Competition ... Promotions ... Marketing ... Battle Ready!
August 2, 2016
One of the reoccurring themes in radio is firing up the programming staff. This e-mail exchange is probably something many of you can relate to.
PD: Sam, since the beginning of the year too many of our promotional events have not come off very well and I wind up getting all the heat. We just got rid of our night guy and now have a syndicated show on, plus due to budget cuts, I lost my MD. I do not mind a challenge or work, but I am on the air and I am now the PD/MD. Things are spinning out of control; we have two direct competitors and I do not need problems with our promotions and marketing. We do okay in the ratings, but I am having a hard time getting my staff to understand this is an ongoing battle. There is no way we can let down. I recently went on vacation only to come back and find my competitor doing a promotion very similar to what I had planned to do. Any advice would be welcomed.
Coach: Competition can make you better, paranoid, or both to a certain degree. Back in high school I was a jock in my home town of Kirkwood MO, a suburb of St. Louis. I loved sports and played year around -- baseball, basketball, football, kickball, and just about anything involving a ball. A former classmate and teammate of mine, Drew Rogers, recently wrote a book, "Before the Spotlight," which highlighted some social issues during our 31-1 high school senior year in basketball; I'm still proud to say we were ranked #1 in the state of Missouri. That year every team we played was pumped up to take us down. Our coach constantly reminded us of what we had to do to prepare for each adrenally-charged opponents. To this day I still apply some of his words in any competitive situation.
PD: Do you have any examples of what you are talking about?
Coach: As difficult as some of the ratings battles I've been in, there's a non-radio competition I still look back on as one of the hardest things I ever did. Earlier I mentioned a former classmate had written a book, well that reminded me of another high school competition. During my junior year we sold calendar towels as a fundraiser for a trip. To this day I never figured out why the teacher thought selling calendar towels was a better idea then selling candy. During my lifetime the only other fundraising item I thought was a bit off the mark was Stun Guns. One of my employees did so for a church trip; but that's another story, I'll get back to my high school memory. Those calendar towels were a hard sell; what were people supposed to do when the year was over? The material the towels were made of was poor quality and not much good for anything else. I mean really, it might have worked if we were grade schoolers, but by high school, the little kid cute thing is over. This left all of us in the class with the sales line, "This is all I've got." Like I mentioned, it was all about a group trip and individually, 1st prize was a $50 U.S Bond.
During the project, I was in the lead with 59 towels sold. But one morning, I came to class and noticed on the blackboard that a classmate was closing on my lead with 56 sold. I thought to myself, no way I am losing this. In the remaining weeks I hustled my way to selling another 100 for first place and a grand total of 159. Once the contest was over, I found out someone had been fudging the second-place winner totals behind the teacher's back, their actual number of sells at the time was 40. The point of my story is competition is a great motivator and you need to figure out a way to fire up your programming staff into an us-versus -them attitude with promotions/marketing.
PD: Damn, calendar towels, wow. Now I want to hear about the Stun Gun thing for the church; never of anything like that.
Coach: The real story is what happened on the trip which the Stun Gun fundraiser made possible for the church, but I will save it for another time.
PD: Alright, look I am sort of brain-dead and anything you can say that I can use to get these guys to understand how important promotions is would be a big help.
Coach: I can relate to your plight, and it sounds as if your station or stations are in a serious battle. I hope these tips will help.
5-Promotional/Marketing Tips For Battle
- Organization: Every aspect from day one has to be organized up until the end of the promotion. If you are confused, the planning and the event itself will be confusing and chaotic. Follow up on all e-mails and paper trails.
- Communication: All departments must be made aware of what is going on at all times. Promotions or promotional events can impact the air staff, sales, traffic, the business manager, interns, the website content person, engineering and the receptionist. Tunnel-vision sometimes causes unintentional slighting of others when it comes to a promotion or event. Some examples of situations which call for detailed communications; listeners call the receptionist for information, sales getting client questions on recent promotional events, engineering might require time to setup an event; interns will be assigned duties for live events, unexpected circumstances might require the business manager's financial expertise; the website content person needs update information, the air staff needs instruction for on-air promotion or for a personal appearance, and traffic needs a heads up concerning an upcoming live event during a paid remote. At your manager meetings cross all the T's and dot the I's at every step. A radio station is like a car engine, everything has to be in sync for it to run.
- Delegation: Don't be afraid to assign responsibilities and empower others. You cannot go it alone; just keep tabs on what everyone is doing. Delegating will allow you to focus on all aspects of a promotion or event.
- Preparation: Have planning meetings with those you deem necessary to the process of planning. The week of an event or promotion can provide some unexpected situations, good and bad; always be ready to adjust or mediate. If it's a promotional event, have a staff meeting a couple of days prior to double check everything. Try to keep your meetings to 30 minutes or less.
- Dedication: This is the final and most important key element because it will require you to not only take care of your daily work load, but to also kick it up an extra gear to stay even-keeled and not get frustrated from start to finish of the promotional project. Try to work smart and remember when an on-air promotion or event is over; lavish others with praise and follow-up with thankyou memos for staff personnel files.
These days with smaller air and office staffs, promotion departments have to work smarter and not harder; it's all in the execution from start to finish. One other thing, make sure you take the time to reach out to others in radio who face the same fate as you. Your peers are dealing with some of the same challenges and it's good to mind-meld with them.