“Marketing in a pandemic.” Sounds so tough it could be the next hot heavy metal band name. From appropriate messaging to budget and bandwidth stressors, our clients are asking how to market their stations and shows. Here are four marketing tips for surviving the COVID-19 crisis:
1. Consider whether slashing the marketing budget is the right move. Effective marketing drives ratings and ratings drive revenue. You’re in different spots across the spectrum of the COVID-19 struggle so there is no “one size fits all” answer, but I recommend thinking about marketing the way you consider other expenses not traditionally thought of as ‘discretionary.’ In a recession the gut reaction is to cut advertising spend to protect short-term profits, but research shows that companies who keep advertising win every time. (And isn’t this the narrative our radio sales teams are pitching to radio advertisers? They’re not wrong.)
2. Focus on your core. Concentrate on the listeners that drive ratings and the channels that drive the majority of revenue. Andrew Curran, President and COO of DMR/Interactive, says, “Remember that you care first and most about measured listening — the listening that drives ratings — not all listening. Think commuters who live in the Nielsen Hot ZIP footprint for you and your competitors to recruit and engage these High Value Listeners, who comprise just 5% of the population, but can drive more occasions and daily cume.”
“Despite stations promoting station apps, smart speaker skills and streaming for the last decade, over 90% of measured listening continues to come from listening on actual radios,” Curran says. While I’m a champion for digital, now isn’t the time to distract from on-air listening. That means questioning campaigns and on-air promos centered around app downloads, online listening, and website traffic. Digital transformation can wait; there is no digital transformation without the core business!
3. Keep it simple. Listeners are juggling their own COVID-19 struggles. If “keep it simple, stupid” was a tenet of good marketing pre-pandemic, it is even more relevant today. Make your messaging clean to cut through and limit to one CTA. Every message (promo, digital ad, TV spot, social media post, billboard campaign, etc.) should tell the listener to do one thing, e.g. “Listen to [Station ID]” and not “Download our app, visit us at www…, and like us on Facebook.”
4. Apply on-air creativity to marketing challenges. This is universal but especially true in the days of budget cuts: leverage your on-air talent and producers. We’re often so siloed departmentally that we miss opportunities to inject new creativity. Your programming talent know how to engage listeners and aren’t bound by traditional marketing thinking. Engage them in brainstorming (or my favorite: brainwriting) and watch new ideation unfold. Whether you’re strapped for budget and require creative ideas outside the normal advertising strategy or not, the world is different and now is the time to think differently.
And while we’re talking creativity in times of budget reduction, take a look at small markets. No one knows creative guerilla marketing like a scrappy, small market champion.
Whether you’re strapped for budget or fortunate enough to retain your 2020 marketing spend, use this time to get creative and think strategically.
This article was written for The Randy Lane Company and published in Radio Ink.