This is the second part of the four part series called “The Challenges of Marrying Radio and Digital.” Read part one here.
So a lot of us have accepted that as technology evolves, so is the radio industry. But acceptance is only the beginning; we must create a winning digital strategy to excel.
Do You Have One?
Digital ventures are no different than any other business pursuits. You need a strategy before you begin. While you might be shaking your head thinking “well that’s a no brainer”, consider social media. Many radio stations and morning shows created Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, jumping on the bandwagon with no strategy in mind, never dreaming of the marketing opportunity it would become.
If your company doesn’t have a clear-cut digital (and social) strategy yet, develop one now. And if your company has already created a winning strategy, take a look at how your strategy is being executed- from the top of the company to the bottom.
While it begins with upper management, your digital strategy must be communicated on every level- down to air talent, promotions staff, and interns. Talk to the people who execute your digital efforts on a daily basis to eradicate any weaknesses. The strategy must be flexible to be successful. Evaluating and adapting it often will keep you cutting edge as technology constantly evolves.
Getting the input of your staff will ensure your strategy is realistic, so that it works in practice and not just in theory. They will also be more likely to support the strategy and strive for success if they helped create it.
Define both the big picture goals and the task-oriented goals. Share your philosophy on why you think each digital platform is important, and what you hope to achieve by using it. This is just as important as passing along the guidelines and requirements for your staff. Think like the military and show your “soldiers” how their jobs contribute to the mission to create both passion and accountability.
Are Your Goals Well Defined?
As our knowledge and research of new digital platforms increase, make sure your strategy stays on target by re-evaluating your goals often. For example, the social media focus for many radio stations is misguided. Often the only goal measured is quantity. While every brand (not just radio) strives to build a large online community, those who do social media well understand that the quality of engagement within the community is more important than the size.
Because radio has the opportunity to build big social media promotions with prizes that other brands could only dream of securing, many stations and shows boast large numbers of likes and followers. However, the focus should extend beyond the goal of racking up numbers. The end goal should be conversion- turning casual listeners into P1 listeners by engaging and building relationships around the brand- its music, its air talent, its promotions. After all, we want to use social media to increase ratings, not for bragging rights that go no further than water cooler talk.
Martin Raab has led the marketing and strategic development of over 100 popular brands including ESPN Radio and FOX Sports Radio. He is currently Senior Vice President of Reach Media Inc., where he directs Marketing/PR/Communications, Events and Social Media for the Tom Joyner Morning Show and others. I love his focus on providing an experience for the listener to achieve success:
“Convergence really is a word of motivation. There’s more opportunities to speak to your audience and consumer, but nothing’s changed. You still need to engage with them in a way that’s meaningful to them. It’s not about you. It’s all about them. Celebrate them and you’ll celebrate your own success.”
Is It a Piece to the Puzzle?
While social media, mobile apps, and each interactive digital component on your website can seem like it’s own entity, remember that any digital enterprise is just an extension of your radio brand. Use these new innovations to support your brand positioning. From on-air to online (via the web, phone, tablet or car), the message listeners receive should be the same.
As social media should fit as a piece to your Marketing puzzle, and mobile apps, streaming and podcasting complete your Programming strategy, all digital efforts should support the end goal- to increase ratings. A strategy that makes digital a complement, not a supplement, to the on-air brand is key.
Angela Perelli, Senior Vice President and beloved Talent Coach at The Randy Lane Company, describes the challenge many stations face with finding a balance in convergence:
“What we’re finding with our clients is that the priorities have shifted almost too far over to the digital side, at the expense of what’s coming out the speakers. The best digital content for radio, especially morning shows, continues to be content that either started first from the radio show (e.g. extended video of a street stunt executed that morning) or that precedes an on-air segment (posts that ask for comments and stories that can be used on-air).”
Create, re-evaluate and test your strategy until your station’s digital efforts support your company’s quarterly (annual, and overall) goals. While merging radio and digital is important, the integrity of the on-air broadcast will always remain priority #1.
Are You Maximizing Your Strengths?
While competing with our pure play competitors means we need to embrace digital as we offer more listening options, it doesn’t mean we should overlook radio’s strengths as a medium. New media competitors can’t compete when it comes to the emotional connection radio builds with its listeners. As MC Hammer so (in)famously sang, they “Can’t touch this”.
I agree with Fred Jacobs, President of Jacobs Media and one of the most respected digital minds in radio, who says getting back to the basics will help maximize our strengths:
“Broadcast radio is challenged by new media in multiple areas, but its best course of action is to get back to its basics – personality, local connections, and an emotional bond with the audience.
We see broadcasters getting caught up in doing “random acts of digital,” rather than going through the difficult exercise of hammering out a viable digital strategy. Our recently released Techsurvey8 (170 stations, 12 formats, 57,300+ respondents) is an effort to help broadcasters do just that – identify their digital footprints and go from there.
In this study, we also learned that the weaknesses of pure plays like Pandora – lack of a human touch and local roots – are radio’s strengths. The emotional triggers for radio – providing companionship, an escape, and helping listeners get in a better mood – are its unique media strengths. These elements work well in the social space, too.
All of this becomes amplified when you consider that the next battleground is the car. As more consumers have access to numerous options via in-dash entertainment systems, the pressure for broadcasters to offer unique, meaningful local programming will be intensified.
A mobile strategy is no longer ‘optional equipment,’ as smartphones and tablets are proliferating at a high rate of speed.”
The results of TechSurvey8 show what we already knew- that radio’s strengths are the weaknesses of our new media competitors. Just like any other business strategy, the goal with digital innovation is to maximize our strengths (not scratch them and start over).