I was searching for a station online the other day and I encountered a website so appallingly bad I braced myself in case this URL triggered a rupture in the space/time continuum.
Granted, lots of companies have bad websites, but this was B-A-D, folks.
Now don’t tell me “well, they are probably short-staffed and can’t devote the attention to their site that it requires.” That’s just B.S. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. And if you can’t develop a website that solves a problem for your brand, your consumers, and your clients, then don’t. You don’t give your child matches and then rationalize when he burns down your house: “Well, but he’s young.” No, you don’t give him matches in the first place!
There’s no 11th Commandment that reads “Thou Shalt have a Website.” You will not get to Heaven faster if you have achieved the masterstroke of registering a domain name. Signing up for Twitter and Facebook does not earn you a medal. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. You can grow your own food, but you probably don’t. And if your food tastes like this website, I’ll take mine in a trough.
It’s pity and sympathy more than anything else that keep me from exposing this dark stain on humanity in all its loathsome glory. But nevertheless, you will ask, what makes this particular site (powered by a name brand radio site provider that starts with the letter “I,”) so abominable, so gut wrenching, so puke-inducing?
Where do I begin?
How about content that seems swiped from a brochure of the radio station it represents, as if the purpose of the website was to be the F.A.Q. (Google it) for all that is trivial about their brand.
How about a dizzying variety of sometimes animated display advertising placed haphazardly and, one can only assume, for “added value” – in the unlikely event that cringes and guffaws are now considered “value,” let alone “added.”
How about the same ads appearing more than once on the same page?
How about graphic images partially overlaying other graphic images?
How about a design aesthetic just this side of street graffiti and a color scheme designed to spark a brain aneurism.
How about a Google ad on the front page reading “start your own radio station!”
I could go on and on.
So here’s my advice, Mr. Broadcaster:
If your website terrifies small children and is best enjoyed when chained with a hump in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, this is what I want you to do:
Kill your website.
Surrender the façade. Give up the dream. Stop the torture. Ship it to Dr. Drew and move it into a sober living house.
Instead, replace it with a single page. And the purpose of that page will be simple:
To invite your audience to give you their email address.
Why would they do this? Because you make it worth their while. Give them five good reasons to do it. Give them ten. Offer an iPad. Offer a tour of the station and milk and cookies with the morning show. Offer a free coffee at Starbucks. Offer your list of the 100 greatest songs of 2010. Offer things of value to your audience.
And what do they get when they sign up with you?
They get to talk with you. You get to reach out to them. Not to pitch them, not to spam them. But to dialogue with them. Or, in contemporary parlance, to “engage with them.”
Wait, you may say. Are you suggesting that we ditch our website in favor of an email relationship?
Yes, I’m saying exactly that. If you can’t play the website game, then don’t. Play the email game.
Ask for help from your audience and thank them for it. Share your exciting news with them (note: “exciting news” does not usually equal “sales promotion”) and ask them to tell their friends and pass your email along. Have your audience nominate a “listener of the month.” Offer secret discounts to your station friends. Invite them to pick the songs for you. Ask them for requests and dedications. Want to throw your station’s support behind a local charity.? Which one should it be? Ask them. Targeting Women? How about tips for moms from the morning show co-host.
Radio thinks too much about itself and not enough about its audience.
These are just a few ideas. Ultimately your course will be determined by who your audience is and what they care about.
Simple email tools are everywhere online. There is no excuse for not mastering them. None. And with those tools come tracking and feedback mechanisms and pass along tools, etc. Things that spread the word about your station and give folks a good reason to tune in.
Would you be better off to actually develop a digital presence you can be proud of? A full-on website and strategy that benefits all your stakeholders and your business goals? Of course you would. Shouldn’t you ideally do this as part of an email relationship? Of course you should. But only if you can.
Remember there is no point to a website for your station at all if its purpose isn’t to enrich the relationship you have with your consumers.
If you want folks to listen to you again and again, you must establish a relationship with them that’s deeper than the sequence of your hits and the placement of your spots.
Care about them, and they will care about you.