Feature Interview

Lori Clapper Interview 9-4-17

Lori Clapper
Midday Host/Content Strategist

Career Capsule: Lori is the midday hostess and content strategist at WCTL FM in Erie, PA. Previously – Blogger for iMom.com, morning show co-host on WCTL, morning show host for WCLN FM in Fayetteville, NC, Editor for a Life Sciences industry trade publication, and PR Director for a high-tech marketing firm.

Lori, Tell us what’s new with WCTL… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?

There are a lot of big things going on at WCTL. This year, we celebrate 50 years in ministry. In this day of corporate mergers and acquisitions in all industries — including broadcasting — we are grateful for a long, rich heritage as Erie’s local CCM station. And God has provided an incredible opportunity to move our radio tower to a prime location locally, significantly strengthening our reach in Erie and its surrounding communities, the tristate area, and across to Canada. This move is a big endeavor, but the end-game is what it’s all about: that more people in our region would have access to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For me personally, there is also a lot of change happening.  My son just graduated from high school in June, and my daughter will graduate after this coming school year. So my husband and I will be helping them navigate a new season in life – college and young-adulthood. I also have a 10-year old daughter and will soon be re-living the middle school years!

What are some unique characteristics you’ve discovered about your market?

Erie is a very unique area. USA Today named us as having the best fresh-water beaches in the U.S. Conversely, most years we make the national news as #1 snowiest city in the country. #NuffSaid

What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?

Best programming advice:

Know that you can’t make everyone happy all of the time. In the same way any company would market a product, you have to know who your target demographic is. And that goes for Christian radio, too.

It’s important to research and get to know who that target person is. We even went as far as to give her a name – and super-served her in our on-air conversations and promotions. When you do this over time, she will become your biggest fan and “evangelist” and share your station with her family and friends.

When we focused our marketing efforts in this way, we saw a lot of promotional success and a big boost in ratings.

Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?

I can’t say whether I agree or disagree. Each station is working to fulfill its own mission and to grow. And that’s good. But as the only local CCM station in Erie, we work hard each day to win new listeners, increase ratings, and most importantly to be a strong force for Christ in the local market.  And when there are more choices on the dial, that is definitely a big barrier to reaching those goals. Let’s face it, it could mean losing listeners and thus revenue.

However, with more Christian stations in the market, it can also feed a healthy competitive spirit. Your staff can re-direct the dilemma into an incentive to become the best radio station you can be and live out your station’s mission in a more intentional way. Use the fact that you are local as an opportunity to be more involved in the lives of local families and businesses. To serve more and do radio better.

What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your job?

A large Diet Coke. Oh, and it really helps to have an incredible team like we do at WCTL! (oops that’s two)

Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?

I think radio talent can come from many different experiences. On our staff, there is quite a variety of backgrounds that led to Christian radio. At WCTL, we have taken on interns and hired a number of people from local colleges. But with the next generation growing up with so much technology at their fingertips…I can imagine it’ll become increasingly important to watch YouTube channels or the next great internet platforms for future talent, too.

Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?

I think this goes back to Christian radio stations saturating the market, especially for stations like WCTL in a small city. When I started out in radio in the late 90s/early 2Ks…radio was it. There was no Spotify or Pandora…and Erie only had one CCM station in our area—us. Over the past decade (as many have likely experienced), a number of CCM radio networks have built translators in surrounding communities. Erie is a small market (with a shrinking population) and it has become saturated with Christian radio.

Further, people are driving “connected” cars with internet and satellite radio becoming the standard. I think we, as Christian radio leaders, need to continuously ask ourselves, “How can we be indispensable to the listener?” Indispensable in our music choices and scheduling, in what we talk about and how we talk about it, and the best practices to reach out to her and her family off-the-air via social media and other platforms.

Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

When I lived in the Raleigh, NC area, there were a few female radio hosts that made an impression on me. I never got to know them personally, but as I listened to them on the radio….I took time to really listen to them. To their on-air delivery. To what they were sharing and how they shared it. That alone was a game changer for me. I learned a lot from their example.

I’ve also been blessed to work with managers and program directors that allowed me freedom to be creative with promotions and encouraged me to try the new ideas I brought to them.

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