Is there a place for community radio in your small business?

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Transistor Radio Girls
Transistor Radio Girls (Photo credit: Peter Ras)

Have you ever listen to these adverts from small businesses on your local community radio station and wondered whether you should give it a try?

The other day I heard an advertisement on a local radio station for a transcription and typing service – can you believe it? This tiny outfit is using the local radio station to reach an audience much larger than they would get on the Internet. Why do I say this? It’s because if you’ve ever run a website, you’ll soon find out that attracting customers involves a marketing effort that requires huge amounts of planning, energy and advertising.

On a Friday evening recently we went to see the “Going Gooding” one-act play by Malcolm Gooding at the Foxhouse theatre in Houghton, Johannesburg. This was a great show if you are interested in the golden age of radio in South Africa. Yet if you think about it in those days there were few radio stations and the big companies such as the cigarette, liquor petroleum and motor vehicle brands dominated. Their advertising was repeated over and over until they virtually burnt it into your brain.

Some people may lament the passing of the golden era of radio but they forget that it was not interactive at all. Can you believe it, people used to have to write in with a posted letter to ask for their favourite songs to be played. Compare this to today where listeners have so many channels to interact with radio: they can call the radio station, send an SMS or even send out a tweet instantaneously to the radio station.

It’s interesting that radio keeps growing – especially with the new audio streaming channels on the Internet as well as the many new local community stations – unlike the big problems that newspapers are having as they face the Internet all over the world. I recently saw some statistics on Internet radio streaming stations in the United States, which showed that streaming audio stations had increased by 32% compared to 2013. Meanwhile daily newspapers shrink, increasingly commercialised their editorial to stay alive and have retrenched their most valuable product producers, their quality journalists. A recent report in Editor & Publisher told how print media journalists were flocking to news websites as they saw a better future there for themselves.

English: VEF-202 transistor radio, USSR, 1971
English: VEF-202 transistor radio, USSR, 1971 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Local community radio stations might not be as expensive to advertise in as you think. And you can choose when you want your advertisements broadcast. Local radio stations will fall over their feet to help you produce your material if you want to advertise on their station.

But for a small business radio messaging must be direct, memorable, entertaining and have a clear call to action (i.e., potential customers must know how and where they can contact your business). You could start by listening to some of the local radio stations in your area to identify a potential vehicle for your advertising.

The old, traditional stations that don’t put very much effort into their content include those that push out mainly political debate so that they can have a broad audience – chasing for numbers rather than quality.

New Directions at Night
New Directions at Night (Photo credit: Thompson Rivers)

You’ll most likely be surprised at the quality and thoughtful programming that you can find on some of the local community stations which are trying their best to attract listeners. One of the stations that has innovated its way into listeners hearts is Mix FM, which has an exciting blend of music that listeners want to hear, snappy news updates, entertaining talk and sports scores and gossip. It’s new, youthful radio stations like this that are continuing to break away from radio stations that ditched key audiences years ago. Those audiences are looking for exciting content whether it be music or talk radio.

Freddie Mercury
Cover of Freddie Mercury

The great Freddie Mercury said in one of his songs that radio was yet to have its finest hour even though he mourned about radio gaga and radio blah blah. If he was still around today I’m sure he’d be amazed at what Internet streaming radio is doing to innovate one of the oldest mediums and how local community radio stations are innovating with their own unique content. If you want to know whether radio can work for your small business, why not get one of the local radio stations to put you in touch with a small business advertiser and ask them how it’s working for their business?


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