I really hate to bring this up when the weather has turned nice, you’re working to lower your handicap and the word “patio” is being thrown about. Just the same, you really need to be thinking about fall and if you aren’t you’ve largely missed the bus (board) already. It’s now the start of July and for many smaller markets their only ratings period of the year is two short months away. Do you have all your plans made? I hope so, but if not, here are some things you need to be doing now.
Are your BBM promotional plans put to bed? By this point in the year the budget should have been finalized, your promotion(s) should have been decided on, and preparations should have been completed or at the very least well underway.
Successful stations normally start looking at their fall promotions as early as spring and in some cases the start of the year. Understandably, some things are out of your control. How much money you will have (if any) is something that may not be decided on for a while longer, but the earlier you have a proposal into the GM, the more time they have to consider its merits in their fiscal planning.
One station I work with decided to try an entirely new promotion for them. It’s one that entails the gathering of a very large number of prizes through existing and possible new clients. Those people understand the need to plan far enough ahead, so the prize acquisitions have already begun. Still, though, they aren’t completely sure how long the task will take, given that this is uncharted territory for them. The point is, though, that the wheels are in motion.
At this point, though, you have no choice but to decide immediately what it is you wish to do and then get the ball rolling with your promotions people – and as is often the case in smaller markets – sales.
It’s time to beg, borrow, or steal.
“Cash is king” as the old adage goes. This is the quickest and usually most hassle-free way to create a promotion. People love winning money and if budget can be found, you probably should look at going this route. If there simply is no money, you can look to sales to assist through a promotional package with an STO.
Trips are another obvious avenue. Sun-destination vacations do work well after Labour Day. Partnering with a local travel company can oftentimes be done fairly quickly. The key here is to get enough trips to hopefully award one weekly, or at the least semi-monthly.
Whichever promotion you decide upon, please keep in mind that successful promotions (not just ratings promotions) should be based around a ‘simpler-is-better’ model. The more hoops you make a listener jump through (“If you were listening at 7:15 this morning you would have heard today’s sound effect that we’ll play again sometime later this afternoon to qualify for a chance to have the morning show call your name tomorrow at which time you’ll have 10 minutes to call us back and we’ll put your name in for the Grand Prize that we’ll draw for at this nightclub where you’ll need to be in attendance to win… blah-blah-blah-ad-infinitum.”) Cutting out as many ‘screens’ between the listener and the prize will heighten the excitement, make it more convenient for people to participate beyond the contest-junkies and ‘3%’, and given your time constraints, make it much easier for you to put together.
A well-designed and executed on-air ratings promotion builds TSL. That’s never a bad thing. Some promotions can even help in bringing more people to the station, but that’s fairly rare. If it’s something you are doing on the station, then you should take the mindset that you’re preaching to the choir. Cume building, however, is more a function of advertising.
If your advertising plans are not in place by now, then it’s very likely you won’t be able to carry out whatever plans you make. If you wanted to do outdoor, then you will probably find that quality billboard faces are hard to find or simply sold out. That also goes for any transit-related signage. It’s never too late to ask, but I fear you may not like the answer.
Similarly, if TV is your chosen medium, then the buy should have already been placed, let alone getting a spot made. Again, you might get lucky and find that some of the better targeted programs for your station still have some openings, but television’s limited local avails are notoriously hard to find the closer you are to their airing. If available, the one avenue you could still explore is cable-insertion. This can be a very cost-effective way to achieve frequency, but without the option of demo-targeting.
As for your commercial, be prepared to pay some money. You don’t have to go to Filmhouse to get something of quality, but you do need to have something that’s at least a step above the used-car salesmen making a pitch in front of a 1998 Buick. It’s okay for them. People are used to seeing that kind of schlock, but you can’t put your station in the same light. Just like a website is judged largely on its visual appeal, so goes the same for your TV spot. If it looks cheap, people will view it negatively, regardless of how relevant the message is.
As mentioned, you may already be too late to get the word out on your station in an effective manner, but you might still be able to. In short – get on it!
When was the last time you took a listening day? I’m not talking about having the radio on in your office. The only way to really listen to your station is out of the office with your phone off. Summer isn’t necessarily the best time for this task with vacations usually altering your normal on-air lineup, but you really should do this sooner than later since you will always find areas that need improvement if you just take the time to actually hear them. If you do this now, you will still have enough time to make whatever alterations are needed prior to the book.
Imaging is always an ongoing concern. Ideally, you should have an imaging ‘cycle’ that sees a percentage of your ID library freshened on a set timeframe. Unfortunately, all too often our imaging is allowed to outlive its shelf life and then an entire overhaul may be required. That in itself is not really an ideal situation in that it hinders your station’s familiarity in the short term. In fact, you should try to restrict applying a ‘new coat of paint’ for only those times when you change your station voice. That said, though, whether you need some or all new imaging, you have to do it now. By the time the scripts are written, approved, voiced, and produced it will probably already be later in the summer. Only larger staffs can consistently turn around imaging in a fairly short period. At most stations people are doing other tasks along with the imaging work and the job inevitably drags out.
When was the last time you went under the hood of your music scheduling software? Better yet, when was the last time you had a third party review it? Unless you’re programming a spoken-word format, music is the most important thing you do. If your songs are not rotating as well as they should, then that’s an error. The nice thing is that it’s quick and easy to correct. Now, if you happen to be playing the wrong songs, then that’s a huge error. At this stage it’s unlikely you would have time to book, recruit, execute and receive auditorium test data, so the next best thing would be to get your hands on a ‘safe list’ for your format and implement a music shuffle based on that. Looking ahead, though, an AMT is something to consider regardless of your market size.
One thing I hear often is that talent feel they don’t receive enough constructive feedback. PD’s do have more balls in the air than ever before, but this is one you can’t afford to drop. Having a regular aircheck with your jocks is necessary to ensure they are finding the right content for their show and then executing it to the best of their ability. The other thing that’s often overlooked, though, is that an aircheck should be a motivating experience for the announcer and if there’s one thing you need heading into ratings is an airstaff that’s confident and hungry to win. Try and do your utmost to spend some ‘quality time’ with every one of your jocks.
It begs credulity to think that your staff vacation calendar isn’t already filled. That’s not something people are likely to procrastinate about. Just the same, though, I have worked with people who were hard to kick out of the building. It’s important for jocks especially to get the time off they need to ensure they are ‘happy and well-fed’ come fall time. In markets with ongoing ratings the need to concentrate vacations into a relatively short span of time is certainly lessened, but this is Canada after all, and everyone does need some time to enjoy our all-too-brief summer. It’s true that you can’t force people to take time off, but you have a responsibility to the station to at least try.
I sincerely hope that you’ve already started or maybe even completed most of what I’ve written. If not, then you will probably have a couple of busy months ahead. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, make sure you also get at least a week off between now and the end of summer. Even with all that’s on your plate, you still need to recharge your batteries, just like everyone else. Have a safe and happy summer.