Are You Ready For The Holidays?

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Consultant Tips” series, written by Charese Fruge on November 17, 2020 

We’re a little over a week away from Thanksgiving and just a few weeks away from the end of the Fall book. Have you started making plans for the holidays? And by that I don’t mean where you are going (or not going) and who you are going to see (or not see). What I mean is, are you prepared for the Holiday Book? If you haven’t started thinking about how you are going to approach the holidays on air this year, you better start doing so STAT! Let’s face it, if you don’t have a plan for Thanksgiving and Black Friday yet, you are already way behind (believe it or not, there are people who don’t yet). While a lot of stations tackle the Holiday Book with an All-Christmas format, not all brands have that luxury, which means they will need to rely on Prime Time Talent, quality content and for music stations, nothing but the hits.

Realistically, we all know this is an extremely difficult year due to the doom and gloom of the pandemic, economy and election. A lot of stations have flipped to the All- Christmas format early this year as a result, several even flipped as early as mid-October. This could lead to early burn if they’re not careful, so these stations need to constantly and consistently re-invent the Christmas wheel until the season is over. In addition to this, we’ve seen an enormous number of layoffs, major corporate consolidations and the loss of live and local content and talent across the country; therefore, all of the stations sound the same, and sadly, like “the lights are on, but nobody’s home.” So, if you want to compete, and stay alive during the holidays, you’re going to have to go the extra mile and start planning now.

For stations which have flipped to Christmas already, it’s important to continue to promote your traditional format through the holidays, reminding people of what your normal commitment to them is. The content, music and talent need to continue to engage the audience as it normally does and make sure they understand the promise of normalcy after the holiday season will be delivered. This will ensure their loyalty when the New Year rolls in. In addition, it’s a great way to build and convert cume. New listeners will be tuning in for the Christmas music, and if you can capture their attention, you might just get the opportunity to convert a new P1. Don’t blow the opportunity, make sure everything is fresh and updated from Thanksgiving all the way through the New Year’s Celebration.

Another opportunity this year comes with the fact that millions of Americans won’t be traveling to see family the way they normally would around the holidays. That means everyone will be staying at home, staying in as much as possible, and searching desperately for ways to entertain themselves and their families. That’s got to be top of mind when it comes to content. And when you are doing special events, like reading “Twas The Night Before Christmas” to the kids on Facebook Live, you need to promote the heck out of it. Think about all the digital opportunities you have to add to your extension of the brand. “Baking Christmas Cookies with (insert talent name here),” “Wrapping Christmas Presents with (insert talent name here),” etc. There’s a world of opportunity here.

If you are a morning show, and you are planning vacation time, the best thing you can do for your show while you are out is “Best Of” material. This is a constant debate I’ve had over the years with Old School Market Managers and Consultants. At the end of the day, the only thing better than the hits, is a consistent, relatable and familiar morning show with tight bits that get right to the pay-off between the music. Trying to bring in celebrity guests or doing a show with only part of the team is a train wreck and difficult to listen to. You’ll fail to make a connection and give the listeners every opportunity to look around for something else to entertain them. And let’s be honest, the audience doesn’t listen the way we think they do, so the odds are that a lot of listeners will be hearing the “Best Of” bit for the first time. If not, they won’t mind that it’s a repeat from their favorite show in between their favorite songs. How many times have you binge watched “The Office” or “Breaking Bad” or “Game of Thrones” etc.? I’m guilty of at least twice.

Now, if you are going with “Best Of” bits, you should have been working on them a long time ago. So, if you haven’t started, you’d better do so now. You’ll need a long list of them, so the material stays fresh. They need to be edited and produced to get right to the point and straight to the pay off. And you need to schedule them in a graph, like you would schedule music, making sure that early bits play later than they normally would and if they are used more than once, they should be scheduled in completely different windows than before and days apart. For a little more background on “Best Of” bits, you can refer to one of my earlier columns this year.

One other thing you should already have in place is your big promotion, or campaign for Q1. We all know how grueling January’s are. And this year is going to be extremely painful. Your best bet is cash, but we all know the reality of that. So, if you don’t have that luxury, you need to come up with something BIG and creative that involves community service and out-reach. And you need to start promoting it now. It’s going to be a tough task to bring people back to some sense of normalcy after the first of the year, so you need to stay committed to keeping your audience loyal and growing your audience if you can.