EMSI Public Relations
like to introduce you to Alex Hinojosa, former full-time radio
personality and current Senior Campaign Manager at EMSI.
Alex was working as a talk show
host/executive producer in a major market, Atlanta, when I
recently lured him away, so he has an up-to-the-minute
understanding of the changes radio has undergone.
Marsha: I know radio is going through trials
comparable to what the newspaper industry has experienced, with
mass layoffs. What do you feel is the impact on AM radio and the
talk show format in general?
Alex: There aren’t as
many shows, Marsha, and the hosts that are left wear a lot of
hats. Very rarely is a host just a host. They may also be a
producers, which involves booking guests, updating the station
Web site, interacting on social media and they might also be in
charge of any number of other jobs, like promotions or
production. Because they’re really, really busy, if you want to
be a guest on their show, you’ve got to grab their attention
quickly or you won’t even make a blip on their screen. The way
to do that is offer them an angle and a segment they immediately
recognize as a perfect fit for their audience.
Marsha: I would
imagine it’s overwhelming to some of the hosts who have to do
all that and still focus on getting good ratings.
Alex: Seems daunting,
huh? Because prep time is cut short with those off-air
responsibilities, hosts are really looking for topics and guests
that will play to their target audience, be engaging and provide
good content. They’re not there to sell someone’s book or
product – their goal is to keep their audience listening so
their ratings stay up.
If a guest helps them out by giving a
great interview, well, they’ll likely return the favor by
plugging the person’s book and even linking to it from their
Marsha: On the
subject of ratings, we’ve seen big changes in how they’re
determined. What do you think of the new PPM ratings system?
Alex: As you know,
ratings used to be done through diaries, actually writing down
what station or show you listened to over a period of time. Now
though, most big markets use PPM – Personal People Meter – which
tracks listening in real time with a device those being surveyed
actually wear. Ironically, most everyone in radio, except the
No. 1-rated station, will tell you those PPMs are inaccurate and
that there is no real way to gauge exactly who and how many are
listening. But hosts have to pay attention to them because it’s
how they’re judged by management.
Marsha: So in the
end, no one knows that audience better than the host. That’s one
thing that hasn’t changed.
Alex: Exactly! And no
talk show host who is on the hook for ratings will book a guest
who’s wrong for his show. Hosts know what their audiences want
and they’re not going to invite someone whose topic has no
interest for their listeners. If you’re booked, it’s only
because that audience is a fit for you and your message.
Marsha: When I first
started this business 21+ years ago, the interviews we scheduled
for our clients were an hour and sometimes longer. Then we saw
the interviews go to twenty to thirty minutes, and now they’re
shorter than that. What do you feel the reason is for this
change in interview formats?
Alex: The new PPM
system is tracking audiences minute to minute, counting the
listeners tuning in and listeners tuning out. For radio
stations, that means every minute counts. Now the average
interview is seven to ten minutes in most cities and if you get
more than that, it’s a blessing. But, we’re also seeing as
little as three- to five-minute interview segments during
morning drive time in the top major markets. Think about it like
this: the methodology for gathering radio ratings is a lot
closer to how ratings for TV are tallied now. How consistently
do you see a 30-45 minute interview on TV? Not often. Expect the
same with radio. That doesn’t mean you can’t get your message
out. You just have to be more focused and to the point as a
guest because hosts are being trained by their bosses to be
concise too. So, preparation and media training are a must!
Marsha: You’ve worked in smaller markets like
Lubbock, Texas, and Lansing, Mich., and the biggest, like New
York, Washington, DC and Atlanta. What differences did you see
as a talk show host in smaller markets versus larger markets?
A small but
dedicated audience can be even more valuable than an audience
that’s five times as big but more likely to channel surf.
Because of PPM (Personal People Meter, the ratings system that
tracks listener’s minute-to-minute) and the corporate structure
of radio now, major markets are overrated.
Trust me. I have many contemporaries
in radio who know they were able to do a better show and conduct
longer interviews in a smaller market because the ratings system
is different. So, as a guest, you’re going to get more time to
share your message and it’s going to be with a much more
dedicated audience, since listeners have fewer talk shows to
Marsha: It’s clear
when you watch TV or listen to radio, hosts are more intent on
having listeners follow them on social networking sites, like
Facebook and Twitter. Having just come from the trenches, can
you give us the inside scoop on the theory behind that?
Alex: Here’s what’s going on: Most radio
stations now are basically Web sites that happen to broadcast.
Just last Friday, Clear Channel Radio dropped “radio” entirely
from its name! It’s now Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.
Talk hosts and DJs are trying to build
social media connections with their listeners so they can market
to them at any time – tell them about the next great guest, or
contest, or whatever. They’re using Twitter, Facebook and
Google+ to drive people back to the radio show’s Web site
because the more traffic the station can move to the Web site,
the more it can potentially charge for online advertising. It
also wants those visitors to sign up for its listener club
because, like any other business, building your in-house opt-in
database is marketing gold.
Getting listeners to the station’s
site has become so important the hosts get bonuses for those Web
Marsha: So what are
the implications of this trend for talk show guests?
Alex: The bigger the
social media following someone has, the more valuable they are
becoming to talk show hosts. All of the guest’s followers are
potential new listeners and clicks to the station’s Web site.
If you, as a guest, have a good social
network, lots of followers on Twitter for instance, the host
will use that, which helps him and you. He might tweet to his
listeners, “Hey, tune in on Tuesday when we’ve got
@MarshaFriedman from EMSI coming in to tell you all about how to
become an expert celebrity.” They go to @MarshaFriedman to check
you out and before you know it, you’ve got a bunch of new
followers. Of course, the host hopes you’ll tweet that you’re
going to be on his show so that your followers will tune in or
benefit of the online component is that it gives interviews a
whole new life.
Alex: Yes! As you
know, in the old days as soon as an interview was broadcast, it
was over. You had to hope that the audience was listening at
that exact moment to hear your message. But now, interviews can
live forever. They’re streamed online, sent to people’s phones,
captured digitally and turned into podcasts that people can
listen to and share at any time. Hosts will use a great
interview to drive listeners back to their Web site through
social media. They might tweet, “What a terrific chat we had
with @MarshaFriedman! If you missed it, go to www.(insert
station name here).com and click to listen.”
Marsha: So, Alex,
what do we really need to remember about this new age of radio?
What’s the takeaway?
Alex: The best guests
not only provide great content, they also have a lot of social
media connections. What every producer or host considers before
booking a guest is what I call the three C’s of radio:
The expertise you’re going to provide has to benefit my
When I Google you, does your name come up and do you
have credentials to back up your content?
Is your social media following large enough to benefit
Marsha Friedman is a 21-year veteran of the
public relations industry. She is the CEO of
a national firm that provides PR strategy
and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors
and professional firms.
More Articles |
Submit Your Article |
About Public Relations Homepage