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Radio in India is big news all across the media and entertainment magazines, websites and all even across the country. That’s not surprising, considering the fact that with the setting up of over 250 radio stations by the end of 2007, a whole new medium, an entirely new market – estimated to grow up to Rs.650 crores (US$ 145 Million) in terms of advertising spends – is emerging. But what is surprising is that a completely new game, with no rules, is being played.

One area that requires a lot of rule-making at this nascent stage of the medium is promotions. That’s because they involve radio’s two customers: those who buy the station’s advertising (advertisers) and those who listen to the station (audience). Stations all over the country need both these constituencies to ensure profitability and stability in the years to come.

Big River Radio, the consulting firm that advises top managements of radio stations in India, has developed a structure for strategic thinking on promotions that an individual station or a group of stations may want to use. Here, in brief, are some of the aspects covered by this structure.

First Things First: Why?
Each station has a set of broad based marketing objectives that guide all decisions regarding the station. For example, to achieve 50% share of the audience in a given market or to change the positioning of the station from “a family station” aimed at all age groups to “an all music station” aimed at 18-25 age group.

Promotions, however, require defining objectives that are even more specific: for example, to create acceptance among the 25-45 age group women in the city, which traditionally listens to the competition. A promotion towards achievement of this objective may involve celebrities, contests, prizes that would interest this target audience.

The Rule of Three
There has to be a limit to the number of promotions we run on our station(s) at any given point of time because listeners need to comprehend rules, prizes, and details about an event before they can respond to it.

Stations starting a new promotion or sometimes several new promotions a day – particularly during the festival or the cricket season – often land up leaving the audience confused and unresponsive.

Data across stations, over the years, puts the magic number of promotions at any given time at one station is three. Major promotions should occupy no less than 35% of the total liner and promo inventory of a station. The two support promotions should account for no less than 35% of the inventory. The remaining liners and promos should be devoted to regular station features receiving no less than 15% of the total inventory.

Serving Two Masters
There are two types of promotions on any radio station: programming-originated promotions and sales-originated promotions. Often promotions are distinguished only by their origin. Both types of promotion must serve both kinds of customers, the listening audience and the clients involved. Regardless of origin, a promotion must be consistent with the station sound and attitude, and, when there is a client involved, it must be consistent with the client's goals.

Obviously, the Programming Director will always look out for the programming department's interests. Similarly, the Sales Manager is on hand to vanguard the sales department. They may not do it consciously, but there will always be a bias toward their department in the formulation of promotions. Therefore, it is necessary to introduce into this scenario someone to tread into a sometimes-dangerous middle ground. That keeper of the middle ground is often the Station Head, whose job involves taking care of all aspects of the station.

Involving the Community
There’s always a need and a way to involve the local community. For that it is important to create a calendar of events that are important locally. Any promotion created around them is bound to generate interest and response. For example, a promotion at the time of school results, involving school children and their parents is bound create a high levels of excitement and a positive attitude about the station.

Be Legally Sure
Promotions often invite the attention of cynics (and often your closet competitiors) who wants to think that there is something unfair in what you are doing. For that it’s important to be sure what you can run and what you can’t. Even if in slightest doubt, speak with a lawyer who is an expert in this area.

It is also important that you go into as much detail of the promotion as possible and maintain all records pertaining to it. That should include the following: how to enter, eligibility requirements, entry deadlines, prizes, means of selecting winners, list of winners, acknowledgement of winners who received prizes. Keep these records at least for one year.

Promote the Promotions
Involve your advertising, PR, event management agency in creating and promotion the promotion. Let your winners, especially of the big prizes, be known to the local newspapers and emerge as local heroes. That will inspire others to take part in your future promotions, eventually helping your station emerge as a winner.

Work as a Team
It is almost mandatory to let everyone at the station know about every promotion the station is doing. Communication is crucial for the success of the promotion. Programming, sales staff, engineering, presenters and of course the receptionist, all must have all details.

Know your Competition
Remember your competitor is constantly monitoring and analyzing most minutely all your promotional activities. So should you of theirs and modify your promotions, if required, to create a competitive edge. Let no one at the station ever forget that promotions are fun and everyone must enjoy running them but at the end of the day they are business and are meant to make money for the station, directly or indirectly.

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If you would want your station to benefit from the expertise and insight of Big River Radio in this area, write to
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