Social media is all the rage online.
But do you know what it means or how it works? How much time have you spent "digging" in and learning from the latest tools? Webinars are available almost daily from hundreds of online businesses exploring the infant power of micro-blogging and interlacing all of a company's online and traditional media platforms.
And how exactly do you "sell" it...to your CFO or other financial decision makers, let alone to the marketplace for revenue?
Traditional media -- radio, TV and newspapers -- are far behind the curve here. And sadly, the good people still slugging it out in traditional media hardly have the time to learn on their own as they've been saddled with staff cuts and more than one-job-to-many to cover for the people let go.
For the past few weeks, I've been re-immersing myself in social media. Had to...I was a staff cut. It's fascinating and exciting. You can literally "see" the growth right there in front of you. Online. But what about with radio...any growth happening there?
Sure, in places, but it's not so easy to see it. While radio groups generally continue to record strong quarterly cash-flow/EBITA profits and are maintaining healthy revenues, all the weak economic forecasts for the entire advertising industry eclipse (at least for now) any good news stories about radio. While initiatives like Virgin Radio in Canada could bear positive fruit, it was immediately followed up with 23 job cuts for Astral. On the same day it was announced Clear Channel in the U.S. cut 1,850 jobs. After a year where CBS Radio has cut 750 cuts from their 140 station group.
The public knows -- and the market knows -- growth industries don't cut jobs. When industries are hiring -- when companies have a hard time filling their open slots for talent -- the public and the market gives that industry their confidence and can see the growth. They want to invest because they see the companies investing in themselves. Cutbacks only mean one thing -- growth is somewhere else.
You want to see growth? Just look at these stats.
So where can radio get growth again? Where can it invest?
Oh, and it might want to consider a few more things. Here's some suggestions:
• Treat your station like a social media website...a place that consistently refreshes and surprises with new content, supplied by the talent, programming and, most importantly, by the listeners (through twitter, IM, email comments, etc. and recorded and live messages). Let THEM contribute; tear down the wall between the station and the listener. Make sure your website includes all the tools for your talent AND your listeners to participate and contribute new ideas and general commentary on whatever THEY choose (of course, staying within community standards).
• Make sure your website is the center of multiple destinations all related and pointed to each other on the web, through fans and group profiles on Facebook and MySpace, etc, Twitter, blogs, and more.
• Be the most local media for your community and, specifically, your target audience.
• Pay attention to what your listeners need and make sure you remain flexible as an organization to give listeners what they need...not maybe sometime in the near future.
• Avoid template formatting. Keep every station locally-distinctive to that market, even if it voice-tracks or uses syndicated programming. Your sound and your unique content (even it is re-packaged) is your unique selling proposition.
• Stop sounding exactly the same every day with your announcers using nearly the same 180 words during their show as they used the day before, only in a slightly different order. Your listeners want to know "what's new", not "what's the same".
• Get away from auto pilot programming. Yes, it is cheaper to run in auto pilot and it does create short-term operating gains...but radio is reaching (or already has reached) the tipping point of being forever branded as stale -- to the public, to advertisers, and to investors -- as new media (and the universal praise for new media) constantly remains new -- and even more new tomorrow. Build more custom programming (even when pre-produced) and adapt operational structures to manage it.
• Encourage talent to do new things, to explore...even within mostly music/tight formats. Encourage them to try and to seek out...and allow them the room to apply that on-air. Nurture them more to grow, learn and apply in fresh ways.
• While we need brand consistency, that doesn't mean what we program on Tuesday should sound exactly like it did on Monday. Around the set playlist, the local, live and fresh content matters! The question talent needs to ask itself before every show is "What does my listener need to know about today?"
• If you choose to promote something, never do it halfway (or less). Promote it with all your muscle and creativity, with no excuses. And never water it down by trying to promote more than one major thing at a time. If it's important, it should become what all of your audience is talking about.
Radio is a healthier media platform than it realizes. It is still a heavyweight of the media class. But it needs a new training program that can help it keep up with the times. It needs the leadership and the courage to invest in the right areas for present and future growth. Where do you want to go today?
Here's some more suggestions...and a great primer to catch you up on the reasons why.
Hold on a second, I just got tweeted...
Chris Kennedy is a media trend watcher, radio program director, market researcher, change agent and strategist serving media companies throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and South America. Look for him his at twitter.com/kennedycs, facebook.com, the Jointblog for media trend watching, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 514-826-9250.
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Friday, January 23, 2009,