Ray Norman

5 Tips for Radio Imaging when Rebranding a Station 

29.06.20 09:00 PM By Ray Norman

Radio station logos for active rock and pop hit formats

So you've changed formats

Or maybe you have a new morning team. Your consultant or brand manager has a list of recommendations, among them a change of imaging voice. This should go without saying, but is just changing the voice enough? Below are 5 suggestions to consider when rebranding a radio station or daypart.

1. Use Keywords and Keyphrases in your Liners.

Write imaging liners like you're writing content for a web page. Google bots crawl your station's website to rank it, and relevant keywords help your site rank higher. Your audience's brain is also ranking your station according to keywords and phrases embedded in your imaging. Being mindful of the words you use in liners and sweepers is critical to sounding the dogwhistle your new audience will respond to. For example: "Hot Mix 101, Louisville's new home for Drake!" In one liner, you've acknowledged the market, and name-dropped an artist of huge popularity. This beats the crap out of meaningless prattle such as "More music less talk".  If you know your target audience, you'll know what they're listening for.

2. Hype Your Content and Talent

Apple TV+, HBO, Netflix... they are what they are based on their content. They hype the content, and ride that wave. So should you––especially when your format is brand spanking new. Remember, it won't be new long. Hype your hottest songs and artists, and do the same for your on-air talent––their bio is likely full of gold nuggets you can turn into liners to craft an image for them. And of course, beg, borrow or steal current artist drop-ins as well. And don't be lazy when it comes to writing new liners or promos. Netflix isn't running last season's promos and neither should you. Assuming your imaging is on a retainer, get your money's worth and keep up the hype.

3. Choose a New Imaging Voice based on the vibe you Intend to Create

The "deepest voice" approach is not only old-school, it's deadsville for many formats. The death metal voice guy won't exactly cut it for a new, bright and breezy format. Choose your new imaging voice based on how it feels alongside your format's content. And remember, you want to stand out in the crowd. So take a listen to your competition's imaging––and pick a voice that sounds different than theirs. 

As I've written in a previous post: No one makes it to #1 by sounding like someone else.

4. Create an Audio Logo

Rebranding means being creative with sound design––whatever effects you were using in the old format's imaging––do something different. Booms, zaps and lasers can all sound awfully similar, and a different voice alone isn't going to change your brand. Think of a visual logo: everything about it must be unique. If you're switching from a male to female-skewed demographic, you might wanna rethink those explosive sonic bombs you were using and aim for a lighter sound. 

Before you begin producing new sweepers: Take some time to search for sound elements that are a prefect fit, and bank them. Like fonts, shapes and colors, these elements are a construction kit for your new audio logo. Sort and file new sound design elements for your rebranding so you can move forward with consistency, pulling from the same family of sounds for each new set of liners and promos. Otherwise, your imaging will soon drift into a cacophony of mush that sounds like every other station on the map who only took 10 minutes to slap together this month's liners. 

5. Be a Big Tease

What do you have in store for your audience with this new format or show? Why should they tune in tomorrow or next week? As far as this relates to station imaging, think: TV and movie trailers. With the right sonics and writing––plus some thoughtful planning–– you can come up with events, and tease those big time. After rebranding, you should be talking about what's to come, and not just about what you're doing at the moment. If you have fun, so will your audience. Only got a chicken sandwich coupon to give away?  Roll with it, and make the promo huge. Sure, that may be a little campy, but this is  r a d i o, remember? Being a little silly is way better than a frowny-faced apologetic approach to giving away small stuff. 

Back in the day, we had nothing––and we liked it!

There was a time in Radio when the Prize Closet was picked bare. I was asked (well, told actually) to write and produce something HUGE... for a piddly pair of movie tickets.


So... I did. Huge movie-trailer style promo. Bass drop. Explosions. Deep scary voice. And it worked––in the humorous way radio often does. 

A couple Wendy's coupons? Huge promo. Free pass to the County Fair? Huge promo. 

At this point, it became a joke that the listeners were in on, and they loved it because we owned it

I learned on Day One that local radio is about audience participation and anticipation.  After all, there's nothing special about giving away a few turkeys for a Thanksgiving promotion––until you drop them from a helicopter. 

About Ray Norman

Ray Norman has nearly 3 decades writing and producing radio station imaging, having started out as a production director in local radio. Listen to examples of his work here.

Ray Norman