How to create great radio promotions

All you need is a great mechanic, listener interaction and reaction, several good prizes and good talk-ability too.

Back in 2003 I was nominated for a Radio Academy Promotions and Marketing award for a marketing campaign I’d set up for CTR 105.6fm, a commercial radio station in Maidstone, Kent, United Kingdom.

I recently read a post from another radio professional with a top five tips on how not to run an on air promotion.  Some points were well made yet I disagreed with the premise that everything should be social media driven.  I believe that any promotion on air should be story driven.  If it ain’t got a story at its heart then for me it doesn’t have the legs.

The promotion we ran, now some ten years or so ago, with CTR was called “Say happy 3rd birthday to CTR 105.6FM and win with 3”.

The Mechanic was simple. We invited listeners to say Happy Birthday 3rd Birthday CTR 105.6fm. Do it whatever way you want, but you must prove it with a photograph.

The prize was nice. We offered 10 brand new Sony Ericson mobile phones, which included the latest camera, and one lucky listener would get a years free 3 contract, others were on pay as you go sims.  We teamed up with 3mobile for the promotion. Hey some synergy with our third birthday.

The outcome we desired. We wanted our P1 listeners (position one on the dial) who are loyal to help us market the radio station on our third birthday. We had no money to promote the station – none.  My marketing budget had dropped to £150 for a month. The idea was to get our listeners promoting us on round about’s, at work, at supermarkets or wherever they could get the name CTR 105.6fm.

The actual outcome. We had tons of people going around putting banners up, creating their own sheets, posters in their windows, home made car stickers on the back windows of their cars. People were spraying sheep, builders were creating large collages in fields. It was great, we had tons of pictures to display o the website.

The sheep were sprayed by a shepherd by the way and not any old member of the public, we were informed by ‘Kate The Shepherd’ as she was known that one of the sheep made a run for it on market day. Another farmer shouted “Oi stop that sheep with CTR on it’s back”. You can’t buy that type of marketing.

In the end we spent nothing on the promotion but we got tons back in people talking about us, we had a police officer bring us a blanket that someone had erected on main round about – oops.  We know by Rajar and our own research we had new people tuning in and our loyal listeners told us that it was fun.

Short Timescale.  It ran for three weeks, one pre-promote and two activity.  That’ it.

My view is be creative but think of the outcome you desire and understand what your listener actually wants ahead of creating a promotion.  One size does not fit all and a promotion on another station or in another market may not work on/in yours.

Ask yourself does it need to be on social media or is it social media driven? How does your listener interact with you?  Do you want to reward loyal listeners or gain new fans?  What get’s them talking any of them?

Back to the blog post I recently read which tended to rubbish all of the current radio promotions, things like the secret sound, guess who is saying the station name and when we call don’t say hello but do say 105.7 bluff fm.  Maybe with those he has a point.

Be creative and think different.

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