Those of us of a certain age talk often talk about digital technology like it’s all still very new. But the fact is, people have been ensconced in the digital sauce for many years. In fact, if you’re a member of Generation Z, all you’ve ever known is digital media and technology.
Yet, many radio companies still struggle with their place in the digital ecosphere, continuing to swim upstream. And in the process, they’re missing out on some of the great potential technology offers.
I’m not talking about Augmented Reality or Artificial Intelligence. The radio industry isn’t there yet. But email marketing and social media? We should have figured them out by now.
The good news – sort of – is that radio is not alone with its struggle to take advantage of these digital tools. Many, many brands are still flailing at email databases and can’t seem to get social media right.
I was reminded of this in a recent story in The Wise Marketer by Rick Ferguson is aptly named – “Why do we still stink at personalization?” Ferguson points to missed opportunities to personalize email among major retail brands. If you think about the emails you’re pelted with by store brands, you’ll probably agree that many miss the mark, sending the same generic email to everyone. Or worse, they make assumptions about customers that are wrong.
A story in The Wall Street Journal by Suzanne Kapner – “Retailers’ Emails are Misfires for Many Holiday Shoppers” – Forrester’s Brendan Witcher says there’s often a perception/reality gap inside of companies when it comes to the quality of their digital handiwork:
“Nearly 90% of organizaitons say they are focused on personalizing customer experiences, yet only 40% of shoppers say that information they get from retailers is relevant to their tastes and interests. The ugly truth is that most retailers haven’t done the unsexy work of understanding how to use the data.”
I would bet that a similar survey of radio listeners would yield these same types of perceptions about their favorite station’s email club. Sure, many stations send a birthday wish or are able to segment emails to specific zip codes. But most don’t know which of their listeners prefers text contests, who likes Van Halen, but not Metallica, and who enjoys going to the movies.
Here’s why this matters: Bloomberg says “consultants at McKinsey & Co. have found personalization in marketing can lift sales by as much as 15%. BCG’s (Boston Consulting Group) research found it can boost revenue by 6-10%.”
So, while brand connections with fans are enhanced by personalization, this practice has a direct effect on the bottom line. It’s not just about the digital department sending out newsletters – it’s a clear-cut path to higher revenue.
Yet, how many radio broadcasting companies are running around, firing up new initiatives around Alexa or podcasting, and yet are missing the mark on Email Marketing 101.
It’s not just commercial radio stations missing the mark either. How many public stations have amassed impressive donor email databases with virtually no knowledge about these valuable listeners, except for how much they donate and whether they’re a “sustainer” or not?
We see this in our Techsurveys where we aggregate hundreds of station email databases. Oftentimes, our stakeholder stations are shocked to learn precisely who’s on their lists – their demographics, their opinions, and their connections to the station. All this information is “out there,” but it takes dedication, commitment, and focus to extract the useful, actionable data that leads to a stronger bond between station and listener.
Everyone’s buzzing about “Big Data,” and how to put it to good strategic use. For the average radio station, this is your data. But it requires expertise, investment, and imagination to figure out how it all works together to further a station’s strategy.
And then there’s the social media problem. By now, brands should have their Facebook strategies in place. But so often, we see radio brand doing what we refer to as “Random Acts Of Social.” There is no guiding mission or purpose to their “socializing.”
A key problem is that so many managers want to automate or even “scale” a process that is, by definition, social and personal. And while there are tools that make scheduling social media posts more systematic, those same “time savers” can boomerang. That’s because a “set it and forget it” spreadsheet mindset can get a brand in all sorts of trouble.
Case in point – last week, Paul had this sponsored Facebook ad pop up in his news feed.
Now if you’ve been watching the news the past week or so, you know what’s been going on at Michigan State. The school is in the process of enduring perhaps the worst crisis in its history, based around the grizzly Larry Nassar trial that has dominated a lot of national and even international attention. And on the day when The New York Times editorialized about the need for MSU to address its problems – “It’s Time for Michigan State to Clean House” – the Tigers decide to promote an MSU promotional theme night that’s nearly seven months away.
Realistically, it’s not as heinous as promoting a “Harvey Weinstein Film Festival,” but it does connote a certain tone-deafness about what’s going on in the world.
Now I’m a fan of both the Tigers and MSU – despite their momentary loss of common sense and good judgment. And you hate to see them take a tragic situation – and make it worse – thanks to braindead social media execution and no one truly watching the store.
Some of you who’ve worked in radio for decades remember the procedure in the event of an airplane crash. The traffic manager was trained to pull all logged airline spots that day. It just seemed inappropriate and in bad taste to air a fun, lighthearted commercial for Northwest, TWA, or PanAm after a serious aviation accident.
This Facebook ad promoting all that is wonderful about the MSU tribe while the school is embroiled in this ugly mess appears to be the product of a spreadsheet schedule, designed to rotate ads for every in-game promotion all season long. No one took the time to think the ad for “MSU Night” just might be scheduled at the worst possible time imaginable.
As convenient and efficient scheduling tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck may be, they require a living, breathing human who is alive, engaged, focused, and thinking about the brand’s social strategy, its target audience – and its reputation.
Perhaps that’s what tripped up Speaker of the House Paul Ryan a few days ago. He posted the following tweet, extolling the positive impact of the Republican tax bill:
That tweet was immediately followed by a Twitter firestorm of criticism, snark, and memes. Soon after, Ryan’s office deleted the tweet – an obvious concession to the critics and trolls.
Now we don’t know for sure whether Congressman Ryan actually was the author of this tweet or whether it was a junior staffer assigned to handle his social media activity. Based on its content and its bad optics, my guess is that it was the latter. And that again raises the question of whether digital’s inherent benefits are frequently cancelled out by the desire for expedience and efficiency.
All the connection tools in the world are only as good as the marketers and strategists putting them to use.
Sometimes it’s the simple things that end up leading to digital endeavors that simply work for customers and consumers. According to the Journal, for example, Kohl’s has figured out how to improve their open rates by personalizing email blasts to coincide with the times their shoppers tend to check their email. That’s a good first step.
Ferguson recommends marketers start somewhere – perhaps with demographic segmentation, favorite music artists, or propensity to enter contests. But a key is putting yourself in your listeners’ shoes – what can you do with your digital messaging that will make life easier, more convenient, more rewarding, and more fun for the audience?
One thing’s for sure:
Marketers, brand managers, and programmers just can’t (e)mail it in.
Tomorrow, we’ll continue the theme with a conversation with Gordon Borrell, a guy who eats and drinks local digital revenue.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.