Radio is a great way to get the attention of people who make
decisions on the spur of the moment. It's also a great way to
get access to new audiences. But working the radio angle requires
thought, ingenuity and imagination.
Pick your station(s) wisely
Today there are more radio formats than ever before... News/Talk,
Adult Contemporary, Adult Alternative, Classic Rock, Oldies, Contemporary
Hit Radio, Urban and many, many more. Each format appeals to a
different demographic. A little research and thought will making
choosing a radio station to work with easier. For instance, if
you do cutting edge, avant-gard theater, I wouldn't recommend
trying to work with a conservative News/Talk station. On the other
hand, a company that specializes in old chestnuts and classic
musicals might want to steer clear of the hard-core Alternative
Focus on trying to reach people like the ones who already come
to see your shows, preferably in the lower age brackets of that
demographic. In general, again depending on the types of productions
you put on, I would focus on a 30 - 60 age bracket. This puts
you looking at Adult Contemporary, Country, Oldies and Classic
Rock type formats.
When thinking about radio, remember one thing: unlike television,
people usually listen to radio while doing other things, particularly
driving and getting ready for work or school... you have to get
their attention. Tailor your efforts with this in mind.
Public Service Announcements
Radio stations are required by federal law to devote a certain
amount of time to Public Service Announcements (PSAs). These are
free announcements, usually read by the announcer, although some
Call the station or stations you are planning to use and ask
about PSAs. Find out what their requirements are and, most importantly,
find out who to send to it to.
Write your PSA as if it were a commercial, but keep it short.
Make sure you have the basic information in there... Who, What,
When, Where, How Much, and a phone number. Some stations will
re-write the information to their standards, but, by giving them
something more than just the basics, you can sometimes influence
how the information is presented.
Some stations, usually the smaller ones, or the ones with a higher
committment to the community, will be amenable to providing studio
time for you to cut your own pre-recorded PSA or will cut it for
you. It never hurts to ask. In that instance, write your PSA ahead
of time to the length you are asked. Make sure you've read it,
out loud, for timing and flow. Don't abuse the privledge of using
the station's studio by taking time to write or edit copy in the
The major drawback to using PSAs to promote your theater is you
can never be sure when they will run and you have no control over
the placement or the number of mentions you get. Many stations
have a large volume of PSAs, and rotate them throughout the broadcast
day. You won't reach the same audience at 11pm that you will during
morning drive. Buying time on the station is a sure way to get
the time slot you want.
Radio time isn't very expensive on a per-spot basis, but its
effectiveness is proportional to it's quantity. Depending on your
budget, you may want to concentrate your runs in a specific day-part
or limit your buy to single day. This is something to talk over
with the Advertising Representative you speak to. Remember, the
more specific the day-part or the time you want your ads to run
in, the higher the cost.
Your Ad Rep will give you suggestions about the best way to schedule
your ads to give you the best bang for your buck. He (she) will
also help write your copy, if you so choose. Make sure you let
the Rep know that you are a non-profit... some stations have a
special rate or package for non-profits.
The Art of the Swap
For those of you who haven't listened to radio in ages, every
station in the country, with the possible exception of some NPR
stations, is doing a contest. Talk to the promotions director
or the program director about donating some tickets or some other
prize in return for some mentions on the air. These give-aways
can be rolled into another contest, or may be set up as a stand-alone.
Public Radio stations also have some interesting avenues for
promotion. After all, they are always looking for money through
their on-air fundraisers. Season tickets might be a good premium
for a challenge. Talk to the station's fundraiser or general manager.
Talk, Talk, Talk
Almost forgot about one of the more interesting ways to get some
exposure... the Talk Show. Most News/Talk stations have at least
one locally produced show that might be interested in booking
the director and/or several cast members for an appearance. Stations
with other formats will have some kind of community service forum
type show to meet their public service requirements, but that
kind of show usually ends up in the wee hours of Sunday mornings.
If you do get booked on a talk show, be sure to tease rather
than give away the entire plot, with twists. Temp the listeners.
Be wary of doing excerpts... copyright law pretty much limits
you on that anyway. Remember that you are selling your show...
be upbeat and entertaining.
Above all else, be prepared when you walk in. You may not know
what the host is going to ask you, but you do know what you need
to get out... the basic information: Who, What, Where, When, How
Much and How Does The Audience Get Tickets. It's best to write
this stuff down ahead of time and take it with you. That way you
don't get trapped with a case of the "ummms". It also
gives you something to leave with the host when you go, earning
you at least a few more mentions.
Next, we'll take a look at how you can use the World Wide Web
to promote your theater.