Don't Just Produce News, Promote It!

If you've looked through other parts of the J-MEGS sm Toolkit, you know that "plan ahead" is one of our mantras. We've documented many ways that investing a little upfront planning time can produce big results; more productive editorial meetings, stronger stories, easier edits, more compelling interviews and more effective use of limited newsroom resources. Now we need to add promotion to that list.

Having listened to public radio stations all over the country, we have been struck by how little most do to promote their own work. This represents a significant lost opportunity for both audience building and station positioning. Here's how you can start doing a more effective job of news promotion right away and at virtually no cost! All it will take is a little bit of pre-planning.

The first rule of thumb is to set a policy to get promo audio for every story your news department devotes time and resources to produce. Promos can be as simple as a cut and copy for your local hosts or a fully produced, self-contained spot.

Here are examples of six different kinds of promos you can do:

Image/Positioning Promos

These are promos that tell people who you are and what you're all about. It might be a promo that makes the point that you cover a large geographic region or that your beat reporter covers their topic in depth. These spots can focus on specific reporters, beats or the broad goals and aspirations of your news product in general.

Regularly Scheduled Segment Promos

Do you air a commentary every Tuesday or a political Q&A each Friday? Make sure your listeners know about it. You're killing two birds with one stone here - you're telling listeners about something you do. And you're making it easy for them to find it.

Story Promos

Always let your listeners know in advance about an in-depth story your reporter has produced about a compelling local topic - or one that's just plain fun. Here are two examples - a straightforward promo and one that adds a dash of creativity.

New Series Promos

When you put the time and effort into producing a series or special news program you should produce promos for the entire series and for each individual segment.

Forward Promos

During news programs like Morning Edition, you should regularly promote upcoming stories. This type of promotion is referred to as "Average Quarter House Maintenance" because the primary goal is to encourage listeners to stay tuned for at least the next 15 minutes of the program. For example, if you're airing your local news feature in the C-segment of Morning Edition, you'll want to promote it in the :19 break, the most effective spot to get that additional 15 minutes of listening.

Click here for a more complete explanation of this type of promotion and audio examples of both common promotion mistakes and best practices.

Cross-Platform Promos

The best promotion strategy involves three steps:

  1. Tell them you're going to do it.
  2. Do it (well).
  3. Tell them you did it.

Once a story has been produced and aired for broadcast, it doesn't have to be relegated to web-presence only. Producing "if you missed it" promos to air on radio will drive traffic to your website and bring your hard work to more ears!

Final Words

Your reporters put a lot of time and effort into producing feature stories so why not promote their work? With effective promotion, listeners are made aware of your reporters and their stories even if they only hear the promo!