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“I Love You, Man!” - Radio World

“I Love You, Man!”

What is your station’s plan to promote lasting fan engagement?
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What’s your fan plan?

Hint: This plan is an action list that takes listener acquisition to the next level. It’s not enough to maintain an audience, or even bring in new listeners. If you want to dominate in format, you’ll need to invest time, resources and perhaps a bit of dough to turn regular audience members into listeners who are part of your extended family.

This idea offering is by no means exhaustive. Please consider it a starter kit to get your local brainstorm brewing.

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Loyal Listener Clubs like this one for KFKF(FM) in Kansas City, Kan., are an opportunity to turn strangers into fans. JOIN THE CLUB

I’m a huge believer in frequent listener clubs, where people earn points for performing a specified behavior.

For example, they enter the secret word of the day on your website and get 50 points. They show a receipt from a certain store and get 100 points. They find a picture on your site and get 125 points. These points are eventually exchanged for prizes.

I’ve had the thrill of starting these many times and seen clubs grow from zero to hundreds of thousands of players.

Before you make the commitment, check your resources. Frequent listener clubs require technology, staffing and funding. Executed correctly, they can eventually turn a profit. If you can’t make at least a two-year commitment, try something more basic, like inclusion.

INCLUSION

Fundamentally, the more people your station can recognize and include in your on-air activities, the better your chances of converting the occasional tune-in to the daily habit.

While mentioning names on-air may seem small market, this can be effective, even in major cities, in making listeners feel that they belong. It’s natural, conversational and uniquely local to recognize these events: birthdays, anniversaries, requests, traffic incident calls, news tips, story ideas, jokes, obits, awards, amateur teams who win games/leagues and local heroes who achieve something for the community.

Dozens of names per day can be hundreds per week, thousands per month and over 10,000 a year. Don’t think it makes a dent? Surely we’ve learned something from Facebook in terms of the viral nature of friends talking about friends. When you hear a friend’s name on the air, you’re likely going to tell a family member or another friend that this special event occurred. Many times I have met listeners who recall a song request where their voice was on the air from years ago.

MINGLE

When your station hosts activities, do you have staffers mingling with the crowd, or do they all group together talking to each other at the bar?

While you may think only air talent can have an impact, you’re wrong. I’ve witnessed firsthand that even station interns who connect with listeners at events can make a lasting impression. Just being welcoming, friendly and asking for feedback about your station can score points with listeners.

If your staff can’t do this naturally, a prop can get them going. For example, a mic plugged into a phone to record answers helps to break the ice, as does handing out small prizes like balloons for kids. These interactions can work wonders in making someone feel included.

FEEDBACK

When was the last time you heard a station recruiting for a “listener advisory board?”

While this has gone out of style, every audience still has members with opinions about the station, and they are just dying to tell you what music to play or which stories to cover in the news.

If you have the energy, you could do a new listener advisory board every month — 12 per year of perhaps 20 people each time. Use social media and your website to recruit and sign people up. To grease the skids a bit, offer an incentive. Tickets to concerts, plays or events work well. Publicize the board’s ideas on-air and thank the people who are making your broadcasts better.

Making a connection is the first step in any relationship. Once established, your next goal is to encourage an emotional commitment. This can be accomplished by showing warmth on- and off-air and giving people the opportunity to emote about your station.

If you can get a listener to care enough to say something — even if it’s negative — you have a shot at transforming a passing stranger into a friend.

Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media.

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