Promos That ROCK
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Tracy Johnson
Promos That ROCK
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Sun Tzu called the supreme art of war to subdue the enemy without fighting.

The truth is, in radio, you don’t have to worry about anything your competition is doing.

After all, you can’t change what another radio station does to try and steal listeners. They are all doing their best to get your audience with contests and promotions. They change their music or clocks. You can’t control that.

But then, none of it really matters. Every radio station can subdue their enemy without engaging in a direct fight.

Here’s how:

  1. Create great reasons to listen to your station.
  2. Be great in presentation and execution.
  3. Promote it effectively on and off the air.

Today, I’m going to show you how to drive ratings with promos that rock.

The Power Of Promos

If you were to be successful in getting your current cume to spend a few more quarter hours, and convince listeners to return just one more day per week, what will happen to your ratings?

Trick question: Your ratings would explode – in a good way!

Don’t believe me? Check the current ratings.

What is the cume for the station overall? Now look at the cume for each individual time of day. What percentage is listening to individual dayparts? Chances are it looks something like this:

Most time slots attract less than 40% of the station’s total cume.

What if you could increase those percentages?

Here’s the exciting part: You don’t need a huge marketing budget. A contest or promotion. You just need great content, great execution and an exciting promotion strategy.

Promos Are Verbal Combat

Radio stations are at war for the attention of the audience. And we’re at a terrible disadvantage because listeners have a big wall of defense that protects them from messages. Their BS meter is high. They have been well trained to resist hype. They ignore commercials.

Yet promos are one of the most important ways to drive more listening. And yes, they’re commercials.

Treat Them Like Commercials: Think of it this way:  Promos for your show or station are individual elements in a spot schedule on your own station. Advertisers pay a lot of money for messages delivered to your audience. You get to access that audience for free. That’s a tremendous advantage.

Promos Must Make a Statement. No promo  has ever been produced that is capable of convincing listeners of anything. Ever. It’s impossible. That’s not how you win the war. But promos can persuade an audience to take a specific action, which leads to persuasion over time. Each promo should be crafted to support brand values and make a statement about the brand.

Don’t Make Assumptions. All decisions are emotional decisions. We don’t make choices based on logic, facts or information. We may use logic, but actual decision making is governed by emotion.Promos that reason, or try to explain why our station is better won’t appeal to that animal instinct. The emotional part of the human brain drives response.


Cause A Reaction. Promos should have a call-to-action. If the promo doesn’t give me something to actually do, how will listeners come around to experience the brand in new ways?

Know What You Want

The key is to know what your brand wants from the audience.  You get what you ask for – if you ask the right way. Then promote to drive trial, not just awareness. Awareness is great, but remember where these commercials are running. On your station/ The only people who hear them already listen to your station. They don’t need to be made aware of your brand. Just persuade them to use it more often.

Promos aren’t marketing. The goal is to add Time Spent Listening (TSL) from existing listeners. More specifically, promos should be designed to gain occasions of listening. Each message should be specific with reasons to tune in.

But, it’s also dangerous to assume listeners know all about the station. Most of the audience probably doesn’t know much about you. And it’s naive to think that 100% of the station’s cume already listens to a show on that station. If just 50% do, you’re performing well above the average.

So promote increased trial. To do that, you have to know what you sell.

What Do You Sell?

Look at this from the most basic level. What does a good babysitter sell, really? It’s not child care exactly, but a relaxed evening out. A furnace salesperson? Cozy rooms for families.

Yet most of the promos we run are telling listeners what we do by making claims:

The Station That Rocks The Valley.

The 15-in-a-row hit music station.

Wake up and laugh with Springfield’s funniest morning show.

We’re great at making an argument based on what we do. But we can’t win the argument.

Put yourself in the audience’s shoes. What do these claims mean to them?

10 songs in a row/45 minutes commercial free: Radio loses all quantity of music claims. It is a losing position when your real competition is audio that is always commercial free. What difference does it make that you out-music a format competitor? When either of you goes into commercials, they still check out the other station.

The best music mix for your workday: For whose workday? The Dentist’s office or the construction site? Those are different uses, aren’t they? Workday is vague. Identify exactly who you’re for, why and what you represent.

Today’s Best Music: According to who? The 17 year old high school girl or her 45 year old mom? And what kind of music? Hip hop? Soft rock? Alternative?

The Rock Alternative: This is better, but alternative to what? Is that a claim about music genre or ????

We may have the funniest morning show in the world.  It may be true that we play the most music. And who’s going to prove that we DON’T rock the valley?  There’s nothing wrong with positioning statements that plant a flag. But they don’t cause action.

So first figure out what you’re selling. And yes, you’re selling something. You’re selling value. And what is the cost of what you’re selling? Time. You’re asking listeners to pay with their time and attention.

The key question is whether your product is worth the investment.

Emotional Promos With a CTA

Promos should connect with listeners emotionally.

Here’s an example of a promo that connects to emotions. This is for a morning show feature, the Phone Scam with Jeff and Jenn on Star 94.1 in Atlanta.

This is a terrific promo that shows off the #1 emotion listeners crave in a morning show (laughter) by demonstrating Jeff and Jenn as being funny. The laughter is contagious and shows off how listeners will use the show.

And it sets an appointment for a trial.

Create Great Promos

All promos should do at least one of 3 things:

1. Move a Storyline Forward. Repetitive promos or sweepers that regurgitate the same message over and over don’t connect because they don’t move the story forward. Listeners respond more to stories with momentum than to relentless pounding with information. That’s why each promo needs to deliver a Specific Message…even if that message doesn’t tell the whole story. We do this all the time with promos for contests. They’re either really long, with a list of facts and information or the promo is so FAST nobody can understand it.

2. Call to Action. Each promo must give your audience something to DO. Branding is important, but it can happen with action.What action do you want the listener to take? What action can they take?

3. Add to Brand Values. Promos shouldn’t be designed to sell, but to offer suggestions that impact your audience to come to their own conclusion. If your words pack a punch, you don’t need to exaggerate the adjectives.


Promos are a powerful tool to influence an audience. Use them as a strategic weapon to drive activity and cause listeners to become more habitual listeners and over time, become loyal fans.

I’d love to hear your best promos. Send them to me by email


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