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Radio has seized the potential offered by digital and is reaching audiences throughout the nation, says Michael Walbach

When it comes to media strategy, it’s easy to overlook the airwaves. Radio is, after all, the oldest form of broadcast medium. It’s formed the backbone of many successful campaigns for almost a century. And yet, radio rarely features front and centre when it comes to media planning for a big PR campaign. I, for one, would love to know why.

Granted, you can’t clip and mount a radio segment to host in reception for posterity. But there’s nothing quite like the gleam in a client’s eye when they’re invited to speak into a microphone and broadcast their news to waiting ears. And there are many sets of ears out there, ready, waiting and eager to receive.

Reach and audience
Commercial radio in particular recently posted its highest ever audience in the latest industry RAJAR results – the benchmark for tracking listenership around the UK. Radio is evolving, and rapidly. It has seized on the potential offered by digital, and it is reaching audiences throughout the nation. Rather than stagnating or even slowly dying out as many had predicted years ago, it is expanding and deepening its audience. In a time when many in advertising and marketing are painfully conscious of the ‘London bias’ or ‘bubble’, radio remains almost unrivaled for being able to combine reach and audience with local interests and relevance.

Measurable and memorable
Radio’s commercial aspect is a key element in its evolution. Reliant on advertising revenue as its lifeblood, radio has recognised that the measurability of online marketing is taking precedence to brand marketers. And yet, the airwaves can offer responsiveness and tangible, trackable calls to action – to people as they tune in from cars, offices, homes and in between, all around the country. Radio partners understand that modern advertisers need more than the promises of mass awareness, or even targeted local communication from their campaigns. And so, many stations are more open than ever before to discuss and shape bespoke packages based on specific, focused, and unique campaign objectives.

Case study
Radio is built to tell these personal stories which connect with people. In one example, the Canadian Tourist Board was looking to increase bookings. It was able to capitalise on the personal history of a female entrepreneur who, after having to leave her small, remote island home with other inhabitants due to unemployment, has almost singlehandedly brought life back to the island. She returned a successful tech entrepreneur, and built a £6 million hotel which brought all the previous inhabitants back for work. By telling her tale across a number of different radio stations, the Canadian Tourist Board was not only able to showcase an unspoilt and unusual holiday destination, but also discuss the role of responsible tourism to the local economy. Bookings on the island’s hotel dramatically increased.

Digital revolution
Given the investment into digital and its growing audience, we are also seeing new digital stations emerging at a significant rate – which should be more than music to the ears of PROs, who thrive on targeting the right people with the right message. This is opening up more potential to target niche interest groups and surmounting previous geographical boundaries in campaign planning, where reach was limited by the strength of a transmitter. With radio’s audience on the increase, it’s time that many in communications had another look at the channel to craft campaigns and take the message out. It may well achieve more than they had thought.

Article written by Michael Walbach, managing director of agency Central Media Group

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