What’s the Shape of Your Recovery?

April 19, 2021


Harvard Business Review recently published a list of insights on the elevated role of marketing in the midst of this pandemic. As you work to bend the shape of your recovery, these insights can help accelerate the growth of your ratings and revenue.

Is your recovery ahead of schedule? The exact pace depends on various internal and external factors, including public health orders, which calls to mind the phrase, “control your controllables.”

Creating great content and bringing in revenue are essential aspects of running a radio station. With your ratings the #1 driver of station revenue combined with the reality that your best listeners spend 95% of their lives away from the radio, station marketing is essential to building listening habits and winning the recovery long term.

Despite the ongoing reality of reduced listening levels across markets, we’re continuing to help stations outperform their competition and surpass pre-COVID listening across formats and groups.




Getting heavy listeners to think about your brand, while they are away from the radio is crucial to winning their next occasion. Specifically, this top of mind awareness is critical for your brand each time your target audience gets into their car or arrives at work. These are the moments in their life when so much listening occurs.

With this strategic focus in mind, Harvard Business Review offers marketing insights that align with our DMR 360° Listener Engagement Strategy, designed to help accelerate your ratings and revenue growth.

Old truth: You are competing with your competitors.
NEW TRUTH: You are competing with the last best experience your customer had.

By the time schools welcome kids back in the fall, it will have been 18 months since the onset of the pandemic.

Your listeners had their world turned upside down; their need for radio changed along with their listening habits. Did they build new habits, find a better experience somewhere else or have they not been commuting to work? Regardless, how do you aggressively rebuild their listening over the next 6-12 months and keep them coming back for more?

That answer is going to vary for each listener, but across markets and formats, it starts with this next insight.

Old truth: Relationships matter.
NEW TRUTH: Relationships are everything.

Most people have friends from high school or college they haven’t spent time with in years. Yet, when you reconnect, you pick up right where you left off, not missing a beat.  

That’s the power of great relationships and it’s an opportunity that this ongoing recovery represents. A chance for listeners to reconnect with old friends – the personalities on their favorite station.

The fear programmers have of being forgotten by listeners is real and something stations are contending with as the months go by. The good news about relationships is that along with reconnecting with old friends, you also continue to build new relationships.

Especially when you focus on super-serving your target audience.

Old truth: Marketing begins with knowing your customer. 
NEW TRUTH: Marketing begins with knowing your customer segment.

When you look at your ratings, it’s all about knowing and super-serving your customer segments. Even in a well defined target demo, you have multiple segments.

For example, among W35-54, the life of a working mom with young kids is significantly different from the older end of the same demo when the kids are out of the house.

The more you know your customer segments, the more targeted your marketing will be, which will help your messaging break through and resonate, while accelerating the formation of stronger relationships with your brands, resulting in increased listening occasions by those who matter most to your ratings and revenue.

Let’s bend the shape of your recovery. 

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, Jen Clayborn and everyone here at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and driving radio forward.


Andrew Curran
President and COO

The Recovery is Outpacing Listening

March 22, 2021

The holidays were 3 months ago, vaccines are rolling out at breakneck speed, more school districts are reopening.

Yet as FEB PPM data arrives this week, listening levels are flat to down in many markets. Not just year over year, but compared to last month. 

Across all levels of government, there’s an intensity around vaccine delivery, which needs to be replicated by radio when it comes to listening habits.

After a year of uncertainty, the quickest way to recapture ratings and revenue is with a relentless focus to rebuild listening habits in the car and at-work.

As an industry, we’ve become conditioned to gradual year over year declines in AQH Persons. The next 12 months represent an opportunity to punch our way out of that corner and reverse the trend.

For decades, positioning statements such as “the most music every hour” or “the no repeat workday” have helped stations define their appeal based on how they are differentiated from competitors.

As the recovery accelerates, it’s about understanding the needs of the audience and communicating your value proposition. The opportunity exists for stations to be differentiated for consumers.

In the best of times, listeners spend 96% of life away from the radio. Using all the tools at your disposal to win more occasions is job No. 1.

It’s all hands on deck.
Station social media posts and e-mail newsletters are heavy on celebrity news and podcasts, but light on promoting on-air listening occasions. Consistently highlight your talent along with drive time and at-work listening occasions.

It takes a village. Solicit crowd-sourced content from your audience and advertisers, including life hacks around timely issues – how to nail a virtual job interview, relearning how to balance family life and a commute. Your station doesn’t and shouldn’t have to do it all, but the brand and its air talent get credit for cultivating the topics, inviting participation and sharing the results.

Acknowledge the elephant in the room. Your female listeners have absorbed the brunt of childcare and remote learning during this pandemic. Local stations can show empathy and demonstrate leadership to facilitate conversations about how we can chart a better path forward.

More Wind at Our Backs

Although there’s trepidation around the future of commuting, billion dollar commitments to new office space by large companies such as Amazon and average commercial leases lasting 10 years should help assuage some of those fears. More importantly, the past year has created tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs not typically found in the midst of economic turbulence. In Q3 of 2020 alone, there were more than 1.5 million new-business applications, twice as many as the same period in 2019.

Even consultants McKinsey & Company admit, “we didn’t see this coming. After all, during the 2008–09 financial crisis, small-business formation declined. This time, though, there is a veritable flood of new small businesses.”

In fact, “the volume of ‘high-propensity-business applications (those that are likeliest to turn into businesses with payrolls) has also risen strongly – more than 50 percent compared with 2019.”

While Fortune 500 companies dominate the headlines, the backbone of the economy is small business.

In fact, when it comes to radio-friendly workplaces, small businesses are your station’s best friend and workplace calling is an essential element of a 360° marketing strategy to win heavy listeners.

Let’s rebuild listening habits and outperform your market by super serving those who matter most to your ratings and revenue.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, Jen Clayborn and everyone here at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and driving radio forward.


Andrew Curran
President and COO

A COVID Vaccine for Radio: An Open Letter

March 10, 2021

An Open Letter to Radio:

After 365 days and 550,000 deaths across North America, the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter each day.

At the same time, what radio listening will look like post COVID-19 remains to be seen. Although listening has rebounded, it hasn’t yet recovered, which puts greater pressure on ratings performance to drive revenue growth.

After a year of intense disruption and personal sacrifice, radio cannot take for granted that women will rediscover their former P1 station, satisfied with the promise of a “No Repeat Workday” or “Commercial Free Hours.”

Local radio brands must offer greater depth and relevance in order to be top of mind and win the occasions necessary to outperform the market.

A Turbulent Year

When looking at the lives of listeners, not surprisingly, over 40% of W18-49 reported symptoms of anxiety and depression in February 2021, which is up since the early days of the pandemic.

One of the hidden causes of this sustained anxiety and depression is that it was never supposed to last this long.

A year later, moms are holding their families and their careers together with the same tape they have been using since March and it’s barely working. In particular, remote learning, which disproportionately impacts women is causing much of the strain. As the NY Times reports, day after day, working moms have one harrowing realization: they have to get back up and do it all again tomorrow.

As one mom puts it, “There is no such thing as balance … something is always on the brink of collapse.” 

As female listening remains off by 30% from pre-COVID levels, female targeted stations need to be engaging in the issues that matter in this moment. Whether it’s remote learning, caring for elderly relatives or managing a career from the kitchen table, there are plenty of opportunities to super-serve the listeners who matter most to your ratings and revenue.

Over the past year, radio has done an admirable job celebrating healthcare heroes, first responders and front line workers. It’s time we add working moms to the list.

As school districts resume in-person learning, radio needs parents in general and moms in particular to rediscover their favorite stations as they resume their commutes. Unfortunately, this outcome is far from guaranteed.

Pre-pandemic, audience disruption was often framed around short term issues involving seasonal PUMM levels and panelist churn. A heavy meter going on vacation could ruin your entire month. The longevity and scale of this pandemic is an order of magnitude unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

For the first time in the modern era, radio has to re-introduce itself to former listeners, particularly those female loyalists who have been sidelined since last March.

In order for listening to truly recover, market leading stations must rebuild listening habits that will sustain ratings and revenue growth. It starts with a culture that puts the listener at the center of every decision.

Winning the Recovery

Across markets and formats, winning the recovery is based on the on-air product and “Can’t Miss Moments”. In a world of 8 second attention spans, radio’s immediacy, localism and authenticity provide meaningful content that listeners tune-in to hear and advertisers pay to be part of.

Along with great programming, when it comes to your listeners, it’s essential to capture their opt-in data and build relationships. According to Nielsen, just one hour per day makes someone a heavy listener. That means your audience spends 96% of their life away from the radio. Knowing your listeners by name and staying in-touch with them off-air are essential elements to winning their next occasion.

Data acquisition is not limited to contesting. Throughout the pandemic, stations have done heroic work highlighting local businesses open for business. With the worst of the pandemic behind us, have you recently asked those businesses to promote your station to their employees and customers through their own email newsletters and social media posts? Pandora and Spotify weren’t serving the local community and promoting these businesses. It’s a perfect opportunity to craft a compelling listener centric message and utilize the power of reciprocity.

When it comes to station marketing, rebuilding listening habits cannot be taken for granted or left up to chance. Break through the noise with repeat and varied contact that features a targeted mix of integrated, individual touchpoints. Along the way, celebrate your listeners and invite them to share their favorite station with family, friends and co-workers.

During this pandemic, this combination of great programming, leveraging listener data to remain top of mind and 360° station marketing designed to actively engage those who matter most has delivered powerful ratings performances and audience growth, including top ranked female stations

Some stations plan to bounce back from COVID-19 by riding the coattails of the overall recovery. While that approach may be prudent for second tier stations, it comes down to risk tolerance and opportunity cost. What’s the revenue impact of your best brands staying at their current ratings for the next three to six months, while competitors increase their rank position and get on more buys? In addition, if you’re a Classic Hits or Rock station that’s done well during the pandemic with male listening, how do you sustain and increase your advantage with A25-54 in Prime, as dominant female stations come back to life?

As we look ahead to more vaccines, the ensuing recovery of ratings and revenue will depend on the ability of stations to super-serve listeners and drive daily cume.  

Let’s rebuild listening habits and outperform your market.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, Jen Clayborn and everyone here at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and working to drive radio forward.


Andrew Curran
President and COO