Is Your Message Consistent?

When is the last time you went into a McDonald's and were greeted with a "Welcome to Mickey D's...," or "Welcome to the Golden Arches, how can I help you?" Have you ever been served a "One Fourth Pounder," or has it always been referred to as a "Quarter Pounder"? When was the last time you were handed your food in a plain wrapper in a plain brown bag? Probably never. That's because McDonald's values their name and brand. They make sure that you know the sandwich you bought was from McDonald's. Have you ever noticed that even their straws are color-coded to match the rest of their packaging?

This brings me to the theme of this article, "Is Your Message Consistent?" Do you always sell your station to your listeners in the same way? Have you defined who you are and what you do; your name and your brand? When you identify yourself, is it always the same way, or does it vary from jock to jock? What about the other people that work at the station: sales, promotions, office staff? How are you known by your listeners? How would you like to be known by your listeners?

If you haven't done so yet, decide on how you want to be known to your listeners, clients and within your radio market. Choose a name that best describes what you do. The obvious ones deal with your format: Country, Lite Rock, NewsTalk, All News, Rock, etc. If you want to be known by your frequency and call letters only, that is acceptable as well. Once you have made this decision, remember that it is important that everyone at the station refer to your station in that same way. This includes everyone from the on-air staff to sales to the receptionist and how he/she answers the phone. Post signs and notes in strategic areas, so the station staff knows what is expected of them.

Here are five areas to concentrate on when addressing this issue at your station.

The examples stated in this article are fictitious, but based on real situations.

1. Pick One. I recently heard a station that used as many as seven names (or ways of identifying themselves) on the air. For example: Country Radio 99, Country Station 99, Country 99, 99.1 WBIF, FM 99, Country Radio WBIF, and just plain WBIF. There are several Country formatted radio stations in the market. So, they must decide which identifier separates them from the other stations. Decide on one name and use it in every way that you sell the station to your listeners. Let there be no misunderstanding as to what station they are listening to.

2. Station Features. When talking about your station features like weather, news, traffic, etc. keep it consistent as well. If you give your features an identifier to tie in to your station and community, remember to always sell it that way on the air. For example, if you call your weather reports and updates, "Hometown Weather," then always call it that. Don't stray and say "Hometown Forecast," or "Regional Weather," or use a word or phrase that also identifies your area, like "Valley," or "Twin Cities," or "Bi-State." Using those in addition to your original identifier just creates more confusion for the listener. The same goes for news, traffic, stock report, ski report and any other features you carry on your station. If you have anyone doing these reports for your station outside of the station, it is important that they, too, use the correct station identifier. Here's an example I have heard: "Road Report" from the traffic reporter, while the jock calls it "Traffic Report". Yes, it is a traffic report, but your station has identified it as a road report and made that a unique phrase. Some other examples are: "Let's go to the Traffic Center" versus "Let's go to Traffic Control," "Newsroom" versus "Newsdesk," etc.

3. Morning Show. Often stations will give their Morning Show a name, like "Bill and Hillary in the Morning," or "The Crazy Morning Funhouse." Make sure that everyone involved in that show uses the same name to identify the show on and off air. If Hillary is sick and not working one morning or just not part of a segment, then Bill should still call the show "Bill and Hillary in the Morning," rather than just saying "Good Morning, Bill Smith with ya...". Don't you think that your listeners will immediately wonder what happened to Hillary?

4. Liners, Promos and Sweepers. Make sure your liners and promos all use the same identifier in them. Also use standard outcues. If you are known by a certain name and identifier in your market, then make sure when you promote a contest or any promotion that listeners know it is your station's contest or your station's promotion. Get and take the appropriate credit. For example, avoid always calling your station, "Country 99" and then turn around and only use the frequency and call letters in your promos. Instead of "WBIF 99.1 FM is giving you a chance...," make it "Country 99 is giving you a chance...". If you are using a station voice for your promos and sweepers (which I highly recommend), make sure that you use that voice for all your promos and sweepers. Avoid having your on-air staff doing promos. That one voice that represents your station is the voice that should speak for your station when promoting and positioning it.

5. Logos, TV Commercials and Advertising. Make your logo represents the identifier (name) that you have chosen for the station. If you are "Country 99", then that better be a big part of your logo. Don't settle for a logo with only your frequency and call letters (unless you only use your frequency and call letters to identify your station). When having a TV commercial produced, make sure that your logo appears in it and use your station voice in the commercial, where appropriate. The same is true for any outside advertising you do. Approve all copy and printed materials before they go to press. Make sure it is your current logo that is being used and the message you are selling is the same one you use on the air.

It may seem obvious to many programmers, but I have heard small, medium and even large market stations making all of the above mistakes. Listeners have a great deal of other things occupying their lives. Make their listening enjoyment one bit easier, by being consistent in how you identify yourself. Make it easy for them to find you again. Make it simple. Consistency in your message is the key.

McDonald's, Golden Arches and Quarter Pounder are trademarks of McDonald's Corporation. Use of the McDonald's name and/or logo for this article does not constitute or imply any affiliation with McDonald's or the endorsement of McDonald's products or services.