Ask NOT what you can do for your listeners

Ask what your listeners can do for you. (with apologies to John F. Kennedy.)
It sounds counter-intuitive to suggest that stations should not be looking for ways to please their listeners but rather get their listeners to please them. Yet, that’s kind of the message delivered by consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier to delegates at the recent Radio Conference in Brisbane.

The concept,  dubbed The Benjamin Franklin Effect, dates back to the 18th century as espoused by one of America’s most celebrated astute founding fathers.
Franklin observed, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

Franklin wrote in his autobiography that he was having trouble with a rival politician when he was serving in the Pennsylvania legislature. So, he hatched a strategy to win him over:

“Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.”

The psychology behind Ben Franklin’s Effect explains Ferrier (left), is that ‘if someone harbours negative feelings about you, yet can be enticed into doing you a favour, then they must re-evaluate their attitude towards you to justify their own actions.’

The same principle can be applied to brands, including station call signs.

Of course, it is unlikely that borrowing rare books from listeners would work for radio as it did for Mr Franklin. But according to Ferrier you can ask them to promote your station and get them to recommend it to others. You can ask for their advice on what music you play or who should be in the next breakfast team.

Adam Ferrier is Chief Strategy Officer / Equity Partner at CumminsRoss and appears frequently on Gruen Planet.

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