Radio can be cool, fun, exciting, breath-taking, and memorable. Over the weekend BBC Radio 1 showed me something that blew me away, “Radio 1′s BIG WEEKEND!” Watch this and remember this is radio.
As a radio manager, I’ve had a mix of hit and misses when it comes to events. I’m probably most remembered for Mike & Mike’s Marriage Madness at ESPN Radio. It was the NCAA Tournament meets “The Today Show Throws a Wedding.” It culminated in the ultimate sports fan’s wedding on the campus of ESPN, broadcast live on radio and TV during Mike & Mike in the Morning. It was big in 2006. Since then most of the internet has forgotten, except for some snarky barbs from the folks at Deadspin. I’ve done others since like this and this.
Today, Inside Radio featured several big time summer radio events, festivals, and concerts.
When done properly, a radio station event is a bunch of hard work and logistics that brings together the radio station, the listeners, partners, and advertisers to help create a buzz around the station (internally and externally), reinforce the brand, build fan loyalty, raise incremental sponsorship dollars, and gives your radio station a story to tell.
Here are five steps you can take to create a radio event with a “WOW! Factor”…
1. Have a vision, a goal, a budget, and define success up front. Start with the biggest, best idea you have and revise the idea over and over again. Be realistic about costs and expectations. Keep the concept simple, but make the event memorable and remarkable. Remember to make it about the listener, not the radio station. Why are people going to show up, what’s the draw? And expect greatness. We can’t be great if we only expect to be good enough.
2. Create a pitch and sell it to everybody in the radio station. You, or someone on the staff who is passionate about the event, needs to OWN the event, but everyone needs to pitch in. You can’t do this alone. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
3. Details make all the difference. If you’re aren’t a detail person, get someone who is. The color of napkins, or the shape of a gobo, or the size of the ticket matters.
4. Be inspired. Don’t just copy another radio station’s event, however take notes, evolve a concept, personalize and customize what you see to make it reflect your radio station. Own the event, don’t lease it from another radio station in a neighboring town.
5. Make sure it tells a story to the listeners. What are you going to tell your listeners and what are they going to tell their friends? Tell them what you are going to do for them, tell them what you are doing for them, and then tell them what you did for them.
I was at Jiffy Lube with my son over the weekend getting an oil change. It just happened to be the day 104.3 MY FM was doing a station appearance. The “appearance” was a 10×10 tent, a back drop, a bannered table and two chairs from the lobby. There was no other signage in or around the Jiffy Lube. The tent was set up away from the flow of customer traffic, so to see what was going on you had to wander outside and around the side of the building.
I took this picture after the station representative (assuming promotions assistant) came racing into the lobby, captured the eye of a Jiffy Lube worker and said, “one of your customers just spilled hot sauce all over the place including me.” And then he disappeared into the bathroom for ten minutes.
The whole time I was there the guy from MY FM never appeared again, he never offered a bumper sticker, invited anyone outside for any reason (do you have games, giveaways or something?), and never explained to the customers what MY FM is by offering a handout, coupon or anything. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Here are some things to think about before your station’s next outing….
Look at your station remote / appearance set up. Is that how you want fans and potential listeners to see you? What would you / could you change to better reflect your brand?
What’s the payoff? There should be four: one each for the station, the listener, the potential listener and the client?
Be a star. Radio is show business. No matter what happens on a remote or appearance, remain calm and smile. No matter your role in the radio station, if you are the guy behind the card board table, you are the star of the show and the show must go on.
Client customers = potential listeners. Treat them as if your ratings depend on them. This is an opportunity to make your case to listen to your station to live bodies. What’s your elevator pitch?
Keep the remote / appearance area clean. Hide the equipment and supplies as best you can. Your area is a stage and no one wants to see the prop box.
Have fun, be engaged, and be engaging. When I pulled up the MY FM guy was lounging in his chair reading the paper, while customers were sitting inside the lounge directly behind the wall his back was against.
If you don’t have a local sponsor or two or four for your Super Bowl coverage you missed an opportunity. There are a lot of ways to tie into “Super Week” or whatever you want to call it so you don’t get in trouble. Here are some that have been successful for me in the past…
1. Even if you aren’t sending a local show to radio row, own the “coverage” of the week with promos touting your team coverage. (ie. “690 The Fan is sending Mike & Mike and Colin Cowherd to North Texas for Super Week to get you ready for the Packers and Steelers, plus exclusive interviews and expert analysis with Smokey on Sports. It’s Super Week “team coverage” – brought to you locally by Gifford Tires on 690 The Fan.”) Notice, no mention that this station has the game, or that they are sending a local show. Just reselling what the network has already sold. Support this with sponsor liners through the show and live mentions during your local show whenever they talk Super Bowl.
Here is a promo I produced for last year’s super bowl for 710 ESPN LA: KSPN 011609 30 Countdown to Kickoff_Colin.
2. Host a listener viewing party for the Super Bowl and give away a lot of free stuff; tickets, game consoles, T.V.s, swag. Have a bar, casino or other establishment invest in the hosting sponsorship.
3. Partner with sponsors do a Super Week of Ultimate Giveaways leading up to the big game; Big Screen TV, Home Theater, PS3 with Madden Football, man cave makeover, tailgate party with all the fixins delivered to your house for the game, etc.
4. Punt, pass, and kick competition for listeners.
5. …or create your own event like 610 WIP in Philly…WING BOWL!
Your listeners are regular guys with regular jobs, regular families and regular problems. They work hard and can’t afford to go to a lot of sporting events. They’ve likely never been court side, walked on a Major League Baseball field or even talked to a pro athlete. You are their ticket inside. They crave local sports information. These guys are smart, more media savvy than you think, and they know what they like when they hear it. They have high expectations for sports content whether it is on TV, radio, the internet or other. They likely know more about at least one local team than you do and certainly believe that to be true. They are passionate about these teams. They don’t want you to rely on the audience to provide your content, they won’t be calling in and they won’t enter contests. They don’t want you to try too hard to be funny, smart or connected. They don’t want you to waste their time. They are listening by themselves and using you as an escape from real life. These guys are tuning in to hear YOU talk about the things that matter most to them. They want to like you, but often times think you are an idiot. They have no loyalty. If you are boring, they will find someone who isn’t. They want you to take a side, have an opinion, provide unique information, explore an angle, or a go in a new direction. Tell them a story. They want to know you, recommend you, rely on you, and trust you. They want you to entertainment them and tell them something they don’t know. They will steal your opinions and use them as their own in front of their buddies. They’re not as sick of Brett Favre, steroids, and BCS talk as you are, even if they say they are. These are your listeners to lose. What are you doing today to win them over?
I have created, executed and heard a lot bad contests on the air. Also, some good ones. What makes one contest work and another not? There are infinite factors, but I’ve identified a few things that do influence the success or failure of contests on the radio. You might have more – please share them in the comments section.
1. The Prize. It can’t be lame. When I was a PD, I instituted a policy that all prizes had to be at least $25 in value. In reality, it needs to be something that your fans value. Would you want it? If not, don’t bother. For example; tire patch kits, 2 for 1 coupons, a chance to stand in line to maybe see a movie premiere and loafs of bread. These are horrible, yet inexplicably all actual prizes that I’ve helped to giveaway in my career. I’m sorry to everyone who won.
2. The Prize – part 2. It’s important that you, as the host, believe the prize is of value or at least treat it as such. If you aren’t a fan of UCLA basketball, but have to give away tickets, you need to sell it to the listeners as if the tickets are at least as valuable as they are. I’ve heard hosts apologize for the quality of the prize. For example, “I’m sorry they aren’t Lakers tickets” or “we have UCLA tickets for this weekend, if you’re in to that sort of thing,” or “we have UCLA vs Cal tickets, sorry it’s not a better match up.” If you’re downplaying, downgrading or devaluing the prize – you are destroying the whole concept of the contest. Stop being so honest and sell the giveaway. Otherwise you end up wasting everyone’s time.
3. Let the Listener Play Along. If you announce the contest on the air and then don’t say anything else about it, the listener doesn’t know what happened. It’s like a black hole. If it’s trivia…play it out on air. Make it a game. If you can’t execute the contest on air, at least acknowledge who won and how they won.
4. Don’t Make it Too Complicated. If you have to go on the website to register, listen at a specific time in the day for five straight days to hear a key words and then text them in at a certain times to win, no one will play. Keep it simple. Text to win. Enter to win. Listen to win. One or two steps only. Much more than that and most won’t bother to participate. The one’s who do make the effort aren’t typically listeners, they are the professional contest winners (a.k.a. prize pigs).
5. Promote the Contest in Advance. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth telling people in advance that you’re doing it. Give people a specific time to listen for their chance to win the prize. If you don’t tell people you are doing a contest, they won’t know.
BONUS: Why are you doing the contest? Increase TSL? Cume? Sales initiative? Know why you are doing the contest and make sure it accomplishes the goal. Everything you do on air and on-line needs to have a purpose.