#WeLoveRadio Case Study - Digital Transformation in Highland Radio.
The #WeLoveRadio series is a series of case studies showcasing the power of radio and social media for clients, brands and the stations themselves. The series is created by Learning Waves in partnership with the Digital Training Institute. The current series features a wide range of stations from across the sector who have beneffited from participating in the Social Media Diploma for Radio with Learning Waves. The series will showcase the benefits of combining on-air and on-line campaigns, how a social media strategy can bring benefits to your station and how social media can increase your stations brand, your presenters brands and increase the longetivity of your content.
Highland Radio has dominated the airwaves in the North West for over 30 years since its foundation in 1990. The latest JNLR figures show that 61% of the population choose Highland Radio on a weekly basis with 51% of the adult population tuning in every day. That translates into 56,000 listeners every day and 85,000 every week. This is matched by an impressive digital footprint of over 1 million pageviews monthly and 101,000 social media followers.
Fionnuala Rabbitt is the CEO of Highland Radio and leads a highly experienced team, including some radio pros who have been with the station since its inception. Bringing the faces of radio to life, the station has embarked on a digital transformation journey from being a dominant media brand in Donegal to becoming a dominant multi-media brand in the border region.
Learning Waves Collaboration
The shift online was one that became very evident for Fionnuala and her senior management team during COVID-19. They noticed that their listeners and community were engaging more online, accessing Sunday mass, funerals, local events and of course staying up to date with the public health regulations from the Highland Radio news team. While many of Highland’s presenters and staff who ordinarily would have been in situ in the station were working remotely because of the pandemic, there was something else happening behind the scenes. Reaching out to Learning Waves, they had a real intention to embark on a digital transformation strategy focusing on content, sales, digital products and social media.
Highland Radio is a noted brand in Donegal and indeed throughout the North West, but the media landscape has been changing for quite a few years. Fionnuala says, the leap into digital was a challenging one to take.
“I think what happened for us here was digital was always something that was in the background, and we felt that we were going to get to it. We knew we needed to do something, but we just never had the time to sit down and put the thought into it or figure out exactly what it was that we needed to do. Furthermore, here in Donegal, it wasn't a massive priority, because we weren't really sure what sort of money we could make from it, and that was always the key indicator for us as to whether we needed to commit to it.”
The challenges of digital transformation for Highland Radio were four-fold:
- Digital skills gaps within the team;
- The need to reorient how staff worked both on their own but as a collective;
- Quickly re-think what success looked like for the brand; and
- Establishing their current digital footprint in order to build out goals and key performance indicators.
A number of meetings took place with Learning Waves to scope out training and how to put in place a digital strategy. The support enabled Fionnuala to map a plan of action which included staff from every department within the station, in fact it was an all-station approach. The following steps were key to the successful implementation of the strategy :
- Management team was presented with an audit of their digital media assets’ reach, engagement and commercial potential;
- A local competitor analysis was carried out among media brands in the North West;
- Management and staff inputted into a new social media strategy;
- A new online programming schedule was developed;
- Hardware and software were invested in to bring the faces of Highland Radio into smartphone feeds of its listeners and viewers;
- Website re-design happening in parallel;
- Social media and content creation training for all staff;
- Recruitment of new specialist staff;
- Development of a digital sales strategy with new multi-media product offerings.
“It's been quite a transformational year for Highland Radio."
A new approach to radio in 2022
Two new team members specialising in digital media and digital journalism are joined the Highland Radio team, further evidence of a shift in focus. Programming became more visual with prime time shows, news and sport now presenting as livestreams and pre-recorded videos productions. Short-form social media content with a lighter approach on Instagram and TikTok. All of this is backed by a team of skilled digital presenters, journalists, admin staff and sales executives.
'You can now see it on Highland Radio, not just hear it on Highland Radio'
Highland Radio Learnings
- Create new indicators for success, JNLR is just one benchmark for radio in today’s digital world, you need social media and website KPIs;
- Automate your social media and website reports so that they go to your management team weekly, we need to understand the digital data in order to make better business decisions;
- Training is an ongoing process in the world of digital media, so I'm sure we'll be engaging with Learning Waves quite a bit over the next year or two;
- Set KPIs for everyone in the station, not just the management team;
- Don’t fear change, embrace it as we have a responsibility to produce multi-media content that our listeners want, and not simply what we are willing to provide.
Advice to Radio Pro Colleagues
“This is a journey that we all are going to have to go on and either we do it now, or you are forced to it when you're on the back foot. I'd like to think that we are pushing to the fore in our particular area. Obviously, I know some stations nationally are ahead of us but in our region, we are definitely seen to be a pioneering force in putting all of this together and making it into something that is viable, not just for ourselves financially, but it will also enhance the viability and financial situation of our clients. So, it's something that you're going to need to engage in. Don’t wait any longer.”
View Highland Radio’s digital media footprint at HighlandRadio.com.
Posted 15th April 2022