The Best Promo Style Is…

If you’ve worked in music radio for any period of time in your life, think about all the song lyrics you know. By heart. How many of us have had the experience of making reference to a lyric, ended up explaining what we were talking about and had a companion remark something like, “Oh, is that what they were singing?” Even if that song has ended up being a durable multi-format hit, there’s a large difference between the level of exposure that a listener gets and the level of exposure any of us may have gotten working at a station.

Now think about conveying information and ideas to listeners on the air. Most programmers and managers know you have to pummel listeners to get your idea across, but two factors get in the way:

  1. Given the wide differences in TSL, you’ll be pummeling some listeners beyond the level of mere irritation.
  2. Not everyone hears or responds the same way, so the same messaging won’t get your message through to the entire audience.

So, you’ll need to resist the urge to make everything sound absolutely consistent. Instead, it’s better to run multiple campaigns at once with markedly different approaches. These different campaigns should communicate the same core messages, but use sharply different copy, styles, sounds, tones, etc.

Anyone who’s been through a managers’ meeting when business wasn’t going perfectly knows that not everyone responds to the same tactics. When yelled at, some of us click into gear and change behavior to avoid more yelling. Some of us respond better to inspirational examples. Let’s face it, there are  times (and managers) who are simply scarier when they get quiet. Promos are a long way from those sessions, but the point is that we need to remember that different people respond to different messages.

With fewer production people cranking out more work, it’s easy for same-sounding approaches to overtake a station – or even an entire cluster. You know those stations: the ones where every promo sounds the same; where the same voiceover person gives the same read for every piece; where they use the same sounds every time. It’s fatiguing for listeners and fails to get the message across to the listeners who are simply immune to whatever type of message it happens to be.

Some listeners are engaged by high production values. Some are engaged by theater of the mind, telling the story in a way they’d not expected. Some only respond to the earnest, one-on-one delivery of a live (or simulated live) voice.

It takes a smart-thinking imaging/production person to recognize the need for variety in approach and style. Mostly it takes an organized group of people, programming, production and marketing, working together within a station, all mindful of the challenge and willing to invest the time and effort to make it better. It turns out the best promo style is the one that happens to work for the listener. Since no single style works for every listener, the best style is … lots of them!