There are more media channels than ever, but radio continues to reach 92% of Americans weekly. This track record of significant reach and consistency is why radio should be a key component of consumer-directed PR and marketing campaigns.
During my nearly 30 years of helping clients use radio, I’ve found that many PR pros are unsure about their options, including how and where to begin their project.
To succeed, start by asking a few basic questions: Is my story news, entertainment, or community-focused public affairs? Can it be pitched or do I need to consider paid outreach? To answer them, it’s imperative to understand what radio stations are looking for.
How radio stations evaluate content
Radio stations air two types of content: earned and paid. Earned content includes a successfully pitched news story, guests on public affairs shows, or celebrity interviews for the morning drive.
Earned content could be original news, the results of a study, or research featuring a lead author or authority. Major company announcements affecting a local market or some form of entertainment, usually with a high-profile celebrity, are also newsworthy.
When pitching news, contact the news director or news producer. If it’s a public affairs story reach out to the public affairs director or the news producer hosting the show. If it’s entertainment, contact the morning show producer or host.
Our audio news release about "Supersick Monday" was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the day after Super Bowl Sunday. It featured statistics on how many people were likely to watch the game and how many would miss work the next day. It was a feature story stations could use to close out a newscast and was aired by about two thirds of the several networks and hundreds of stations we pitched.
Paid radio content is exactly what you think; any kind of messaging placed through payment. It includes highly branded messages or content that raises awareness but doesn’t have strong news value.
Messages with calls to action are often paid, because news directors view them as similar to advertising. Using paid ensures message will be aired without editing and you will know in advance which stations will broadcast your message.
For example, a health organization wanted to raise awareness of the need to get regular colon cancer screenings. We produced and placed the content on a nationally syndicated program and the message aired on 500 stations during Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
Qualified radio vendors can help with messaging, writing, producing, pitching your earned story or ensuring placement of your paid content.
Radio and social media
Radio and social media work well together because one is aural and the other is visual. Radio is also a great driver for social because it’s common for people to have the radio on while working on their computers.
A Borrell Associates study found that radio drives digital initiatives, moving listeners to online content after a mention of a product, service or website. A Radio Advertising Bureau study found that radio generates a 29% lift in Google search activity. Radio-driven online searches are highest during the morning drive followed by middays, afternoon drive and evenings.
Radio outreach can be national, regional or local. You can also drill down further and target by demographics or even ethnic audiences. Typically, the narrower the planned outreach, the higher the associated cost to acquire each listener. National outreach is generally the most cost-effective means for communicating to the largest audience.
With approximately 13,000 licensed radio stations across the country, there are many options for targeting and placement.
Once you have a campaign concept, consider speaking with a radio professional to see if you have a solid news story or a paid placement.
A few questions to ask are: will my story would work best as earned content or paid? Which type of radio service will best promote my messaging? How can I best reach my target audience and achieve the largest listenership for my budget? What kind of voice talent should we use? What is the process like, and how long does each step take?
Working with experienced broadcast professionals will ensure you have the guidance and expertise needed to execute a successful campaign.
Shel Lustig is President and Co-Founder of MediaTracks Communications.