Audience Dialogue

Participative Marketing for Local Radio, Chapter 12
Making it happen: sections 4-5

12.4 Setting up systems

When you've made the marketing plan, who will carry it out?

Commercial stations always have quite a lot of staff devoted to marketing - mainly in advertising sales. Typically, about a third of their staff work in "marketing" - by which they usually mean advertising sales and station promotion.

But community stations, which often rely heavily on volunteers, sometimes overlook this area. If it's nobody's job it won't happen - but everybody has to do it.

Therefore, part of the marketing plan should cover the way in which it will be implemented, and who is responsible for each aspect of it.

This has been a very brief overview of how to make and follow a marketing plan. For more detail, you might consult another book on this subject, though I know of none specifically for radio. Hands-on Social Marketing (mentioned in the Appendix, below) is very clear, but will need extensive adapting for local radio.

12.5 Conclusion: above all, marketing needs creativity

You could follow every recommendation in this book, and have no success. How could that happen? Probably because the activities you do are the same as everybody else has been doing for years. In short, most marketing is boring. But most community radio isn't boring: somehow it manages to tap a broad stream of creativity.

I read a lot of market research reports, always trying to better understand the difference between successful and unsuccessful marketing. I found that for successful marketing, it's essential to be well-organized and well-prepared, and to take a very broad view of the role of marketing.

If you act on the contents of this book, you will be part of the way there - but not all the way. The other factor is creativity, inspiration, or imagination - whatever you might call it. Without that, a radio station's programming will be dull, and so will its marketing.

However, creativity needs to be pitched at the right level - not too little (because a lack of creativity produces boring results) but not too much either (because that can scare the listeners and advertisers). However, most marketing is so unoriginal and repetitive that it doesn't take a lot of effort to step beyond those boundaries, to be noticed - and at the same time to have fun and do something rewarding.

The other aspect to keep in mind is that doing the right things is not enough.  There are many organizations doing the right kind of marketing activities, but they are not necessarily doing them well (or creatively) enough to impact and get results compared with others.  A simple example is websites.  Most organizations including media have a website, but very few of these are effective and delivering a tangible return on investment.

For network radio (not the target audience of this book) the main problem is its management hierarchies: there are so many layers of supervisors who don't want to change well-established but unproductive practices, who refuse to take any risks because they want a quiet life. In network radio, there are too many ways in which management's response to a suggestion can be No, and very few ways in which it can be Yes.

The strength of community and independent local radio is that it doesn't have all those management layers. Often it takes only one person (or one committee) to say "Yes". In that type of organization, it's possible for creativity to flourish - both in programming and in marketing.

If you acted on all the ideas in this book it would possibly take years to implement the plan, and develop a fully participative marketing strategy. But in the end, I expect that you would be rewarded by having a large and loyal audience, fiercely loyal to its own community. The radio station itself would be transformed into a larger network - using multiple media and something like a telecentre. Also people living in the coverage area (even if they don't listen to your station) would benefit from having a better-connected and better-informed social network.

The first step is to identify what objectives and ideas you can implement that will have impact and be achievable within your capacity.  

Over to you. Audience Dialogue is available to help.

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