Radio Isn’t Politics

3 steps to more meaningful relationships with listeners

Last week’s piece scolded Radio for not doing more to personalize our communication with our own P1 listeners. I used the Obama administration’s ability to somehow sort the tens of millions of people it has in its database and communicate to me, personally, by referring to my individual issues and needs. It generated a lot of response, some of which was posted in the Comments section of my web site. Here’s what one GM had to say:

“Comparing the Obama political machine to a radio group is a bit of a stretch for two significant reasons: people and money resources.  Obama had and continues to have millions of dollars at his disposal to make his one-to-one connections work.  With every passing month radio/media companies have less and less of both.  Providing individual attention to a database of tens of thousands of listeners, I mean people, would be completely unmanageable for even the most sophisticated of us.  A romantic notion, to be sure, but unmanageable without unlimited resources to accomplish the task.  Now, can we do a better job with our email blasts?  Absolutely.  Can we seek to develop a stronger connection to individuals or groups of individuals with similar tastes (tribes, as Seth would call them)?  Yes.  But respond to each and every one?  Help me understand how that’s possible when most of us are lucky to have maybe one person overseeing our email campaigns who isn’t a promotions assistant.

Everything he says is true, of course, and his question is sincere, not rhetorical, so I’m hoping this week you will join the conversation at my web site and respond with your own ideas on how we can best move forward, rather than falling further behind month after month, despite our budget and staffing issues.


I can think of three simple steps that every budget can afford:

1.  Make your email list an opt-in only experience. You can send one final blast to everyone who ever signed up on your web site, or at a remote, and explain that to continue receiving email from you, they must actively opt IN, or their address will be discarded. I have a feeling this will make almost every list much easier to manage within 48 hours.

This feels like a step backwards, because you will be cutting thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of addresses from your list. But, you are actually beginning a true permission-based relationship, a huge step forward for most radio stations.

2.  Resist the temptation/need to email your list unless you are offering them something of value. That can be information, but its unlikely the information will be only about your station — unless it’s a huge contest or some special way to save listeners money right now. The value must be to the recipient, not the station, and not a client.

How interesting are the emails you receive from most airlines, or businesses? If the email alerts you to a special air fare, something that’s limited to a select group and can save you money, it’s worth reading. But if the email is about new routes they’re flying, or new products they’re selling, and not about you and your interests, chances are you’re hitting “delete.”

3A. Begin to separate your most passionate listeners from the others within your lists. How do you identify them? Ask questions, remembering to always provide something of value in return for their personal information. Ask how often they listen, and the times they listen. Ask how often they want to get email from you. Ask their opinion on station features, or prizes, or songs — and make sure they feel heard, that they know you value their feedback.

3B. Communicate with this sub-set of people in a personal way. Perhaps you assign 20 P1 listeners to each member of your air staff and management team to start with, and begin a more personal dialogue. But, begin. Somehow, find a way to break out of the old habit of spamming, of interrupting that is the basis for how Radio has always made money.

It’s a start. Imperfect as it is, it will impact all the other decisions you make about communicating with each individual listener. At the least, we’re thinking about an important issue.

So, what are your ideas? I know a lot of the people who read my blog are highly creative. Help us find solutions and begin to move forward.