Guest Post: CKUA can teach us all a thing or two

Posted 31st Jan, 2018

by Amy McBain

A funny thing happened on the way to inventing a new kind of local media in the form of the Alberta Podcast Network. We found great inspiration from and fellowship with an institution that has been in the local listening business longer than anyone.

Since CKUA has been kind enough to include the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB, in its sponsorship of the Acing Digital event, this is a good opportunity to share some lessons we’ve learned from Alberta’s original radio. These lessons seem pertinent to locally based marketers, too.

Before the lessons, a little more about the players. The Alberta Podcast Network started last summer as a way to build audiences for Alberta-made podcasts, and connect their listeners to Alberta-based businesses and organizations. CKUA played a key role in getting the network off the ground, and we are proud to spread the word about our podcasts on the radio and in its app, and to host events in CKUA’s beautiful space.

CKUA has been in the audio business in Alberta since 1927. It was Canada’s first public broadcaster, pre-dating the CBC. It also became Alberta’s first FM station, in 1948, and was the first Canadian radio station to stream online, in 1996. So, they’re definitely trailblazers over there. And we have learned a lot of valuable lessons from them:

  1. Local voices matter: It’s been a long time since the only radio you could hear was local. And now, with the explosion of podcasting, we can listen to exactly what we want, whenever we want, with practically infinite choices. But we still live where we live, and an important part of having a cohesive community is hearing music from here and stories about here and observations from here. That doesn’t mean we need to be parochial, but it does mean being rooted. Our network lives by that.
  2. Getting together in real life is powerful: CKUA doesn’t just have a presence on the radio. It is present and part of the community, in the gorgeous Alberta Hotel in downtown Edmonton and in the spectacular National Music Centre in Calgary. CKUA goes out to events, and invites people in for events. The ability to meet the hosts and fellow listeners in person is, I think, a huge part of the strength of the bond between CKUA and its supporters. We’re so glad we have use of the CKUA space to forge those bonds with our supporters, as well. (And we know that Acing Digital attendees will enjoy it, too!)
  3. Enlisting members in a mission is more powerful than any transaction: CKUA would not have survived the funding cuts of the 1990s without mobilizing its listeners to become donors. You can hear the love every fundraiser, and that tight bond is worth a lot, not only to CKUA but also to its sponsors. As advertising becomes commoditized, it’s tempting to evaluate every marketing opportunity on the number of impressions. That’s not what CKUA sells, and it’s not what the Alberta Podcast Network sells, either, because we know we have something more valuable — true connection.

As you and your clients make marketing decisions, remember the power of local, intentional listening. We don’t reach everybody, but the somebodies we reach are listening on purpose and with all their hearts.

Karen Unland

President, Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB

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