Research in Real Time

Transform radio stations into real-time research megaphones. Engage listeners, adapt content, and outperform digital rivals

Any new market we go into we’re trained to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the other radio stations to figure out a strategic plan for carving out our share of that market’s listenership and revenue. The better our assessment and plan, and our discipline executing it, the more likely it will work. That same approach should be applied to the new outside competitors we all now face, popular podcasts, streaming services, companies starting their own radio brands and other content creators. As we’re fending off those digital competitors we should think about what their strengths and weaknesses are and how we can adjust our strategy to better compete with them. Some of that strategy includes incorporating a few of their tips and tricks, being live/local/interactive as many hours as we possibly can, shortening our stopsets and following the data. But there’s another tweak we can all make that simply involves a change in our mindset. We need to start thinking of our terrestrial radio stations as megaphones for conducting local research in real time.

As we all know, our main point of difference from the digital competitors is our ability to respond immediately. Whether we’re live or not we have the ability to break in live any time day or night that something major happens, locally, regionally or nationally. That’s not as easy to do as it was a few years ago when we all had more staff, but it’s still possible and should be part of our policy. Similarly, we can change a client’s ad immediately if necessary to respond to feedback from our listeners or the advertiser themselves. Musically we should be soliciting, collecting, documenting and tracking audience feedback on everything we play by using multi-platform content similar to this, logging all incoming requests, adding a like/dislike button to our apps/streams, watching the broader data and responding to all of that with a dynamic database instead of a static one. Content-wise there are two main reasons why we want to be engaging and interacting with our audience constantly. First off, great listener audio drastically improves the sound of any radio station by turning it into a communal experience and making it a party for everyone instead of a party for one, or a few, people in a soundproof room. Secondly, that listener feedback should inform the content selection process. One of the shows I’m coaching has a former stand-up comic on it. He’s been a GREAT addition to the team and he’s making the transition to on-air much faster than anyone anticipated. Obviously, there’s a big difference in performing on the radio and performing for a live audience where you can tell immediately if they’re into what you’re talking about. On the radio we can’t hear them laugh or the crickets when they don’t. But, if we’ve worked to retrain them to engage with us we can see the phones light up, see comments on the website/app/social media and watch the numbers when we post and share our content to the web and social or expand on it in a podcast. We have to use all of that info to hone our content selection so we’re choosing the content that’s most likely to appeal to the majority of our audience. That process should also include evaluating and being willing to adjust or replace any of our benchmarks, features or contests regardless of whether they’re sold or not. Stations typically tend to think of those things as locked in once they’re sponsored but in my experience most clients are totally fine with changing any of them as long as they’re told ahead of time, it’s explained to them why we’re doing it and we assure them they’re going to get their mentions.

Finally, we should constantly be evaluating what everyone else is doing, like we did when we first started in a market. After all, we don’t program in a vacuum. There’s only so many listeners and ad dollars in any market. So, everything we do is directly impacted by what everyone else is doing. Staying current on that and being willing to adjust accordingly allows us to better establish and defend our position daily instead of quarterly or annually. What do you think? How are you using your stations to conduct real-time research? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.

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