by Tracy Johnson
Broadcasters are proud of being live and local, and it can certainly be an advantage. But local is more about relevance than geography. If entertainment is a tie, local wins. But great performance beats local. Fortunately, programmers can have the best of both worlds. It’s possible to program a syndicated show that sounds as local (or more) than shows that broadcast from the local market.
Whether carrying a syndicated show in the morning like Free Beer & Hot Wings or DeDe In The Morning or relying on a 24/7 format, it is possible to maintain a local connection while running a syndicated show.
The most important recommendation is to fully embrace the syndicated show as your programming. Many programmers seem to ignore key time slots just because the show originates from another city. That’s a fatal mistake.
If Elvis Duran is on the air in the morning on your station, Elvis is your morning show. Treat the show as if it were local. Leaving the show to its fate and hoping it works out will disappoint. Embrace each syndicated show as if it were local and promote accordingly.
Here are my main recommendations to help stay connected locally.
Most stations have at least some local air personalities or talk shows. Use them as spokespersons to introduce and promote syndicated personalities.
Train each host, traffic personality and news anchor to introduce the syndicated program or personalities creatively.
For example, on a Talk station, the local morning host should introduce the next program. Similarly, newspersons should throw to the show coming out of an update.
Many music stations use local traffic talent in local breaks. Train them to introduce DeDe In The Morning when going back to the show.
Almost every syndicated personality is willing to record local liners for any affiliate. Just ask, and provide fresh copy as often as possible.
Most, like Free Beer and Hot Wings, record as many as you send, usually returning them the next day. Use this opportunity and be creative with liners that mention local landmarks, streets, neighborhoods, and celebrities.
Promote other air personalities, features, contests, station benefits, and promotions.
This helps the syndicated show sound local and more connected to the station.
This is an easy way to sound more local. Send the syndicated show a page full of liners and promos that promote other personalities on the station.
For example, “Hey it’s DeDe in the Morning…Lady Jade, Michael Shawn and I are back tomorrow morning at 5, but now..here comes (city’s) best music with Peppy and Zippy on (station).”
Listener testimonials are a great way to add credibility to a station. Direct some of those to promote the syndicated show.
Use them during the show, when rejoining the syndicated show and in station promos.
For major contests and promotions, use the syndicated talent for winner promos and announcements as much as possible.
A simple message like this sounds great:
Hey, it’s Free Beer & Hot Wings. We’re taking the next week off to go to the Bahamas with (winner name). That’s right she chose us as her guest after winning out (contest). Wait. She’s taking her husband instead? Dammit. Oh well. Congratulations (winner) and thanks for listening to (station).
Work ahead, and most syndicated shows can even record contest solicits to trigger a contest.
Most syndicated show clocks are built for frequent local identification. Use every single opportunity. That goes for IDs coming out of talk breaks, going into stop sets and even the breaks between songs on music stations.
Sure it takes time to set up, but once established, it’s easy to manage.
This is one of the easiest ways to make a show sound like your own.
Most syndicated hosts are willing to endorse local businesses. Check with the individual show, and if they are open to this, take advantage of it. It’s a great way to generate more revenue, and it helps the personalities sound more connected to the community.
Make sure you understand the talent fee structure if any. Some syndicated hosts charge for commercial reads, while others (like Free Beer and Hot Wings) do it for no added cost.
Some syndicated clocks provide a lot of local opportunities. Use them all and be creative. The local breaks don’t have to be jammed with all commercials. Include local features when appropriate. A concert update, local activities, and other ideas can all make the show sound local. Ask the hosts to record intros and outros for them, and they’ll sound like part of the show.
Most talk shows leave room for local stations to air news updates at the top and bottom of the hour. Just because that time is slotted for “news” doesn’t mean news has to be programmed there. Use it creatively. This may be a good slot for a short commentary from another host, promoting his or her show later in the day.
Most shows are willing and able to visit markets for live broadcast events. Some charge a talent fee, but some don’t.
Free Beer and Hot Wings take the entire show on the road. Not only do they perform the show live in the morning, but they also do a night show at a local venue, sell tickets and the station keeps the money. It’s a terrific way to generate revenue and create a buzz around your morning show.
I almost forgot to mention the most obvious. Remember to promote the show in recorded promos. Most feed a pre-recorded show each day. Use it. If they don’t, make one. It’s your show!
Local radio is important. It’s can be the voice of a community and comfort when tragedy strikes.
But a lot of programming does not originate locally. But syndicated shows can sound local and connected locally with a little effort. Follow these guidelines creatively and you’ll be amazed by what you can do with it.
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