4 ways to turn ‘hearers’ into ‘listeners’ – Using radio’s golden rules to tell your story

Photo by Gavin Whitner

We look at how you can use the golden rules of radio to make your marketing and social media sing.

Radio, its the ‘original social media’. It’s intimacy, its ability to inform and educate and make its listeners smile when they hear their favourite song or when a cheery presenter make a funny quip is second to none. Over 89% of the population is reached by the UK’s plethora of radio stations according to Ofcom, which just goes to show that they’re doing something right when it comes to grabbing the attention of the British public.

However, think about how most people ‘listen’ to the radio. Chances are they aren’t actually listening at all. Merely hearing it, in the background, often whilst (hopefully) concentrating on driving, making the kids’ tea or bashing out that god-forsaken spreadsheet their boss wants on their desk by 3pm. They’re not intently listening to the output. That is of course until a skilled presenter or an attention-grabbing bit of content gives them a reason to prick up their ears. I’ve spent over a decade being coached by some of the best in the radio biz and the principles they’ve applied to developing my presenting technique applies to a multitude of situations off the air.

So how does this apply to my marketing and socials?

We’re all broadcasters now thanks to social media, each of us producing content we hope our followers will enjoy. But much like those of us merely ‘hearing’ and not listening to the radio, your social audiences are all too often being offered countless distractions to pull them away from your content. They might see it in their timeline or zip past it when tapping through their Instagram story, but if you’ve not given them a good enough reason to pay attention, chances are it’ll be flying across their screen faster than Concorde. We’re busy and there’s too many funny TikToks to watch!

So how do you turn your social media ‘hearers’ into ‘listeners and engagers’?

1. Grab my attention

This one is hopefully obvious. You need to stand out from the crowd. If this was a piece of content I was going to present on the radio, I need to hook you in, make you intrigued by the path I’m about to lead you on. There’s various ways I can do this, but by far the most effective is to address the audience member directly. Radio has always been about the relationship with the single listener. Yes, the station broadcasts to hundreds of thousands of people, but we always address you, the individual directly.

For example, if I were to start my link with the phrase “I was watching The Apprentice last night and it was hilarious, you’ll never guess what happened,”, I’m not going to turn many hearers into listeners. They don’t care that I was watching The Apprentice, listeners care about their own lives first and foremost. I’ve not addressed them directly. I’ve not involved them in this great story I’m about to tell. However, if I start the link with “Were you watching The Apprentice last night?”, I’m much more likely to pique their interest because if they were, they will be curious to hear what I’ve got to say about it and if they weren’t watching, they might have FOMO and start listening to see if there’s something they might have missed.

An even better way to use this technique is to add a sprinkle of intrigue into the mix. You want to give enough information away that gets the listener interested but not enough that you ruin the punchline. For example, you could start with “Have you ever noticed the people on The Apprentice will do anything for a bit of screentime,”.

If you apply this to a social media post for your business, think about ways you can grab the attention of a user. Ask rhetorical questions at the start of the post or encourage interaction with a poll or comment. Pair that with an eye-catching graphic or photo that just hints at the story you’re about to tell and kerblam, you’ve got my attention.

2. Why should I give a damn?

Remember when I said listeners only care about themselves first and foremost? It’s really important that your content is relevant to the lives of the people you’re trying to reach, otherwise, they won’t associate themselves with what you’re saying and won’t engage.

When I was on air, I’d always try and take a celebrity story that’s far removed from the everyday lives of. y listeners in Newcastle and find an angle that makes it relevant. For example, if we’re talking about the Oscars, a subject that is universes away from the everyday lives of my listeners, I’d look to focus on the more mundane, like the fact that it bucketed down at this year’s ceremony – far more relatable!

Many podcasters fall into this trap. They’re rightly very passionate about whatever it is they’re talking about and often this leads to them alienating potential listeners because the content becomes a little self-indulgent.

Your content needs to speak directly to that audience member and reference what’s important in their lives. If you’re targeting parents, think about what’s important to them. If it’s business people, think about how your content relates to their busy corporate lifestyle. The more your content reflects them and their lives, the more likely they are to welcome it into their lives and hopefully engage.

3. Don’t bamboozle me

If I suddenly launched five tennis balls simultaneously at you, I’d be a very bad tennis coach. Unless you’ve joined Cirque Du Soleil, you’ll probably not catch them all, two, maybe three if you’re lucky. But if I throw one tennis ball at you, you’re much more likely to catch it.

The same applies to your marketing and content. Don’t overload the audience with a list longer than War and Peace of your services or why you’re the best. Don’t give the audience a multitude of topics, hot takes and differing opinions to mull over. One post, one thought.

4. Keep it short, sweet and leave me wanting more

If I had a pound for every time a radio manager said the words ‘Word Economy’ to me, I’d be sipping a strawberry daiquiri in a 5-star all-inclusive resort in the Carribean rather than writing this blog. But, the commercial radio industry’s success is built on it, so it is important.

You could have the best bit of content in the world but if you waffle on and don’t get your message across sharpish, your listener will inevitably revert back to being a hearer. We all lead very busy lives and we don’t have time to waste.

When crafting your marketing content or social posts, think about how you can deliver your message in as fewer words as possible. Keep graphics clean and simple and don’t overload with text. If its a flyer or a poster, remember people will only skim-read it as they zoom past on an escalator so don’t give them an essay to read. If it’s a video, make sure it’s not a cinematic epic.

Most important of all, is to leave your listener wanting more. Give them enough to pay attention and enough to make them want to check out more of what you offer. On the radio, we’d end with a punch line and always try to not over-egg the joke, there’s nothing worse than someone who should’ve quit whilst they’re ahead. The same applies here. Leave the audience with a call to action, a way to engage or an invite to discover more. Now you’ve got their attention, you want to keep it.

Photo by Gavin Whitner

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