It started happening quite a few years ago when I would stick the microphone in front of listeners and ask what they liked about the station. I love to use a LOT of listener comments in the imaging I do for stations. The more I talked to listeners, the more I began to get a hunch about a subtle (or may not so subtle) disconnect between why LISTENERS say they listen to Christian radio, and why we radio pros THINK they listen. Or even why some experts SAY people are listening.
As I continued to explore this disconnect. I didn’t go to the experts, or the managers, or the PD’s or the consultants. I consulted the REAL experts: The listeners. I asked them in many various ways simply, “why do you listen to Christian radio?” The more I listened to them, the more I became convinced of “the disconnect” that has gradually spread across our industry- and is reflected in many widely used slogans. Listen to some of the phrases and slogans that WE think reflects why people listen (or should listen.) “Clean Air” “Family Friendly Radio.” “Safe and Fun for the whole family.” “Safe for the little ears.” “You’ll never hear our jocks tell crude jokes, “ “Good for our community.” “Positive and Uplifting.”
Those are some common ones. And they REALLY are good reasons for people to listen. They are SOME reasons people listen. And they really are good to use as part of our imaging. But none of those come close to THE reason people say they listen.
“…It brings me closer to God.” “It keeps my mind on God and spiritual things.” “It makes me feel closer to the Lord…” “It really gives me a spiritual perspective.” It reminds me that God is in control.” “I feel like giving up and it reminds me that God is there to help me.” Comments like these are the MAIN reasons people are more passionate about listening to Christian radio- based on years of interviews with hundreds of listeners in various settings and in various markets.
These comments are not flukes. These types of comments comprise the vast majority of what comes out of listeners mouths when you let them ramble a bit about why they listen to Christian radio. (and this is consistent across all demographics) So it makes me wonder about this disconnect when many stations ignore the obvious- and create their imaging around one of the “lesser” reasons people listen.
My advice to stations looking for direction in their imaging is this: No matter what slogan they use, make sure they weave in the REAL reasons people listen into their imaging. We as radio stations can come up with fresh slogans till the cows come home. But at the end of the day, listeners still listen to Christian radio because it’s Christian radio. It’s about God. Any imaging that tries to ignore or hide that is somewhat disconnected for the REAL experts: your audience.
Rick McConnell is a 30 year veteran of Christian radio, a voice over pro, and producer of “The Airshow” imaging package. The Airshow has been used to image hundreds of stations over the past decade. Website: monumentalstudiosdenver.com