Recently we had the chance to interview Richard Newcomb, the Group Event Marketing Manager at Cumulus Media here in Washington, D.C. He is a seasoned radio promotions and event expert and we wanted to get his take on the current trends in promotions and how best to approach them for both client RichardNewcombRadioPromotionsand station/listener success. Here is what he had to say.

Please briefly describe your role and media promotions experience.

My primary role over the past ten years has been overseeing the event marketing program for the radio group… Producing all station special events and activations at third party events (nearly 300 a year), managing partnerships with community leaders, clients, festival organizers, working with account executives to create opportunities for advertisers, creating operational systems to optimize proficiency, and actively managing the event staff. Over the years, I have also managed external marketing, web presence, contesting, and hosted and produced a weekly on-air show.

What trends have you seen in radio promotions over the past few years?

On a positive note, the added use of web and social media has expanded earned media. If a listener at an event or a contest winner can correctly tag the station in any social media postings he or she does, it’s one more way to further impressions, brand awareness, and tune in occasions. On the down side, promotions and marketing budgets have consistently shrunk beyond restricting stations to effectively market through traditional channels, to the downsizing of promotions and marketing departments- usually eliminating the senior most staff member (with the widest range of experience, market knowledge, and professional connections).

What do you love MOST about promotions?

Getting things for free! Beyond that, I would have to cite the positive, one on one interaction with the audience we serve. I personally also really enjoy working with artists and their labels to produce unique listener events.

What are the top three “Dos” would you suggest to anyone looking to do a promotion with your station?

  1. DO focus on the listener benefit first. Can you offer something genuinely compelling and otherwise unavailable to a listener? (Style Justin Bieber’s hair before a concert, be an honorary bat boy at the World Series, sit with Jay Z at a sporting event at the Barclay Center, etc.
  2. DO keep in mind that (station/network) marketing budgets have indeed been (negatively) impacted and present opportunities for (station/network) exposure in the context of the promotional pitch: Inclusion in all social media and web posts, ability to use 50 linear feet at event for bannering opportunities, three mentions from a sound stage at a music festival, etc.
  3. DO fully disclose early in the (station/network) conversation whether there are opportunities for a media buy to coincide with the promotion. If there’s not, make it known so the merit of the promotional value back to the station can be assessed without the hope of a spot buy. If there is, disclose that as well, and more often than not the approval process will be “fast tracked”.

On the flip side, what are the top three “Don’ts” you would you offer?

  1. DON’T overvalue your prize. Listeners, promotions staff, and sales management are generally savvy to market conditions and the relative value of a promotional exchange. It pays to know the value of what you are offering, and what the reasonable expectation of reciprocity will yield: If you have 10 pair of tickets to a wine festival you are promoting that sell for $15 apiece, don’t expect $10,000 in promotional value without a spot buy. If you can send a morning show to Jamaica with listeners for a live broadcast, that’s a different conversation…
  2. DON’T confuse the operational language of spots (paid advertising) and promos (promotional mentions). The two are often interchanged by those less familiar with radio — they are critically different to those that are. Spots typically refer to a 60, 30, or 15 second unit of advertising time that the client pays for to promote their product/ service/ event, and can do whatever he or she wants with it (within FCC guidelines). Sometimes a client will have a spot pre-produced by a production house, etc… Other times they rely on the radio station to produce it using creative they approve. A promo is almost never paid for in and of itself, but rather, is included in the context of a promotional partnership, or used as leverage or “added value” to secure a spot buy. With promos, the station retains ownership of the airtime and editorial license of the creative and positioning. As opposed to running in line with traditional spots, the promos often run at the beginning of a commercial break, or between songs and are often 10 and 15 seconds in length.
  3. Unless the client you are representing would be a compelling interview on the radio station without you having made the call, don’t request an interview on the air in the context of the promotion that is focused on that client: “… We thought that it might be nice if the guy who owns the hardware store that is providing the sheet metal for the stage we’re building for the event come onto the morning show and talk for a few minutes why he’s happy to be involved.”

What’s been the most memorable and appreciated promotional giveaway?

We’ve had the good fortune of having many listener experiences and contests that have resonated with our audience. These include: the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game wearing a station jersey, a small, intimate performance by artists such as Adam Lambert, the Script, and Rob Thomas, to giving away life changing amounts of cash and automobiles.


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