The Reports of Radio’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Radio has been facing imminent demise since the mid-20th century. Television was supposed to kill radio. It didn’t. Color television was supposed to kill radio. It didn’t. Cable television was supposed to. It didn’t. Cassette tapes, Satellite radio, internet, mp3 players, and streaming. No, no, no, nope, nada. This dinosaur of a medium, somehow continues to survive the death blow of the latest technology and come out on the other side stronger and more resilient than ever.

The world of digital and online advertising posed the most recent, and I believe the gravest threat to radio. Digital certainly had the “shiny” part of the “shiny new penny” down. It’s easy to target, it’s trackable, and has a very attractive cost per thousand. Sexy as hell, right? The problem is that we’ve found recently that a lot of digital advertising is rife with fake accounts, fraud and bots.

Obviously, a strong digital strategy is important for a successful media plan. In fact, I talked about how radio can greatly enhance your online presence in this video. But this spooked heard mentality to stampede over to this “too good to be true” form of advertising is just plain silly.

Thankfully, sanity is coming back to the world of advertising. Companies like Procter and Gamble are “re-balancing” their media portfolios to better represent the roles of digital, and traditional advertising. They are “re-discovering” that no medium is better building reach, frequency, and establishing credibility than good old boring radio and television.

I ran across this article and it reminded me that radio is the original “product influencer” It reminded me that radio has been facilitating brand engagement since 1920.

It reminded me that not only is radio still around and kicking harder than ever before, it’s a vital part of a healthy, balanced and successful marketing plan.

The Ranch Hand Way

In 1964, two men named Mike began broadcasting a country music format on 1070 AM in Wichita, Kansas. The call letters of the station were KFDI. There was a lot that was unremarkable about KFDI. It played country music, it had a commitment to local news, and it had some “colorful” announcers, but initially, it was just another radio station.

What made this underpowered, understaffed, and underfunded radio station unique was the culture that the two Mikes started on day one. The Mikes saw KFDI not as a radio station, but as a working ranch that happened to have microphones and towers. They embraced the Ranch Hand way of working — start early, don’t quit until the day is done, and give the boss his money’s worth each and every minute of the day. That culture came to be known as the Ranch Hand Way.

I tell this story to give you an idea of where I came from. I started selling radio time for KFDI in 1990. Immediately I was immersed in the Ranch Hand way of doing things. I learned to do whatever it takes to help my customers — even if they weren’t buying advertising from me. I learned that my job wasn’t really to sell airtime, it was to help businesses grow.

One of the ways KFDI helped it’s advertisers grow was the way it interacted with it’s listeners. KFDI wasn’t there to play music and achieve ratings, it existed to connect with the listeners by relating to their lifestyles and being a source of information. That information came in the form of news, weather, lost dog reports, and information about local businesses (aka commercials). The Mikes treated commercials as a vital source of information — almost like a referral source — to their listeners, not as an interruption as most radio station do today.

When I started First Person Advertising in 2007, my goal was to carry on The Ranch Hand Way. I wanted my clients to feel as if I was a part of their business. I wanted to work with radio station talent to train them how to deliver my client’s message in such a way that they were telling their listeners — “hey, these people are all right”.

So far, so good. My clients see their advertising strategy produce strong lead volume and double digit sales growth. I’ll never grow tired of seeing the look on my client’s face or the surprise in their voice when they realize, “Hey, this stuff really works!” The Ranch Hand Way is from a bygone era, but it will never be obsolete. In fact, I believe the farther the world moves away from those principles, it becomes more relevant than ever before.