I was recently asked how I would describe my beliefs and philosophy on radio imaging. With the upcoming Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, opening soon I started to think about how my ideas on the purpose of radio imaging match how Yoda describes the force to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back:
“For my ally is the Force. And a power ally it is…Its energy surrounds us and binds us…You must feel the Force around you. Between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes… even between the land and the ship.”
Radio Imaging is the Force. It is the unsung “fifth” personality of the station (assuming you have live nights and don’t track overnights). It is the glue that binds everything you’re doing together: between the jocks, the music, the promotions, everything, yes…even between the audience and the brand.
Yet more often than not, this powerful force is not used to its fullest potential. A lot of that can be blamed on today’s consolidated radio industry. There aren’t enough bodies and brains available to apply to this task. As a result, what winds up between the songs tends to be somewhat emotionless and bland. It often lacks the power to endear your brand to your audience. It fails to connect all the elements into one cohesive unit. Now you may be thinking, “You’re right. But tell me, Master Imaging Jedi, just how can I awaken the force of my imaging?”
First, you must “unlearn what you have learned,” to quote Yoda. You must change the way you think about your imaging. While the main message of name and position statement should be consistent, the way you present that message should be constantly “flowing” much like the Force. Developing a variety of methods or themes to present your brand to the audience can help you intensify the power of your production. When I approach a station, I like to divide my imaging into 3 basic categories:
Meat & potatoes: This is the standard name/position statement stuff. These elements can be very basic like “shotgun” sweepers or have a bit of flavor to them to enhance the brand. You can also include jingles in this category as well because they help bolster the basic brand identity.
Music Image: Using hooks or, in the case of spoken word formats or personality intensive morning or afternoon shows, actualities and show clips. These demonstrate samples of your programming to support the meat & potatoes.
Stationality: This is where we can be more creative and create an emotional bond with our listeners. If you subscribe to my “Sweeper of The Day” posts, you’ll see these more than another other type of imaging because it requires the most thought and consideration. Stationality imaging can help relate that brand to person, place and time. For example, having rain themed sweepers running on a rainy day lets the audience that you’re commiserating with them. It shows that your brand is in the moment and immediate. And, immediacy should be the goal of any radio station, live or tracked.
When you combine these elements into one cohesive imaging strategy, you will awaken a powerful force in your imaging, one that is informative, emotional and “mindful of the present”. And when that happens, “The Force will be with you, always!”