The Program Director has a number of tools to use to define the station, the brand. The shows, hosts, updates, reports, live reads, website, Twitter/FB/Instagram/Snap Chat and so on. But still, in today’s 21st Century environment, imaging is the one area the PD can put a real stamp on the brand.
I like to break station imaging into two parts:
1. Overall general station imaging
2. Specific timely station imaging.
For example, if you’re 610 Sports in Kansas City. The overall imaging pushes the station slogan “Our teams, Our Town” as well as “Home of the Royals!” during baseball season. That’s overall station imaging. Good, important station branding.
Where the great imaged stations separate themselves is with #2—Specific timely station imaging. This type of imaging plays off a major news story or special event and tells listeners, sometimes ad nauseum, that your station is the place to be for the game, coverage, or an event.
“Getting you ready for the Chiefs Draft” or “Getting you ready for the NFL Draft” would be two great lines for the radio station. It can get even more specific when describing the station’s weekday shows—“You’re listening to The Drive, giving you a comprehensive preview of tonight’s NFL draft.” Give the shows a sense of urgency and the listener reasons why they have to listen today. Use station imaging to hammer that point home. You need to make the audience believe that they won’t be ready for tonight’s draft if they don’t listen to your station/shows.
I can hear PD’s all across the country reading this and lamenting that this plan is great in theory, but unrealistic because they don’t have either the time or the resources to pull it off. I hear you and I’ve been there. Nowadays if a sports radio station has an imaging director they typically share him/her with other stations in the cluster. Or the imaging director is also making commercials for the sales department.
Having to battle for time with your imaging director or with another PD in the cluster to get the time you need to aggressively image a sports station is ridiculous, but also important to make the station sound the way it needs to. If you’ve made it successfully through these hurdles, then you have to consider the availability and turnaround time of the station “voice”. If it’s someone in the building who is usually available—Great! But if he/she is out of the building and a freelancer, you need to have a system for quick turnaround or a daily session early enough in the day to knock out timely imaging content.
That does beg the question though, if imaging is so important, why are limited resources put into imaging? Why are imaging/creative directors stretched so thin and pulled in so many directions? That’s something for the suits to answer. As radio companies looked to cut budgets, behind the scenes staffs have taken a beating. Producers, imaging and production people bore the brunt of these cutbacks. So living in the real world, here’s a plan to make sure you take care of your imaging needs:
- Make sure every show has a producer or associate producer who can edit and produce imaging. I know a lot of extra work falls on the producers and APD’s nowadays, but this is essential.
- Use two voices on your station. The first voice, handles the overall station imaging and is likely less accessible than your second voice. The second voice is someone in the building. They could be a DJ on a station in your cluster or someone else with a good voice that can be available at a moment’s notice to voice timelier imaging. In a perfect world, this is the imaging director.
- Have imaging and voice coverage of some kind from 6am-6pm.Too often imaging or production directors won’t start until 9 or 10am which is a great disservice to the morning and midday shows.
- With modern technology, it doesn’t mean that your imaging director needs to be in the office for 12 hours a day, but there has to be an “on call” component in your imaging staffing plan. Same for your station voice.
If your city is lucky right now, you could have an NHL and/or NBA team in the playoffs; an NFL team with a key pick in the draft; and an MLB team involved in a big series. But no matter what you have going on in your market, make the special stuff sound SPECIAL, BIG, and IMPORTANT. You do have to toot your own horn, and there’s no better way than with great, timely, imaging.