Opinion: Harnessing the power of local radio

Josh Wheeler, general manager at broadcast PR specialist Markettiers Manchester, argues the value of local radio and offers tips for PR professionals looking to target it in their campaign strategies.


Josh Wheeler

The latest figures from Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR), the official body for radio audience measurement, confirm that radio is still one of the most powerful forms of media available in terms of reach.

Over 35m of us tune into local radio each week. Why? My gut feeling is that it represents, and gives a voice to, everyday people. People buy people, and the sound of a familiar voice who shops where you shop, eats where you eat and who knows your village, town or city like the back of their hand is far more relevant and engaging than a national outlet could hope to be.

Why does local radio get overlooked?
When it comes to PR, local radio can often be overlooked or disregarded. Some PR professionals place emphasis on national media because of its reach, but this could be at the expense of the benefits offered by hyperlocal.

National can and does deliver vast reach – but if your client is trying to inspire behaviour change or action, is the voice of the capital-based metropolitan elite really the best way to inspire that?

For communications professionals, regional voices across the country can truly bring a story to life for hundreds of thousands of people in their respective areas, and can deliver a more impactful way of engaging with consumers.

Targeting local stations can be more time-consuming and intensive, but that investment can deliver superb results. Part of my job each day is to brief various spokespeople who support campaigns across the country to make sure that they are confident, comfortable and equipped to take on media.

What is the power of local radio?
In its barest form, local radio has the muscle to help you convey highly-targeted messages on-air to considerable and engaged audiences on behalf of your clients.

Beyond that, I believe its secondary power is trust. Radio is the most trusted medium of all, and listeners identify with stations and presenters. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer recently revealed that trust in media fell to an all-time low (43%), but radio continues to buck that trend. Above all, radio is about is companionship, and can encourage brand loyalty in its listeners.

Take my city, Manchester, as an example. The RAJAR percentage reach of BBC Radio Manchester (11%), Key 103 (14%) and the local Capital (17%) are equal to – if not more – than BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, as well as leading national outlets such as Kiss and Absolute.

And the story is not unique to Manchester – West Dorset, Yorkshire, Inverness and North East Scotland all report similar regional figures.

As a PR operative, how are you reaching those engaged audiences?

How can I harness the power of local radio?
So, what do you have to do to reach local radio and secure coverage? Here are some top tips to harness the power of local for your campaign:

  • Get to the heart of the story quickly and don’t include things like quotes or brand sentiment. Its turns broadcasters off – and the spokesperson can deliver that on-air.
  • Have as much local relevance as possible – i.e. one central campaign spokesperson and regional case studies and outline clearly who you have to offer.
  • Locally-relevant statistics (ideally commissioned by you for the campaign) or desktop insight that highlights compelling data already in the public domain.

Remember that stations are hyper aware of their target audience – both current and desired – so campaigns will also be judged on audience relevance. Try to find the all important ‘me too’ factor within your story.

A colleague of ours says that the mark of a good campaign is when a national story goes local, and I have to agree. National is, of course, fantastic – but I would urge you to consider the role that local radio plays within your client campaign mix.

Related Posts
Opinion: How challenger agencies can compete with the big agency networks
Barbara Bates, global CEO at Hotwire, highlights the key areas where challenger agencies can go the extra mile to compete with their larger counterparts. For a long time in [...]
Opinion: How to communicate in the ‘techlash’ age
Amy Drummond, head of technology at AprilSix Proof, discusses the findings of the agency’s latest report into the current backlash against tech companies. The ‘techlash’ [...]
Opinion: Why marketers are investing in micro partnerships
Opinion: Why marketers are investing in micro partnerships
Jill Coomber, co-founder of OneChocolate, explores the findings of the agency’s report into micro partnerships and why marketers now value brand awareness and value, [...]
Opinion: Why the north offers a world of comms opportunities
Opinion: Why the north offers a world of comms opportunities
Alex Pegler, account manager at Higginson Strategy – which has offices in both London and Chester, explores how the northern powerhouse can drive comms opportunities [...]