Quite a while back I looked in detail at the process of positioning your radio station in your listeners mind and this week I want to look at how you can manage the positioning process. Positioning is all about the conscious management of how your station is perceived by listeners in the area you broadcast to. I believe that most radio people understand positioning, they just don’t realise that they understand it. They haven’t yet realised that a lot of what they do to get listeners to listen is part of the process of… Positioning!

So what is ‘positioning’? Radio station positioning establishes the competitive reason for the listener selection of your station versus that of your competitors and the unique position you intend to occupy in their mind. In other words, it identifies why listeners should care about us in the first place.

Of course, as a manager, a programmer, or a licensee you have an overall business plan that guides you over the term of the licence (you do have a plan, don’t you?) Part of that plan will include strategies defined by you to achieve everything you want to achieve. Your plan may change over time and that ok, not having a plan at all is not ok.

Part of the plan

One of those strategies in your plan should be all about positioning your station. If you do not have a strategy for this then it is something you should put in place right now. Having a ‘positioning’ strategy as part of your overall management plan for your radio station means you wish to have an active role in forming a favourable opinion in your listeners’ minds about your station. People will not listen to you simply because you want them to. You have to tell them you have a product, you have to tell them about the product and you must do everything you can to get them to buy into the product.

Radio everywhere, big or small, is a product and it must be thought of that way if it’s to succeed. The only difference is we have two types of customers, listeners and advertisers. It is simple and I challenge anyone to deny the fact that if you have plenty of both the station will be a huge success… agreed?

Three statements that will make you a very happy person are when your customers and listeners say:

I listen to Community radio because I like the local news and information…

I listen to Community Radio because I like the music they play…

I advertise on Community Radio because I get new customers through my door…

Cluttered and Confused

Thanks to the web, I can listen to lots of radio stations and get a good feel for how those stations are performing. The overriding feeling I get is one of lots of clutter on air and mixed messages about the product. The end result is that I don’t get a clear picture in my head about the station, I’m left undecided and somewhat confused. Now…if that is how I feel, I wonder what local listeners think?

Endearing? Irritating?

Community radio stations need to get away from the idea that it is ok to have loads of stuff on air every hour. Filling the station with all sorts of features and shows is not the way forward.

Community radio is like any other radio station regardless of what industry sector it is in and the same rules apply across the board. Community Radio has got to stop thinking that you can do what you like and the listeners will stay with you just because you are a Community Station. They will not. They expect good quality local radio and they will not listen for long if they don’t get it. Yes, it is that simple.

One eminent journalist writing in a national newspaper referred to the first ten minutes of listening to his community radio station in Kent as ‘endearing’. He also went on to say that after ten minutes ‘endearing’ quickly became ‘irritating’. This is very accurate. The lesson is simple. You must get your product right and then position it correctly in your listeners mind. Do not expect the word ‘Community’ in your title or imaging to keep listeners listening if your output is poor.

Keep It Simple

Position your station in a way that is easy to listen to (not easy listening). If you ‘love to be local’ that incorporate that in your call sign on air, your imaging, in the way you answer the phone, on your car stickers and so on.

If you do road shows, then make sure you promote your position there too. Get rid of the clutter, all those different messages you have. Focus on just one clear and easily understandable message that tells listeners who you are and what you do. Your station must clearly define and develop a strong, clear, simple position that is easily understood. Only change things if you know they’re not working.

Your station must tell its listener what its ’position’ is and use every facet of the stations output to get ‘the station position’ fixed in the listeners mind. Too many stations fail because the image the listener gets is left to chance and you cannot afford to do that. I repeat, people will not listen to you just because you are a community station. You product has to be right too.

Document your position regarding music, news and presentation style and make certain it is clearly understood by every member of the team who works in or with the station at all levels. Act on those policies and be rigid in their implementation. Consider ‘the station position’ in the listeners mind before you implement any new features or changes to general station output.

Positioning Exercise

Try this exercise in positioning a specific part of your station output. I would like you to consider specifically why some stations play a music bed under the national and local news whenever they are broadcast. Please note that I am not saying it is a good or a bad programming element. I am simply asking why it is done.

1 Does it make the station sound better?

2 Does it make listeners listen to the News?

3 Does it add to the news bulletin as a product in itself?

4 Are you trying to cover inadequacies in the news delivery?

5 Are you trying to cover inadequacies in the news content?

What you are doing here is questioning what you do and how it is perceived by the listener. If you wish to establish a position in the listeners mind that information you supply is clear accurate and easily understood then I suggest that a music bed under the news works against establishing that ‘position’.

One of the major guiding factors when building a radio station format (product) is the conscious decision to be clear FIRST on what ‘position’ you want that radio station to be in ‘in the listeners mind’.

In radio station terms, you should consider ‘position’ when deciding on music played / weekend format / station ids/ promos / news / staff hired/road-shows/station liners used/ and so on. If it did not fit with where you want the station to be ‘in the listeners mind’ you simply do not do it.

Finally, when considering position of the station in the listeners mind, it is worth remembering that is the small programming decisions, not just the big ones that secure your stations position in your listeners mind.