Brand managers are the new programming managers

If you’re a brand or marketing manager with a long-term investment in non-traditional radio, both contest- and sponsorship-based, how do your radio partners treat you?

Are you just the client who pays the bill at the end of every month? Or are you treated like what you are in this branded-content age, like the programming manager for the segment that your company spends a lot of money on every month? If not, it’s time to challenge your radio partner to integrate you and your brand team into the programming you so generously fund.

Radio is a very simple medium, and radio programming is equal parts science, art and gut feel. While gut feel is a very unsatisfactory heading on a PowerPoint slide, good radio programmers know how to use the science and the measurements to back what they know deep down is right. When programme managers (PMs) talk to their talent about what is going out on air, they will demand that the basics are done very well and then leave it to the superstar radio personalities to add that gold dust that only the best can sprinkle.

So, what are some of these basics and how may you use them for your branded radio content campaign?

Face time

The best PMs will spend a good part of every week, one-on-one, with their talent. It’s so easy to treat radio talent as disembodied heads and forget the people behind the voices. This face time goes a long way to making the talent feel special and heard. Believe me, so many radio people I know do wonder if anyone is listening to them and simply showing that you are goes a long way to winning them over.

If you advertise regularly with one presenter, show or even station, make sure they give you the platform and time with the people selling your brand. Show them you care and take their input to heart. And ask for the talent specifically, not the myriads of people put in place to prevent you from reaching your most-expensive salesperson.


Use the face time to ensure they believe in your brand and aren’t just executing a competition moment. I always go on about how “real” radio is, and disinterest or lack of buy-in comes out instantly.

If this is happening with your brand, catch it quickly and change tact.


Show prep, segment prep, prep, prep, prep.

When radio presenters do this well, there’s no substitute. There are many presenters who aren’t outrageously, naturally talented but, because they prepare so well, they make up for it.

Demand the same in your commercial content moments. Are the presenters briefed? Are they working on something new? Are they preparing for your link while the song is playing or are they posting an Instagram story?

If you’re giving them the input and support, they should be prepared to shoot the lights out every time your brand comes up.


You’ve bought a schedule with a certain number of spots, promos, live reads, social posts and talk time on-air. The money is in the bank; now the talent must over-deliver.

That’s why you spend so many hours negotiating the best deal with the radio station — everyone reaches a figure that they are happy with; now expect that, when the presenter talks your brand, they’ve opened negotiations for the next renewal. If it’s truly a relationship, what they give now you will give back when the time comes.

Real-time adjustment

That’s what attracted you to radio in the first place: the opportunity to market at the speed of culture. The live nature of radio, while risky, is richly rewarding when you’re able to adjust a property to suit you.

There are loads of ways to do this:

  • Make sure the info the team work with is up to date
  • Include them in emails, staff newsletters; make them part of your brand
  • Let them know your business and what it is going on so they are sensitive when they take to air.

As I said earlier, these presenters could be your most-expensive salespeople — arm them with real-time info so it affects the way they treat your property.

Instant feedback

Nothing worse than sitting in a post-campaign meeting after three months on-air and saying, “Well, that didn’t work.” Nothing was written in stone; this was a live property and able to adapt quickly — make sure your station is feeding back to you what works and what doesn’t, and make sure they update instantly with suggestions and improvements.

Once you’ve signed on the dotted line for a station competition, sponsorship or feature, your job title has just changed. You are a commercial radio programming manager and the talent on air, behind the scenes, data, resources and capabilities that radio stations have for their own content now belongs to you.

Make sure they let you use it.


– Paulo Dias