Better Radio With An LAB (Listener Advisory Board)

Published Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A brief guide on how to conduct an LAB (Listener Advisory Board) to make Better Radio. This was not my idea, wish it was, I heard it from some wonderfully passionate Australian radio people. But I have adapted it heavily to make it make sense in India.

An LAB is specifically designed to know what your current listeners are enjoying and are not enjoying on the station. Its not designed to know what they would want to hear that is not currently being broadcast as this is too subjective, if it comes up during the chat its ok but this should not be the agenda.

The LAB is a highly informal chat as opposed to a Focus Group Discussion where there is a professional moderator, longer duration and possible payment to the participants.

With an LAB the emphasis is on learning for the programming head as to what listeners want and don’t want. The chat is usually conducted in the radio station conference room with some soft drinks, fast food available. Its normally done in the evening when everyone is finished with work so snacks will go down well.

The LAB is typically conducted by the Programming Head. He has an agenda of issues he wants to discus in a casual way. These issues may be the appeal of a promotion, or the appeal of the music or an RJ.

The PD keeps it very casual and tries to involve everyone though there will always be some who say little and some who speak a lot. The discussion is restricted to your own station and you should not discus what is happening on competition.

The PD welcomes everybody and makes introductions. No one else from the station should be there especially RJs as this may lead to bias responses.

We need to call about 12 listeners who are heavy users of the station. These are selected by calling back participants of competition, listeners who requested songs etc…

We tell them we would like them to come to the station and have a chat about what they feel. We do not tell them we want to know what they think, its important they don’t have time to form opinions (if they are told we will ask them, they will start to listen critically and that defeats the purpose).

We just invite them in as loyal listeners who may want to be shown the studio, meet the RJs etc, this is usually enough to get 7 out of 12 to show up.

They MUST be part of your core Target Group or Demo and should not have come for an LAB before.

We know they are listeners as they have taken part in a station activity. What we do not want is chronic listeners who tune in for over 3 hours a day. These people do not represent the regular heavy listeners.

Once the group is in place the PD and a producer maybe to take notes, chat informally but streaming the conversation to gathering opinions of what ever parts of the programming that need to be examined. You can’t record the chat but the essence of it and candid feedback can be invaluable.