Sometimes It’s the Small Things That Matter

Sometimes It’s the Small Things That Matter

by Tracy Johnson

Major events and memorable moments that put radio shows on the map are critical to success. They’re more important now than ever. I call it hitting a three run homer. As listeners are inundated with more entertainment options for their time, it’s harder than ever to stand out. Big moments are key. But big moments can’t be the sole emphasis. Sometimes it is all about the three run homer. But sometimes it’s the small things.

After all, three-run homers don’t happen with nobody on base. A base hit and a walk set the stage for a big, game-winning blow. And pitchers have to prevent the other team from building a big lead, or the home run won’t matter.

This is another example of how radio is like baseball. But then, it may just be the baseball fan in me that sees things this way. So let’s get off the baseball metaphor, just for a minute or two.

The bottom line is this: Winning radio shows need both.

The Small Things

There are literally hundreds of small things that affect success. Add them together and they’re a big deal. In fact, small things should be considered table stakes to play the Ratings Game. Without excellence in execution, the big things won’t have much impact.

Here are a five types of strategic small things that matter:


Listeners must know what to expect, then get it when they tune in. When one quarter hour is filled with four songs and the next loaded with just one, it’s not balanced. Build consistent clocks that put you in a position to succeed. Then execute it with precision and consistent performance.


Radio shows leak hundreds of quarter hours just because they fail to promote their own content effectively. Teases should be built into every show’s structure. Tease often and tease creatively.

Listener Communication

It matters. A lot. The fans who call, email, text and post are worth more than you know. They’re active listeners most likely to participate in a ratings survey. They’re the heaviest users of radio. And they’re fans of your show. Answer the phone. Return every phone call and email. Yeah, it matters. The better you perform on the air, the more listeners will think of you as a friend. And friends talk. So when they try to communicate, you need to be there for them.

Embracing Station Elements

When personalities ignore the content around their breaks (music, news, traffic, etc.), it sends a subtle message that it’s not important to them. Guess what? Your audience tunes in for those things. Perhaps more than they tune in for your show. Doesn’t it make sense to show them you like them as much as they do?

The Music

How the music is sequenced, presented and promoted is vitally important. Good programmers invest time in curating the music log every single day. When every user can build their own playlists, using music to project a mood is an important listener benefit.

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. There are hundreds of things that make a difference.

Tactical Small Things

The list could be endless. Tactics are things you can do every day or week. These are the very small things.

Here are five of my favorites.

Thank You Notes

Send a handwritten card to five people in your database each day. A smart database is a powerful marketing weapon. It’s filled with current and potential ratings respondents. Doesn’t it makes sense to connect with them on a personal level?

Think about this: If 10 people connect with 5 individuals each day, you can reach 50 people per day. That’s 250 per week. That reaches 13,000 individuals per year. That’s powerful.

Update The Website

Publish new content to the website and social media pages every day. And not just in one piece, but updated content for each time slot. Make sure each message is optimized for the platform.

Acknowledge Well Known People

Send a congratulations note to people in the community who do something special. Acknowledge them in writing and on social media. Use appropriate hashtags and make sure they are targeted in the message. This puts down roots with listeners and increases the chance your brand messages will spread through influencers.

Birthday Calls

Call every listener possible on their birthday with a personal message. This is free marketing, and it matters.

You should have the birthday info in the station database. A quick personal message is so much stronger than a generic recording or emailed greeting. Most of the time, you’ll get voice mail and each call takes just a few seconds. For details on how to execute it, go here.


Don’t just attend events. Make an impact at events and appearances. What is the audience’s impression when they meet you? Are they excited or disappointed? Do they enthusiastically tell their friends and post a photo with you on social media? Or is it “no big deal”?

You can control this by realizing that everything you do is building equity in your brand or taking away from it. For more on event marketing ideas, go here.


Small things mean a lot. It’s important. Do enough of the small things, and you’ll have a better chance of having runners on base for those three run homers.

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