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Capture Hearts With Local Events

Listeners remember anytime radio gets involved off the air, in the community

When Entercom CEO David Field issued a statement about the company’s merger with CBS Radio, I was drawn to one word in particular.

Field said, “We are building a company to win and thrive and prosper in the years ahead. Radio is the #1 medium in the U.S. and no company will have a stronger lineup of outstanding local brands, content, personalities, marketing solutions, digital assets, events and other resources.”

K-Rock Syracuse has its own “Beach House” at the New York State Fair.

The magic word that grabbed me? Events.

In many cases over the past decade — due to smaller staff sizes and a concentration on the “core” business of selling advertising — organizations have eliminated senior positions in promotions and marketing, placing that responsibility on a very busy program director. Inevitably, involvement with events both small and large has been sacrificed.

I have long contended that events are vital to radio’s local connection. While a listener may not easily recall the call letters of stations they listen to, they will almost always remember which radio station events they attended. Even years after stations have switched formats or disappeared, locals reminisce about the good old days when a certain event was part of their lives.


The WHFStival, a huge radio concert produced by the now bygone alternative station in Washington, D.C., became so iconic that years later it still comes up in the press and in social media chatter.

There’s another reason events are a key to success: profit.

I remember debating a corporate suit about a relatively costly event. He deemed it “too expensive” and “risky.” He explained that this specific event “only” doubled the investment.

Call me naïve, but I’ll take doubling my investment any day.

As to risk, there’s no question that events require professional management — in particular, a sales professional. And the best choice of sales pro may or may not be the same person who manages on-air sales.

In my experience, sales managers with the right skill set are gifted at putting together sales packages that included a nice mix of on-air spots, on-air promos, an on-site booth and product sampling, on-site signage, free tickets for the event, social media/website/email exposure and more.

Conversely, sales managers who focus too strictly on the air component don’t grasp how much value can be added for advertisers who care just as much — and perhaps even more — about this variety of strategies that make the most of an event.

Does a station have to own its events? There are certainly advantages to controlling a large event, but it is not always necessary. For example, I’ve worked with open-minded, collaborative nonprofits that have provided staff, media assets and sometimes even funding in return for a portion of the proceeds. Whenever stations can partner with local charities, it’s a win-win situation. This enables stations to contribute to the fabric of the local community while adding exposure and manpower to the event itself.

I like the idea of doing four major events per year, ideally one per quarter. For most of the United States, this means doing both indoor and outdoor events. In addition to the concerts I’ve mentioned, there is a wide range of events within several categories that stations can promote. You have sports-oriented 10K runs, marathons and bike-a-thons; consumer-focused auto and motorcycle shows, garden shows and — in certain communities and formats — gun shows; and finally, community events such as state fairs, fireworks shows, food festivals and other traditional seasonal gatherings.

Not all events have to be large. Regular appearances at bars/restaurants, grand openings, city activities and even local political debates, all come with connections to local people, one-on-one interactions.

When executed properly, radio station events can leave positive memories for listeners, generate money for stations and charities alike and help bring communities together.

Activate your brain trust and start your calendar planning today!