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Set Expectations With Advertisers

If you don’t know the goal, you can’t plan to achieve it


Like many Radio World readers, I do a lot of work in both traditional radio and digital media, where nearly everything can be measured. When a program concludes, most advertisers want to know the final metric results or key performance indicators. 

Anyone who presents media metrics regularly has learned that most people don’t actually know basic definitions or have the necessary context to draw actionable conclusions. 

So what’s a media person to do? Here are two suggestions: 

  1. To prevent unhappy clients at the conclusion of a media campaign, you should agree on expectations at the very start. This discussion and subsequent negotiation is as important as getting the sales order. Why? Because it greatly increases the chances of return business, instead of one and done.
  2. Learn as much as you can about radio ratings and digital metrics in order to make sense of them. This starts with defining which metrics are important. This learning curve requires practice and even tests to ensure that your sales reps can walk the walk and not just fake it till they make it. 

Agreeing on outcome expectations seems elementary, yet I find that people generally are surprised when I bring it up as the first topic — even before we discuss budget, creative execution or placement. Understanding what clients are attempting to accomplish, or are even willing to accept as an outcome, is tremendously useful in delivering a happy ending. 

Perhaps your client won’t even care about media metrics; they may care only about immediate cash register results … and if short-term efforts to move goods or sell services is all that matters, it totally affects the creative you run and the length of the advertising schedule. 

If you’re not following, here’s a simple example from my very distant past. 


I was doing a live two-hour remote from a car dealership. (Remember those?) It was raining. It was dark. I was young and naïvely asked the manager how many cars he expected to sell. He was sure that by the time I was off the air, he would have sold at least two cars, covering the cost of the remote and securing reasonable profit. 

I was concerned. My first thought was that I was talking with one crazy car guy, and my second was wondering if the sales rep from my station had discussed this expectation with him. 

However, I did have one weapon in my arsenal: lots of free food. Turns out he sold four cars. Call it dumb luck — or the most amazing remote I’d ever orchestrated. Either way, it would have been much better to have set that expectation prior to execution. 


Fortunately, most advertisers do not expect to measure a campaign based on direct sales action. Seasoned sponsors realize that building a brand takes time and investment. The advertiser or their agency will likely care about metrics — even if they require repeated explanation. 

Think agencies always understand metrics? Think again. A lot of people fake it. 

[Nostalgia for the Good Ol’ Days]

Fortunately, this isn’t rocket science. There are many resources online, and there are lots of consultants who can provide training. 

A fun place to start is studying SMART criteria. This is an acronym often attributed to George Doran and developed by management guru Peter Drucker. It standards for: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. 

Don’t confuse goals with key performance indicators. They are not the same thing! A goal is what you’re attempting to achieve. The KPI can inform your decision about whether or not you’re on track to achieve that goal.

My goal was to start you thinking about setting expectations up front and openly discussing results/metrics. Hopefully, I was successful. If not, well… I’m glad I haven’t forgotten how to do radio remotes from car dealerships! 

Mark Lapidus is a longtime contributor to Radio World. Email him with comments or your own promo successes at [email protected].