Unlike television, which is a general interest medium, radio programming
is aimed at listeners with particular interests, making it easy to segment
stations by ethnicity, age, educational level and lifestyle. Two program formats - Country & Western and Christian Hit Radio - have enjoyed particularly
strong growth in recent years and reach vastly different audiences.
The list below
includes the major radio program formats and the approximate number of
stations in each format:
| Adult Contemporary
| African - American/Urban
Educational (high school/college)
| Top 40
CDs are the standard format for distributing radio PSAs, but it is very important to send packages in a format that
will meet the U.S. Postal Service automated handling equipment, such as the one shown below which is called the Flex Mailer package. This packaging concept has several components: the Flex Mailer cover, the CD with a four-color label; facts on the
issue which can be printed on the inside left hand panel, and an evaluation business reply card.
Until a few years ago, the only way radio usage could be tracked was via business reply cards (BRCs), which are discussed
below. However, the A.C. Nielsen Company, noted for its media audience data and ability to track TV PSAs, now has a service
to track radio PSAs on about 1,200 stations (about 10 percent of the universe). Our software has been modified to be able
to downoad electronic radio usage data and it is reported as a separate source on our Executive Summary and detailed
radio usage reports.
Regarding BRCs, they can be a fairly accurate method of obtaining radio usage data, if they are properly designed.
We have seen a number of radio BRCs that ask open-ended questions that result in meaningless usage data. For example, if
you provide a blank on the radio BRC that asks: "How often did you use the PSAs?" The station may enter "ROS," which means Run of Station, or 'TFN" Till Further Notice. Obviously a computer does not know what that means, so essentially the usage data is meaningless.
To obtain accurate and meaningful usage data, we design
questions that force stations to provide very detailed data.
The critical pieces of information include:
- What spot length was used?
- How often were the PSAs used by spot length (number of times per week)?
- What time frame were the PSAs used by spot length (number of weeks)?
To make it easy for stations to complete the survey card, we use a design with
simple check-off boxes for each of these questions.
We also put a second label on the bottom of the BRC so that the public service director does not have to fill out station
call letters, address, etc., saving even more time. Once completed, they put it in the mail and we pay the return postage.
In addition to usage data, the BRCs, help us keep our database current with the correct names of public service directors and any changes to station addresses or call letters. Finally, there is space at the top of the BRC to add other questions such as "can you accept PSAs via digital downloads?"
For most radio PSA campaigns, you can expect an unaided response rate
of about 15 percent, meaning that 525 stations will use your
PSA when 3,500 are targeted. Given an average dollar value of $1,350 per
station, a typical radio PSA will generate in excess of $700,000 in airtime
value. However, as shown from our latest benchmark data, radio campaigns can perform much better, based
on the issue, the quality of the production and when they were distributed.
Although the vast majority of targeted radio stations do not respond,
that does not mean they are non-users. No matter how simple
you make it for stations to respond, there is a fairly consistent
number - about 30 percent - that use but do not respond to a PSA mass mailing.
To capture some of this additional usage, we often employ postcard reminder
surveys. Designed as a two-part postcard,
we usually pick up some of the artwork that was used on the original radio package sent to stations so it might remind public
service directors of the campaign we are trying to evaluate. The reminder postcard includes
a short note to the public service director and a response card that is
identical to the one sent with the original package. These cards typically will add another 7-10 percent in usage data.
Some organizations also employ telephone surveys to increase reported usage rates. However, we have found they have drawbacks and should
be carefully considered. Busy station personnel often consider telephone
surveys a serious nuisance, when could affect ultimate usage rates if public
service directors get annoyed at the intrusion. Also, it is very difficult
to get the person who received your PSA on the phone, since most of them
have collateral duties and cannot be interupted.
Anyone other than the
one to whom your PSA was directed probably cannot tell you if your PSA
was used. For these reasons, we recommend minimizing phone calls to stations
and sending reminder postcards, which are both cost-effective and less
Radio PSAs can be one of the most cost-effective mass communications
techniques avaible to get your message out both to general audiences
and discrete populations. They offer message flexibility, and they permit you to reach
audiences both in and out-of-home. They are comparatively inexpensive to produce, and they provide
a good return on investment IF you package and distribute them