Wisconsin Broadcasters Association

Last summer I had the pleasure of traveling to Milwaukee for the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association’s annual Summer Conference where I sat down for one-on-one (and up to five-on-one) digital consultation sessions with member stations. I spoke to various broadcasters about the current state of their stations’ digital strategies and offered advice for moving forward.

While every station was in a slightly different situation — some were knocking it out of the park on social media but flailing with email, while others were seeing strong streaming numbers but hadn’t given podcasting any thought yet — there was one issue that came up over and over again. Interestingly, this was not a technological issue: “How do I do X?. Rather, it was a human issue: “How can I get buy-in from the other people at my station?” I repeatedly encountered people who had a good idea of what their station needed to do to move forward, but were having a tough time selling the plan to their colleagues.

This issue is not unique to Wisconsin. Unlike a decade ago, we’ve now reached a point where new technology is not that difficult to use. If your station needs a website, you can build one pretty quickly using a platform like WordPress. Likewise, it’s never been easier to produce a video, launch a podcast, or host a webinar. Wth most of the stations that I encounter, it is not the technical aspects of digital strategy that are challenging.

It’s the human aspects of digital strategy that are giving stations a hard time.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  1. Stations don’t set aside time specifically for digital strategy.

We’ve never been busier as broadcasters. Despite the invention of new tools that are supposed to make our lives easier, we seem to have more on our plate than ever before. As a result, many stations are relegating their digital strategy discussions to passing conversations in the hallway. This is a recipe for disunity.

A successful digital strategy starts with consensus. You need to get everybody on the same page. To do that, you’ll need to gather together all of your key players specifically to discuss digital strategy: from the general manager down to the intern handling social media posts. You’re not going to design and execute a successful digital strategy in a single day, so these meetings should happen regularly. Only with all of the stakeholders in the room can you move forward together.

  1. Stations haven’t figured out their digital goals.

It sounds basic, but you’d be amazed by how many radio and television staffers struggle when I ask this basic question: “When people visit your station’s website, what do you want them to do?” This shouldn’t be a stumper. What are the goals of your digital strategy? What are you trying to accomplish? What do you want people to do?

One of the things that makes answering this question difficult is the fact that we can measure so many more data points now than we could ten or 20 years ago: likes, shares, tweets, clicks, views, downloads, etc. There’s a tendency to think that because we can measure something, it is important. But some of the things that we can measure are much more important than others. I’d take a $20,000 ad buy over a Facebook post with 20,000 likes any day. But often, two people at the same station are looking at the same accomplishment and measuring it with two completely different yardsticks.

When you get your staff together, decide what the goals of your digital strategy are and how you’re going to measure them. For example, let’s say that one of your station’s top goals (yes, there can be more than one) is to grow the website traffic, and you’ll measure this by looking at your unique visitors in Google Analytics every month. You should also decide what a good amount of growth is: Ten percent per month? 20? Two? It may take a few months of trial and error to figure out what is realistic, but eventually you want to get everybody on the same page. Everybody in the building should know what your station’s digital goals are, how they are measured, and what is considered success or failure for each.

At the end of the day, all of your station’s digital goals should tie directly into the bottom line. If the size of your email database has a direct effect on revenue, worry about that, and not how many retweets you got on a funny meme.

  1. Once everybody’s agreed upon the goals, draw up an action plan.

Now that everybody is on the same page about where you want your station to go, it’s time to figure out the best way to get there. For example, let’s say that your station has decided that one of its goals is to increase its email database. Great! How are you going to do that?

You could encourage your audience to enter contests, or send them a daily email with news headlines, or create “freemium” content that can only be accessed by filling out a form. Once you’ve selected a goal, there can be a number of different ways to achieve it. Sometimes, you’ll want to try a variety of tactics to see what works best. Draw up a plan, give it a timetable, and measure the results. From time to time, get everybody in the same room again to review your strategy together and make changes if necessary.

Today, the digital strategies of most of the stations that I see are impeded by human factors, not technological factors. These basic steps can help. Try them out, and when I see you at this summer’s WBA conference, let me know how it’s going.

Seth Resler is the Digital Dot Connector at Jacobs Media.

The WBA Digital Hotline is a free service provided by the Wisconsin Broadcaster Association.  For help with your digital strategy call Jacobs Media at 248-353-9030.

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