Radio's Ballot Box ... The Ratings
August 9, 2016
Election years become pretty redundant with messaging from all sides at every level of the political landscape; presidential, national, state, and local elections. Hopefully, your station is getting its share of political advertising. Meanwhile, there some ways to take advantage of things promotionally.
The Ratings Race
Your station is like a political candidate with the ratings cycle as the election process. Personalities and stations should make an emotional connection, in a non-partisan way, as you don't want to turn away any PPM panelists or diary keepers.
Think Long Enough and Ideas Happen
A few years ago I moderated a morning show panel and one of the personalities talked about an annual fish fry his station held. After the panel, I asked him a couple of questions and mentally stored the information. I called him a couple of months later and he talked about how TV and local newspapers covered the Fish Fry, then he invited me to come down and check it out. I could not make it down, but made him promise to send me any of the local coverage of this event. He followed through and I filed it away. Four years later when I was looking for a way to get a station over the hump to beat a competitor, I was going through my boxes of catalogued stuff and came across the Fish Fry promotion and a lightbulb went off in my head.
The Ingredients Were All There
It was a presidential election year and I realized how I could tie everything together and get some ratings out of it. My brain was on fire and I privately held causal conversations throughout the station and the community. I was gathering up information and opinions to maximize my idea on layered levels. I knew this was going to be something the personalities and my station would benefit from. A way to show a personal side, touch the hearts of the community and listeners, make the station some money, grab publicity, create a repeatable plug-in event, involve the political and business sectors, and get some ratings.
Build It & They Will Come
What if I could sponsor a series of picnics in our hot zip code areas and not make listeners drive to a location ... but do it right in their backyards? I finally told the promotions director about my idea and he gave me all the "What Ifs" -- liability, cooking, organizing, cleanup, security, etc. Between the two of us we came up with a working plan, which even the skeptics got on board with after the first event was successfully held.
We Just Helped The Process
Believe it or not, we came up with a way to persuade the neighborhoods to do the organizing, cooking, and even provide a DJ for the occasion. The whole idea formulated and mutated until it was time to go to sales, get the food donated, and get businesses involved who wanted to market services and goods. It turned out that a couple of banks, car dealers, finance companies and relators purchased the food; in exchange they also came out to troll for customers.
The Community Organized
Residents put together programs to honor students and people of note in their communities. The neighborhood got the police and fire departments to come by with safety demonstrations. It was great; the community did their own cleanup and hired off-duty police and sheriff department personnel to provide security. Needless to say, the first neighborhood event became our template and we proceeded to put on 12 of those picnics over the summer months. My station just showed up with the van, took part in the program, ate, and the personalities made friends with the listeners. Audience-wise, it was the whole family and a lot of press coverage. That summer we beat the direct competitor and never lost to them again.
You Can Do This, Too
I suggest you align your station with the League of Women Voters, organize voter registration with known non-partisan groups, possibly put together some community celebratory events, and become everybody's friend. If you are a personality and the station you work at is strictly a musical jukebox, go and find non-controversial, organized, non-political party situations to find ways to interact with the community. Promote yourself to the groups as the voice of peace, love, and participation in the political process. Do not reveal your personal political beliefs at these live events because all listeners matter. Just make sure your PD knows of your plans and follow his or her lead on whether or not you can do as I suggest. Remember, even in your personal public life, you still reflect the station.