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Are You a Nonstop Brander?


Radio stations need to change their perspective on rebranding.

Think of it not as an occurrence (e.g., something that happens to you), but rather as a procedure that you initiate and carry out regularly.

Rebranding is like shifting tectonic plates: As long as the shifting is a slow, nearly imperceptible, continuous movement, everything is fine. It is only when the plates freeze up and pressure builds that the shifting becomes violent and damaging.

That’s the way to think about rebranding. You want changes to be gradual and continuous. If the radio station goes a long time without an update, it is just like two interior continental plates getting stuck. Sooner or later, something’s going to give, and an earthquake erupts.

The following offers a practically foolproof method for creating continuous rebranding strategy.

The first thing you need to do is make a list of all the elements that go into creating the station’s identity. Think about what exactly makes the station what it is.

You will be surprised. Virtually every department plays a role in giving the station its distinctive personality; you should include every one of them as you inventory what needs to be updated when you rebrand.

Here are starter suggestions:

  • In programming you’ve got the music — what you play and what you don’t play. Then there are rotations. Rotations, scheduling rules and flow can have a dramatic impact on how a station sounds even if the library doesn’t vary.
  • There’s the air staff. Regardless of the quality of your staff and how long they have been on the air, this too needs to change from time to time. There’s how much they talk, what they talk about and how they say it. If you want to change things, move the staff around. Moving people can often have as dramatic an effect as replacing people.
  • Newscasts need to change as more listeners get their headlines from the Web. List all the elements of news that need to grow over time.
  • Don’t forget special programming and weekend shows. Adding an evening feature, a midday gossip show or some other special program changes the pace of the station — and provides something new to promote and tease. However, every special program should come to an end one day. A show may be doing well, but there’s something out there that’s even better. Find it and move on.
  • Don’t leave engineering out of the list. Changing the overall texture of the station should be part of the update. Listen critically to the station. Does the station sound contemporary? Think about the processing chain, consider tweaking the EQ or change the mics.
  • List all the annual promotions (paid and free). Include annual contests, what you give away and how you give it away. Include remotes, both paid and concerts. Contests, like special programming, should have a sunset date.
  • Inventory the station’s marketing. There’s the station name and logo. List the logo’s various elements, which include color, fonts and other graphical elements.
  • Change the station’s primary positioning statement and liners. Write them all down and list the dates that they were added. Don’t forget the station voice. That needs to change at regular intervals.
  • There’s the website and the dozens of individual elements on the site. This category can also cover the station’s social media efforts and email outreach.

Once you’ve laid out all the station elements, you’ll find that there are dozens of things you should regularly change.

The next step is to lay out a rebranding clock.You want to rotate the elements of rebranding as if you’re scheduling an hour of music, except instead of an hour, the wheel might be a year or two.

If the station is a CHR, you want to use a fairly fast rotation, due to the speed at which pop culture shifts. If you are an AC, country or some other adult format, you’ll slow down the rotations to tailor to the taste of your demographic.

Each month, add a change to your schedule. Your focus might be in marketing one month and programming the next. Schedule changes with sufficient frequency that everything will have changed by the time a year or two later rolls around, depending on your format.

Coordinate with your sister stations so no two stations are changing the same element at the same time to maximize the impact of the alterations. Also, within a group, you’ll be able to update and recycle ideas throughout your stations.

A comprehensive list of station elements combined with a schedule of when they need to be updated provide a good road map for continuous rebranding.

Remember, your ultimate goal is to keep your station fresh and timely, while building audience loyalty and cume.

Gary Begin is president of Sound Advantage Media, a full-service radio-programming consultancy, based in Jackson, Tenn. He also owns Gary Begin Voice Talent. Begin can be reached via [email protected] or (731)437-0536.