R&R ‘The Industry’s Newspaper’
Urban Contemporary: Using Promotional Opportunities To Win:
PD gives his take on how to successfully serve the community, clients, and listeners
By Walt Love

The summer months bring out numerous station promotions. KPRS/Kansas City PD Sam Weaver shares his active station’s successful promotion strategies and why this area is so important to Urban radio. “In my opinion, you can divide promotions into three areas: sales-related, programming-related, and community relations. All three are ratings driven as far as I’m concerned.”

Cooperation Is Key
How does KPRS balance these promotion types? “First of all you need cooperation,” Weaver stresses. “I’m lucky enough to have a GSM (Bartt Horton) who works with the programming department. I also have a promotions director (Rich McCalley) and a communications relations director (Monica Cassidy) who I can depend on to not only help make things work for the good of the radio station, but help identify things that we should be doing or should get involved with.” As far as choosing which particular promotional approach is the best suited for a specific event, Weaver points out, “There are times when all three can come together, but sometimes they don’t. Most of the time, if a promotional idea comes in, it’s sales related because the department may have a client who wants to present something. For example, the client wants to find a charity that they would like to do some things with. The client will ask sales and sales will ask us to help identify the right charity for them to work with to accomplish the (client’s) goal. Sometimes it might be something that is community related. It all goes back and forth throughout the year.

“It comes down to what can we collectively come up with? What can we possibly design for this client to fit their needs and accomplish their goals? A lot of times promotions people think we’re talking about giving away a house, a car, a trip, some money. That’s all great stuff and it’s ratings-driven, but (parent company) the Carter Broadcast Group values giving something to the community because you do get it back. When you help do things for the homeless, that’s priceless. Besides helping human beings who are in need, you’re also creating goodwill in your city that you couldn’t buy.”

Make Extra Effort
Weaver adds, “For example, if you’re going to do a Back-to-School Jam, you don’t just provide music and a back-to-school party atmosphere. If you’re smart, you’ll also provide school supplies for the students. You still can’t beat word of mouth, which is also important in image and top-of-mind awareness.”
I asked Weaver how important community-involved promotional events are to our format. “Real important. In 1995, most market places, we’re all up against everybody. By that I mean in some places it’s still possible to be the only Urban-formatted station in the city. But in most places you have a direct competitor. As for as I’m concerned, everyone in the marketplace who is competing for the advertising dollar is your competitor.”

“When you can turn on an Oldies station and hear a song they refer to as a ‘soul’ tune or an R&B song, well that’s competition at 2pm if they’re playing a song that was once considered something only for us to play. And if people in our city wanted to hear that song or one in that particular genre they’re supposed to come to us to get it! I call that direct competition. We’re all after the same thing-ratings, which are listeners. Those listeners are consumers of radio and the products we advertise, which is revenue. “So, when you do a community-relations piece and you’re out raising money for a scholarship fund or something like that, top-of-mind awareness is what counts. You may not listen to us, but you do know who we are-you’re aware of us in this city. And because we’re out there doing some positive (activities) to give something back community and its people, maybe, just maybe, you will tune in to us to find out more about what we do. That’s why it’s so important to do community things at all times.”

Stay Top-Of-Mind
Weaver continues, That’s another reason why I say it’s important to do more than just give something away to people. You want to do something that will stick with people. You want what you do to stay in their hearts. It’s called good-will! Remember, promotions are community relations at their best. Sometimes people in our business think of promotions as strictly giving away something. There’s giving away something and then there’s giving something. The two are related, but you have to balance both.”

Weaver cites the recent Samuel U. Rogers Health Fair, in which KPRS participated. “It’s an African-American health center that gives free screenings (to members of the community). We did a live broadcast from there last weekend starting at 7am Saturday. They had testings all day for those who wanted to make sure they’re in good health. Each year they get more and more people. This year’s turnout was approximately 3800 people.

“What’s most important about this is the fact that these tests were free to the public. And we were there. There were no other radio stations in this city there. We do several things when that happens:
*We’re touching our audience.
*We’re telling people information that’s needed.
And remember, we still play our music and do our format things that are needed. But (listeners) can see us doing our thing while they also continue to hear us on the air. Also, they are now part of the on-air presentation. It’s good for our image and it sticks with our listeners because we’re helping somebody. This is just as important, if not more so, than just another promotion.

“When Oklahoma City bombing happened we did like everybody else-help raise funds to assist those people. We raised over $5000. We recently had a ‘Peace & Unity Weekend for Non-Violence.’ The point is that we’re always out there doing something besides giving away CDs in the station van or concert tickets.

Do promotions help ratings? Well, they certainly don’t hurt. In the Winter ‘95’ Arbitron, KPRS was No. 2 persons 12+ and No. 1 persons 18-34 and 25-54 in the 27th ranked market with a 12.2% black population. During that ratings sweep the station did numerous promotions, including air personality Tony G.s 48 Hour Food and Toy Marathon, which raised a lot of money, food, and toys for needy families. “And that’s something Tony has wanted to do since I’ve been here,” Weaver says. “Fortunately, we have the tools to work with not only to do it, but do it right for the good of the people of this community, our radio station, and the Carter (Broadcasting) family.” And what do people do at smaller organizations who may not have the same tools as a larger company? Weaver recommends, “Know your community and the people in positions who can help you get what you need to get what you want done. For example, get to know the mayor and his or her assistants. Meet the chief of police and his people. Get to know the local school board superintendent and his assistants. That’s the way to supplement a budget and a staff of people to be able to accomplish the desired results. “Do something worthwhile for people; something that really touches lives positively. Do something that will be lasting. Ratings are important, but human beings come first. The ratings will follow.”

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