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Reach + Frequency = Success

Frequency is a key element in convincing listeners to act

What does it take to drive action through messaging on the radio? If you answered “reach, frequency and creative,clear energy,” then give yourself a round of applause.

Now let’s see if you can get this one: During a 6 a.m.–midnight rotation, how many spots must you air on your radio station in five days in order to reach more than 90 percent of your audience at least three times?

In order to figure out the answer, you don’t need to do any complex math equations. You just need a little catch-up in the technology department.

Sales people who are on top of current trends are using ratings information and scheduling software to create appropriate schedules for clients. However, many program directors have never touched this latest software, which even rookie sales people know how to use, and don’t know the basics of reach and frequency.

This must change.

If a PD doesn’t know how many promos to schedule, and at which times during one week, he or she can’t possibly orchestrate the promotional campaigns for that week effectively. It’s obvious that the more listeners you can reach, the better. Not so obvious is that frequency is a key element in convincing listeners to act. The more they hear the message, the greater the chance they will act on it.

Let’s go back to our challenge of the day. If a PD discovers — through reach and frequency research — that it takes 45 promo spots between 6 a.m. and midnight, Monday through Friday, to reach more than 90 percent of the audience at least three times, then he can determine how many campaigns he can air in one week using all of the station’s allotted promotional inventory.

Say that the station schedules two promos per hour, 18 hours a day. That’s 36 slots a day and 180 slots a week. And now that the PD has a goal in mind, he or she has the ability to schedule four different promotional campaigns. If he or she schedules one more campaign on top of that, there is a risk of none of them being effective.

Given a choice, I would much rather air more promos and one less campaign in order to increase the frequency and reach.

I’ll admit, this can be a tough decision because great stations have a lot going on, all of which deserves promotion.

Once the algorithm is in place, it’s imperative to spend quality time on the creative. Whether recorded or live, a promo must not only grab attention, but also communicate an action. And don’t just take it for granted your audience knows what you’re trying to get them to do, especially when it comes to highly-produced promos with lots of sound effects, puns, jokes, etc.

While you may not have time to present every recorded promo to a focus group first, you should take the time to try out anything you’re unsure of to a few people around the office who don’t already know the material.

After playing the promo to some random people, ask them to tell you what it meant. If after three or so people cannot explain it back to you spontaneously, you likely have a great-sounding promo that not everybody is going to “get.”

This can be a problem when live copy is crafted poorly, so be sure that all of your messaging is clear.

Is it possible to burn out a promotional announcement by airing it too much? I have never seen any research that supports the contention. However, I can guarantee that when stations do not air spots with enough frequency and reach, they waste time, squander energy and limit potential success.

Mark Lapidus can be reached