5 Essentials for Year 5

Co-Founder and Insights Director

When Radio Today launched in 2012, my first article was about the 5 Essentials for radio brand growth for the following 5 years  So here we are in 2016, year 5 already (!), time to review and update …

This is not about predictions

Of course, it’s fun to speculate on how the media landscape will evolve and adapt to changing consumer needs, technology and ownership upheavals.

But radio is a fast moving target that has to deal with the now. Which makes it a dynamic and exciting medium, but also challenging to accurately seize the moment.

So it’s important to firstly have a firm grasp on core fundamentals, which then allow you the flexibility to “play what’s in front of you”, as in sports game-day strategy.

#1. What is the Why?

There are two shades of meaning …

One is the Why of listener needs and behaviour. Much of research for radio, led by the ratings, is focussed on the hard stats of What. Quantifying behaviour patterns of the Where & When of radio listening, which is certainly the currency for advertisers wanting to reach the largest possible audience for their marketing.

But is a long way from explaining the real motivations and drivers behind the behaviour.

When even non-entertainment marketers agree that deeper emotion plays a much larger role in purchasing than rational thought, then radio really should understand more about listeners’ real feelings about brands, personalities and content.

This involves having regular conversations with listeners – as in 2012 “it’s not what the numbers say – but what your listeners say”. More on how to do this later.

The other Why, is your belief in what you’re doing.

Try this Simon Sinek TED Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action, with the Why of their enterprise

 Might seem obvious for radio in terms of being entertaining & informative in your format and target demo.

But when both of these key pillars are commoditised and fragmented by digital media, you need to express your core beliefs in a vivid and creative fashion, not easily copied by your competitors (see #4 below).

#2 Psychographics over Demographics

Same as last time – there’s no such thing as a 25-39 year old female, for instance. How many different life-stages are there within that group alone? For meaningful engagement, you (and your personalities) need to know your target “psychographics” of lifestyle and attitudes, to build effective brand values, marketing, and content.

Follows on from #1 for the Why of your target, and as I explored in more depth last May

And it’s not just for content. You cannot realistically pitch for ad-dollars, unless you have that detailed picture of what’s in the hearts & minds of your listeners.

#3 Shareable Content

There’s no shortage of views and how-tos on content.

In trying to define great content, how about it has to be shareable? As in able to be taken from the original broadcast, and still be engaging on other channels. And is it good enough to podcast?

Of course, sometimes it’s a thing of the moment – “you had to be there”. But as most content is a form of storytelling, it should be clearly told from beginning to end, and have a gut emotional point. What does it make you feel?

I really like the famous Pixar 22 Rules of Storytelling, which are not all directly applicable to live radio, but most are, or can be adapted e.g. #5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free. Resist the temptation to go off on long-winded tangents, which is very common.

Or #7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.How often do we hear content that meanders off without an engaging, full-stop  ending?

And don’t underestimate the “democratisation of content” on social media. It’s fascinating on Facebook, how people constantly pick out digital content to share with their circle, on a wide range of both light and serious issues. You really don’t need to consume traditional media for instant, topical entertainment, which should be a scary thought. Buzzfeed is a breakfast show.

Wise words from Sam Cavanagh in 2013

  • it must sound good on the radio
  • it must create a PR opportunity in other media
  • it must be an event
  • it must work online
  • it must be able to work on social media platforms too

#4 Creative Branding & Positioning

There’s no excuse for traditional, boring positioning, that sounds like it’s been plucked straight from a research project.

To use a craft-beer example, which of these  instantly engages and sounds more appealing?

“Today’s Best Mix of Hops, Malt, Yeast and Water” OR “Tu-Rye-A” (think Dexy’s Midnight Runners) from Tuatara in NZ.

Emotional beats rational every time, especially if you understand the psychographics and Why of your listeners, to give you the creative language that will resonate. And not easily copied.

You can’t be “blocked” by the market leader, locked in its own low-risk, defensive cage, if you launch a new product or feature that is so rule-breaking and idiosyncratic, it’ll sound out of place anywhere else.

Just like content, it’s all about story-telling whether in ultra-condensed form in your name (Buddha digital radio) and positioner, or longer in your marketing.

As in the TED Talk above, first engage emotionally, thenexplain the details. As an internal exercise try contexting your branding/positioning with “I believe that …”and see if it feels authentic ,(as though you were telling someone one-to-one), or just more wallpaper.

Probably the most powerful piece of story-marketing in 2015, if you haven’t seen already, was this from the University of Western Sydney. Very few words, loaded with meaning, even if you didn’t have the visuals.

#5 Open-Mind

For a creative industry, radio can be incredibly conservative and set in its ways.

Of course, as in any art&craft, there are time-tested “rules” and methods, to save reinventing the wheel each time. And there are often constraints on time and resources.

But the light at the end of the tunnel can so often be a locomotive, because of an inability or reluctance to explore and embrace change – meeting new challenges with innovation.

History, folklore and mythology are often invoked in the name of blocking up-dated thinking – women in radio as just one prime, anachronistic example. The past is not a template for the future.

The first 4 Essentials won’t happen without being open to experimentation, and the risk-taking of something not working, that goes with it.

Burst out of the radio bubble, deconstruct other media and industries – ask what we can learn?

Happy New Year! And here’s to the next 5 years of radio being predictably unpredictable …

Eriks Celmins is Managing Director of Third Wave Media, international consultant for research, strategy and content.Full Member of Australian Market & Social Research Society (AMSRS).LinkedIn


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