Author: John Goslino, April 23 2014 As someone involved in community radio perhaps you are wondering "Why do we need a marketing plan? Why can't we just bumble along as we always have, fighting crises all the time, never sure what we're going to do next? After all, we've survived so far - haven't we?"
That question reveals its own answer: without a plan you get trapped in a day-to-day existence, fighting the same crises over and over again, wasting a lot of time, but making no real progress.
In a recent edition of the Audience Dialogue newsletter John Goslino presents the case for a community radio marketing plan and outlines how to assemble one.
The author states that a marketing plan doesn't need to be detailed but it should be the result of a lot of careful thinking, contributed by as many people as possible. People are not going to fully implement a plan if they've had no say in creating it. Hence if you manage a community radio don't just sit down and write a plan - get everybody to contribute, the joint thinking process is often the most valuable part of the plan. It's a good idea to turn the marketing plan into a poster, and stick it on a wall in a public area. The more attractive it looks, the more people will read it.
The article suggests radios plan two years ahead, updating the plan several times a year. The further ahead, the less detail you need.
What should a marketing plan contain?
A marketing plan should address these questions including as much relevant numerical information:
- Where have we come from?
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be?
- How can we get there? How must we change?
- How will we know if we're getting there?
Parts 1 and 2 are a review, while parts 3 and 4 are the main marketing plan. Part 5 is a marketing evaluation. The questions it asks, and the methods for answering them, are part of the marketing plan - but of course the questions can't be answered until the plan is under way.
- Where have we come from?
Consider how effective your marketing has been, and what evidence there is for this. It's essential to be candid, not to pretend an activity was a great success when in fact it may not have been. Author affirms that it is very important to learn from the past. Compare past projections (of income, audience, etc) with actual outcomes. Did you forecast a 50% increase two years ago, and was the real increase only 10%? Why the difference?
- Where are we now? Situation analysis.
Here you gather all the relevant information on your current situation including your inputs and resources: staff numbers, money earned and spent, facilities; your outputs: program content, audience size, and actions people take as a result of listening; your environment, and how it affects the way in which your inputs are transformed into outputs. consider local developments, other media, and audience trends, and your stakeholders. For each stakeholder group consider ways in which they might help your station, and ways they might oppose it.
When you've finished collecting this information it's a good idea to make it widely accessible so that it can be corrected and updated.
- Where do we want to be?
Describe the ideal situation for your station in a few years' time. What could your inputs, your outputs, and your environment be? This needs a reasonable amount of detail. The typical "mission" or "vision" statement isn't specific enough.
The plan can include special programs you are planning; description of the target audience, and which types of new listeners you want most; special events you will organize - and how these will be used to attract new listeners, new sponsors; your audience goals - how you plan to achieve them, and how that will be measured and revenue goals - and the means that will be used to achieve them.
- How can we get there? What needs to change?
Compare your present situation with your ideal. How many more staff / money will you need,to create your ideal station? How many more listeners will you need to attract?
A lot of marketing plans fail because they don't make a clear link between the current situation and the desired future. You have to create a feasible path between your present and your desired future. There should be a strong reason for every marketing initiative you propose. This gives everybody a chance to become involved. The most effective plans are those developed in a participatory way.
Here you list each stakeholder group, and how you will approach marketing with it.
To make it more likely that each task in the marketing plan will be implemented, you should allocate a responsible person, some funding, and a target completion date. The people responsible for implementation must also be involved with the planning.
It's important to set realistic goals. If a goal is too easy staff won't try very hard. But if they see the goal as impossible they also won't try. For maximum motivation you should set a goal which has an apparent 50% chance of success.
- How will we know if we're getting there? Monitoring and evaluation.
Important to constantly review the marketing you are doing including assessing the station from the point of view of each type of stakeholder. To set up a monitoring system define some measures that will, taken together, inform you whether your plan is working. These measures, called indicators, might include:
- Number of visitors to the station.
- Number of phone calls, letters, faxes, and emails received.
- Number of inquiries from prospective staff and volunteers.
- Audience data, specially the size and satisfaction of the audience (from surveys).
- Advertising revenue received each month.
- Number of inquiries from prospective advertisers.