Earlier this week, we ran a post that discussed what it takes to build a radio brand that can win over the long haul. In “Are You Building an HMO or a Radio Brand Built to Last,” we talked about the need to do more than cobble together a safe list, throw in a bunch of liners, and play 10,000 songs commercial-free.
In this week’s “Guest List,” we’re taking a deeper dive into what goes into putting a new radio station on the air in 2016. Veteran programmer John O’Connell has a history with great radio stations, having spent time at WBMX/Boston, as well as signing on The Buzz in West Palm Beach for American Radio Systems back in the ‘90s.
In 2015, John was tapped by Entercom in one of their new markets – Miami – to sign on The Shark, an Alternative station crafted for South Florida. In today’s post, John addresses the process of putting a startup on the air, including the conception, planning, marketing, and of course, execution.
1. Creating a Clear Plan and a Distinct Vision of the Brand
Once you’ve done your research and identified the new format, you need to create a clear plan and have a distinct vision of the brand. Seems simple enough, but when you really sit down and think about it, you need to consider your ultimate goal and that is brand recognition.
Does the name reflect the brand?
Does the imaging convey a clear message that defines the brand for your target audience?
Does the voiceover talent mesh with the image and the sound of the radio station naturally?
And finally, is there a unique and creative sound that sets you apart from other stations in the market?
If you answered “yes” without hesitation, you’re on your way. But if you had to stop and think about any of these, you may need to reevaluate your strategy because this is ultimately how people will perceive your radio station.
2. Staying Off the Radar
Over the years I have been involved in the launch/flip of five radio stations, and each time the biggest challenge was security. There's the inability to openly work on the project for fear of word leaking out to people at the existing radio station or to the competition.
For nearly all of my sign-ons, I found it best to work outside of the building, use a personal email account, and contact any potential vendors such as voiceover talent and production companies through third parties.
New formats that are created inside of the building are often inadvertently discovered by someone who oversees email, a music scheduler, or imaging copy left on a desk. When that happens, the entire project can be in serious jeopardy. Go stealth!
3. Finding On-Air Talent That Fits Your Brand
Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a stable of great talent out there waiting for you to launch your radio station. In fact, finding the right talent is becoming harder and harder.
When I went to Emerson College in the early 80's, radio broadcasting was booming and interest was high. Since that time, the internet has grown exponentially and social media has exploded. This in turn has provided students interested in media with many more career options, and it has also caused the radio talent pool to shrink.
Regardless, there is talent out there but 99% of the time it’s not in front of you. You need to look in smaller markets, in different formats, in all dayparts, and at part-timers who may not be as polished but possess the sound and attitude that best represents your vision sonically.
Also, don’t be afraid to use your contacts in other markets. When evaluating a potential candidate, ask yourself these questions:
Do they listen as well as they speak?
Will they take direction?
Do they live the lifestyle?
Most of all, are they passionate about the format, and do they have the drive to win?
4. Building a Social Media Army
We used to depend on television spots and billboards to get the word out about our new radio stations but those required a marketing budget and not everyone had that kind of money available. Now, social media has given us a new avenue to help spread the word but the toughest part of capitalizing on this medium is building a large fan base quickly.
I have found that having a social media maniac on your team is the best weapon to accomplish this. You must have someone who can create relatable and engaging posts, 1-2 per hour 24/7. Running production and creating live content to promote your social media sites will help significantly. The challenge here is finding that social media pit bull who will start the ball rolling.
5. Turning the Casual Tune-in Into a P-1
It’s a challenge for every radio station but for a new sign-on, you literally have one or two tune-ins to make an impression and change someone’s listening preferences. While it sounds like the odds are against you, it is possible. There are people tuning in and out every minute of the day, which means that every song, break, and piece of production must be compelling.
If you lose a potential P-1 because of a bad first impression, the odds of having them come back are stacked against you. Make every tune-in count so they want to spread the word and tell their friends about you.
Thanks to Seth Resler for putting this week's “Guest List” together.
More Guest Lists
- Steve Goldstein: 6 Ways Podcasts Are Different Than Radio
- Valerie Geller: 5 Things Radio Program Directors Should Start Doing (if you’re not already…)
- Rich Homberg: The 5 Things Today’s Radio Personalities Can Learn from J.P. McCarthy
- Blubrry’s Todd Cochrane: 5 Things You Should Know About Podcast Measurement
- James Cridland: 5 Countries You Should Look At For Radio Ideas
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