Morning shows are beginning (and not ending) the radio day. Inspiration for radio programming & promotions for successful daytime, drivetime and evening shows.
Instead of closing down after the morning show and just tease & back-sell during the following hours, rather engage radio listeners all the time. In a PPM market to create tune-in occasions, in a diary market to build station images. German program directors and a Swiss on-air talent shared some of their concepts during the Lokalrundfunktage 2014.
“Creativity doesn’t stop
after the morning show”
Build station-wide team spirit
“I’m honest. Most of our energy, time and promotion effort goes into the morning show”, says Ina Tenz. She’s program director of radio ffn, the market leader in the Germany state of Lower Saxony with a daily reach of 1/3rd of the local population. “But we don’t neglect our daytime; it’s important for us. We present the entire on-air staff as one team and have promotions during the day. Creativity doesn’t stop after the morning show.” Social media play an important role. Supporting the German #Mundpropaganda campaign against homophobia, radio ffn posted a picture on its Facebook page where two hetero male presenters were kissing each other to make a statement. Needless to say, it got them a lot of response.
The station tries to do the opposite of what’s expected. During the FIFA 2014 soccer championship, basically every radio station in Germany produced a World Cup song. ffn decided to do something different, and produce a parody that made fun of the usual football songs. The result was being played on the air through the entire day, and made available for download. It reached #8 on the Amazon download chart.
Spread promotions through dayparts
Die Braut, Die Sich Was Traut (The Brave Bride) was a radio ffn promotion where two soon-to-be-married ladies went ‘to the end of the world’ to win € 10.000. They could only wear a white wedding dress, and had to travel without any money, without any luggage, and without a phone. Daytime host Jan Zerbst and radio producer Markus Grieger accompanied the brides, while their grooms at home had to play contests for a daily credit of € 100, so their future wife could eat and sleep in a hotel. Tenz: “During the production, we said: let’s hope they make it to Disneyland or to Mallorca; that would be sensational! But both ended up in New Zealand by talking themselves into free tickets.” Jan and Markus were there to provide regular on-air updates of the events. How it ended? “Everyone got home safe. One of the brides actually married. The other didn’t. But Jan Zerbst had nothing to do with it, hahaha.”
“There is no secondary prime time”
Invest in additional talent
“I’m a self-confessed evening presenter”, says Jonathan Schächter of Switzerland’s leading private station Radio 24. “There is no prime time in radio – we decide where to put it. Sure, full speed ahead at mornings; that’s how people start the day. But those who get in the car in the morning, drive back in the late afternoon or early evening. They’re probably less tired than in the morning and still having the focus of the workday. They like to stress out, and get informed and entertained. There’s a single method for that: personalities.” Radio 24 chooses to promote presenters of all dayparts, so not just their morning show team. “Develop personalities, give them a chance to grow, and provide them with concepts that allow them to touch and engage people – which is what radio is all about. Those who really ‘have it’ should also see a commitment from the station. “Nothing is more solid than a long-term alliance between a brand and a personality, who connects with the audience and gives them a place where they feel at home.”
“I have always wanted to re-open the entertainment doors that are usually closed after morning show hours, and say: hey – there are people who listen after 10 AM. So when they hear a voice, they want to hear what it has to say. This might be even more important than the music. It doesn’t play the same role as it did in the early days, when I was sitting beside my radio with a tape recorder to press ‘record’ when my favorite song came along.”
Let people stay tuned
Another reason to invest in your evening programming is that it can actually support your morning show. “When I’m switching off the radio, I will hear the same station after I press the ‘on’ button the next morning. It makes entertaining afternoon and evening presenters incredibly important.” Starting in Swiss local radio, Schächter filled his radio backpack at bigFM in Germany, before conquering the 6-10 PM evening slot on ENERGY Zürich. When it showed a significant ratings growth, he moved to 4-8 PM in afternoon drive. Then he got an offer from competitor Radio 24 for an evening personality show. It started a market-wide trend to invest in daytime and evenings. The result for Radio 24? “The 6 PM hour has the exact same amount of listeners as the 7 AM hour. There is no secondary prime time; there is one prime time, all day long. It’s why I have said ‘no’ to all morning show offers. As long as I can sleep longer and have just as many listeners in the evening, I’ll keep doing this!”
“There is no secondary prime time;
there is one prime time, all day long”
“We have 5 seconds to grab a listener”
Keep listeners during daytime
Torsten Birenheide is program director of BB RADIO, the number 1 private station in the German state of Brandenburg. He presents 5 ways to produce relevant and interesting radio all the time; not just during the breakfast show:
1. Schedule a great playlist
“I don’t agree that music is being written off”, he says, showing a market study from their research company Coleman Insights that asked 700 locals where they discover the music they later buy or download. 70% of the respondents answered ‘radio’. The station even has a daily show (BB RADIO Brandneu) from 7-8 PM, featuring today’s best new music and biggest hits. “It is testing through the roof. People see us as music professionals, and are open for what we suggest.” He finds it necessary to coach on-air talents in selling new music in a lively manner, and to position music sweeps across the day – like the BB RADIO Nonstop-Hit-Block after each top of the hour.
“Current events go on air as soon as they happen. Saving them for later kills the core of radio of being the fastest medium – so avoid a topic fight between your morning personality and your drivetime presenter.” In his view, most news facts should just be told in a simple and conversational way; not always with a mega ‘breaking news’ intro (unless it’s news that justifies using imaging like that).
3. Make content short & relevant
It’s Birenheide’s “favorite topic” in a time when people’s attention spans are getting anything but longer. “Say it short and say something relevant. What worked well for us is to give listeners a time span upfront.” For current topics that need some context, they introduced BB RADIO Mitreden in 60 Sekunden (Join The Conversation In 60 Seconds). It’s a pre-recorded bit that explains questions like: why does Russia want influence in the Crimea? “We received a lot of feedback from people who say: great – one minute; that I can bear.” He points out that “we have 5 seconds to grab a listener” with a good entry, preferably from the audience perspective. An opening sentence like ‘Aldi and Lidl personnel will be striking this evening’ is not interesting. “What does it mean for the listener? Well, Aldi and Lidl are closed. So, say: ‘In case you want to shop for groceries tonight: Aldi and Lidl are closed because of a strike.’ Ideally, add a service element to it, and tell them which stores are open.”
“Do something different
from what you did this morning”
4. Program the right content
Instead of (only) back-selling and re-cycling morning show bits, you can also produce fresh content that is equally interesting or engaging. It may include music information & benchmarks, as well as local news & events. “Not in an epic way, more like: ‘Good morning, the state president is on his way to open our city’s new factory; a good impulse for the local economy’. These are 5-second bits in an opener.” There can be service elements like weather & traffic updates, and interactive bits such as call-ins, surveys and contests. Station & sales promotions can be included as well. “When sales has a good concept, you have to think: does it fit best in the morning show or in the afternoon? You cannot avoid sales promotions, but you can place them well. We have daily meetings with the sales team and find a solution from which the customer and the station benefit.” Last, but not least, there may be airtime for (pre-produced) comedy bits, as well as image breaks that help presenters to become more known among the target audience.
BB RADIO recently introduced the local Top-Thema des Tages (Main Topic of the Day), which features a Berlin-Brandenburg-related news topic in 1 minute. Torsten Birenheide likes to cover 1 topic well, rather than 10 things briefly. The first image trackings show that, even if just 1/3rd of all listeners knows this feature (green column), only 1/3rd of people says it’s ‘not good and not bad’ (red column) and 2/3rd really appreciates it (blue column).
Produce morning comedy compilations
Like many German stations, BB RADIO’s morning show has its own comedy series. To avoid repetition – as well as producing a dedicated edition for drivetime – they make a best-of montage of older editions. “You can then do something different from what you did this morning, and let your breakfast host say: this afternoon you’ll hear a best-of edition from the last years.” The station also tries to engage listeners on its Facebook page. They focus on funny and shareable stuff, rather than self-promotion. “Using Facebook to say ‘listen again tomorrow’, doesn’t work. It will quickly annoy people.” The PD makes clear that in their market and demographic, Facebook is a small extension of radio. Just “17%” of listeners with a Facebook account will visit radio station profiles. “It depends on your target audience if it’s worth to do a lot, or if you should just do some smaller things there.”
“They have the right to their own show”
5. Hire compelling radio personalities
“Your midday and afternoon presenter is not just there to promote your morning show”, Birenheide says. “They have the right to their own show. Finding a good host isn’t easy. I have the best one; Der Kaiser. Stay away from him! But when you talk with him, he would probably say ‘no’ anyway”, he jokes towards fellow radio programmers from the competitive Berlin-Brandenburg area. In the PDs view, top drivetime jocks not only have a strong personality and a sense of humor, they also know what’s happening worldwide and locally and know about the music. He finds it important to have a great drivetime slot besides a winning morning show. “Hit the gas in the afternoon as well.”