Political pro extols the value of radio

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VoteA Democratic politico trying to re-elect a governor in a state trending Republican and abandoned by the Obama campaign explains how radio helped his candidate swim against the tide and win by an impressive margin. And he wonders why more campaigns don’t do the same.


The state is Missouri, the candidate is Gov. Jay Nixon, and the operative is Oren Shur, who wrote about his experience in Campaigns & Elections Magazine.

Shur noted that Missouri went from purple to red in the Republican mid-term wave of 2010 and had not bounced all the way back to battleground status by the time the 2012 election rolled around. President Barack Obama was at the head of the ticket, and was not expected to come close to taking the state, and limited its investment there accordingly.

To Shur, that meant the only path to re-election for Nixon was to gain a significant percentage of Republican votes. 250,000 Republican votes. Needless to say, it was a daunting task.

Nixon did have a story to tell that could possibly get that job done, but it had to get to the right people, in particular rural Republicans who had benefitted from things Nixon did during his first term.

Shur said the latest rage – digital – wasn’t all the helpful. Its reach is small, and in many rural areas, they’re still waiting for high speed internet.

The answer: Radio. It reaches 92% of the population every week – an unbeatable penetration number.  And it’s high-quality reach.
Shur explained, “At a time when voters are more distracted than ever, radio listeners are remarkably focused and attentive. For many Americans, once the kids are dropped off, the morning and evening commutes are the calmest part of the day, a brief reprieve from life’s craziness. Even in the Internet age, there’s a very real and important place for radio in any comprehensive communications plan.”

The campaign used Nixon himself to cut 50 separate and distinct radio spots, placed on stations with an audience of 10,000 or better in 44 rural areas, targeting many of them very specifically with “unique local appeals.”

Digital was used to provide more information on material contained in the radio ads, and as usual most of the campaign’s media war chest was spent on television, which was used to get general campaign messages out to the public.

Was the radio campaign targeting rural Republicans a success?

Nixon received 22% of the Republican vote, and won the state by 12% while Obama was losing by 9.4%. We’d call that a resounding success.

Shur’s Campaigns & Elections Magazine article can be found here.

RBR-TVBR observation: We’ve been saying this for years. It’s great to see a real honest-to-goodness political campaign professional beating the drum for us and the medium.

Radio groups should be telling this story to all of the political operatives at both the local, state and federal level now while the election is still 13 months away and media spending budgets are wide open.