Content Marketing

Quality content so simple it's frightening

I experienced something so simple the other morning that brings value to advertisers, radio stations, audiences and communities and almost frightens me to even say it: great local over-the-air radio.

My normal “commute” to work was a little different that day: I found myself in the car for a good 45 minutes between driving my daughter to school and my dogs to daycare. In the spirit of breaking routine, I decided for a change to listen to Minneapolis’ 96.3 K-Twin“Quality Rock” of the Eighties and Nineties — think Jack-FM with personality.

Two of the three morning hosts are also personalities on the local KARE 11 TV news, so I thought I would check out their shtick.  I found myself staying tuned after a song leading into a commercial break because they teased a contest called “Wait a Minute, I Know That!” — an obvious rip-off of NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” which CRN has always cited as the type of quality on-air contesting that is very effective.

After the break, Chris from White Bear Lake called in to compete against co-host Eric Perkins. There was some wonderful banter between him and the hosts. They each got three multiple-choice questions based on pop culture. They both got two out of three correct, so they had to go to a tiebreaker which wasn’t going to happen until after the next commercial break.

I would guess many people did what I did, I stayed tuned! Why? It was engaging, fun and entertaining. It wasn’t complicated, the listener didn’t have to go to a website, tweet or post a photo on Facebook. All he had to do was call in, engage with the personalities and answer a couple of simple questions. What a concept.

Unfortunately, Chris from White Bear Lake lost, but he did get a consolation prize: the newly released CD from Brian Setzer. Do you know what he would’ve received if he had won?  A mug!

We sometimes make the world too complicated. Learning a new marketing term every day. Hopping on the bandwagon to trends we don’t fully understand. Integrate with this. Integrate with that.

We have research (coming soon) that confirms people like to enter fun contests and also listen in as other participants sweat it out. It was a wonderful 15-minute bit.  It was refreshing, validating and inspiring – even if the last thing I would have needed was another mug. The only thing missing was an opportunistic title sponsor to anchor the segment and deliver a corresponding spot to run alone during the break. Sometimes marketers try to outthink themselves. In those cases, they often wind up scratching their heads.

Patrick Leeney, a 24-year veteran of the broadcast business, is Vice President at CRN International and based in Minneapolis.

The same old song

For weeks Jerry Del Colliano had been promoting his Marketing Solutions Summit as an opportunity for broadcasters to learn new ways to address the challenges they face as radio listening patterns and engagement increasingly reflect our digital society.

Who knows what will result from this well-conceived conference and others like it. But much like listening to the same song over and over on the radio until it hurts, we have to wonder how many times broadcasters can hear the same threats to their future over and over until they feel equipped enough to do something about it or at least motivated enough to find out.

Broadcasters realize it’s a different media world out there. Consumption of sound, video and print today have forever changed the way people enjoy entertainment and receive information. Millennials have grown up without radio as a seminal influence, and the coming Plurals generation will be even less dependent on the medium. The attention span of people of all ages is shorter than ever as they fumble with and juggle so many instantaneous information outlets. Broadcasters recognize now more than ever that it is critical for them to make themselves relevant, authentic and valuable to listeners both on-air and online. The message is clear — and believe it or not, in this moving-at-the-speed-of-light pace, it’s already getting old.

Just to review a few talking points that you surely have heard somewhere if not here:

  • Broadcasters can’t keep syndicating, voice tracking and consolidating resources and hope to deliver a compelling product to this emerging generation of listeners. Remember, they were not raised with radio in their blood. So short of a transfusion, broadcasters have to find a way to their hearts. You’re working with a mindset of listeners who simply know what they want when they want it, wherever they can get it.
  • Broadcasters still are not efficient enough at using or monetizing digital media.  While websites and social media are the currency with which the new generations engage, broadcasters haven’t found the formula for turning their own digital assets into breadwinning extensions of their core product. Advertisers see it the same way.
  • Content for Millennials and Plurals is everywhere. Connect with it, understand it, create it, and deliver it in unique and compelling ways.
  • People have shorter attention spans and are constantly pulled in different directions by the tools of instantaneous communication. Where does radio fit in this maze of digital distraction? I’ll tell you: One of radio’s staples has been a listener dependence on local information and music discovery. Once listener apathy draws them to another medium for whatever reasons, you shortly thereafter can expect them to use their new medium for info and discovery as well.

Jerry maintained that digital must become a serious second revenue stream for radio and not just something broadcasters have to throw out there gratuitously to show listeners they “get it” when it comes to the changing media world.

It was a good discussion, and the fact that the room was full showed that these challenges are being recognized as real within the broadcast community.  There’s still time to win over the newer generation – let’s get going.

The power of story

Whatever success I’ve had at CRN is because I told a good story.

I tell stories to job candidates, CRNers, prospects, the public, clients.  I tell them when I teach, when I pitch, when I create.  Stories are not part of the fabric of CRN, they are CRN.  After all, CRN is a collection of thousands of stories.  Stories are our product, and how we talk about it.  Stories are in our memories and are added to every day.

Without stories, there is no CRN.

I tell stories about talking my way in to see the president of New England Mutual Life; interviewing Ralph Nader and forgetting to turn on the record button; flying across the country on a whim to see a potential client who failed to show up for the meeting; getting sick on a van (mostly others tell that story); meeting Hugh Jackman, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter; getting stuck on a ski trail that led to CRN’s development of Ski Watch; creating a candidate for UConn student president that never existed—it doesn’t matter.  I tell stories all the time.  Some funny, some unbelievable, some boring.  But there is always a story.  And they all count.

If you can’t tell a story, you can’t sell.

The good news is everyone can; everyone has and tells good stories.

We would not be able to create successful client solutions—the engine of our business—without telling and hearing stories about our clients’ consumers; how they spend their days, their lives; how they work and play driving to work, picking up the kids; their relationships, their habits; and how we, on behalf of our clients, interact with those consumers to make a client’s product part of their lives.

Credibility and trust are often gained through stories—sometimes through narrative, sometimes through analogies, sometimes by relating our own personal experiences.  It could be a story about how we came up with the idea or even what happened at breakfast. In the context of a story, it’s easier and more effective to weave in facts and statistics to build a case in a less jarring, more natural way. Prospects need to like us and believe us. Capabilities decks don’t do that; stories do.

As Jennifer Aaker, Professor of Marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, explains, “A big idea is not enough. Your big idea needs a story.  Stories fuel innovation.  They hold the power to take listeners on a journey that changes how they think, feel or act.  Studies show we are wired to remember stories much more than data, facts, and figures.  However, when data and story are used together, audiences are moved both emotionally and intellectually.  Harnessing the power of stories will enable you to be more persuasive, move people to action.”

Imagine a room full of people, all eyes on you and nary a bullet point in sight.  No one is checking iPhones, Facebook or LinkedIn.  You’re controlling the room, heads are nodding, they’re leaning forward—no scowls, just intensity—and, like watching House of Cards, they can’t wait to find out what’s next.  Now imagine that translating into more business, more meetings and happier clients.