World Radio Day: Radio Matters in America, Too

  • That old time radio microphone by Mackingster
    Radio matters at Pinkston—just look at our logo.

Today, UNESCO rightly honors the power of radio as a tool for international communications and inspiration, promoting peace and goodwill among the peoples of the world. But in the U.S., it’s sometimes easy to underestimate the power of radio: It’s so ubiquitous it’s almost forgettable. More to the point, radio—the traditional AM/FM frequencies—can be very easy to ignore. Plenty of emerging mediums vie to capture our attention: Podcasts, satellite radio, social media, the Internet itself. At some point, radio will probably be replaced. But today and for the foreseeable future, radio endures as a powerful, thriving and valuable way to tell stories to broad and diverse audiences.

As a public relations firm, Pinkston works with radio show producers, hosts and reporters on a daily basis. When we have a client with an interesting story—and to be honest, all of our clients are fascinating—we often recommend they go on radio talk shows to reach broader audiences, to tell their story in a bit more detail, and to connect directly with the public.

No, broadcast radio is not dying. In the U.S., radio ranks consistently in the top-three communications platforms, along with TV and the Internet. Nielsen reported last year that broadcast radio reached 244 million people during an average week. And there’s no sign that radio will disappear or lose its ability to influence large and diverse demographics anytime soon.

Studies have repeatedly shown that millions of people tune in daily, and the billions of dollars spent by advertisers on radio communication attests to the prevalence of radio. Noticed or not, radio is always around, turned on in the background sometimes, but playing nonetheless in thousands of stores and garages and cars across the land. And throngs of people choose radio for entertainment, news, commentary, and local stories on a regular basis. Radio is still a popular choice, not only because of convenience, but also for the unique and intelligent programming, and the intimate quality of the platform.

Regional and local radio talk shows are valuable for communicating a compelling story, and these shows often drive bigger press. Think about it: A radio show might have 15,000 people tuning in each hour. If you had all of those people in one place, they could fill a stadium, and they are listening to you. We’ve had clients gain national media coverage from a 20-minute interview on a local radio show. You never know who may be tuning in. You may catch the attention of a prospective customer, a TV producer, or a reporter at USA Today.

For some of our clients, talking on a radio show can be far less intimidating than a TV interview. Radio feels more informal and personal, and the audience can’t see how nervous you might be. TV cameras might turn an interview into a performance, but with just a microphone, a radio interview can remain an honest conversation.

Radio reaches real people about subjects truly important to them. In the many decades of broadcast radio, the industry has waxed and waned, countless unprofitable ventures have been pruned away, leaving a network of remarkably well-targeted stations. Regular listeners enjoy and even interact with the programming, calling in to contribute opinions and join in (usually) meaningful conversation.

Even though it’s not a visual medium like TV, even though it’s not a lightning-fast platform that can connect you with billions of other humans on the planet like the Internet, even though it’s not something you can read at a coffee shop like a newspaper, radio is incredibly popular. Because radio is about stories; it’s about people; it’s about word and thought; it’s about subjects that matter to us.