Portland radio has proven to be an essential marketing tool for Maine Small Business owners. But how does a business owner with a limited advertising budget decide which radio stations to use. According to the Small Business Guide to Radio Advertising, the answer is always to "choose quality over quantity."
In a recent poll to identify the best radio station in Maine, the readers of DownEast magazine chose Portland's WCLZ. Although the station does not have the biggest audience, the station has proved to be a perennial favorite of the stations 43,074 weekly listeners and hundreds of satisfied advertisers.
WCLZ is the most different radio station in Maine. It has earned its "Best of Maine'" title by playing an eclectic mix of music which includes contemporary-rock, smooth jazz, world music, classic rock, local music, blues & funk, and alt-Country. The station's DJs replace the jokes and banter typical of other stations with a focus on social consciousness. As a matter of fact, WCLZ is Maine's only carbon-neutral radio station.
The unique format of WCLZ is an irresistible marketing opportunity for a diverse range of large and small Maine business owners including Lee Auto Malls, Baxter Brewing, LL Bean, WH Demmons, and Bull Moose Music. Theresa Torrent who has had great success marketing the Coastal Maine Public Access Guide on WCLZ says, "I am a WCLZ listener and knew that the station's programming fit well with our objectives. I also was aware that other coastal conservation projects had been successful through strategic marketing and sponsorships on WCLZ."
To better understand what makes WCLZ a favorite among both listeners and Maine business owners, we spoke with WCLZ brand manager Randi Kirshbaum.
Radio Results Blog: How would you describe WCLZ to someone who has never heard it?
Randi Kirshbaum: WCLZ is a unique radio station in that we play music you won’t hear anywhere else on the commercial band. We cater to an intelligent, engaged audience who wants to discover new music as well as hearing a wide range of classic music. Our slogan is “Different is Good” and that applies to everything we do, from the music we play, to the way the air personalities connect with the listeners, to our community involvement.
RRB: The songs WCLZ plays don’t, on the surface, have much in common with each other. They span a spectrum from sixties protest music by Bob Dylan, to contemporary rock from Death Cab for Cutie, and Hozier, to Alt-Country from Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle, to blues and funk from Lucinda Williams and The Tedeschi Trucks Band. You also feature Smooth Jazz, World Music, and Local Music. Why does this mix resonate so strongly with your audience?
RK: The CLZ audience seeks diversity, which is something they can only find on WCLZ. We have an extremely large record library, hundreds of artists and thousands of songs, and the mix we play is stimulating and distinctive. We expose our listeners to emerging artist while maintaining a large base of music dating back as far as the Beatles. Our music makes people think and feel, and they appreciate the care we put into presenting music we think will mean something to them.
RRB: What is WCLZs commitment to local Maine musicians?
RK: We are extremely committed to local music. We have a vibrant local music community in Maine, with some very talented musicians. In addition to featuring local music throughout the day in our regular playlist, we devote two hours per week to nothing but local music. This show is called “Music from 207” and is hosted by Aimsel Ponti, Maine’s local music expert. Aimsel is part of the local music community and along with being part of WCLZ, she writes a local music blog, and a music column for the Portland Press Herald and mainetoday.com. We also support local music events, presenting concerts by Maine artist on an ongoing basis.
RRB: WCLZ has a regular feature called Studio Z where top names in music such as Walk The Moon, Ingrid Michaelson, Michael Franti, Brandi Carlile, and Sara Bareilles come to the station and perform mini concerts for a small group of the WCLZ listeners. Why do the artists do this?
RK: These are artists that have come up with WCLZ. We have supported them since the beginning of their careers, and have developed partnerships with them. When they come to Portland, WCLZ feels like coming home to them. They stop by Studio Z to visit and play as a way of paying back our listeners for the loyal devotion over the years. They understand that their success is due to the listeners that support them, and this is their way of saying thank you.
RRB: WCLZ seems to have a relentless commitment to the community and to the environment. How does this manifest itself on the air and why does it connect so deeply with the station’s listeners?
RK: We try to be good citizens of this earth, and good members of our local community. WCLZ is Maine’s first and only carbon neutral radio station. That means that each year we calculate our total energy use, including broadcasting our signal, driving to remotes, creating promotional products etc. We then purchase carbon offsets to balance that consumption, thus diminishing our carbon footprint. Our listeners are of a lifestyle group to which sustainability is important, and that is why we encourage their efforts to be green, as they encourage ours. We think globally, but our local service is what is most meaningful to us. WCLZ can truly effect change in our community. From the partnerships we have with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Portland Trails, Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program, and animal adoption agencies, to our support of the arts by partnering with the Portland Museum of Art, the Maine State Ballet, and Victoria Mansion, WCLZ’s leadership position in the community is one of which we are most proud. With our broadcast signal we have the power to actually make a difference in people’s lives and we consider that a privilege. We are able to reach out and touch our listeners, and they respond by being engaged in the station.
RRB: WCLZ does not sound like any other station on the Portland Radio dial. What does the station do and not do that creates this unique listening experience?
RK: Unfortunately many stations take a “lowest common denominator” approach. AT WCLZ we never underestimate the intelligence, sensitivity, and wisdom of our listeners. We try to present a product to which these people will relate. We never talk down to our audience, we treat them as friends, people we would like to hang out with. We never use smoke and mirrors, or play any promotional games. We are straightforward in everything we do. We say that we play a wide range of music and we do. We say that we play music you won’t hear anywhere else, and that is true. We respect our listeners and create a product indicative of that respect, and they repay us with loyalty and devotion.
RRB: Your primary responsibility is to advocate on behalf of the listeners and be the steward of their favorite radio station. But what advice would you give to a small business owner regarding the best way to advertise and market their business to WCLZ listeners?
RK: First of all, let me say that for the right advertiser it doesn’t get any better than WCLZ. Because our listeners are so engaged and have such a high level of trust in the station, if they trust the advertiser, you will have a customer for life. When advertising on WCLZ you need to be honest and tell your story. Why is your product something that WCLZ listeners will want to buy? Remember, you are dealing with a very intelligent and loyal audience who prefer to buy local whenever possible. Stress what makes you unique and different, because in the world of WCLZ, “Different is Good”. You don’t need bells and whistles when you advertise on WCLZ, and you should always avoid hype. Often, affiliating yourself with one of the CLZ air talents works well. We recently ran an extremely successful campaign for the Maine Coastal Program where the air personalities endorsed their product. That is just one example; the advertisers who have our air talent endorse them find that our loyal listeners seek them out because they trust what is being said. It’s like having a friend recommend a restaurant to you. The bottom line in advertising on WCLZ is that more than any other radio station in Portland, you will be getting your message out to people who feel as though they have a stake in the station, and therefore have a stake in supporting it by doing business with WCLZ’s advertisers. With WCLZ we are all one big community; station, listeners, and advertisers. Once you join our community, you’ll be part of the fabric of the station, and that’s an intangible benefit, far beyond the money you spend on an advertising schedule.
Randi can be heard on WCLZ weekday afternoons at 98.9 FM or online at www.989WCLZ.com.
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