Valerie Geller, president of Geller Media International Broadcast Consultants, works to help communicators become more powerful in 30 countries for news, talk, information and personality.
She asked Joint Communications President John Parikhal - who has contributed to Valerie's latest book Beyond Powerful Radio "Can an established News/Talk station be re-branded to get a younger audience?" As published on Radio-Info.com, he shares some advice on News/Talk station branding:
Valerie Geller: What are News Talk stations doing right and what are they doing wrong when trying to create, establish and maintain their brands?
John Parikhal: OK. Let’s start with a couple of really important basics: Basic No.1, is the definition of a brand. What’s a brand? It’s a promise and a guarantee, surrounded by ‘cues’ that remind the customer of the promise and the guarantee. These cues might be jingles, taglines, ‘images’ (TV, billboards, online), and connectors (blogs, social media, word-of-mouth, etc.). Your promise is based on how you satisfy the practical and emotional needs of your listener. Your guarantee is how consistently you meet your promise.
Basic No. 2. Your listener defines your brand. Not you. You can say whatever you want about your station but if it’s not in sync with how the listener metabolizes you, it’s just empty posturing or noise.
So, great branding starts with your understanding of the listener and the practical and emotional reasons they listen. Specifically, practical reasons for listening to News/Talk are for news, traffic, weather, insight on events, predictions, etc. But the power of a brand nearly always lies in the emotional reasons for listening. These emotional needs include the feelings of safety, security, affirmation of belief system (huge on talk radio), vindication, and many more.
Unfortunately, very few radio stations research these emotional needs, which is why there is so much weak imaging focused on non-differentiating ‘practical’ reasons. For example, when you tell a listener you have traffic every 10 minutes, it makes your station a commodity. When your traffic makes them safer or more secure, your promise and guarantee is so much more powerful.
That’s why I’m a huge fan of Nick Michaels and his brilliant work imaging the ‘emotion’ of news and talk stations.
VG: What’s more important, branding the personalities or branding the radio stations?
JP: A personality is part of the brand of the radio station. If each personality doesn’t support the promise and the guarantee of the whole station, then listeners won’t think of the station as a ‘brand’. So, the short answer is … think station brand and then creatively demonstrate how the personality reflects and supports a key piece of the brand.
VG: Last week this column focused on using jingles for News/Talk imaging. How important are jingles and sound imaging to create and cement a News/Talk brand?
JP: Jingles are very powerful audio cues that can support the brand. Unfortunately, in radio, most are clichés and eventually become background noise for the listeners.
I prefer audio ‘logos’ or ‘soundmarks’ which are custom designed to reflect the unique station brand. If you want to develop an audio logo, prepare for hard work. It’s like crafting a hit song.
And, if you’re like most program directors these days, you are doing two jobs or more. Where will you find the necessary creative hours to do this important function?
VG: What should stations be doing to expand their brand using social media?
JP: First, stop making listeners ‘like’ you on Facebook. Forcing them to act like a dog rolling over to get a bone sets a deep subconscious resentment. The latest research on brands suggests a 10% loss in positive imaging after one year if you demand a ‘like’ click on Facebook. In other words, your brand loses 10% of its equity.
The best way to use social media is to support your listeners, especially your uber-fans. Use Twitter for real time help, [and] Facebook if your listeners want to interact with your talent and events. Use your website for top stories (or on music stations for songs you’ve just played), and for pictures of DJs and station events. In every case, use keywords that support and reinforce your brand.
VG: Do 20th century methods — print ads, billboards, TV commercials, give-aways, bumper stickers, T-shirts — still apply? How much of that still works in today’s multi-platform world?
JP: The ‘old stuff’ are all the cues that support or reflect the brand. Almost anything can work if it’s creative and rooted in the emotional needs of your brand. However, not everything is cost effective. TV is very expensive and not terribly efficient for most stations. In some markets, billboards can still work, but not if they are pure utility such as ‘weather every 10 minutes’ or ‘we have the best news reporters.'
And, to optimize, update them often – at least once a month. If you give away T-shirts and your target is women, focus on fit. If you want them to wear a shirt outside, they need to look good in it.
VG: Can you name one station that’s doing it right and tell us why?
JP: KCBS-AM in San Francisco is doing a great job. Nick Michaels is doing the imaging, and it’s focused on emotion and connection. For example, they play to the fear (emotion) of their listeners with imaging such as ‘The news today isn’t just about information, it’s about survival.’ And, they have quirky thought provokers such as ‘Information is like water. What are you drinking?’ They always focus on how they serve the listener rather than how great the station is.
VG: Many established or heritage talk stations are now targeting younger audiences. How can you successfully take an established News/Talk station and “re-brand” to create a new or fresher image for that station and make it work?
JP: It's simple, people will re-brand you if you improve their lives. Start by improving' what you do. [There are] lots of ways to do this: deeper, more insightful, more engaging, funnier, etc. Focus creative energy on the improvement.
Back in the day, they just slapped “new and improved” on the box. Think about how the improvement makes the listener's life better, easier, more validated, etc., and image around the feeling this creates. The KCBS San Francisco imaging around news is one example. Because of the bigger news staff and the CBS ability to get access, you get “closer” to the news, which creates a feeling of specialness in the listener.
That's the emotional hook.
A slogan alone will not work. That's why Oldsmobile is now out of business. It was your father's Oldsmobile.
VG: How can branding play a role in bringing new audiences to News and Talk?
JP: A brand is earned, not created by advertising. Advertising is just a cue. In spite of social media, for radio, most trial is generated by tuning around the dial or word-of-mouth. Think NPR. What’s the slogan? What’s the jingle? It doesn’t matter because its listeners have created the brand. Smart. Unbiased. Deep. Comprehensive. National. NPR meets the practical needs of “unbiased” (to its listeners) news as well as more detailed analysis and insight. It meets the listener’s emotional need to feel smarter, more informed, and a step ahead of everyone else.
A brand starts and ends with how it meets the listener’s practical and emotional needs. And, this means constantly checking with them, understanding them, and working to innovate to give them what they need.
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Thursday, May 10, 2012,