IN 2010, Benztown went NT! Our library is on full speed and one of our most important clients and flagship station is WIND in Chicago. So it was one of my greatest goals to write more about NT on the blog, because it is a fascinating format from an imaging standpoint. Everything has to be intense, needs massive impact, but still is content based and the spoken word needs to stand out. It is serious and funny at the same time, entertaining and informative, political correct or incorrect. To say it in one word: Challenging!
In general, NT Imaging is a total US domain and has been underrepresented on our blog for a long time. But lucky as we were, Harry, our NT imaging director got the chance to interview the PD of one of the most legendary AM stations, AM 560 – WIND, Marcus Brown. They talked about how powerful NT Imaging has to sound in todays competitive environment and what the challenges are to create remarkable, intelligent elements on a daily news flow basis. Harry used to work for legendary stations like the Big One in Cincinnati and has a wide experience in this field as well. Check out his latest Imaging pieces for AM 560 – WIND, learn from Marcus how to successfully brand a NT station and how to create outstanding NT imaging on a daily basis. Enter Harry and Marcus
Please tell us about WIND, your programming line-up and the super competitive environment in the Chicago market…
WIND launched on Election Day 2004. Our line-up is John Howell & Amy Jacobson in mornings from 5-9am. Then, Glenn Beck 9-11am; Dennis Miller 11am-2pm; Michael Medved 2-5pm; Michael Savage 5-7pm; and Hugh Hewitt 7-9pm.
In my opinion, Chicago is the best market for spoken word radio anywhere in the country. We’re up against WLS, with Rush and Hannity, along with a heritage morning show and Roe Conn in afternoons. We also compete with WGN and all of its heritage. Not to mention that we just saw all-news WBBM-AM start to simulcast on the FM, and Randy Michaels’ new all-news FM News 101.1 just went live last week. Did I mention that we have two sports talk stations, the Score 670 and ESPN 1000? This is the same market that has iconic brands like the Loop 97.9 and XRT.
What are some of your challenges?
In such a crowded field, our biggest challenge is just getting on the radar screens of most listeners. WIND has some great heritage in Chicago, but from 1987 until 2004, the frequency was Spanish, so there’s a whole generation of listeners, many of them in the 25-54 demo that have no recollection of WIND in English.
At the same time, we compete with WLS for a slice of the conservative news/talk pie. They have Rush and Hannity. We have Beck and Savage. It’s an ongoing challenge to brand ourselves in such a way as to distinguish ourselves from our competition while maintaining our identity as a conservative talk station.
You personally write the promos for WIND – What do you try to accomplish with your copywriting and imaging?
I’ve always felt that good imaging was about telling compelling stories. What kinds of stories is the radio station telling its listeners? Why are those stories important? For our station, those stories are about what’s happening in Washington or what’s happening in Chicago’s City Hall. Framing big issues into bite-sized promos can be a challenge. I think it’s also important to tell stories about your on-air talent. Who are these people? What are they talking about? What kind of people are they? Ultimately, the personalities of talk show hosts keep your audience coming back.
I also think that great imaging is about making promises that we deliver on. If you tell people, that you own a position in the market, then you better make good on that promise. For us, we promise our audience that our radio station will help them understand how the news truly affects their lives. Our imaging has to reflect that promise and how we pay it off.
How has the immediacy and power of the Internet affected your station’s programming and online presence?
How hasn’t it affected us? The great thing about the reach of the Internet has been the ability for us to connect with listeners on multiple occasions each day. They might be driving to work in their car listening on the radio, but when they get to the office they can now listen on-line. Then, they might check out our Facebook page while they’re at their desk to weigh-in on a topic. Maybe they head to lunch and pull up our mobile app on their smart phone to listen, while they check out our Twitter feed to see what’s coming up later. Then, they drive home with their car radio, and when they get home, they’ve got an e-mail blast from us in their inbox. Maybe that night, they head to the gym and listen to a podcast of our morning show for an interview they missed.
How many brands have the ability to reach out and touch people in so many ways in a single day? That means we have to be working twice as hard to manage our message across these platforms. It means that traditional roles like “program director” and “imaging director” and “marketing manager” get blurred because multiple platforms require deep skill sets.
Thanks to Marcus for his interview and thanks to Harry for the NT Imaging samples