Radio Is Still Audio King, So Here’s How to Get Host-Endorsed Content
Paul Harvey will go down in history as a radio icon. His decades-long program, a mixture of reminiscence and witticism, fostered unprecedented bipartisan listenership. When Harvey spoke, people heard his warmth and sincerity. And when he seamlessly folded advertising messages into the program, everyone forgot they were listening to a commercial — or host-endorsed content from the original influencer.
By our modern definition, Harvey was an influencer. Plenty of radio announcers, podcasters, and YouTubers have adopted his pioneering style, transitioning the conversation between organic and paid content without breaking stride. Just listen to any well-known audio host: Every one of them endorses specific products, services, and establishments — encouraging fans to spend money in precise ways.
For savvy advertisers, host-endorsed content is gold. Whether the message is coming from Sean Hannity or Paris Hilton, the announcer drives the discussion about an item or place, implying the brand is the cream of the crop. And generally, audiences listen. (Opens as a PDF) After all, if Dave Ramsey is using a particular product, the assumption is that he’s not using any other products to do the same thing.
If your brand is a host favorite, your competitors are effectively shut out from the host’s audience members; at least, when they tune into the show. And the categorical exclusivity isn’t just implied. It’s contractually required. The host agrees to talk about only your brand, for as long as that media schedule is in place — and often for a significant period of time afterward.
Influencing Through Audio, Not Just Social
Is this similar to social media influencing? Well, yes and no. The problem with social media influencers is that their endorsements are often weakly defined. In a few characters or with a couple images, influencers give feedback about or kudos to merchandise or experiences. Followers are then left to interpret what this means. Are these influencers actually using the product? Will they go back to the venue again? Those questions are rarely answered.
In contrast, radio, podcast and video endorsements may continue for several minutes, with hosts offering complete narratives filled with rich details. They might even veer off script, discussing benefits or sharing anecdotes. By the end of the dialogue, the audience deeply understands the relationship and engagement between the host and brand. Not only does this transference of legitimacy build trust between the host and listeners, but also between the listeners and the advertiser.
How overtly solid and powerful is radio influencing? In a nutshell, very.
My company handled an exercise product campaign with a history of successful TV infomercials. Like other products in the category, this one was extremely visual. Before-and-after photos were dramatic. Yet we felt that with radio, we could drill down into the emotional value of the brand.
Our radio influencers started using the product and building buzz around it. They posted pictures on their websites and quickly moved past skepticism into true believership. Unsurprisingly, their audiences followed suit. Sure, they originally had their defenses up, but those barriers quickly fell when their radio host “friend” proved that the product lived up to the hype.
Measuring and Targeting Audio Host Endorsements
In addition to overcoming unspoken objections, radio endorsements provide a high degree of targetability and flexibility that goes beyond anything a celebrity spokesperson can offer. Traditional celebrity endorsements require finding someone who appeals to a broad audience segment. Audio host endorsement enables brands to directly target very specific audience segments. Rather than trying to come up with something for everyone, the company can leverage the host’s credibility with a niche demographic.
Additionally, messaging on radio or through other audio outlets can be altered to fit the host’s style. This allows for more of a surgical strike in order to leverage the authenticity of the endorser and appeal to a particular type of listener.
Remember, too, that with so many different audio hosts out there, finding several to reach various demographics isn’t a problem. Each host can tweak the endorsement dialogue to maximize audience engagement. Measuring each call to action and influencer performance is easy with digitization. The host simply tells the audience to use an exclusive promo code to receive a significant discount. These promo codes are trackable and designed to determine the effectiveness of the host’s performance.
What does this look like in practice? Say a host closely associates with breast cancer awareness and research. In her CTA, she might say, “When you order, use promo code ABC to ensure that 5% of profits go toward charity XYZ.” Chances are strong that her audience will follow her instructions, rather than buying directly without the promo code. After all, those listeners see her as a friend, and they want to help. This type of intimacy rarely occurs with generic advertising.
Getting Host Endorsement Right From the Get-Go
Embarking on an audio host-endorsement campaign requires some thoughtfulness and practicality. If you’re ready to take advantage of this type of influencer marketing, follow these best practices.
Pick a Host Your Target Audience Loves
Our clients regularly tell us they want certain hosts to endorse their brands, because they listen to the hosts. But this only works if the client and the target audience are within the same demographic. Often, they’re not. Always choose the host who most appeals to your target personas. Otherwise, you’ll be feeding your ego, not reaching your intended audience.
Allow for Improv
The magic of audio endorsements is that they’re often delivered in the form of off-the-cuff remarks or stories. Asking a host to read off a script will neuter the campaign and put you at risk of sounding stale. Audiences know the difference between a commercial that’s being read from a teleprompter vs. a discussion that comes from the heart. You can offer talking points, don’t dampen a host’s enthusiasm and personality with full-blown scripted content.
Get the Full Impact With Digitization
Hosts engage with listeners in a variety of ways — including through their websites and social media accounts. In our tremendous multichannel world, the on-air portion of your preferred audio host’s endorsement package is just one slice of the pie. Add your expectations to the endorsement contract so the host understands them upfront. For instance, outline parameters about social posting or size and placement of site banners. These may become negotiation points, but you should at least start the conversation.
Host endorsements have a categorical exclusivity and specific reach that other forms of product advertising lack. A well-liked host with a set audience can put a personal spin on your product that will resonate with target personas and garner measurable results for you.
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