01/03

Can Radio Change the World?

One of the media genres I work in regularly is Christian radio.

There is something different about a project with Christian format broadcasters from one with more conventional, let alone commercial, broadcasters. And what’s different isn’t simply the source of funding or the familiarity of the songs on the air.

What’s different – what’s palpable – is that everyone on staff knows the brand stands for something bigger.  And this feeling is generally lacking for most broadcasters in most formats.  But why?

Think about it, what does YOUR station stand for that’s bigger than the format itself?

Maybe you stand for maximizing revenue.  Maybe you stand for increasing ratings.  Okay those are outcomes, not objectives.  But outcomes of what?

Of playing the best music mix?  Sure, but that is increasingly easy to mimic nowadays on any number of platforms.  Of being ubiquitous and easy?  Sure, but that’s hardly defensible in a time of techno-revolution.

What about working to make your community a better place?  What about working to tangibly enrich the lives of the tens or hundred of thousands of ears and eyes who care enough about you to come back, again and again, day after day?  Show me the fan who affiliates with your brand for “higher ratings” or “more revenue” and I’ll show you the fan with a big title and the corner office at the station.

We talk a lot about social media in radio nowadays, yet how much of our social media efforts are directed towards anything with a social consequence?

Listeners – like you and me – are human beings.  And human beings always favor the call to something bigger.  If we in radio are guilty of anything, it’s not selling ourselves short, it’s selling short our audiences and their dreams and aspirations.  Once upon a time, Steve Jobs lured a Pepsi executive to run Apple with the admonition: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”  Guess what he did?  Who would do anything different?

Of course, our stations must be viable businesses – and growing ones, too. But are they successful because we relentlessly seek to increase ratings or are they successful because the audience places them near and dear to their hearts? I would argue that if it’s not the latter, then we risk losing the former.

Fans rave about the extraordinary, not the mundane.  The best way for any brand to be irreplaceable is for that brand to aspire to irreplaceability. And minimizing interruptions and tune-outs does not make you irreplaceable. The best way is to stand for something bigger and to prove it on an ongoing basis. That’s the way to motivate employees, audiences, consumers, investors, and management alike.

Standing for something bigger means solving bigger problems.  Under this scenario, isn’t it the job of the Sports station to facilitate the conversation of local sports fans across platforms and to bring the local sports fan community to life?  Isn’t it the job of the local News station to solve its audience’s information problems across platforms and monetize each solution and each platform accordingly?  Isn’t it the job of the Christian station to help their listeners help each other?  Isn’t it the job of the local New Rock station to be the experts in Rock music – and even local music?  Isn’t it the job of the AC station to be the experts in the interests and concerns of women and not just their workday soundtrack?

Your station doesn’t have to change the world, but no one is better positioned than your local media company to change your corner of it.

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