Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
March 26, 2013

Oldie But a Goodie: Use of Radio Can Dramatically Expand the Impact of Your PR Plan

“That headline seems improbable, if not impossible, right?!?!” As public relations professionals, managing expectations is a daily challenge. We’re working in real time within a relentless news cycle, where the communications demands of our organizations have become greater and more complex. Budgets and staffing haven’t kept pace, and every day seems like a battle just to tick off a few more items from our ever-growing “to do” lists.

Realistically, how do you map out your yearly PR plan when communications is the department everyone turns to and assumes will get the great hits because “press coverage is ‘free media,’ right?”

I’ve been there, and want to let you in on a little-known secret that will help you wrangle the many, varied communications messages, audiences and events into a seemingly unrealistic, but actually quite workable, plan. First, let me set the stage and explain where I’ve seen this done exceptionally well.

My partners at the American Diabetes Association (ADA), are consistently successful connecting with a variety of audiences on many different, complex messages tailored to age groups, ethnicities, salary scales and geographies. How can the ADA make sense of all that and still come out with a sound communications plan?

The ADA has strategically used radio as an integral part of communications outreach for many years. In fact, in 2012 alone, ADA spokespeople completed 141 radio interviews, with listenership totaling 58,211,481. There were 11,664 airings on 8,218 stations. The cost per reaching each listener was $0.0009568. How is that for doing it all?

Again, radio. Yes, radio was the lynchpin of the communications plan. In today’s dynamic world of on-hand, mobile media access, this may seem old school. However, did you know that 94 percent of Americans report that radio is an important part of their daily lives? Or, that radio consistently reaches 92 to 96 percent of virtually every demographic group? And, how does radio stack up against other media?

Radio actually has a higher penetration than television, magazines, newspapers or the Internet. Radio has stood the test of time and routinely gets called in for duty when there’s some sort of crisis. What does everyone pack in their hurricane kit? A radio, of course. Radio plays a huge role in the aftermath of every major storm, particularly when there are mass power outages, connecting people to vital information and to each other.

And, across America, there’s a good deal of talk right now about the impending sequestration. And where is most of this discussion taking place? On talk radio, because this topic in particular really plays to the political extremes, which can be found in abundance among the many different offerings of radio. Beyond complex issue dissection, radio offers tremendous flexibility for quick-turnaround projects, geographic priorities and audience targeting.

In May, I’ll be moderating a panel on this topic at the PRSA Health Academy Conference in Indianapolis. We’ll be presenting with our partners at the American Diabetes Association who have successfully accomplished the seemingly impossible. I’ve personally been a member of PRSA for 13 years and a communications professional for 17 years. I know with budgets and time as tight as they are, we all choose conferences with far greater scrutiny these days. I hope you will join us as I’m confident our panel will be well worth your while.

PRSA Health Academy Conference for healthcare public relations and communications


News Generation President and Co-Founder Susan Matthews Apgood will be presenting the session, “Dramatically Simplify Your Communications Strategy Yet Still Do It All” at the PRSA Health Academy Conference from May 1-3 in Indianapolis. Register today and join us at the conference.

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