The Phone Isn’t Ringing. Should I Panic?
It’s comforting to see a full bank of blinking lines all morning long. That’s instant assurance that the audience is there. Whew! But you also know that volume of phone calls (or emails, or Facebook posts, or text messages) isn’t a good indicator of show quality. If it were, you could just schedule a segment about abortion or gun control every morning and start cashing ratings bonus checks.
If you’re noticing a steady decline in audience response, analyze potential reasons:
- It’s vacation time. Listening patterns are disrupted. Listeners are on vacation, school is out, there’s a holiday, or they’re in different routines.
- Most listening takes place in the car, and it’s increasingly more difficult to call from the car due to the hands-free laws. This is also why texting and emailing is down.
- There are more ways to express an opinion than ever before. The public has their own way to sound off. Your show is no longer the only way they get their “15 minute of fame”.
- Perhaps most importantly, communication is happening much more by text and social media. As a society, we don’t call and talk like we used to.
It’s easy to take these explanations and just go on with our lives. But what should you do about it? What can you do about it?
First, don’t assume that there’s nothing wrong. Shows get into trouble when they disregard symptoms. On the other hand, don’t freak out! Your success isn’t based on how many phone calls you get.
If you want the phone to ring or just want to check the pulse and make sure they’re out there, here are some things you can do:
- Don’t over-react. Perform for the audience, not phone calls.
- Be more provocative. Enticing audience response is an art. Learn it!
- Dumb it down. Maybe you’re making the audience work too hard and they don’t get it.
- Leave something out. They love to correct you when you’re wrong or fill in missing gaps.
- Invite participation. Maybe you’re not asking for calls at the right time or they don’t feel welcome to participate?
And finally, accept that listeners communicate differently than in the past. Embrace it and change your tactics. For any topic, ask for responses by text message. This works as live phone screening in real time. When you find a potentially great story, call them (you’ll have their number because they texted) and put them on the air!