If you listened to as much sports talk radio every week as I do, you would be shocked by how many stations in some sizable markets rarely update their imaging. It’s disappointing. Really, it is short-sighted.
It’s easy to think that a legacy talent is the voice most associated with your station, but in reality, it’s the voice on every liner and promo. After all, that is the voice your listeners hear the most no matter what time of day they tune in. Shouldn’t that voice be regularly saying and telling the listeners new things?
There is one station I listen to with some regularity that puts no emphasis on the production of their imaging. Everything is generic, so liners are rarely updated, if ever. It reminds me of the campus radio station I was a part of in college.
As the sports seasons change, good program directors are incredibly busy. They are replacing liners about the Super Bowl and the local NFL team with ones about March Madness and the local NBA or NHL franchise. They are using imaging to set the tone and lay the groundwork to bring listeners in to hear what the talent has to say.
Raj Sharan, program director of 104.3 the Fan in Denver takes his imaging seriously. This is a guy that once pulled over in the middle of a snow storm to write promos because Von Miller tore his ACL and it was announced he’d miss the entirety of the 2020 season.
“I devote a significant amount of time to imaging, perhaps more than any other task that comes with being program director of The Fan,” Sharan told me in an email. “I always want us to sound as up-to-date as possible. We have multiple new pieces of imaging starting every day, and that’s not including breaking news or landmark moments.”
Sharan emphasizes being timely. That means not only is he ready to write a new promo or liner at a moment’s notice, but he often is able to get it on the air about ten minutes later.
“Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than when I hear from someone in the market blown away at how quickly we can turn around high quality promos,” he said. “Just this past week when Peyton Manning was on with Stokley and Zach, I already had an imaging piece from the interview ready to go as the first promo to run after the interview finished! Within the hour I had five additional promos completed and running throughout the day. That’s what we strive for.”
Matt Fishman runs WKNR in Cleveland. He takes a different approach to writing imaging. It may not be as fast as Sharan’s way, but it is more collaborative and gives the imaging multiple perspectives and angles on the biggest news of the day.
“We have a committee of four of us that meets every Monday to talk about promos and imaging,” Fishman told me in an email. “During the Browns season we had a lot of promos and imaging around their great season. Even in the off-season we’re ‘The Home of the Browns’ and our content, promos and imaging reflect that. Just this week our production guy, Jordan Klimack, did a really poignant promo on the passing of former Browns Coach Marty Schottenheimer.”
The imaging on these stations capture the sports passion of the city. Listeners not only hear references to the local teams, they also hear caller response and highlights from their favorite hosts. Liners that are the station name followed by laser sounds and a slogan don’t do much to position your brand as an important one to the city’s sports fans.
I asked both programmers about their listeners’ relationships with the voice of their imaging.
Raj Sharan and the Fan use Jim and Dawn Cutler. They are the two voices probably most synonymous with sports radio, thanks to years of voicing intros, liners, and promos for every single ESPN platform. Raj says he couldn’t imagine the Fan without their voices.
“We receive constant feedback from our listeners telling us they listen to the station each day specifically to listen to the latest promos we’ve come up with, and the voices they’re hearing are Jim and Dawn. They’re so talented that they help bring our station to life. When I’m writing imaging, I’ll often run it by our executive producer Parker Hillis or one of our hosts and I always have to say, ‘Remember, this will be Jim and Dawn voicing it; they’ll make it sound even better!’”
Matt Fishman says that for the listeners of WKNR, the station voice is important, but it isn’t the same as the voices of the hosts they know.
“We have a great voice guy, Pete Gustin. He’s blind, he surfs, he’s really cool. I was lucky that he was already the voice here in Cleveland when I started and is super easy and fun to work with. Pete is the only one I’m choosing because of his voice while hosts I am choosing because of their experience, personality, ability to host a show, etc…So your production voice is important, but not as important as the content creators.”
The simplest things can add significant value to your station’s imaging – a good voice, a sense of humor, even just a little bit of effort. The positioning statements and the promotions and events are so important to your station’s identity. Why wouldn’t you constantly ask yourself if those messages sound as good as they possibly could?