Sometimes It’s the Small Things

Sometimes It’s the Small Things

by Tracy Johnson

This is another example of how radio is like baseball. Maybe it’s just be the baseball fan in me that sees it this way. But it seems that winning teams are successful because they excel in big moments. Like hitting a three run homer. But there’s more to it. They also execute the small things.

Major events and memorable moments that put radio shows on the map are critical to success. They’re more important now than ever. That’s the three run homer. For some shows, the three run homer is a signature feature. That’s how James Corden became famous through Carpool Karaoke.

It’s harder than ever to stand out. Big moments are essential. But big moments can’t be the only emphasis. Sometimes it’s the small things.

After all, three run homers don’t happen with nobody on base. That base hit and walk set the stage for the game-winning blow. They’re important, too. And pitchers have to prevent the opponent from building a big lead, or the home run makes no difference.

The bottom line is this: Winning radio shows need to excel in both big moments and small things.

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 several small things that matter:


Listeners must know what to expect, and get it when they tune in. When one quarter hour is features four songs and the next just one, it’s not balanced. The same is true with talk, features, information and all other elements on the show.

With listening levels slipping (some research shows as little as 7 minutes per occasion for P1 listeners!), programmers should carefully examine how the format is structured and performed. Imagine a listener tuning in to hear a four minute song segueing into a 5 minute stop set, traffic and another 3 minute song. That’s 12 minutes without personality!

Then the next quarter hour is almost certain to be jammed with more talk and fewer songs!

Of course, even well-designed clocks are useless if talent runs late or doesn’t hit their time marks.

The small things include 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.

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Build consistent clocks that put personalities in position to succeed. Then execute it with precision and consistent performance.

Excellence in Executing The Format

When personalities ignore content around talk breaks (music, news, traffic, etc.), it sends a subtle message that it’s not important.

Guess what? The audience tunes in for those things. In many cases, they listen more for those elements than the hosts. Doesn’t it make sense to show them you like them as much as they do? Make a habit of being enthusiastic about everything on the air. After all, everything on your show is a part of the personality.

That extends to promotion and teasing. Radio shows leak hundreds of quarter hours just because they fail to promote their own content effectively. If it’s on the air, promote it.

Teases should be built into the structure. Then invest time to craft each tease. In other words: Tease often and tease creatively.

Listener Communication

It matters. A lot. Fans who call, email, text and post are worth a lot. These active listeners are more likely than most to participate in a ratings survey. They’re also heavy users of radio. And fans of radio shows. So answer the phone. Return every phone call and email. Acknowledge mentions on social media. Respond to questions.

As a personality’s popularity grows, listeners think of them as friends. And friends talk. So when they try to communicate, be there for them.

But don’t stop there. Here are a couple more small things that make a big difference:

  • Send handwritten cards to five people in the station listener database each day. A smart database is a powerful marketing weapon filled with current and potential ratings respondents. Doesn’t it makes sense to connect with them on a personal level? If 10 people connect with 5 individuals per day, a station can reach 50 people per day. That’s 250 per week. That reaches 13,000 individuals per year. That will influence ratings.
  • Call every listener possible on their birthday with a personal message. This is free marketing and only takes a few minutes a day. Birthday information is almost certainly in the station database. Each call takes just a few seconds. For details on how to execute it, go here.
  • 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 brand messages will spread through influencers.
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Manage Digital Media

When a consumer becomes interested in a product, they check it out on Google. So Google yourself. What do you find? Is it fresh, current and relevant?

Eery personality should publish new content to the website and social media pages every day. And not just one piece of content fired off to all platforms. Send updated content optimized for the platform.

Events and Appearances

Don’t just attend events. Make an impact at events and appearances.

What is the audience’s impression when they meet a radio personality? Are they excited or disappointed? Do they enthusiastically tell their friends and post a photo on social media? Or is it “no big deal”?

Every touch point can build equity or take away from a personality brand.

For more on event marketing ideas, go here.


These are all small things often ignored because they seem less important. But they’re valuable.

Small things mean a lot. Do enough of the small things, and there’s a better chance of having runners on base for the big moments when you hit it out of the park.


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