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SYNDICATION 101... Why Stations Have To Be Called

To the person who has not worked with (or even heard of) affiliate relations departments or syndication promoters, the concept of making continuous phone calls to stations may seem overkill. After all, "If the station liked what they saw on my fax/email/ad, they would call me to check my program out." Not quite.

Take a look at music promotion: Even small projects (less than $30,000 marketing dollars over three months) will have at least three full-time people doing nothing but calling stations. Larger projects have more people, including people in every market who visit stations personally every week. Songs which do not get into this promotional cycle do not get into regular rotation on commercial stations.... they are relegated to test spins, specialty, or college stations (similar to a show airing once and only once on a particular station.) As radio-program exposure gets more competitive, music promotional tools are being applied to syndication too.

It works like this: If you are a PD, and you are talking with someone on the phone about a prospective show, you know that person is also calling many other stations like yours this week too. And since he has your attention on the phone, and since you are looking at his media kit while he is telling you what is going on, you have to assume that the other PDs will be listening and looking too. Your job as a PD is to get listeners, and nothing does this like creating a mass-media "hit" (many stations airing the same thing at the same time). So you have to take seriously the fact that many other stations may start airing the show that this person is calling about.

Then, you realize that while you were on the phone with him, you were not browsing through the stacks of other shows from other people; you were not surfing around websites looking for other great show possibilities; you were not listening to other stations in your ADI to check for other shows which may work on your station. You instead were focusing on the one show that the guy on the phone was calling you about. And now that you know all the basics about his show, it becomes one of the shows you will be reviewing in your car or at your home.

That was one phone call... maybe five or ten minutes long. How many of these calls do you have the time to take each day?... Three, four, ten? However many it is, these calls will be the shows that you end up knowing something about, and these will be the shows that you know other PDs will know something about, too. So these shows become the shows that will get a full listen.

But wait! What about the stack of shows on your desk that no one called about?... The ones still in their folders, or still in their mailers? And what about all the faxes and emails? Why aren't you taking extra time to read through all their details, to request extra info, to go click and listen online? Are the other PDs checking into these other programs? Are other PDs even aware they exist?

So that's it: The amount of phone time that you (as a PD) spend is taken up by certain folks describing certain shows, and these shows are the shows you took with you for review; the other shows either we're not reviewed, not opened, or not requested. After all, how many of those other one-hour (or two or three-hour) shows can you review at home tonight (or worse, at work), especially when they stand no chance of mass growth because they are not being promoted?

Next Topic: Syndication Marketing Tools, Part 1

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