Selling radio beyond ratings…..possible?

Staff Writer

David Borean is a Managing Partner – Waterfront Entertainment and Marketing


How many decisions to invest in a radio campaigns are predicated by survey ratings? It can be quite an anxious period for many sales people who may have poured time, resources and innovation into a client proposal, only to be told by the buyer that a decision will be made following the ‘next radio survey’. So survey day comes around and sales people nervously wait for their station result….hopefully an increase in every demographic.

Media buyers await their opportunity to negotiate on price the instant a station drops .3% and the sellers prepare their case on why the drop occurred, and build a plan to protect themselves from losing the business. Does a .3% drop really matter? Isn’t it within the margin of error, is it real, was it a ‘bad bounce’ (code for sampling error), was it because another station was marketing during the survey period, was due to a competitive station promotion…..who knows, and quite frankly, who cares!

Too much emphasis is placed on small ratings moves rather than looking at a trend over 4-5 surveys. A wise old soul once told me…’the trend is your friend; take note of it whether it's good or bad’, and that’s the way intelligent buyers should be making investment decisions on radio.

Despite the widely held belief that radio is ‘yesterday’s medium’, it continues to play a significant role in people’s lives – from our youth to post retirees. It helps shape public opinion, it can capture the imagination of the listener and where music is concerned, plays a significant role in reflecting popular culture. Trust me, my 15 year old daughter still goes weak at the knees when she hears ‘What makes you beautiful’ by One Direction, 5 times each day.

Are sales teams really pitching these qualitative benefits or are they too busy cutting rates, throwing in more value add….just to win the business!

For too long, radio stations have sold on ratings, rather than the deep connection a station has with its audience. Sure, most networks talk a good story but where’s the qualitative research, where are the breakthrough insights that provide marketers with compelling evidence that radio must play a role in the investment schedule? Unfortunately, no matter how good the idea is the negotiation is often bought back to CPM, which is an antiquated approach to assessing radio’s value in the media mix.

When you consider that most radio campaigns are integrated with other media platforms such as online, outdoor, and television, how can one simply measure its impact by a one dimensional rating figure. Surely it is time to view the holistic impact on an audience across all platforms?

If you are in radio sales, without question, your strategic capability, your negotiation skills, your salesmanship and communication skills, your personal presentation and succinct written skills are all critical when the buyer makes a decision to invest in your station. But more than anything, you need to demonstrate your passion for the business through the way you articulate your stations key benefits…not simply by arguing for the .3% audience loss.

David Borean is a Managing Partner with Waterfront Entertainment & Marketing, and has worked with DMG Radio Australia and the Austereo networks.

David can be contacted through the Waterfront website

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