Putting Listeners First

Dear Christian Radio,

What are you talking about on your radio station? That’s a pretty important question to ask. Many Christian radio stations do research to make sure they are playing the right song at the right time, but are they following what the on-air talent is saying between songs?

The answer can be subjective, as it is heavily influenced by each station’s own mission. Even so, when it comes to what listeners want us to talk about, the answer is more or less universal: Listeners want us to talk about the things that interest them most. Ta-da!

When we intentionally talk about the things they truly care about, we allow ourselves to comfortably move outside of the radio bubble and into a space where radio puts the listener first. Sure, we all say that we do it, but do we really? Listeners tune into our stations each day because they are in search of a specific experience. Stations that get it have a brand that reflects the listener first mentality. What’s more, their on-air team and staff diligently craft these experiences—offering them abundantly.

Christian radio needs to treat listener research with the same esteem that it often reserves only for music research. It’s important for every station to take a greater interest in the listener and start acting on unbiased empirical data and material facts, rather than circumstantial evidence and in-house opinion. Every station should know why listeners are choosing them over a competitor. In truth, most listeners are delighted—if not flattered—to be asked what they think about a station and its content. Chances are they listen for reasons unrelated to your playlist. Likewise, they probably could care less about whether or not it’s National Knish Day or other radio filler and gaga!

It’s amazing how quickly stations can shift the attention from listeners over to their own needs and goals. Of course this is not anyone’s intention, but the road to Us-ville is broad and easy to find. Christian radio stations have a ton of good things to offer: concerts, promotions, events. Just remember, only a small fraction of your listeners are interested in these things. Therefore, treat them as such; delegate them to a creative promo. This in turn leaves more room for on-air talent to create the content listeners crave.

At one point or another in our lives, we have all had that friend who loves to talk about him- or herself. Don’t be that friend! Airtime that is filled with station messaging and filler short changes the relationship. Your listeners come to you for many reasons, but it’s not to hear self-serving promos. Many come to be encouraged. Others come to give praise to God in a unique and meaningful way that only your station can provide. Learn your audience and then do the work that encourages others and builds lasting friendship between your station and its listeners.

In closing, I leave you with two questions only you can answer:

  • How much time do you want to spend with your listeners?
  • How does your current relationship with them make you feel?

Dear Christian Radio…

  1. Put your listeners first.
  2. Meet the listener’s expectations with content that focuses on their needs.
  3. Create and deliver experiences that provide a positive difference in the listener’s day.

Onward in God’s grace,

Frankie Morea
Vice President of Programming
Positive Alternative Radio

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