A non-preemptive value is something difficult, if not nearly impossible to duplicate. It can be a programming feature, a sales advantage, a stealth contest or tactical promotion.

However, for programmers, the most effective non-preemptive value is something listeners 1) positively appreciate and 2) is unique to the point that it’s one of a kind.  In other words, your station is the only place they can find it.   

How are you different? Can listeners tell the difference?

If you tell me that you play one more/less ‘80s an hour than the other guy, that 15% of your music is rhythmic, that your sweepers have attitude, that you’re the Hip Hop leader or that you’re the only station that plays brand X type of music, you’ve missed the point.

All those things can be copied. What’s worse, the audience probably can’t tell the difference. To win, you have to be perceivably different.

For example, when launching Fresh in DC, we chose to use a tactic (Commercial Free Mondays) as part of our overall strategy.  It was non-preemptive because our competitors couldn’t afford to dump the inventory to match the effort.

We then educated our ‘captive’ listeners. We taught them what this new and unknown station did by demonstrating our music and comparing it to something they already knew, (Clear Channel) WASH-FM.  Twice an hour we humorously re-positioned them as ‘washed-up’ for playing old, slow music…not that there’s anything wrong with it..if that’s what you’re into.

This tactic was part of a larger strategy that left (Cumulus) WRQX (AC), out of the perceptual equation of choice.

Within a year, Fresh had unseated WASH with younger female AC listeners. More importantly, Fresh – whom most industry insiders believed was targeting WASH-FM – had beaten RQX with females up to the age of 49.  We also left them without significant music images.

Listeners came first to fresh for music quantity but left with the knowledge of who we were, what we did and how we were different. When commercial free Mondays went away, the audience didn’t.

Be relevant. A non-preemptive value isn’t worth its salt if no appetite for it exists.  Would you serve steak at the convention for vegetarians?  Spend the time and resources to get it right.  Find something the audience wants (They may not even know they want it until they sample it).

5 Gist List© Questions:

  • What can you do that the  competition can’t or won’t copy? (hint: make it a solution to a competitive weakness)

  • Is it listener-relevant?

  • Does it  create a perceivable difference?

  • Is it a game changer?

  • Is it sustainable?

  • If it were used against you, how would you feel?

If the concept passes mustard, the final question becomes how can you afford not to?

Next month, an  eye-opening, if not stunning, example of ‘non-preemptive’ stealth contesting and how your station can benefit from it or might already be a seemingly helpless and unknowing victim of it.