Saturday morning I was sitting on my couch and playing a little Golf Battle on my phone. I had the TV on largely as background noise. Usually when that is the case, the resting channel is either ESPN or CNN. I had heard the Divisional Round games broken down to hell and back already, so I opted for the news that morning.
As I returned from a bathroom break I heard the CNN anchor say that Julian Castro would announce his plans to run for president in 2020 later that day. That led to a report from San Antonio, where Castro’s announcement would take place.
The reporter detailed Castro’s past. He was the mayor of San Antonio. He served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Barack Obama. He graduated from Stanford and then got a law degree from Harvard. Impressive guy.
What really caught my ear was the reporter saying that Castro planned to lean into his family’s immigrant story. That would be his point of differentiation in a crowded Democratic field in 2020.
I don’t know if a lot of us consciously consider what our show’s or station’s point of differentiation is, but having one is so important in a crowded field of entertainment. What makes your show different from the competition? What makes it worth sitting through commercial breaks when there is an ever-expanding landscape of podcasts and other on demand streaming options?
Last week, my colleague Matt Fishman wrote about the need for stations to clear clutter. You should click here to read if you haven’t done so already. In the piece, Fish says that “because we’ve always done it that way” is the worst answer to why you do anything in sports radio.
There is always more than one way to skin a cat as the saying goes, so if the heritage sports brand in town is doing the broadcast nerd and ex-jock show in afternoons, a challenger can’t expect to make headway doing the same thing. Listeners aren’t moving away from something they know and love for the same thing done by different, less familiar voices.
Let’s circle back to the Democratic field in 2020 real quick and think about the points of differentiation for some of the candidates. Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is a centrist that will run on a platform of moving forward by being willing to compromise. Bernie Sanders is a populist that will make his campaign about prioritizing the needs of employees over employers. Julian Castro is the grandson of Mexican immigrants that will run a campaign largely built on not being Donald Trump.
In each case, they have an elevator pitch. Each elevator pitch forces you to think about what is important to you, because the candidates are all presenting unique options for voters.
If your competition airs Golic and Wingo in the morning, you could opt for Outkick the Coverage. Clay Travis does a very different show from Mike and Trey. At the end of the day though, the listeners will likely be hearing a lot of the same things covered. They are both syndicated shows focused on national headlines.
A real point of differentiation for your station would be local programming. That gives listeners the choice between a national show and something that originates in the market. The national show might sound better because it can rely on eight producers, but the local show is focused on more stories that are relevant locally.
A point of differentiation is important for shows on the same station as well. You certainly want your sports radio brand to have an easily recognizable identity, but if you are live and local from 6 am to 7 pm with three or four shows that are talking the same way about the same stories, your identity has a very narrow window.
Again, think about Clay Travis, who starts Fox Sports Radio’s broadcast day. His show is very different from The Dan Patrick Show, which follows him. Dan’s show is very different from The Herd With Colin Cowherd, which is the other slice of bread in the network’s weekday sandwich. It doesn’t mean that Fox Sports Radio is lacking a single, cohesive identity. Programmers and producers build that through imaging.
Local stations can do the same. Different styles and different types of voices across a single platform doesn’t mean that platform has no identity. Those voices aren’t the only way people identify your brand.
It is easy to copy a successful brand. It is much harder to go after that brand and be legitimate competition. Whether the brand is another station or a show in another time slot on your own station, you have to give your listeners a clear reason to choose you.