When it Comes to Talk Radio, You Can’t Judge by Size Alone

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Back in 1962, Avis Rent A Car began using the advertising slogan that is still in use today – “We try harder.”

The slogan was a nod to the fact that Avis was the second largest rental car company behind Hertz, and that as a result, they would always make an extra effort in a desire to overcome the competition. It’s a reasonably universal sentiment, as small corporations around the world employ the same tactic to provide better service or more flexibility than the market leaders. And the same can be said of talk radio.

Typically, people engaging in talk radio-based PR campaigns will use market size and wattage of the stations they choose to pitch as a benchmark for a successful campaign. That’s usually a safe bet, but that being said, it’s important not to overlook some of the smaller market, smaller wattage stations. There are a lot of diamonds in that rough to be found.

While big market, big wattage stations offer you reach, many smaller stations offer better quality interviews. Many small market hosts want to be big market hosts, so they are always trying to play a better game. When I embarked on my own talk radio campaign to promote my book Celebritize Yourself – shameless plug acknowledged – I discovered that some of the more in-depth interviews I gave were in smaller markets. In some cases, the hosts actually read the book cover to cover, and were able to engage me in a more specific and thought-provoking discussion.

Some took the time to truly research the material before putting me on the air, and as a result, I truly felt like I had the opportunity to get my message out in a substantial manner. And some of these stations, while small, have more loyal followings. Because the station may be in a smaller market, listeners may not have as many choices as they have in a big city market, so they listen more often and are more loyal. Moreover, the hosts tend to have more sway over their listeners because they are local celebrities themselves, or community leaders.

For example, in Los Angeles, you could stay extremely busy surfing all the talk shows on the AM dial because they have so many stations competing with each other. Conversely, in Gainesville, Florida (the number 83 market in terms of audience size), the same number of people may be listening to a top rated show there. But that’s not all – you’ll also find the listeners are loyal and dedicated fans of that talk show because they don’t have the variety of stations and shows to pick and choose from.

I chose Gainesville, Florida as an example for a reason. We work with one of the top shows in that market – it’s typically a 20 to 30 minute interview with a host and co-host who’ve been on the air for many years and have a dedicated following. The interesting thing that’s happened is that nearly every single one of our clients has contacted us after that interview to tell us how much they enjoyed it, how the hosts had done their homework and were so informed and interested about their topic – and how it was absolutely the best interview.

In that sense, some of these smaller stations can deliver more qualified listeners who are more receptive to your message and more likely to take action after the show – look you up on the Internet, go to your site, or even become a customer.

Now, not ALL smaller stations are like that, and not all hosts in small towns carry that kind of punch. That’s why it’s important to discriminate. There is such a thing as too small, or too insignificant.

One of the key things to look at is whether the show has been around a while. A show with a 10 or 20 year history is more likely to be hosted by a local celebrity who is able to drive consumer opinion in your favor.

To sum it all up, the most important thing you need to know is that when you’re launching a campaign on talk radio, market size isn’t everything. You’ll need to consider the other factors we’ve just discussed when evaluating what’s the best fit for you. Then you can find a PR firm to tailor a campaign that suits your needs.

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