Putting S.A.L.T. in Your Promotions

By Jerry Woods, Promotional Director at WGTS 91.9 in Washington DC

When I first took the promotion’s director chair 25 years ago, I have to be honest, I really had no clue what I was doing.  I figured if someone wanted the station somewhere, and we could make it happen, then we should go.  That led to a lot of late nights and tired staff, but we were all in our 20s so we didn’t notice.  It took me awhile, but I finally realized the old adage is true, ” just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

Every promotion has to meet certain metrics, but if you never set any goals you have no way of knowing if you’re a success.   That’s why every promotion needs to have S.A.L.T.   I run everything we do through the S.A.L.T. formula.  S.A.L.T. stands for service, awareness, loyalty, and trial.

Let’s start with service.  Promotions guru Doug Harris once said, “Radio stations have to make money.  We don’t work for the Red Cross.”  If you work in non-profit radio, the good news is you can work for the Red Cross, Compassion International, the Salvation Army or anyone else you want to.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to make money, but often you may have a bigger purpose.  As Christian stations, we are already trying to make a community impact on the air, and the same should be the case on the ground.  Serving is a great way to connect with the community and to provide your listeners with a common way to make their community a better place to live.

Awareness is key to any promotion.   We’d like to think that everyone knows about our stations but rarely is that a case.  We have to be honest that we’re a niche format.   Good promotions build awareness of your station.  We have to be intentional about this.  The most dynamic promotions don’t matter if no one knows about them.  This is where we need to utilize other local media, social media channels and word of mouth to get people talking about our events and about our stations.  The higher the awareness the higher our credibility will be with people we want to work with in the future who might not have been familiar with the station before.    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with a potential partner for the first time and the first thing they tell me is, “I see your bumper stickers everywhere!”   When I hear that, I know that we’re already halfway there to working together.

We often talk a lot about acquiring new listeners, but it’s just as important to keep the ones we have.  That’s why the loyalty in S.A.L.T. is so important.   Some promotions we do cost us money but give us so much more back in listener and community goodwill.   Summertime at WGTS is always fun because we do a summer concert series on an outdoor elevated plaza at a local mall.  The series is free and features some of our biggest artists.  It’s a big way for us to say thank you to our listeners as well build awareness in a public space that the station exists.  The mall even pays to help us promote it because it’s good for their business.

Any station that isn’t finding new listeners is a dying station.  Encouraging potential listeners to try the station through our promotions is the lifeblood our stations.  One of our biggest ongoing campaigns is getting a bumper sticker on people’s cars.  We are constantly doing sticker stop remotes and patrolling to find people with those stickers.   We have several intentional campaigns like “Love That Sticks” and the “Drive-Thru Difference” that encourage listeners to spread kindness and in the process spread the station.  At concerts, we give people reasons to turn on the station as they leave the concert like playing music on the air from the artist that listeners just heard.  We have several contests where winners not only win tickets or goodies for themselves but also to bring friends along.  We work with partner churches since these are natural places where our listeners get together.

Not every promotion has to have all the S.A.L.T., but each promotion should have one or more aspects of service, awareness, loyalty, and trial.  Knowing which ones you are aiming for from the beginning will help you craft more focused and successful promotions.