The Future of Radio Imaging
My post “Radio Imaging Talent – Is the Talent Pool Empty” proved more popular/contentious that I thought it would. Across various Social Media channels, Emails and Comments on the original post; I received a lot of great feedback and discussion surrounding what it means to be passionate about Radio Imaging.
The debate got me thinking, it’s easy to identify the ill trends, not so the remedy. We know the industry is changing and that fewer people seem actively interested in what we call Radio Imaging. So, what can we do as an industry to move things forward and really engage people in what it means to do the job with the right talent?
Let’s peer through the murky haze of the crystal ball and try to decipher the signs from the Media Gods by breaking the problem down into two parts:
- What is the future of Radio Imaging?
- Where do you learn the skill needed to work in this new world?
Stepping away from the day-to-day of a busy Radio environment has really allowed me to approach the idea from a new perspective. Who knows if we’ll end up anywhere close to what things could be, but here’s my take on it all…
Part 1 – What is the Future of Radio Imaging?
One of the biggest discussion points on the aforementioned post, was that the job of Radio Imaging is old having not moved with the changes in the media landscape. For me, this isn’t entirely true.
Over the last decade, Radio has added additional communication mediums along Imaging, most importantly using Social Media as another tool to engage with their audiences. With the degree of connectivity we all share these days, it’s not surprising that Radio has embraced this technology to communicate with its listeners.
The problem isn’t that Imaging hasn’t followed, it’s that Radio Stations have stopped understanding the full purpose of Imaging. Many seem to only use it to brand the station name and positioning statement when Imaging can be so much more. Many have forgotten that Radio Imaging is one of the key builders of “station-ality” – the station’s personality – helping the listener decide what station they really like, as they do a friend (By the way, I’m aware of stations in the world that do still use imaging to create this – it’s by no means a completely dead art). This is what Social Media has done in recent years – Radio Stations have used it to create the station-ality online, nearly entirely forgetting to replicate this on the station itself. In my mind Radio Imaging is essentially an audio form of Social Media – defining your brand and talking to your listeners in short controlled length blasts in order to keep them hooked into your content/product. From direct messages, to creating viral content and creative one-liners – Social Media is the cooler younger cousin that encompasses all that we used to use Radio Imaging for. With this in mind, it’s conceivable to see that Radio Imaging could be seen as an older relative to Social Media – one that we’ve not really spoken to properly in a while.
So what can we do? We need to think more 360 degrees. It shouldn’t be just Radio Imaging anymore. We need to get the family together under one name: Branding.
Branding encompasses so much more that Radio Imaging ever can. Radio Imaging developed when we didn’t have the Internet and all it’s extra streams of communication. Now that we have all these extra streams, Radio Imaging is merely a facet of the Branded machines we call Radio Stations. So we still need Radio Imaging, phew! But we also need so much more…
In my mind Branding needs to be a team sport with people specialising in the different strands of communication available. They need to be able to work together on projects that span the communication strands, but also individually on their own strands to ensure consistency.
Boiling it down, I believe Radio Station’s need to embrace the Creative Advertising Agency model – all be it working at a faster pace. A team of highly skilled creative people working in a team to deliver the necessary elements across all platforms. Forget having an Audio department and a Web Department and a Social Media department. It would be one department encompassing them all called Branding.
Who would work in this department?
- Audio Producer
- Web Designer/Developer
- Social Media Manager
- Video Producer
- Creative Writer
- Creative Director
The integration possible across this team would be immense. Radio Imaging, Social Media posts and Website Content could be created from ideas crafted from the Creative Writer. Topical content could really soar across with support from a Viral Video along Radio Imaging and Social Media strands. That Viral Video could have been created by this in-house team – with provisions for an audio only version to work as Presenter Content or Radio Imaging along a Web Site takeover on the homepage to help promote the content. This could all be expertly coordinated and curated by the Creative Director. The Branding Department’s role would be to engage across all mediums to ensure brand retention is high. One team with a more consistent voice across all modes of engagement – what an exciting prospect! The possibilities for deliver and creation would truly be endless.
What’s more, this team could also change the shifting nature of what Frequency means in Radio. No longer is it confined to a single medium as well. We don’t need to ram a message home as often on the Radio when we also have the ability to tweet, post, blog or make a viral about the messages we want to convey. Listeners have shifted to multi-platform – the Frequency and placement of the messages needs to as well.
We shouldn’t shy away from the sales opportunities of this in-house creative agency. Clients would sign up just knowing the full breadth of reach across all platforms in a consistent tone of voice to reach the eyes and ears of the potential customer base. What ROI!
While considering all this, here’s an interesting idea: what if station play-out systems could send Social Media posts when the Imaging played – so the messaging in your Imaging could have corresponding posts associated with them? You could even have a ‘rotate’ of tweets ready to go every time that Imaging plays. Synergy level up.
Part 2 – Where Do You Learn the Skill Needed to Work in this New World?
While Web, Social and Video related roles have more traditional training grounds, Radio Imaging does not. At least, not in the same way – but I don’t see that as a problem.
As a guy learning the old school way – in the traditional radio environment – I recognise that the need for a new approach is clear. But we can still host this in the usual way – internships. I’ve always been a big fan of internships. That’s how I got my leg up into the industry – I got so much out of working to learn. I’ve also found incredible talent this way, them having always gone on to big things. What we need to do, is start to introduce the concept of Branding and the multiple strands of communication possibilities to these up and comers – so that they can help develop the new world.
Sure, we want to train up great Radio Imaging people, but they should understand the various facets of Branding to engage across mediums with ease. Understand how to video edit, how to write. Be able to consider delivery of concepts across a variety of communication strands – all the while turning ideas into manful and engaging/useful Radio Imaging.
But I know the question will come. “Where do you learn the traditional skills needed for traditional Radio Imaging?” The internet. There is a wealth of knowledge shared just waiting for people to explore it. There are plenty of people who will willingly give up their time to listen to people’s work and feedback on it. There are plenty of places offering internships to people with the right attitude to teach, train and potentially hire off the back of. Don’t just seek out Radio Imaging people, any audio production field will give you great knowledge that can ultimately prove useful in the long run. I spent weekends and evenings reading SAE course material I managed to find when I was first starting out. I read Radio and Production Magazine. I sought out the skills and tracked down the people who could help me learn. Now there are Facebook groups, and Blogs and YouTube – in my opinion it’s so much easier to find useful information, it really isn’t that hard to get started these days.
Coming right back to the point though, this new world called Branding isn’t too hard to achieve, teaching the skills aren’t difficult. By re-imagining where Radio Imaging fits into the Radio Station set up along other communication strands, I believe it will become a much more useful and exciting skill again. At IMGR, I’m already starting to change my mindset and think more about Branding as a whole and it’s leading me to new creative avenues. It’s an exciting path for me and that’s why I believe it will be for others too.
So peering through that misty haze in the crystal ball, I can see the Future of Radio Imaging isn’t as bleak as it might seem. It doesn’t need to change, it needs to stop being an old bugger and get with the times – by linking up with its cooler, younger cousins to create something new, and awesome.