Tag Archives: local radio

How Local Radio Should Use TikTok

If you oversee the operations of a contemporary radio station in 2021, you’ve likely had a conversation that includes a line that goes something like this:

“Do we focus our strategy on younger, harder to reach people that we know aren’t listening as much to Radio? Or do we skew older to the upper end of the demo to reach those that we know are listening more and that Nielsen has a better chance of finding?”

It is a real challenge, and it isn’t going to get easier.

The fact that many younger listeners are more likely to consume music via streaming services like Spotify and YouTube rather than local radio stations more than older listeners isn’t a secret, nor it surprising. Now that most local radio stations are available on a multitude of platforms, programmers can reach younger listeners on their devices. The big question of course, is “Are they gettable?” That very question, while completely valid, is also a gateway to a very dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy for the industry.

First things first, make sure you’re not referring to your younger listeners as Millennials, because they’re not so young anymore (sorry, Millennials!). Born between 1980 and 1996, Millennials now squarely occupy the young and middle range of the coveted 25-54 demographic. (Side note: I’m in denial that us Gen Xers are on the older end, but I’ll get over it. ☹)

Gen Zers were born between 1997 and 2012, so today these 9- to 24-year-olds occupy that special area of influence (and it’s worth pointing out that, while they may both carry the same generational label, today’s nine-year-old and 24-year-old are hardly the same.)

Hey, wouldn’t it be great if there were somewhere local radio stations could hyper target their marketing to Gen Z consumers?

If you ask Chipotle, Guess, the NBA, Levi’s, and The Washington Post how they reach them, TikTok is going to come up in every answer.

Wait, back up. Yes, I just said THE WASHINGTON POST.

You know, the traditional old guard media publication founded in 1877? The Washington Post adapts its content by platform. It posts serious journalistic content on Facebook and Instagram, but its TikTok page is filled with memes, skits, and behind-the-scenes videos. Dave Jorgensen, the man behind the company’s account and unlikely star of many of the videos, starts every day making a TikTok video. The Washington Post–THE WASHINGTON POST!­–has over one million followers on TikTok

Watch this interview during which Jorgensen discusses why The Washington Post invests so much time and energy on TikTok:

While we were all in stir-crazy mode during the pandemic, TikTok was experiencing a flamethrowing growth curve. This time last year, the platform had 667 million users worldwide, while today it reports over a billion. Leaning about 60% Female, 28% of TikTok users are under 18 and 63% are under 30.

One of the ways legacy brands have adapted to using TikTok is by specifically tasking employees with the responsibility. Chipotle has a team of “culture hunters” that seek out viral trends and turn them into social media campaigns. So many of these successful campaigns integrate music, like Chipotle’s Guac Dance Challenge. Used to promote National Avocado Day, the campaign resulted in a 68% jump in avocado usage at Chipotle locations. Holy mole!

Challenges are a core component of TikTok’s brand, and so often they use music that contemporary radio stations play. The “Beautiful People Challenge.” The “Old Town Road Challenge.” The “Blinding Lights Challenge.” The “Toosie Slide Challenge.”

If contemporary Radio’s biggest challenge is attracting younger listeners to the format, and those potential listeners are on a massive, often music-based, platform for an average of over an hour a day, shouldn’t strategic discussions involve that platform?

Here are six ways contemporary radio stations should incorporate TikTok into their strategic planning:

  • Designate a younger member of the team (and heavy TikTok user) as a “culture hunter.” Have them monitor trends on a daily basis and report to the team.


  • Create channels to regularly brainstorm ways to integrate the station into the trends. If there is no time for formal meetings, use tools like Slack, Chatter, and Teams to bounce ideas back and forth.


  • Find TikTok users that already love your station. You may have influencers with robust followings in your audience. Find them and find ways to use them. Include them in the previous idea. And pay them (use trade if you need to!)


  • Mobilize your personalities on TikTok. Personality has always been a key differentiator between local radio stations and streaming services. Make sure your talent is inviting TikTok users to your station.


  • Advertise on TikTok. Up until recently, advertising for local brands was a challenge due to the lack of DMA targeting. That changed this past May. TV and outdoor should not be the only media that are discussed when precious marketing budgets arise. Run some test campaigns on TikTok, track them, and see how they do.

Just because Radio is “legacy” or “heritage” media, it cannot be an obstacle to reaching younger consumers. None of the brands mentioned in this blog are particularly new (the newest is Chipotle, founded in 1993 – 28 years ago.) If The Washington Post – THE WASHINGTON POST! – can figure out a TikTok strategy, I feel pretty confident Radio can do it too.


Here’s to Local Radio and Waffle House

Tuesdays With Coleman

As the Carolinas continue to feel the effects of Hurricane Florence, let’s take a moment to recognize and celebrate two entities that often shine at their best during times of adversity.

Local radio stations …and (wait for it!) Waffle House.

Let’s start with local radio.

Local radio stations play a vitally important role to their communities.

There are countless stories of brave staff that have stayed on the air nonstop to broadcast crucial information.

Radio stations help their communities with events like fundraisers and clothing drives. Some have set up charities to help in moments just like this.

Some in the industry have offered free imaging services and programming during the crisis—a great example of radio helping radio.

Local radio stations are lifelines for listeners to hear and be heard and so many so have worked in radio will tell you some of the best memories—the moments that made them proudest to be a broadcaster – happened during times of crisis, when the station and its team stepped up.

Interestingly enough, Waffle House also takes its responsibility during times of crisis seriously.

If you’ve been to a Waffle House, you know you can rely on the predominantly southern chain for a few things. You know Waffle House:

  • Serves breakfast served all day (hash browns scattered, smothered and covered!)
  • Has a jukebox that plays songs about the Waffle House on its own record label imprint, Waffle Records (really)
  • Never closes

That last statement about the Waffle House brand is important. So important, in fact, that the United States government depends on Waffle House to determine how bad a natural disaster is. It’s called “The Waffle House Index.

If a location is open, it is coded green.

If it’s open with a limited menu, FEMA codes it yellow.

But if a Waffle House is closed due to a natural disaster, that’s—you guessed it—code red. FEMA acts accordingly.

But that work is done on FEMA’s end.

Waffle House has its very own storm center.

Activated for major weather events like Hurricane Florence, company officials hunker down at their headquarters in Norcross, Georgia and create action plans. Waffle House determines which locations are in danger of closing and when to deploy the Waffle House response team. They’ve got their own fleet of Waffle House-branded trucks and vans (called “jump teams” or “go teams”). The storm center deploys them from headquarters to the edge of designated emergency zones, so they can move items like generators and communication tech to local stores and immediately provide assistance once a storm passes.

Every local Waffle House has a storm manual, which includes directions to keep employees safe and even a menu of items that can be prepared without power, gas or water.

Waffle House is certainly not the only 24-hour restaurant chain. But, they recognized that there was room to develop their brand beyond their base position as a 24-hour restaurant and help their communities in the process. It even has a formula for cutting prices during emergencies.

When local radio stations step up when their communities need them most, they also play this crucial role. Serving their communities while at the same time, building valuable brand depth and connections with its listeners.

Takeaway 1: Brand depth is powerful.

At first blush, a Waffle House Storm Center may not appear complementary to its base position as a restaurant/diner. But in reality, it perfectly complements it because the chain already had a reputation for never closing…even in the worst weather. But, it took some Outside Thinking to go next level with a storm center, “jump teams,” and storm manuals. Don’t think this old dog can’t learn new tricks, either. Waffle House may be in its 63rd year in business, but it knows how to sell its brand depth on social media.

Many radio stations have tremendous images for breaking news and helping the community, which complement their base format positions. There are already great examples of stations branding theirs as the go-to frequency in times of need. Never forget to let listeners very specifically know that they can count on your station and how to use it when adversity happens.

Takeaway 2: Preparation is key.

Waffle House’s preparation includes manuals, an abundance of communication, team mobilization, and having equipment like generators at the ready.

Preparation is just as key for radio.

After 9/11, we gathered around a conference room table at the station I worked at and we realized we needed some emergency plans.

Now more than seventeen years after that day, radio stations more than ever need to make sure they also have a “storm manual.”

If the team knows exactly what to do when the unexpected happens and which role everyone will play, that’s good for everyone – the station and the community.

Three cheers to all the stations making incredible radio, as they so often do in days such as this. Keep up the amazing work—you make us and everyone in the industry proud.

And three cheers to Waffle House. I guarantee some great radio ideas are being formulated in brainstorming sessions in those booths right now.