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Positioning lines in the era of PPM

One of the lessons of Arbitron’s PPM, some broadcasters tell me, is that we should strip away the positioning lines from our stations.

Presumably, this is not because we have spent decades lacing our programming with phrases that are trite and meaningless – or even redundant.

Although we have.

Rather, the argument goes, it is because the PPM shows very little tolerance for non-music content on any stations which are all about music, so cut-cut and snip-snip.

Now I’m not against dumping positioning lines. Lord knows I’ve dumped and dumped on my share.

But I am against dumping positioning.

Because the need to be distinct does not evaporate when the ratings methodology evolves.

The need to be clear does not disappear with the introduction of PPM.

The need to understand why I, a non-listener, should choose your station over all the rest never goes out of style.

What we need to do isn’t to spout positioning line cliches, but rather to express our position, what we stand for, in a compelling, attention-getting manner. Expression is about what we do and how we do it, not simply what we say.

This means different things for different stations.

But it doesn’t mean dumping positioning when you dump a positioning line any more than you would throw out the baby with the proverbial bath water.

You need to make sure you – and your current and potential audience – can answer these basic questions:

1. Who are we and what do we stand for?

2. How is this different from the competition in a way that matters – a lot – to the audience?

And if you can’t answer those questions, you don’t have a position…

…whether or not you have a positioning line.

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