How’s your station imaging sounding? The liners, the jingles and whatever else you use to move between songs… Would you describe them as “functional” or “incredible?”
Wherever imaging lies on your list of priorities, it can be really useful to step back and check that you’re achieving all the basics of good station imaging. Like with anything else, strong foundations allow you to build something spectacular. So check out this quick list and see how many apply to your station. It’ll only take a moment, and it could help to strengthen your branding at no cost!
1. What is your station called?
So your station has a name, right? But is the station name spoken in exactly the same way all the time? Check the sweepers, and the jingles, and make sure that they all say “All Hits K107,” or whatever it is you say. Repetition is the key to success, so make sure that everything uses the same phrase. Watch out for missing “points” in the frequency, and make sure the slogan is always used the same way. Also check the stuff that might have been made externally – whether it’s commercials for station-sponsored events or audio that comes down the network, it should all use the same wording for your station name.
Taking this a step further, If you want to be really brave, check that your air staff and liners all announce the station’s phone number and web address in the same way. If your request line is 947-6060 then do you say “six oh six oh” or “sixty sixty?” Whichever you decide, everyone should use the same system.
2. What do your liners actually say?
Woosh zap pow boing K One Oh Something whiz zap! Err, right. However exciting your format is, a sweeper is useless if you can’t tell what’s being said. Remember why it’s there – to identify the station! And just because you’re listening on $2000 speakers in the studio doesn’t mean that everyone else is. Can the sweepers be understood on a mono clock radio, or a poor quality car stereo?
Promos for your shows and features also need to be clear. If you’re unsure, play them to someone and ask them to tell you what message they just heard. Or at the end of a stopset, see if you can recall the message in the first spot. This isn’t an excuse for boring production – but the best producers can make their output sound really good without sacrificing the message.
3. Is it still funny?
Still got that liner about your station throwing its research out of the window? Or the all-80s-lunch promo with the bad “Ghostbusters” punch line? These will burn really quickly. In fact, the funnier and more memorable a gag is, the quicker it’ll burn. Whereas a simple liner saying “All Hits K107” will last a lot longer. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be funny, but creative content needs regular updating. And why not – you’re updating your playlist, and your community information – your imaging should also be refreshed.
4. Are you using your imaging correctly?
There’s a reason why your jingle package has fast and slow cuts, and it’s not just to keep us from getting bored when we produce them here at JonesTM. Jingles are imaging tools, designed to aid the flow of your station. And a good flow cuts down on the tune-out opportunities, so it keeps your ratings up. In other words, JonesTM is saving all radio!!!!
That’s a slight exaggeration, but my point stands. How do you schedule your jingles? Do your presenters choose the best one for the segue, or do they grab the nearest cart (or for those born in the ’80s, press the nearest button)? Do they use the ramp jingles correctly?
Also, dig out that master CD. Check that you’re using all the cuts. We supply tons of mixes these days – as do the other jingle companies – so make sure you’re getting good use out of them all. If you’re not sure the best ways to use them, call me and I’ll give you some ideas.
As for spoken sweepers, if they’re short and unobtrusive, run them over the song intros. It keeps the music going, and eliminates another switch-off opportunity. Obviously, sweepers with beats and musical backgrounds don’t allow you to do this, and different formats work in different ways, but the listener is there for the music. Which reminds me…
5. Remember – listeners don’t really care!
Upsetting as it is, listeners don’t really care about your jingles or liners. In fact, many of them aren’t listening to what your jocks are saying! Good imaging helps to keep the station flowing, and helps your audience to remember what they’re listening to along with where it is on the dial.
Effective imaging doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, one major-market station ran for six months using just two sweepers. One was a male voice, the other was female, and each said the station’s slogan and name, with no fx and just a little reverb. That station is currently number 1 in the market.
To conclude, I am very passionate about good quality imaging, but I’m also a realist. Time is short, resources are scarce, and money is limited. You’ve got enough things to worry about. But a few minutes spent sorting out the foundations of your station imaging will pay off. Keep it simple, keep it clear, keep it suitable for your format, and then you’ll be able to build on it. It’ll help your recall, which helps the diaries, which helps your bonus structure. And when that happens, mine’s a Corona.
Chris Stevens is Vice President of Dallas-based jingle company JonesTM, whose jingles and libraries can be heard on over 50 UK stations. He also runs Devaweb, and his recent production for GMG has been nominated for the Sony promo award. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org