Don't Use Your Radio Contests to Encourage Listening
November 4, 2014
For as long as anyone can remember, radio stations have used contests as a way to get people to listen longer. There's just one problem:
It doesn't work.
Or, more accurately, we don't know if it works. Why? Because Nielsen is ill-equipped to measure the effect of contests on a station's ratings. (This is an unfortunate side effect of not being able to accurately measure a station's ratings at all.)
So stop trying to use contests to accomplish something that may or may not show any results.
Instead, use your contests to do something that you can measure: to collect contact information from your listeners. Specifically, use your contests to collect email addresses and phone numbers for your email and text message databases. These are easy to quantify.
Use Email Addresses and Text Messages to Encourage Listening
Once you collect contact info from your listeners, set up email and text message campaigns to stay engaged with them. Encourage them to tune back into your station by emailing or texting them about your station's upcoming programming features, concerts, and even more contests.
Will Nielsen be able to measure this with any more accuracy? No. But contests designed to encourage listening are a one-shot deal: once they're over, they're over. If Nielsen failed to register an effect, you've used up your ammo.
By collecting contact information and using it to engage people in an ongoing outreach campaign, you can repeatedly connect with them and over time build up your audience over time. Your ammo will last a lot longer.
So make a new rule for your station: Every contest you hold will be used to collect contact information from entrants.
Collecting Email Addresses vs. Phone Numbers
Set up your contests to collect email addresses whenever your listeners are in front of a computer. You collect email addresses by requiring entrants to fill out an online form. Never ask listeners to write their email addresses down with pen and paper. Somebody then has to manually enter these addresses into your database. It's a lot of work, and it's prone to a lot of error.
Collect phone numbers whenever your listeners are out and about and only have their mobile phones on them. People join a text message list by texting a keyword to a particular number (for example, texting "WKRP" to the number 55555). Any time your street team is on site, they should encourage people to enter contests by text message. You can set up a text message contest in advance by having a winning message randomly sent to one person at the end of the promotional appearance.
The age of "be caller number 9 to win" is over. Instead, encourage listeners to enter on-the-air contests by texting in. You won't get audio of the winner to broadcast, but you will capture contact information for every single person who enters. In the long run, this is far more valuable.
Keep track of the number of email addresses or phone numbers you collect from each contest. Enter them into a spreadsheet. Over time, you will be able to see which contests are most effective. Do more of these types of contests.