I live in the same town where I grew up. (It’s not common these days!)
When I was a kid, there was the “local” BBQ place that just felt like home. When you walked in, it seemed to be a family or school reunion. Everyone knew everyone, and as a kid, this is where you learned about the history of your town and the relationships that were built before your time.
The food was good, but it’s the atmosphere that set it apart from the other places.
The owner was an old high school football coach, and he would hang out and tell stories. People just loved hanging with Coach. As I grew up, I graduated from just going with my parents to heading there on my own to meet friends.
Then a disorienting thing happened: The owner decided to sell the place. The new group made some changes including one that would shock a lot of us.
It turns out, the favorite LOCAL place was actually a chain restaurant! It was a “Fat Boys BBQ” – part of a chain!
The new franchise owners started to change things. The atmosphere was gone. No more personal connection, no more stories, no more emotional pull to the place. So as the menu started to change, so did the feelings for the beloved local spot.
To this day, the place is a BBQ joint. It’s every bit as “local” as it ever was.
But it’s not at all the same.
So, what’s my point here?
In our business, we get too focused on being geographically “local” and miss the point: People want content that connects.
In my story, none of us ever asked about the ownership structure of the restaurant. We didn’t find out whether it was managed entirely locally or part of a chain, because frankly… we didn’t care. And we didn’t care because we were captured by the way it made us feel.
It was all about connection. That’s what caused us to want to come back over and over.
In this day we live, what is “local”, really? Are people craving for “local”, or are they looking for connection?
Maybe local is a way to offer some sense of connection, I’d argue (and be able to easily point out hundreds of examples) that it’s hardly the best way to connect. If the artists or personalities on your station connect at a spiritual and emotional level, listeners aren’t going to be asking about geography.
I love a feature that Brant Hansen does called the Honesty Café. This is a place where we can be honest and not be judged for our honesty. So, let’s open the Café for a moment.
Most Small to Medium size Market Stations, cannot afford the type of personalities they need to stake their place in the market, nor do the better talents live in these markets.
So how can you compete in your market?
It’s time to put down your pride and realize that outsourcing your on air content is not just a good idea, it might be the life boat you need.
This is not to say that you can’t find talent locally. In fact, I would encourage you to always seek out talent in your market, and I don’t mean just look at other stations. You may find someone at an event or at your church that has never worked in radio but just has that IT factor. Start them on a weekend shift and see how they do. I would suggest even doing it as live show first instead of Voice Tracking.
But the real truth, IF you want to compete with other stations in your market and attract more listeners, the solution can be easier than you think. Take a look at the other formats in your market. Do they all have local talent on the air? Do they use outside talent? Do listeners even know or care?
Chances are that most of the talent on the air in your market is coming from outside.
YOU can compete by connecting better. Offer the best possible content. Always. The best music, the best shows. Connect.
If that means you need to outsource it, then do it in a way that your brand or station executes the content in a way that attracts people. Before long, your station will be the “local spot” where everyone wants to hang out.
Paul Tipton, began his career as a weekend announcer at WSCF, Vero Beach, FL.in 1990. Since then he has served in most roles of a radio station from programming to management to engineering, including tower climbing. Since 2009, Paul Tipton has been the Vice President of Christian FM Media group (aka, Smart Radio Suite) working with over 250 stations with programming challenges. From Major to Small markets, SRS, is serving stations with great content options such as, Brant Hansen, Lisa Barry, Doug Hannah, and more. To find out more: Paul@smartradiosuite.com