Mark Ramsey: One Surprising Thing Radio Can Learn From Donald Trump

mark ramsey author logoGuest columnist Mark Ramsey is a media strategist, research analyst, author, and producer of the annual Hivio audio future festival. This article was originally published on his Mark Ramsey Media website.

I could drone on and on about the lessons Donald Trump teaches media companies, but many of the lessons are so obvious that I need not bother.

There’s one, however, that you may find surprising.

The Trump campaign has on file the name, phone number, address, and email of every one of the tens of thousands who flock to Trump events nationwide.

Can your brand say that?

Now I’m not suggesting this is unusual in the political sphere. My guess is that it’s the norm (which is why it may not confer the desired competitive advantage to Trump, but it will certainly help him keep up with the Joneses). Indeed, capturing this kind of data is one of the keystones of any big data strategy, and when it comes to politics (and marketing for that matter), sifting insights from big data and moving consumers to action via those insights is all the rage, and for good reason.

Because the techniques work.

I have often been puzzled at the lackluster interest the average radio station has in gathering robust and large data files on its audience. And that goes for non-commercial stations, too – the ones who depend on those very listeners for financial support.

Sure, you have your “frequent listener club,” but that’s a gimmick designed to stoke new listening occasions at the margin, assuming the “contest pigs” who tend to join these things have any margin to give you. Indeed, I once had a conversation with someone deep in the listener club space who explained to me that the vast majority of activity in these clubs came from the same small fraction of the club membership. Even in a listener club, the 20:80 rule applies, folks. So the sliver of your audience you sign up to your club leads to an infinitely smaller sliver who actually participate. And at the end of the day, what have you achieved, really?

Compare that to Team Trump.

Every person who goes to every Trump rally willingly gives up their contact information because they want to hear from Trump. They want to be part of his tribe. They are fans, and that’s how fans behave.

So what do you know about your fans?

It’s a pity, but the question I most frequently receive from stations when I suggest a strategy of gathering massive lists of names and emails is: “But what would I send them?”


If you have no clue as to what your listeners are interested in, if you have no desire to grow a relationship with them that recognizes their special status as fans (and not just nameless, faceless listeners), then you are headed for big trouble. Because the world is moving fast in the direction of relationships and the brands that nurture them.

Very fast.

Most of the activities you can engage with online require you to hand over your contact information. That allows the brands you patronize to know you better and to build experiences with your needs and your tastes in mind. In the future, every experience will – to one degree or another – be personalized.

I have a list of thousands of people in the audio space who value this blog enough to receive it in their inbox. I have almost a thousand people in the audio space on another list because they’re interested in hivio, the audio future festival. I have a bigger social media presence than many of the brands I work for and many of the agencies which brand themselves as digital and social media experts (ironically enough). All of this is by design, of course. But it’s also hard-earned every single day. It’s a miracle I constantly work to be worthy of.

I know that radio was born in an era when listeners came to their radio sets like moths to flame. But those days are over. Today radio is one of many platforms which need to fight for my attention and my consumption. That means building relationships with your fans – and knowing who they are – is more important than ever.

So if your audience list is built by and comprised of contest players, it’s time to step up your game. You already know that contest players form only a tiny minority of your fans.

So start building your list today. It’s an asset that adds value to your brand because it facilitates the ability of your brand to add value to the lives of your fans.

Mark Ramsey