Three Keys to Station Growth

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Dear Christian Radio,

That timeless bit of oxymoronic wisdom has never been truer than when it is applied to Christian radio. We simply are not playing the same ballgame today that we played 20, 10, or even five years ago. Apps, websites, and, of course, social media are much more a part of our daily lives than they were back then. Yet, our terrestrial signal is more important to us than ever—and it should be.

Fact:  Ninety-nine percent (99%) of all adults, including 90 percent of all millennials listened to over-the-air broadcast radio just last week. None of the alternative means to listening are eclipsing on-air. That’s huge!

Dear Christian Radio, how do we grow? What are our priorities? What does the future hold for us, if it isn’t a decline and divestiture in broadcasting and a stronger base in “all other” types of listening? Maybe it’s not a problem solved by “either or,” but by “both and” thinking. Here’s what we mean:

It isn’t that listeners are leaving traditional radio behind. It’s more of an issue of them having lots of other choices. In addition to on-air listening (which includes satellite and network stations,) your target audience can also listen to any broadcast on their smart phones, download your music directly, listen to all manner of podcasts or sit at work in front of a computer and hear streaming audio. Choices are greater than ever before. To win them over, you have to provide something different, make them feel welcomed, and engage them in ways no one else has or is willing to do.

Here’s how: Three keys to growth for any Christian station.

Key #1 – Become Her Friend

It is very unrealistic to believe your listeners are not aware of the listening choices around her. The road to winning her listenership is to win her friendship, first. Think of it this way…in life you may be able to have hundreds of acquaintances, but most can only count their true friends on one hand. Your station needs to be one of those friends.

Design your radio station and its content in such a way that you create the necessary contrast between friend and acquaintance for your listener.

Key #2 – Product Differentiation  

The toothpaste market is just as mature and crowded as radio is these days. Just look at the survivors. How are they making it? They create and highlight new and different aspects of their product to make it stand out in the crowd. There’s Crest toothpaste with bleach to brighten your smile and another variety to detoxify and help keep your gums healthy as you age. There are toothpastes for kids and even ones for people with sensitive teeth.

So, what makes your station stand out? What can you claim to make your station different, without being weird? Maybe you’re the station that’s got heartwarming stories to go with the powerful, life-changing music you play. Perhaps your focus is on production values, making your station stand out by sounding bigger and more cutting edge than anyone else. Or, you could contrast the big network station blasting your area through hyper localism. You are the hub of a vital network of churches and organizations that every believer in the area knows about.

Key #3 – Listener Engagement

Boomers wanted excellence. If you built it, they would come. Nothing changed, so make what you have bigger, better, stronger and/or faster to win them over. Millennials—and to some extent, other generations—crave engagement. The causes they choose to endorse are ones where they are willing to invest something more precious than money—their time.

Show them how to get involved, and they will. Doing this creates a lasting relationship that will take your station into the future. If you’re looking for where you should invest in the future, it’s here. Hire more people to stage events, meet the public, create alliances with churches and other Christian causes, and make sure they are video smart and social media savvy. Create opportunities for listeners to give of their time, talent, and treasure to serve in ways they care about. If you can do these things you will win them over…big time!

Dear Christian Radio…

     1.  Make your product the best it can be. Test your music and come up with a way to differentiate your station. Make listening worth her time.
     2. Get to know your audience. Invest in spending time with her—through research or better yet, in person. Know her world and help solve her problems.
     3. Build a means of engagement. Take listening to the next level by giving your audience the chance to show up and help out with real causes. Engagement creates loyal, life-long listeners.

This article was written in collaboration by the following DCR contributors:

Frankie Morea
Vice President of Programming
Positive Alternative Radio

Jerry Grimes
Vice President of Creative Services
Positive Alternative Radio

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