The fine art of Radio Imaging... Who are you talking to?

"The size of your audience doesn't matter. What's important is that they are listening."


Randy Pausch

Every day I go to work and creating imaging pieces that sell a station's image to its listeners. But how do I know what they want to hear? Well, a lot of that comes from spending the time to get inside the Content Directors head and get a feel for who he is talking to. After all if we're not on the same page, you're gonna hear that through the speakers.


But once I have an avatar in my head of that person (or persons) we're talking to, how do I get inside their head? How do I get them to listen to what we have to say?


Well, like any good relationship, the first thing is to understand them. What they like, what they're interested in, what motivates them. And you can't find that out sitting in an air-conditioned studio watching a screen scroll by all day. You need to get out amongst them and do a little investigation.


But what's that look like? Well, I've put together the following things to think about that might put you a little more in the picture when it comes to getting in tune with your audience.


A) Go see a movie.


Not just any movie, but a movie that your audience might be interested in. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, you’re immersing your self in the culture of your audience, and the chances are you will also be surrounded by them while you’re there. Plus it could hand you a bunch of great references for liners and promos.


B) Get out and about.

Visit a café or a park where they hang out. Perhaps there might be a Farmer's market on the weekend that appeals to your demographic, a theater show, really it could be anything.

Take note of what they order, what they're wearing, what they're talking about, even what they're eating can be useful sometimes.


If you’re going to the movies, check out the type of people walking into the other theaters. What’s their demo? What are they seeing? Are they splashing out on the most expensive items on the snack bar menu? Or are they being frugal with their money? Are they with friends? If they are what’s the conversation about? What are they wearing? What are they driving? There are so many things you can learn from just observing.


C) Read regularly.

This one is fairly obvious if you work at a news or News Talk Station. But it needs to be said. PICK UP A NEWSPAPER! No matter what format you're working on, be current with your knowledge. Besides great content for your sweepers and promos, you might actually come across a great line that you can change around, make your own and use in your imaging.

Equally, this can translate to a CHR or Top 40 station too. What’s going on in the world that affects your demographic? There’s gold in places you may not normally look. Read the Movie reviews (if you have to write a promo for the latest greatest release, you will find this invaluable).but more than that, it may just spark some great ideas that are based on a current event the next time you have to write a few new liners.


D) Do things you might not usually do


Don’t like to go to the beach, but work at a CHR station? Well, perhaps you need to get some sand in your shorts just a couple of times at least. Especially if it’s summer in a city that’s beach orientated. You could never Imagine a summer in Sydney without a trip to the beach on a 45° c (100° F). For a large number of 2MMM listeners (a station that I used to imagine here in Sydney), it’s a part of summer life. So if I’m not referencing “Sand in your Budgie Smugglers” (Aussie Slang For Speedos) or Dropping your Cornetto (ice cream) in the sand (something we’ve all done) then I’m missing a big opportunity to connect with what they’re doing (possibly even right now).


That’s just one example, but if you know your demographic, then you’ll know where you need to go, what you need to do to immerse yourself in more of what your demographic like to do. It may not always be your cup of tea, but you just have to suck it up.


E) Watch and Listen to what they are

What shows are they watching? What Podcasts are they listening to? You know at least a good part of the music they’re listening to (If you’re a music station) because they’re listening to you.


F) Talk to them


OK, so now you're saying "What? I'm supposed to be some sort of stalker?"


Well, the short answer to that is "No", but what you CAN do is head out on the streets with a microphone and get them to answer a few questions about the things we've discussed. It does two things. Firstly you get a direct line into their heads about what matters to them, AND you get some ammunition to use in your imaging. Now I'm well aware this is nothing new, but I'm constantly surprised how many Imagers miss out on the opportunity because they put it into the "too hard" basket, or just plain don't bother.



I recently did the summer campaign for i98 (the number one station in their market). I personally jumped in my car and drove across town to record some stuff on the streets with the unsuspecting public. What I got was two things, a strong appreciation for how these people spend their summer and 90 minutes of ammunition to use in my imaging.


For the rest of summer, I could name the most popular beaches, the places they hung out on a hot summer night, what they did for Christmas day, and the most popular music they were listening to. All based on the answers I recorded to a few simple questions. Then I used that information in my scripts to tweak their ears when my imaging hit the airwaves.


Here's a couple of examples...

So there you go, the next time you sit wondering who you should be talking to, and what they want to hear, you have a few tips n tools that might just help you answer those all-important questions.


Darren "Robbo" Robertson is available to image your station. To find out more about his Imaging services see his website.

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