered there, etc. You can make it even more immediate (and win points with the client/sponsor) by going live on Facebook once or twice.
Another tactic is to be prepared for fans coming by to say hello. When they approach and say something like, “My kids love you guys!”, record a short video on their phone. Pull the person you’ve met into the frame, say hi by name, tell them their [mom/boyfriend/whatever] is awesome and thank them for listening. You’ll make a fan for life!
Take photos of everyone at the event, and publish to a page on your website or social media page.
When you’re posting, make it fun. WEHP (HAPPI 927) in Erie has a dancer that lights up the audience.
Imagine combining the dancer video with photos of you audience. Now we’re talking social engagement.
Your personalities are stars. Or at least they should be. Put them on display, and showcase them. Personalities should be trained to be outgoing, welcoming and inviting.
When in public, they need to put on a show. Introduce yourself. Tell them when you’re on the air. Ask them if they listen. Hand out pictures, cards or other trinkets that help them remember you.
Engage listeners in conversations about their radio listening, tastes and preferences. It makes them feel special.
Don’t try to sell them on your station, just have a conversation. You may learn some valuable insight, and they’ll come away with the impression that you care.
Wait. What? That’s right. Don’t play your station. Just when a crowd starts to gather, commercials come on. Or a bad song. Ugh. What a terrible impression. Instead, record a great demonstration of your music, perfectly mixed and all uptempo.
Mix in a few station identifiers and short promos for key personalities or features. Include your personalities in the announcements, personally promoting listening appointments. Be sure to update the audio frequently to keep it fresh and relevant.
This is a perfect opportunity to build your database and add to your email newsletter list(s). Offering small prizes for entering their contact information is usually enough of an incentive. Even a few Starbucks gift cards or coupons for a free car wash will generate interest.
Be sure they can enter quickly and easily on a smartphone, tablet or computer you’ve set up. And, embed some survey information in the entry form to find out more about them (demographic information, music preferences, etc.).
After entry, arrange for an auto-reply confirmation email to be sent. Then, be sure to follow up with another email the next day to thank them for coming, announce the winners, and encourage them to listen for specific reasons. And, invite them to your next promotions.
Radio is interactive. When we’re in public, it’s a great opportunity to shine. Or be lost in the confusion of other activities. Don’t hide in the background. Put on a show. Find one or two of these elements that can work for you and put it to use.
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