Earlier this week I posted two stories highlighting the positive gains made in Nashville by 104.5 The Zone, and in Houston by ESPN 97.5. Both brands produced great January ratings which has many inside both organizations feeling good.
It’s what took place after I wrote those stories that really caught my attention. I couldn’t help but think back to an earlier column I wrote last year about the importance of telling your own story, and not following the advice of Nielsen who recommend keeping your data private.
That’s one thing I’ve never understood about the radio business. We give millions of dollars each year to Nielsen to measure the performance of radio stations in each market, only to receive information that many consider flawed due to small sample sizes. Then, whether we have a strong story to share or not, we’re encouraged to keep the results to ourselves.
Oh and by the way, if you don’t tell your story and the information gets into the hands of a local newspaper or your competitor creates a narrative to strengthen their image and devalue yours, you’re left to defend yourself, and your performance, when in fact you should’ve never had to in the first place.
Does that make any sense?
If a radio company is spending their money for a service to capture the way their brands are received by the local audience, shouldn’t they expect an accurate performance and have the right to use the information the way they see fit?
That seems pretty ridiculous doesn’t it?
When I raise the issue about the importance of sharing your story, it’s these reasons above why I’m so passionate and committed to it. Putting together the various ratings reports that I do on this website takes a lot of time, and research but I believe it can provide a lot more good than bad. Judging by the way the articles are consumed, shared and responded to, it’s obvious that it matters to people.
Before I display some examples to show you the positives that can come from it, let me remind you that a strong ratings performance doesn’t mean that a brand is successful. There are plenty of radio stations that generate high revenues and connect with large audiences yet don’t necessarily see the credit in their monthly numbers.
However, it is the system we operate in and it is the report card we’re dealt each month. A fair share of advertisers still decide where to place their dollars based on what they see on your scorecard, so if it’s important enough to influence future spending with your company, then it should matter enough to you and your organization to deliver a healthy number.
So when you do produce that positive number, and you’re feeling good inside the hallways of your operation, how do you make sure that others beyond your own walls know about it? Are you telling the industry trades? Your clients? Your listeners? Or are you keeping it internal, and letting the opportunity to highlight your brand, your people, and more importantly, your audience, pass you by?
Sometimes industry professionals make the mistake of thinking that by acknowledging a job well done that it means they’re boasting or downgrading the others they compete against. There’s a difference between saying “I’m proud of what we’ve done, and we’re grateful for your support” and “We’re #1 because we’re great and nobody else belongs in the conversation”. If that’s what you decide to say, then yes you’re bragging and likely going to have everyone rooting for you to fail rather than wanting to be part of your success.
Let me share with you a few samples from this past week. You’ll see how much people appreciate hearing that their listenership matters, and how they respond when they feel involved in a brand’s success.
First, let me show you what Fred Faour of ESPN 97.5 posted on Facebook after I posted the story about his radio station’s success in the January ratings book. His afternoon program “The Blitz” which he hosts with AJ Hoffman, was the top rated show in the Houston market for the month, and that’s something that both men should be extremely proud of. But it’s the way that Fred addressed the news, that captured why the show is connecting in strong fashion with Houston sports radio listeners.
By giving the credit to the audience, and thanking them for being part of the journey, especially with the twist of “Blitz Appreciation Day” (they took a good story and made it great), the fans felt included in the success of the show, which led to a lot of positive response.
And it wasn’t just on Facebook either. The same engagement took place on Twitter.
We often hear about social media bringing out the worst in people, and I’m not here to dispute that, because there are plenty of issues that exist in the social space. What we don’t hear much though are the ways it can provide a positive experience. As you can see above, when you share a good story, and include people in the process, they’re proud to express their appreciation and that type of marketing doesn’t cost a dime and can be very powerful.
If you’re wondering if it’s a matter of Houston fans operating differently than other cities, guess again. I saw the same result in Nashville.
A couple of the crew at 104.5 The Zone shared the good news with their listeners on social media, and wouldn’t you know it, people were happy to learn about it. I pulled Mickey Ryan’s post on Facebook, and audience reactions to Jonathan Hutton and Chad Withrow. I also threw in some tweets which poured in after I shared the Nashville ratings story on Twitter.
Altogether there were hundreds of comments, likes, and retweets on social media, and the reaction from the audience was positive. They felt important, empowered, and part of the brand’s success. When listeners feel like they’re receiving special access and information, it makes them feel valued, and they begin to tell the story of your brand better than any television commercial or print ad ever could.
These are two great success stories and there are others out there just like them. I can’t force this industry to promote itself, and I can’t make programmers, talent, and executives want to share their story. I can only offer to help and remind them of why it matters.
If there’s one thing I’ve been frustrated by throughout the years, it’s how this format gets beaten up in print by writers who don’t understand the ratings game or the numerous ways sports radio stations measures their success.
Some columnists have an axe to grind with certain local personalities or they don’t respect the medium because they believe any person can get behind a microphone, offer a strong opinion and generate a response. They see sports radio as a threat to their platform, and can’t understand how some could consider what we do to be art. When an opportunity arises to ignore a station’s success or poke holes in their performance, they take full advantage of it.
While we can sit here and complain each time a column is written that paints a negative picture of our brands and format, I believe it’s the responsibility of each radio station to get out in front of their own story.
Remember this, no columnist owes you a positive article. They decide what content they want to feature on their platform, and although you may believe you deserve recognition in their publication for what you’ve accomplished, if they disagree, you lose.
So then how do you change that?
Social media today is yesterday’s newspaper. Many of us used to wake up, open up the sports section, read the articles, check the box scores and latest stats, and then talk about it with our friends and family. Now though, social media is where we begin, continue, and end our day, and many of the things we discover, appear right in front of our eyes on our own timelines.
If your brand has put the time and resources into building its audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or Periscope, then you’re in the right locations. The people who follow your brand are doing so because they enjoy your personalities and content. When you treat them to inside stories such as a new hire, a private contest, an internal debate, or a successful month in the ratings, they often share the information and engage in discussion about it. They become a verbal marketing machine for your organization.
Many operators lose sight of the fact that their own CEO’s are sharing their company story once per quarter with investors. Sales reps and Market Managers are doing the same in person, by phone, and through email with advertisers and local partners. So if those things are taking place, then what are you worried about? Even if your brand has a bad month, it’s forgotten thirty days later.
I’m only one man with an opinion, and you’re more than welcome to disagree with my point of view. Lord knows I’ve been wrong before and will be again at some point.
But from where I sit, I see a lot of good stories taking place across the country in this format. Many of them could provide a couple of local sales staffs with some great ammunition to land larger dollars, while also igniting the local audience and making them want to spend more time supporting their favorite local sports radio stations.
The last time I checked, the goal was to increase the amount of time listeners spend with the radio station and generate more revenue. If that’s the case, and sharing your success helps you take a step closer to accomplishing both goals, then why on earth would you not do it?
The examples above from Nashville and Houston are proof of what can happen when you let people share in your success. The only question you should be asking yourself now is, what exactly are you gaining by not letting them know?