Monday, September 12, 2016

Here's your radio, kids

Public relations pros may no longer need consider certain commercial radio stations as viable media outlets.

Radio studio, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Visiting a dental hygienist on a September Saturday, I was treated to a broadcast from a station owned by the Stephens Media Group. The programming -- a purportedly kid-friendly block called "Morning Car-tunes" -- was far more painful than anything the hygienist served up.

The music wasn't bad. The in-between banter involved a young DJ and a co-host whom I'll call "Harry the Pirate." It quickly became clear no one had told them this program was actually intended for parents and kids to enjoy.

Harry spent a few minutes regaling listeners about a recent visit to a local college, where he said he told communications students that "there are no jobs in media."*

Harry, was that the most uplifting thing to tell aspiring broadcasters? Or did you think "media" didn't include the huge growth of Internet media careers? 

A few years ago, I'd seen Harry drop some questionable asides between kid songs. He reminded me of W.C. Fields, who said: "Anyone who hates children and animals can't be all bad." (To be fair, Harry runs a holiday toy drive, so there's a Jekyll-and-Hyde nature to his pirate outings.)

Harry's career-critical comments on the family-friendly air shift were followed by ads for divorce lawyers and personal injury attorneys. Very family friendly.

The capper? A recorded ad for an upcoming live show for kids, taking place next Friday, May 6.

Guys, it's September. Buy a calendar.

Most commercial radio managers know they must give listeners a compelling reason to tune in. Pandora, Spotify, and Sirius XM serve up material that -- while seldom local -- is programmed to reach specific listeners.

The Stephens radio station's "Morning Car-tunes" gave listeners no reason to stay tuned. Harry's downer outlook, the poorly timed lawyer ads, and outdated promo spots convinced me that they'd merely sold advertisers a block of programming, with not one bit of thought about their listeners.

And if they don't care, could anyone see a PR value for getting one's clients on their Saturday morning downer-fest?

I asked the hygienist to turn off the station. The sound of her whirring instruments was preferable.

*The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 221,000 people employed in radio and TV broadcasting jobs in May, 2015. That figure doesn't include Internet-related broadcasting jobs, such as Pandora and SiriusXM. Details are here.