“Radio, you hear it here first”?

Today a Radio industry heavyweight sent me a DVD of the the Radio industry PR campaign spearheaded by the NAB. He was looking for my thoughts.

Here is what I sent him. You may not agree, but it’s what I think.

One the whole I think this campaign couldn’t be more wrong-headed. Consumers – listeners – do what they do because there are benefits to doing so. This campaign inexplicably focuses on elements which are not even remotely close to the benefits of radio – let alone benefits that differentiate us from other media. Worse, the central argument of the campaign – that “you hear it here first” – is a lie. For many big music fans, the first hearing of a song or artist is often NOT on the radio. It’s through friends or, frankly, online. Being the place for “hits” and being the place to hear new songs first are not the same thing – and our ratings are higher because of it. On the print content specifically, these ads look like they were produced in a high school Powerpoint presentation. The “Radio” logo looks like it came off the Admiral appliances my mother used in the 70’s. Bar and pie charts make notoriously uninvolving ads. Interpreting these ads seems like “work” On the VNR and TV news segments, whenever a TV news show introduces a segment by saying “Radio isn’t dead yet” I think the tone of the segment is wrong. Further, I don’t think the ad campaign should be positioned as the news. The NEWS should be positioned as the news. And THAT is what we need to focus on. What’s NEW and ATTRACTIVE about Radio? THAT is the “news.” Otherwise we’re just publicizing our own PR. Absurd. Finally, I’m STUNNED that the ad agency who produced the campaign features themselves in the same campaign!! How are we supposed to garner credibility with tactics like that? On the radio spots, I’ve already commented on the inappropriateness of the message. But beyond that, could we have less inspiring production value if we tried? They make poor use of our medium – and if we can’t use our medium well, who can? The whole idea of a PR campaign for radio is wrong, in my view. We should be doing PR for the CONTENT we create. Rush should have PR. Laura should have PR. Each of your stations and their morning shows should have PR. A favorable impression of the industry will come from a thousand favorably impressive moving parts. And the new things we do will re-imagine our industry as one which looks forward with zest and zeal and an enthusiasm for taking chances and creating change. The current campaign paints radio as an industry that’s frightened and defensive and diminishing and irrelevant, spouting half-truths against the stiff breeze of change. And that’s not the Radio industry I want to be a part of.
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