WXYZ, WXMI Team Up for Back-to-School Virtual Town Hall

On July 30, Scripps Media’s WXYZ-TV (Detroit) and WXMI-TV (Grand Rapids) teamed together to present a virtual town hall on returning safely back to school.

Moderated by WXYZ anchors Carolyn Clifford and Glenda Lewis and WXMI Anchor Mike Avery, the program brought in experts including State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice, Dr. Joneigh Khaldum, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health and Human Services and Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti.

The moderators asked their own questions as well as those posed by viewers. The Town Hall was presented from 7 to 8 p.m. on both station’s digital platforms, including websites, apps and social media.

Voice Command Considerations When Picking a Name for Your New Radio Station

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

When gearing up to launch a new radio station, one of the most important decisions you can make is the name of that station. Naturally, there are all sorts of traditional branding factors that go into this decision. But as voice command interfaces like Alexa and Siri continue to rise in popularity, it’s becoming increasingly important to also take this into consideration as well. In our annual Techsurvey, the largest online survey of radio listeners, we have seen smart speaker ownership grow each year:

The last thing you want to do is invest massive resources into a brand, only to discover down the road that when your listeners try to pull up your station on their smart speakers, they wind up with another station on the other side of the country.

Even if a voice command does pull up your station, chances are you’ll want to pay special attention to how it is retrieved. Do smart speakers get the stream through TuneIn or iHeartRadio? Or do they pull up your stream directly? The difference could have an impact on the revenue your station generates through in-stream advertising.

When setting out to name your new radio stations, here are some factors to consider:

1. Uniqueness Matters
Once upon a time, when picking a name, we only had to worry about the other stations in the same market. Not any more. Because of voice commands, it’s now important to take a nationwide — and perhaps even global — perspective when choosing a moniker. At the end of the day, the more stations that have a name similar to yours, the less likely a voice command is to retrieve the correct thing. Before slapping a generic noun or some dude’s first name on your station, check to see how many other stations have the same name.

2. Be Wary of Call Letters
There are ways to make generic names more specific, such as using them in conjunction with your dial position or location. For example, “Topeka’s Monster Jamz” or “108-8 Roughneck Country” may provide the specificity you need. However, be cautious when using call letters to try to achieve this specificity. Voice commands using call letters usually pull up a station through TuneIn, so going with “W-K-R-P” may not be your best bet. Some stations have gotten around this by dropping the “W” or “K” in their Alexa commands.

3. Test It First
Nothing bets a real world test. Given Amazon’s market share, testing on an Alexa-enabled device is most important, but don’t overlook Google Home and Siri. See what happens when you try to call up each of your station name candidates.

4. Search Alexa’s Skills
On your mobile phone, open the Alexa App (you’ll need to install it if you don’t already have it). From the menu, select “Skills & Games.” Then click on the magnifying glass icon and search for each of your station name possibilities. Go through the results to see how many skills with the same verbiage you are competing against.

For example, when I search for “Mountain,” I find 609 skills that use that word. That’s a lot of potential confusion.

Voice command devices, both in the home and in automobiles, are only going to become more prevalent in the coming years. If you’re launching a brand that’s built to last, take this into consideration when selecting a name.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

Here’s What You Should Put in the Main Menu of Your Radio Station’s Website

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

One of the most crucial components of a radio station’s website is the main menu. After all, this is the first thing most visitors click on when they’re trying to find a specific page on the site. A good main menu makes the user experience pleasurable, while a bad one can be infuriating. If you haven’t scrutinized the navigation on your website in a while, examine it with a fresh pair of eyes. Here’s what should be in your website’s main menu:

1. Home
Perhaps people can return to your home page at any time by clicking your station’s logo in the upper left-hand corner, but don’t assume that everybody knows that. I used to leave “Home” out of the main menu because I figured everybody knew this. Then I started running website usability tests and I discovered that I was wrong. Apparently, there are internet users who are unaware of this secret. So I now include “Home” as the first item in the main menu of every website that I create.

2. DJs
On-air personalities are one of the most important differentiators between radio and streaming services, and as such, they deserve prominent mention. Listeners want to know more about their favorite personalities, so links to their bios or blogs should go in the main menu. Don’t use the word “On Air” — everything your station does, from music to commercials, is on air. Don’t say “Jocks;” that’s industry jargon. To the average person, Tom Brady is a jock; Bubba the Love Sponge is not. Use “DJs” because that’s the term your listeners use.z

3. Music
If your station plays new music in current rotation, you’ll probably want to include a link to the playlist in the main menu.

4. Events or Concerts
Concerts are events, so do not use both of these terms in the main menu; it’s confusing. You can include Concerts as a submenu item under Events if you’ve got something else, like “Club Nights,” or “Street Team Stops” that you also want to include under “Events.” Otherwise, skip the word “Events” entirely and just use “Concerts.” The Concert Calendar page is often one of the most popular pages on a radio station’s website…

…except when there’s a global pandemic. During the COVID crisis, you’ve got a choice: either be diligent about noting all the cancellations and rescheduling with concerts, or — if you don’t have the manpower to stay on top of it — remove this page from the main menu altogether. Don’t put a Concert Calendar full of outdated and erroneous information on your website.

5. Contests
Once again, this assumes that your station is running contests. If the pandemic has caused the prize closet to run dry, you may want to remove this from the main menu for the time being. Don’t leave an empty Contests page up on your website.

6. Podcasts
If your station is producing podcasts, make them easy to find by putting them in the main menu.

“But wait!,” you cry. “We’re putting our morning show’s podcast on the morning show page, which is under ‘DJs’!”

Here’s a dirty little secret about website navigation: It’s okay to link to the same page in two different places. Some people will get to that page one way, and others will get to it another way, but the important thing is that they are able to get there.

For example, if you go to the main menu on this website and hover your cursor over “Events,” you will see a submenu item called “Webinars.” If you then move your cursor to “Resources,” you will see a submenu item titled “Webinar Recordings.” Guess what? Both of those links go to the same page. We discovered in our usability testing that folks were looking for the upcoming webinars under one heading and the past webinar recordings under another. Because we have both of those on the same page, we linked to that page from two different places in the menu.

7. Advertise
I’m always stunned by the number of radio station websites I encounter that bury the link to the “Advertise With Us” page in the website footer, or worse, don’t have one at all — just a “Contact” page. If people want to give you money, make it as easy as possible for them. The “Advertise With Us” page is arguably the single most valuable page on your website, so put an “Advertise” link in the main menu where everybody can easily find it.

8. Contact
This one is pretty self-explanatory.

This is a list of things to include in your main menu, but I’ve also compiled this list of mistakes to avoid.

One final note: Inevitably, after creating their main menu, website designers have leftover links that don’t fit neatly as submenu items under any of the other headings, so they cram them all under a catch-all term. On radio station websites, that term is often something like “Connect With Us.” I’m not a fan of this kind of thing, but it happens all the time. Even on our own website, we have a catch-all term: “Resources.” Sure enough, these terms don’t perform very well in usability tests, but sometimes they can’t be avoided.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

How Your Radio Station Can Host a Virtual Happy Hour

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

As radio stations around the country find themselves and their listeners in various stages of lockdown, broadcasters are continuing to look for ways to engage with their fans online. The virtual happy hour, in which DJs chit-chat over cocktails and invite listeners to watch and participate, has become popular. Here’s how your station can get in on the fun:

1. Figure out the format of the happy hour.
First and foremost, you’re going to need to decide what will happen during your happy hour. Will you interview a celebrity guest? Will you demonstrate a cocktail recipe? Will a local band perform?

Who will attend the happy hour? Multiple DJs from the station? Do you need to book any outside guests? Will you allow any listeners to participate as panelists?

When will the happy hour happen? Will it recur regularly? What will change in each happy hour — new guests, new recipes, etc.?

2. Decide how to incorporate audience participation.
One of the most compelling features of livestreams is that you can respond to audience comments in real time. As you develop your happy hour, don’t just wait for people watching on YouTube, Facebook or other platforms to leave comments; encourage them to do so. Look for specific opportunities to solicit comments from the audience, just as you might solicit callers on the air.

Decide how you’re going to select and respond to those comments. Will you read them out loud? Does your livestreaming software allow you to post comments on the screen? The more interactive your livestream, the more interesting it will be for the audience.

WDHA Happy Hour:

3. Choose your software and hardware.
While Zoom has become the go-to virtual meeting platform, and it will allow you to broadcast live to destinations like YouTube and Facebook, I prefer software designed specifically for livestreaming video, such as Streamyard or BeLive. These make it easy to add logos, background, introductory videos, and other production elements. Try a few platforms out and decide which one best fits your needs. Be sure to connect these to the final destinations for your livestream, such as your station’s Facebook Page, YouTube Channel, or website.

In addition to selecting software, you’ll also want to make sure you have the right hardware. First and foremost, you’ll need a reliable internet connection. Nothing makes a livestream more unbearable than a spotty connection. You’ll also want to ensure that you’ve got good sound. While the mic in most smartphones are pretty good these days, if you’re using a laptop or desktop you’ll probably want to purchase an external microphone to use. And don’t forget about lighting — a simple selfie lighting ring can make a big difference in the quality of your video.

Here are some more tips for creating great video.

4. Create production elements and gather props.
If you are going to use any production elements as part of your broadcast, such as video intros, make them in advance. (Here’s a cheap and easy way to make them.) Gather any logos or background images you need and set the colors and titles in your livestreaming software. Additionally, gather any props you may need for the broadcast, such as cocktail ingredients.

WDRV Happy Hour:

5. Do a practice run.
Before streaming live for the first time, set up a practice session. Record the video so you can watch it back with an eye towards improvements. For example, you may discover that the room you are livestreaming from is too dark or that you need to purchase a stand to raise your laptop when broadcasting. The only way to figure out little details like these is through trial and error, and we’d prefer not to air those errors live.

6. Promote the happy hour.
Once you’re confident that you’re ready to host your first virtual happy hour, create a page on your station’s website that gives all the details. Drive listeners to this webpage with all the channels at your station’s disposal, including:

  • On-air promos
  • Live on-air mentions
  • Email blasts
  • Social media posts
  • Tex message campaigns
  • Push alerts in the station’s mobile app

KLOS Happy Hour:

7. Share the happy hour video after it’s over.

Don’t think that your job is over as soon as the livestream ends. Many people may watch it after the fact, so embed the recording on a page on your website and continue to share it as a way to promote your next virtual happy hour.

Once your station has a couple of happy hours under its belt, your sales team may be able to find a sponsor for the event. Cheers to that!

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

How to Use Your Radio Station’s Blog to Spotlight Local Businesses and Artists During the Pandemic

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

As the pandemic continues to stretch on, radio stations are trying to find the proper balance between addressing it without deviating from their usual programming. One way forward is to shine a spotlight on local businesses and artists in their time of need by publishing interviews with them on your website. Here’s how you can do it:

1. Identify the people or organizations in the community that you want to highlight.
Decide who you want to interview based on the image and audience of your radio station. Do you want to profile local business owners, front-line workers, or artists and entertainers? A Hot AC station whose audience includes a lot of parents may chose to focus on educators, while an Alternative Rock station may want to interview local bands, bartenders and stand-up comics.

2. Draw up a list of potential interviewees.
Get several people in the station to help you brainstorm a list of people to approach for interviews. The best interviewees are those who are finding interesting ways to adapt to the pandemic.

How long a list you will need depends on how often you intend to publish interviews. It’s usually best to start slow — say, once a week — and then increase the frequency if you are able to.

3. Send emails inviting these people to be interviewed for the website.
The initial outreach email should be short:

“Hello, my name is Johnny Fever from 108.8 WKRP. We’re fans of what you do and would love to spread the word in a written Q&A on our website. You can see a past example of this type of interview at wkrp.com/past-interview. If you’d be interested, please let me know and I’ll send you more details.”

(You can save a lot of time by creating an email template so you don’t have to type the same thing over and over. Do a quick Google search to see if your email program supports templates.)

If people respond — and not all of them will — follow up with an email that contains the questions. Don’t forget to ask for a headshot, logo, photos, short bio, website link and any other supporting materials that you might want to include in your post.

4. Edit and publish the interview.
Once your interviewees sends back the answer, paste them into a blogpost and format it. Don’t forget to optimize the post for search engines. Over time, search engines can be a significant source of website traffic, and interviews like these may show up in the results.

5. Share the interview.
Share the interview on social media. When you do, be sure to tag the subject of the interview, along with anybody else who is mentioned in it. This will encourage them to share it with their own followers. Also, email the interviewee with a link to the published interview and ask them to share it on social media. Finally, use your airwaves! Encourage your DJs to mention the interviews.

Under normal circumstances, interviews like these are a great way to create content that drives traffic to your station’s website. During the pandemic, they provide the bonus benefit of enabling you to support people and organizations in your community.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

8 Elements That Radio Shows Can Use On Their Shownotes Webpages

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

Last week, I wrote about how radio shows — especially morning shows — can borrow the practice of creating “shownotes” pages from podcasters and use them as part of a broader digital strategy to grow their audience through email, social media, and search engines. In that post, I outlined the broad strategy. In this post, I’ll take a closer look at some of the elements that radio DJs might want to include on their shownotes pages.

At its core, a “shownotes” page is simply a webpage that contains a recording of the show and supplemental material. A radio show will produce one page for each show, just as a podcaster produces one for each episode. So a daily morning show will produce five shownotes pages per week, while a Saturday morning show would only produce one per week. The benefit of a shownotes page is that it provides you with a link to a page on your website, which you can share on social media, you can email to subscribers, and can be discovered through search engines like Google. This drives traffic back to your radio station’s website. Moreover, it gives people an incentive to sign up for your station’s email list.

To do all that, however, the shownotes pages will need to be compelling content, not just an afterthought. If your shownotes pages aren’t worthy of a click, they won’t move the needle. With that in mind, here are elements to consider including in your shownotes pages to ensure their quality:

1. A Recording of the Show
The most important element of a shownotes page is an embedded recording of the show. There are a number of different ways to include this. If the radio show is regularly repackaged as a podcast, you can embed an audio player with the entire show. If your radio show is livestreamed as video on social media, you can embed the video recording.

You can also break up the recordings of the show into multiple embedded players. For example, if you have a popular signature feature or celebrity interviews, you may want to separate them out in addition to the recording of the whole show so fans can easily listen to the thing that interests them most.

2. The Air Date
At the risk of stating the obvious, don’t forget to include the date that the show aired, which should be the same as the date that the shownotes page is published.

3. A Summary of the Show
Include a short summary of the day’s show. Visitors will read this text when deciding if they want to press play on your embedded player. This text can also be used on social media, in email campaigns, in search engine results, and on your website’s archive page that displays links to all of your shownotes page.

4. A Timeline
Some podcasts, especially those that cover multiple topics in each episode, include a timeline to accompany their recordings. For example, Libsyn does this with The Feed podcast. Life coach Tony Robbins also does it with his podcast. This allows people to easily skip to the part of the episode that they’re most interested in. For radio shows, which also cover a wide range of topics, a timeline is probably a wise thing to include.

5. An Image

Always include at least one image on your shownotes page. Not only does this make the page visually more interesting, but the image can be used on social media, included in the email blast, used on your website’s archive page, and may help with search engine rankings. Ideally, you’ll be able to get an image that is unique to that show, such as a headshot of a guest that you interview. If not, capture a variety of shots of the show hosts that you can rotate through to minimize repetition.

6. Links to Things Discussed on the Show
If you discuss things on the show — for example, a new story about a Florida man doing something stupid — provide a link to it on your shownotes pages. This allows your listeners to get more information and can also help with your search engine rankings.

Be especially vigilant about links to local people or organizations that you discuss on your show. You can use these links to proactively share your shownotes pages on social media and tag them. This increases the chances that they will then share the link with their followers and make it go viral. This video shows the process:

7. Embedded Videos of Things Discussed on the Show

If you discuss a video on the air during your show, embed it on the shownotes page for people to see. For example, movie trailers and music videos are great additions to a shownotes page. Grab the video link or embed code from YouTube and add it to your shownotes page. This also gives you an opportunity to plug your station’s website on the air: “If you want to see the video, go to our website.”

8. Calls to Action
What do you want people to do when they visit your shownotes page? Listen to the show? Yes. Sign up for the email list? Yes. Subscribe to the podcast? Yes. Your shownotes pages should emphasize these calls to action through color, space, and on-screen location. Here are some tips on strengthening your calls to action.

As you incorporate these elements into your shownotes pages, remember to keep your writing in the same voice as your radio show. If the show is fun and casual, don’t make the shownotes sterile or clinical. These pages should embody the spirit of your show because they will represent it online and strengthen your bonds with listeners.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

How to Use Shownotes Pages to Grow Your Radio Station’s Email Database

Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

When a podcaster publishes a new episode, they usually also create a new page on their website to serve as a home for that episode. These are called “shownotes” pages because, in addition to an embedded audio player for the episode, these pages include additional text, such as a description of the episode and links to things mentioned in the episode. Shownotes pages help podcasters grow their shows by providing a link that can be shared on social media and be indexed by search engines like Google.

Additionally, a campaign can be set up to automatically send an email to subscribers every time a new shownotes page is published. This gives podcasters a way to grow their email databases and website traffic while encouraging repeat listening.

It’s a concept that radio broadcasters should borrow. Here’s how you implement it:

One-Time Setup:

1. Put an email registration form on your website.
Let’s suppose you host the morning show on WKRP. On the station’s website, you want to encourage people to sign up to receive daily emails with the morning show recordings. These email registration forms are not the same as the station’s general “sign up for our station newsletter” form. On the front end, they explicitly state what the subscriber will receive (the morning show recordings) and how often they will receive them (every weekday). On the backend, the form assigns these subscribers to a specific segment of the email database — let’s call it “Morning Show Subscribers.”

This registration form could appear in the sidebar and/or a pop-up window on your morning show’s shownotes pages. It might not appear on other pages of the website, where you are instead encouraging people to sign up for the station’s general email list.

2. Set up an automated email campaign.
Now we’re going to set up an RSS-to-email campaign to automatically send out an email to this segment every time a new “shownotes” page is published to the website. This means that you never have to write these emails — they happen automagically. Most small business email service providers like Mailchimp and AWeber, offer this feature. (Tragically, Constant Contact does not, but you can use Zapier as a workaround.)

Suppose your radio station’s website is built in WordPress and it uses Mailchimp to manage it’s email database. Every morning, you’re going to create a new WordPress post for that day’s show and put it in the “Morning Show” category. You’ll set up a Mailchimp campaign to check the RSS feed for the “Morning Show” category (that feed will be at wkrp.com/category/morning_show/feed — RSS feeds are built in to WordPress) and send out an email blast linking to the show at 4:00 pm — right before listeners commute home from work. That way, if they missed part of the morning show, they can listen to it on their ride home.

Here’s a more detailed explanation.

After Every Show

3. Create a new “shownotes” webpage every time you complete your radio show.
After each show, grab the recording — audio, video, or both — and upload it to your hosting platform. Create a new WordPress post in the “Morning Show” category and embed the recording at the top. Add text and images to accompany the recording, such as a one-paragraph recap and a list of links to the things discussed on the show. You may also want to include time markers indicating which topics were discussed at which times in the recording; this enables listeners to quickly forward to the parts of the show that interest them most.

When creating the shownotes page, make sure you’re creating a compelling piece of content — something that is worthy of being shared on social media, emailed to fans, and included in search engine results. Ask yourself, “Would I want this to be emailed to me every day?”

4. Optimize your shownotes page for search engines.
magnifying glassDon’t overlook search engines as a source of website traffic. Yes, social media is sexier, but search engines can drive a steady stream of traffic day in and day out. In this example, make sure that the station’s WordPress website has the Yoast SEO plugin installed and configure the settings properly for each shownotes page.

5. Pro-actively share your shownotes page on social media.
Now that you’ve got a page to share, schedule posts that link to it on social media throughout the rest of the day. When you do, tag the people and organizations mentioned on the show so they see your post and — hopefully — share it with their followers as well. This video shows you how to proactively share your content:

Now that you’ve tied these pieces together, here’s what will happen: Listeners come to your shownotes page via social media or search engine results. Once they get to the shownotes page, they might sign up to have the show emailed to them every day. These emails will encourage them to return to the website regularly, and also keep the show at the top of their minds, increasing the chances that they’ll tune in on the radio. Before long, you will be able to track the success of this strategy by seeing the number of website visitors and the number of email subscribers go up. Adjust the strategy to see if you can maximize the growth of these numbers.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

Now Is a Good Time to Review Your Radio Station’s Social Media Policy

Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

There’s a lot going on in America these days, and its left nerves raw all across the country. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and increased political polarization, public personalities are trying to figure out the best way to discuss the issues that are affecting our lives. When it comes to social media, we’ve seen some public personalities do it well, while others have sparked backlash or even found themselves out of a job. This minefield enough to make even the most brash radio personality think twice.

Four years ago, I wrote this guide to writing a social media policy for radio stations. If your station doesn’t already have one in place, use this guide to write one now. If your station does have one, now would be an excellent time to pull that policy out, dust it off, and review it with your air talent — and perhaps your entire staff. If it hasn’t been revised since MySpace and Friendster were a thing, take the time to update it.

As you write or review this policy, keep these three points in mind:

1. A social media policy is about prevention, not just punishment.
The point of a social media policy is not to punish air talent after they have done something wrong, but to help them avoid making the wrong decision in the first place. Nobody wants to get fired, and nobody likes having to fire other people — especially in the current economic environment. If the first time you pull out your station’s social media policy is after one of your DJs has posted an offensive status update, it’s too late. Discuss what the station or company deems appropriate and inappropriate now, before something goes wrong.

2. Offer guidance on what to do, not just what to avoid.
The discussion around your radio station’s social media policy should be more than just a list of what’s forbidden; it also needs to include examples of the type of social media posts that are encouraged. Without this, you run the risk of air talent that sounds tone-deaf because they are posting about things that are completely out of touch with the current conversation, or air talent that decides not to post at all because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing. What should your station be talking about right now? What tone should your on-air personalities take? How should they be engaging with listeners? Talk to your staff about what to do, not just what to avoid.

3. Don’t use email to have this discussion.
Email is a fantastic tool for carrying on lots of conversations, but this is not one of them. Do more than just fire off an email with the station’s social media policy attached. While it may not be possible to hold in-person staff meetings at the moment, this subject warrants a discussion over Zoom where people can be seen and heard. You need to know that your staff members are aware of and fully understand the station’s social media policy, and they need the opportunity to ask questions about it.

We’ve already seen public figures damage their brands by making disastrous comments on social media, and we’ll see more before this all plays out. But if you’re proactive and thoughtful, you can reduce the chances that it will happen to one of your station’s on-air personalities.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

To Recover From the Pandemic, Radio Must Get Serious About Lead Generation

Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

For weeks, we’ve all been talking about the changes the radio industry has made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that will eventually become a permanent part of our “new normal.” Whether it’s DJs broadcast from home or conducting focus groups over Zoom, some things are here to stay.

Assuming that we’ve got some choice in the matter, I’d like to nominate a change that should become permanent:

The way radio stations find new advertising clients.

Radio doesn’t do it the way other industries do it, and frankly, other businesses do it better.

What We Mean By “Marketing”
I learned this when my career took a detour away from radio. I spent some time working in a Silicon Valley company that built marketing automation software. While I was there, I discovered most other industries don’t use the word “marketing” the way that the radio industry does. In radio, when we talk about our “marketing staffs” or our “marketing budgets,” we’re talking about resources that are used to attract more listeners. When we engage in “marketing,” we are trying to grow our radio stations’ audiences. In other words, “marketing” is something that happens on the Programming side of the building.

But in other industries, “marketing” is part of the Sales process. When companies like Coca-Cola or Ford or Salesforce engage in marketing, they are trying to attract more customers. That means the people who give these companies money in exchange for goods and services. For other industries, “marketing” is about finding more people who will pay.

When the realization hit me, it was eye-opening: In radio, we use marketing to reach more people who do not pay us anything. Sure, we make money off those listeners indirectly: more listeners equals higher ratings equals more advertisers. But it’s amazing how few resources our industry directly devotes to attracting paying customers.

We do very little marketing on the Sales side of the building. Most radio stations rely on an antiquated practice known as “prospecting.”

In prospecting, you monitor other local media outlets to find out who’s advertising there, then pitch your wares to those advertisers.

There’s two problems with this: First, the advertising money has already been spent. And second, it relies on your convincing the advertiser that when they spent the money, they did it wrong. This is like standing at the end of the KFC drive-thru and yelling at every car that exits, “Next time get a Happy Meal!”

Other industries use far more sophisticated techniques to find prospective clients before they’ve spent their advertising budget: content marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, etc. For the sake of simplicity, we can combine all of these components under the general heading, “lead generation.”

If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. It doesn’t take much to listen to a competing radio station and write down the names of their advertisers; but building a real marketing strategy that reliably produces qualified leads takes a lot of skill. Historically, the radio industry has not invested in people with this skillset.

Marketing vs. Sales
I know this because the radio industry delegates its lead generation efforts to its salespeople. At companies in other industries, the marketing staffs generate leads and the sales staffs close deals with those leads. But in radio, we combine the two: our sales staffs are tasked with both finding leads and closing leads. This is a problem because they require two very different skillsets, and it’s rare to find people who can do both.

Designing an Adwords campaign targeting prospective clients is very different than servicing a longtime advertiser. The same staffer should not be performing both roles. When we assign marketing duties to our salespeople instead of marketing specialists, what we’re really saying is “lead generation is not that important.”

This was a problem for radio before the pandemic, but like so many other things, COVID-19 has magnified it to the point that it can no longer be ignored. Chances are, the outbreak has caused your station’s stream of leads to dry up. It’s not just a few businesses that are gone; entire verticals — like bars and restaurants or concert venues — are off the table for the foreseeable future. If a station’s only strategy for finding new leads right now is to monitor other local media outlets — all of which are suffering from the exact same problem — we’re in a world of hurt. Prospecting will not get us out of this hole.

To recover from the losses caused by the pandemic, radio broadcasting enterprises will need to discover new verticals with money to spend during this pressurized period, and attract their interest before those companies spend their advertising budgets elsewhere. This is, of course, the art of lead generation.

To do this, our stations will need to hire specialists. These are not salespeople, and they are not B2C marketing staffers on the programming side of the building. They are dedicated B2B marketing people who work for the Sales department. Their job is to find prospective clients and pass those leads on to the sales reps so they can close deals.

More importantly, the job of these marketing staffers is to build lead generation engines that consistently churn out leads for their sales teams. They will be able to combine different components — such as websites, email databases, search engine optimization, webinars, and marketing automation software — into complete, coherent systems.

In other words, they’re not just repeatedly performing a task; they’re building an infrastructure that repeatedly performs the task for them.

Hire Marketing Experts
To do this, we’re going to need to hire marketing experts. They will come from outside of the radio broadcasting industry, and the good ones will not be cheap. But they will be worth their weight in gold because they will help stations find new sources of revenue in the post-pandemic world.

Here’s a crash course in how lead generation can work for radio:

For a more detailed explanation, watch this webinar.

There’s no telling what survives the pandemic and what doesn’t. For the next few years, we may be picking up carry-out food from our favorite restaurants before heading to the drive-in rock concert. But if movie theaters and in-person staff meetings don’t make it, let’s hope they’re joined on the ash heap of history by the practice of “prospecting.” Now more than ever, it’s time for radio companies to shed this antiquated practice and adopt the more sophisticated lead generation techniques found in other industries.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

10 Factors to Consider When Livestreaming Video to Social Media

Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

As a professional broadcaster, I can’t resist the temptation to increase the production values of my livestream videos on social media.

More and more radio DJs are livestreaming from their homes on social media as a way of engaging their audiences. But creating a compelling livestream broadcast requires more than just opening an app and pressing a button. Whether you’re just coming up with an idea for a livestream concept or you’re looking to fine-tune something that you’re already doing, here are some factors to consider:

1. Exclusive Content
With the exception of radio morning shows or talk shows, don’t simply livestream content that is designed for other mediums. Your 20-second on-air breaks are meant for the radio, not Facebook or YouTube. Use the livestream to give your audience something that they can’t get anywhere else, whether it’s a behind-the-scenes look at your broadcast or an entirely different feature.

If you are planning on using your on-air content as livestreaming content, repurpose it with purpose, not as an afterthought. In other words, think carefully about how your content works as a livestream and identify any extra steps you need to take to make it more engaging. For example, if you choose to livestream an interview with a musical artist and then air the audio on the radio, consider asking a bonus “livestream only” question or two.

For example, the airstaff of KLOS in Los Angeles gets together for a weekly Happy Hour, which allows you to see the airstaff interact in a way that you can’t hear on the radio:

2. Audience Engagement
One of the key things that makes livestreaming different from broadcasting on the radio is that the audience can make text-based comments and you can react in real time (at least, as close as to real time as the streaming lag will allow). When you design your livestream content, don’t think of it as a one-way broadcast like your radio show; instead, identify opportunities to make it a two-way street by soliciting and incorporating comments from viewers. For example, if you’re hosting a discussion on homeschooling tips for parents, invite the audience to leave comments with their tips, and read a few during your stream.

Watch as The Rizzuto Show on 105.7 The Point in St. Louis displays comments on the livestream video for all to see, which in turn encourages other people to comment:

3. The “Play Along at Home” Factor
When I was a program director, I had a rule for all the on-air contests: They had to be just as engaging for the 99% of our listeners who were not participating. We called this the “Play Along at Home” factor. We never once held a “Caller #9” contest, because while that might be interesting to the active callers, it holds no interest for the rest of the passive audience.

When you livestream, you also want to consider the active participants and the passive viewers separately. The active participants are the ones who leave comments; the passive viewers are the one who don’t. Make sure that your livestream content is enjoyable for both groups. Trivia is a great way to do this because audience members can play along in their own heads even if they aren’t playing the game for real. Jeremy, the afternoon host on Alt 94-9 in San Diego, hosts a daily trivia competition:

4. Continual Entry Points
When people listen to a podcast episode, they always start with the first second of that episode. By contrast, a livestream video is like your radio broadcast — people may tune in at any given moment. If they scroll past your video in their social media feed, they may play a few seconds and, if it doesn’t grab their attention, they’ll move on. This means that you need to constantly hook people in.

The way to do this is to constantly reset the show to make it accessible for people who are just tuning in. This is a familiar concept for radio DJs who stretch bits across multiple breaks: “If you’re just tuning in, we’re talking to Sara, who wants to know if she should break up with her boyfriend after she discovered that yada yada yada.”

On a livestream, you have additional visual tools that can do even more to make the stream accessible to newcomers. For example, you can use a banner overlay: “Should Sara dump her boyfriend?” Don’t assume that people are watching your video from the beginning; take full advantage of both your audio and visual components to provide as many on-ramps to your broadcast as possible.

5. Longer Can Be Better
Because people are likely to discover your livestream as they scroll through their social media feed, a longer broadcast is more likely to be found than a shorter one. That’s why Facebook prioritizes streams that are at least three minutes long. As radio broadcasters, this runs counter to our conventional way of thinking; we’ve been trained that Nielsen ratings favor shorter breaks. And while Facebook’s algorithm shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a license to ramble endlessly, it does mean that coming up with longer content can increase your chances of success with livestreaming.

6. Production Values Matter
While livestreams on social media don’t come with the same audience expectations as radio or television when it comes to production values, better is always, well… better. Make sure that your livestream looks good and sounds good. Here are some tips. And remember, while you can always livestream using a native social media app, a third-party app provides opportunities to up your production game.

Shawn Tempesta, the afternoon host at Mix 94.1 in Las Vegas, has invested more than the average bear in both hardware and software for his livestream broadcasts, and it shows:

7. So Does Show Prep
While livestreams often look off-the-cuff, don’t be fooled; the best take a lot of advanced work. Don’t skimp on the show prep for your livestream any more that you would skimp on the show prep for your radio show.

8. Set a Consistent Schedule
This is no surprise to media professionals: consistency matters. Whether you livestream daily at the same time or weekly on the same day, set up a regular schedule and promote that schedule to your audience.

9. Promote Before and After
As radio broadcasters, we’re used to talking about what’s coming up, but we don’t often look back at what we’ve done. With livestreams, you can schedule the event in the future and share it on your Facebook page or other social media account, but don’t forget to promote it after the fact as well. Consider posting the recording to YouTube, embedding it on your station’s website, sending it out in an email blast and sharing the best excerpts on social media.

10. Know Your Call to Action
While livestreaming is giving air talent entirely new ways to be creative in front of audiences, never forget that the vast majority of your station’s revenue comes from advertising on your terrestrial signal. Given the hit that radio station sales departments are taking right now, you’ll want to use the livestream to promote on-air listening. In particular, let people know that they can stream your station through the website, mobile app and/or smart speaker. You can do this through verbal mentions, on-screen text, or even short video bumpers.

The art of creating a compelling livestream requires a lot more than just pushing a button and talking. The longer this pandemic goes on, the more important this skill will become, so invest the time now to step up your game.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.