Top Syndication Mistakes to Avoid
And Now There Are 11
RadioLinx Broadcast Marketing has successfully helped dozens of independently syndicated radio hosts to grow their affiliate rosters in all formats and market sizes. Through the years, we have observed several best practices employed by most, and a few that we prefer to steer clients away from. In our next blog we will post best practices. In the meantime, here are a few mistakes to avoid. Our list originally started out with ten and, as the industry has evolved, have felt the need to add an eleventh.
#1- A high volume of listener phone calls does not mean your radio program is ready for national distribution. All too often RadioLinx receives inquiries from prospective show hosts seeking to syndicate a young radio show fueled by the notion that "we're getting a lot of calls". While the listener interest can feed the ego, it doesn't necessarily translate into affiliate interest. Programs seeking national distribution compete in an environment where shows are evaluated based upon their ratings track record, content, quality of performance, and host notoriety. Don't let a jammed three-line phone rotary or the praise of your friends lead you to the false conclusion that your show is equipped to compete in that national environment. Instead, consider growing your show first through regional syndication while offering a flanker competitive strategy that can make your program more appealing than that of an established veteran.
#2- Independent syndication is a journey; make sure you have enough gas in the engine to arrive at your destination. Independent syndication typically yields between eight and ten stations per year and it takes approximately four months before a program secures its first station. We've had some clients do much better than that, others not as well. Before you embark on a path towards syndication, make sure you have sufficient funds to reach your goals. Nothing is more disappointing than a program that is maturing according to plan only to run out of operating dollars prior to reaching a point where the show can begin to monetize its commercial inventory.
#3- Don’t ignore the importance of a strong demo. Start the introduction process to prospective radio stations with a good quality demo. Your demo should contain a short sample of each of the key attributes, benchmarks, and programming benefits your show offers. Done correctly, your demo should act similarly to a movie trailer compelling the prospective PD to want to listen further to an entire program. This first audio introduction is always done best with a shorter demo versus a full length program. As most Program Directors typically spend no more than 90 seconds on their first listen to a prospective program, if your presentation doesn't articulate the key aspects of your program within that time frame, you may never get a second opportunity. Best practice- use a separate voice to narrate your demo.
#4- Don’t overlook the need for well-produced sales collateral. Next to your show's audio demo, a strong marketing "one-sheet" should be an integral part of your overall marketing material. Resist the temptation to write a thesis with your piece. The one-sheet should be just that-- one page. In it, highlight the key attributes of your program such as the host, content, and the show's unique contribution to the prospective radio station. Include program details such as length, broadcast time, and delivery information.
#5- Ignoring the power of social media. According to a recent Harris poll, 150 million Americans have a Facebook account. Industry estimates indicate that 7.5 million people use Twitter. Both social media applications and others like them can help your program communicate with listeners and prospective new radio stations. Some best practice examples include Dave Ramsey, Jim Franklin, The Horse Show, and Bill Handel. Consider marketing your program using targeted Facebook ads.
#6- Lack of pre-launch research. Before launching a new radio show into syndication, investigate the potential market reception of your program. Many talk subjects offered by potential syndication hosts are well covered in the national landscape. What potential opportunities are available that are not currently being filled by other programs? Some subjects are suited for traditional barter syndication while others almost always require a pay-for-play approach. If you do decide to enter a crowded field, what attributes will your show possess that offers a unique selling proposition while addressing station needs?
#7- Expecting Too Much, Too Soon. It can be frustrating to develop a program brochure, record a demo, send emails, and make phone calls to prospective radio stations without getting an immediate response. Affiliate marketing is really about developing a relationship and, like any new relationship, it takes time to build interest. To grow that initial interest into a new affiliate, you will need to be in the marketplace with a consistent message hitting each prospect PD at least six times before they feel that they know your show and have the confidence to explain to other members of the management team why they have decided to air your program. Remember to stay the course, follow your marketing plan and talk to other hosts that have been down the same path you are on. You'll find there is no such thing as instant success. And if you are really unsure of what you are doing, find an industry mentor or hire a marketing professional.
#8- Failure to secure a strong terrestrial flagship station. While it’s an easy transition for terrestrial programs to extend their brand to the Internet, growing your show from the web to mainstream radio is still a challenge. Even if your Internet program has a significant streaming audience, numerous Facebook fans, and Twitter followers, terrestrial radio Program Directors still may not take notice. These programmers will want to see a proven record of success with Arbitron ratings and evidence of local advertiser appeal. The best way to establish your web based program as a prominent competitor is to secure a terrestrial radio flagship. From this on-air home, you'll be better equipped to polish your program for acceptance in these areas.
#9- Believing your show will sell itself. Many show hosts and product managers make the mistake of thinking their product is so great and unique that they don't need to market. Think of all the products and services you use today. Did any of them just find their way to your door simply because they were perfect for you? The reality is that radio stations need to be told why they should program your radio show, use your service, or buy your product. They need to believe that their radio station will uniquely benefit from the use of your product. And once they signed on the dotted line, you will want to provide them with the appropriate customer service and affiliate relations to ensure they will continue as an affiliate or customer. All of these things require sales and marketing. No matter how great your show or product, don't forget you still need to market to get it sold.
#10- Do not forget to sign your affiliates to a contract and ask for affidavits. An affiliate agreement outlines the responsibilities of both the radio station and the program provider. That contract also obligates a radio station to air your program, to do so within a specific time frame, and to provide adequate notice if the station decides to cancel. Without this agreement, it becomes very difficult to manage your affiliate roster and stations are free to cancel without notice. An affiliate line-up backed by contractual agreements provides for a solid roster that can be sold to advertisers with the confidence that your program will deliver a specific audience. Secondly, be sure to collect program affidavits from your affiliates. These become legal documents that certify the affiliate has aired your program as promised and that the commercial advertising contained within was cleared. Even if your advertisers do not request such verification, it is a good idea to get your affiliates in the habit of returning these affidavits. The documentation will let you know that your show aired properly and will be readily available for those advertisers that may require them.
#11- Failure to embrace a multi-platform approach. Over 160 million Americans listen to online radio every month. More than 127 million Americans each month are tuning to a radio program via their digital smart devices. Today’s successful radio host embraces each of the various audio platforms. Stream your live terrestrial radio show over your website. Provide an on-demand podcast version for download. Place your show on an app where audiences can listen at their convenience on phones and tablets. Radio listeners have more choices than ever before to selectively decide when and where they choose to listen to radio. Establish your presence on each of the platforms. You will be in step with how audiences use the medium today and be on your way for adaptation in the next phase of digital media adoption—the connected car.
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