When it comes to tackling the holiday season as a broadcaster, we know some of you may be feeling swept up in the commercialization of it all. Maybe you're wondering: are there any things I should be doing in order to take advantage of the holiday season and boost my station's ratings? Alternatively, are there any faux pas or rookie mistakes to avoid?
To both of those questions, we say 'yes.' In fact, we've boiled strategic holiday broadcasting down to 5 dos and don'ts. If you want to stay ahead of the curve while also dodging common pitfalls, take a look at our list of tips below.
Let's start with 5 things you should DO:
1. Play Holiday Music
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but trust us: there are many stations out there that aren't sure whether or not to take the leap and play some Christmas tunes. Just do it! Even if it's a couple of holly jolly songs sprinkled in-between your typical tunes, your audience will appreciate the thought.
2. Respect Different Holidays & Cultures
We're aware the holiday song market is referred to by broadcasters as the Christmas genre. We're not saying you can't say the word "Christmas" on air. It's not like it's a bad word or anything! It's the Christmas season, that's a fact.
What we are saying is that if you really want to go the extra mile and make every single person who comes across your station feel welcome, it's a good idea to address other holidays this December: such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Not only is your inclusivity appreciated, but from a business standpoint, addressing other holidays can help you attract a bigger audience from a more diverse pool.
We're not saying you have to stress yourself out over it and make sure your station plays equal parts Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa-themed tunes (although there are definitely some good Hanukkah and Kwanzaa songs out there). Just be aware of current events. If you're broadcasting live on the day Hanukkah begins, make sure to wish your listeners a happy Hanukkah in-between song transitions. Before a song starts, you can always say, "Happy holiday season, and to those who celebrate, I wish you a Merry Christmas." You can replace that "Merry Christmas" at the end with a Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, or whatever you celebrate.
3. Hold Fundraisers for Noble Causes & Other Charitable Work
It's the season of giving...which means you should also hold your radio station accountable! As we've previously mentioned in our 5 Tips for Celebrating the Holidays on Your Radio Station article: team up with charities, food banks, and other non-profits to support this year. Local is always better!
You can use your station to support these helpful programs in various ways. The easiest is probably through games and contests. For example: holding a raffle where more money donated = more tickets in the hat. All money donated will then go to the charity of your choice. Other than that, you can support non-profits by sponsoring events they may run, giving them free ad time on your station, or simply just mentioning them and the good work they do in-between songs.
4. Play Holiday Games with Your Audience
Going further into the topic of games and contests, the holidays are a great time to roll out many! Play classics like "Guess the Song" but with Christmas music! Have a giveaway for a holiday-themed prize! Throw a house-decorating contest! The possibilities are endless here. Holiday games are sure to get your listeners in the spirit, and they'll keep coming back to your station for more merry and bright fun.
5. Give Gifts to Those Who Matter
Everyone loves giving and receiving gifts during the holidays! But y'know what kind of gift giving is not only gracious, but also a really great marketing tool? Sending gift boxes from your radio station to fans, family, and friends.
You can send free merch to super fans of your station with a card thanking them for listening. Did you have an awesome guest on your broadcast recently? Give them a gift as thanks. As they say, it's the thought that counts, and people receiving gifts from your radio station will help them remember your brand going into the new year. Gift giving is not only a great way to thank your audience, but an important way to keep them around.
Now that we've covered all the things you should do this yuletide season, let's tackle the 5 DON'Ts:
1. DON'T Play Holiday Music Too Late!
The typical window for beginning to play holiday music on radio stations is between Thanksgiving to the first week of December. The Christmas music rotations typically end after Christmas Day, December 25. Obviously, you don't want to be too late in starting to play holiday music because, well...the early bird catches the worm. But there's another reason why you should never play Christmas music too late: you don't want to upset the Christmas music haters.
There are two types of people in this world – those who love holiday music and can't wait to hear it every December, and those who abhor it. In December, there are some stations (typically niche genre-specific stations) that skip out on playing Christmas tunes, or hold off until a few days before the holiday. The Christmas music curmudgeons tend to flock to these stations every year because they are comforted by the fact that they can go on a long drive in the middle of December without hearing a single "All I Want For Christmas Is You."
So, let's say you skip out on playing Christmas music for the first week of December. You may or may not get an increase in listeners, but a lot of those listeners are going to be the Christmas music haters. You'll build a reputation in their heads for being one of the few stations that isn't playing phony Christmas tunes, how refreshing! Then you start playing Christmas music the second or third week of December, and what's going to happen? You're going to lose all those listeners because you've just disappointed them by playing Christmas music. Trust us, they're not coming back.
If you know for a fact you want to play Christmas music on your station, stick to the Thanksgiving to first week of December window. That way, you'll ward off the festive music haters who will drive down your audience traffic if you start playing songs too late!
2. DON'T Forget to Deck Out Your Transitions, Website, & Social Media Pages
If you're going to play Christmas music for the holidays, you might as well go all the way. The next best thing you can do is decorate your radio station's website and social media pages with yuletide imagery!
Got a mascot in your radio station logo? Put a Santa hat on him/her/them and upload the new logo to your online pages! You could change the colors on your station's website to green and red, or create on-air transitions full of jingle bells and quotes from Christmas movies. There are so many possibilities, and it's fun to customize your station in your own way.
3. DON'T Lack Variety in Your Holiday Music Rotations
It's important to run tight holiday rotations. There's a reason why several stations just stick to the classics when playing holiday music. It's what people want to hear, after all.
However, we do believe there is something to be gained if you mix things up just a little. Maybe throw in a brand new holiday jingle released by a current mainstream artist every now and then. Add one holiday song from a super niche genre, or introduce listeners to a Christmas track you think is underrated. While many people use radio to have something to listen to while they do activities, others tune in because it's a way to find new music they may end up enjoying. It's a way to expand music taste!
So yes – keep that rotation tight and foolproof. But don't be too rigid with your playlists! You never know how much a risk or experimentation may pay off.
4. DON'T Go Soft on Your Broadcasting Presentation
It's a strange-yet-common phenomenon for DJs: the Christmas music will start playing 24/7, and all of a sudden their on-air presentations go soft and flat. It probably has something to do with the relaxing nature of holiday tunes. Or maybe because of the old-timey vibes of several Christmas tunes? We're not quite sure.
Whatever the reason, don't fall into the trap! Make sure to keep your energy up and remain contemporary when talking on your broadcast. Otherwise, your audience may go just as cold.
5. DON'T Forget to Celebrate the Season Away from Your Station
It's so easy to get lost in the metrics and marketing opportunities during the holidays that you can forget about the stuff that matters most this season: sharing quality time with family and friends. Don't burn yourself out just to grow your following – make sure to spend time away from your station when necessary.
If you have to forgo a live broadcast around the holidays and stick to automatic rotations, do that. There's no shame in it. Definitely spread holiday cheer on your station, but also rest as much as you need. It's universally acknowledged that the holidays are a time to unwind, take breaks, and have fun. Your audience will totally understand if you can't be there DJ'ing for them on Christmas Eve and Day. They know you'll be back after Christmas, or once the new year begins. You can give your audience a memorable holiday season with your station, but remember to create a memorable holiday season for yourself, too!
That's about it for our tips this week. Happy broadcasting, and have a merry and bright holiday season!
Looking for some holiday music? We've got you covered! Head to Live365.com for a selection of holiday stations.
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