Most people's perception of whether Millennials like radio could do with a splash of cold water and a stream of cold, hard facts.

In fact, if you are between 18 and 34, you are far more likely to be pulling your ears away from AM/FM radio than your eyes away from Facebook to read this article: 92% more likely, actually. Way more Millennials will use radio this week than they will YouTube or Twitter.(1)

Each week, 93% of Millennials (or more than 62 million of them) spend over 2.5 hours per day listening to radio. That's more than a year ago. Or any time in history.(2)

Ah, but what about custom music streaming (e.g., Pandora) and other technological developments? Have they replaced listening to radio among 18-34s? No. In fact, research from 11 sources has concluded that streamers tend to be heavier users of radio than the average person. For example, in November 2012, Vision Critical concluded that "Pandora listeners report spending 50% more time listening to AM/FM radio than non-Pandora listeners."

Why do 93% of 18-34-year-olds spend 2.5 hours listening to AM/FM radio stations daily via radios, mobile devices, computers, in cars, and other means?

Recent studies tell us that more than half them say that radio "energizes" them or "improves your mood." It makes them happy, in other words. Millennials feel down or lonely, or they want the comfort of a familiar voice, or they want just to be entertained... as most people do. Maybe more so. More of them said they'd be more disappointed if their favorite radio station went away than if Facebook went away (62% vs. 45%).(3)

Here's how to put this phenomenal medium to work for you to reach Millennials.

1. Think connections

Use radio stations to take you to the listeners. Stations have huge fan clubs, opt-in databases, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers—and an unbelievable number of listeners who will show up to have fun.

That's why radio stations have lots of events, big and small, whether it's hosting Maroon Five for an in-studio live concert for a few privileged listeners or presenting a huge concert featuring listeners' favorite artists. Get involved by participating in the production and promotion of such events.

A recent illustration: a major department store used radio for a contest in which listeners nominated and voted for their favorite "undiscovered" artists, the rising stars of tomorrow. The department store participated every step of the way, on-air, online, texting, Facebook, Twitter, as the results were announced at different stages of the promotion. The winning artist made exclusive appearances at the stores, where all the fans and people who participated in the promotion showed up to see their artist.

Get the station to get you involved. The connections are incredible.

2. Use the friend factor

Most listeners—especially Millennials—feel as if radio personalities are friends. They friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and, most of all, they listen to them consistently every week, sometimes every day. Listeners trust these people. They know them. Or at least they feel as if they do, a phenomenon documented by a study from the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications.

Several studies show that using radio in a media mix particularly increases affinity for and advocacy of an advertiser. Capitalize on the popularity of radio personalities to add credibility and likeability to your product/service. For example, for the premiere of the TV show "Opening Act," The CW had radio personalities on more than 100 stations introduce the show and its premise before segueing into the next song. The show had a killer opening week.

3. Take it off the air

Create your own event or happening that profiles your product/service, and promote it with and via radio stations. The CW (which knows how to use radio to move its core audience of Millennials) promoted the premiere of "Heart of Dixie" by having personalities invite listeners to view a private sneak-peek of the show. Listeners registered on-air and online for a chance to see a "Southern Fried Screening" on Southern-style venues such as riverboats and Southern restaurants.

4. Create in-programming placement opportunities

Think outside the spots. For example, a jewelry store might team with a radio station for a Valentine's Day promotion asking people to submit a song suggestion for their valentine via text, Facebook, Twitter, or the station's website. Listeners can see the list and vote, and encourage their friends to also vote for their songs. The station then plays the top 10 selections on Valentine's Day to accompany dinner. All of it brought to listeners by the jewelry store.

5. Do great spots that have a great tagline

There are apps for everything, and several let listeners vote on the commercials that are running on-air and then discuss them on the station's website, Facebook fan page, and Twitter. Don't be afraid to encourage the stations' listeners to give you direct feedback on your commercials.

By the way, personalities will also comment on great spots. They will parody them, and people will then repeat them. A great tagline or jingle will become part of the vernacular. Recently, one station created a such a catchy jingle for a car dealer that listeners voted it the best song of the week. The dealer was astounded by the business that followed the start of the campaign.

* * *

Another tip: consistency. The thing to remember is that radio stations are like virtual neighborhoods. They appeal to certain groups of people who come back to the stations every week—those who feel affiliated with the station and the personalities and the advertisers that have become a part of their neighborhood. So create your own virtual spot within those virtual neighborhoods. Especially for Millennials, who love their radio stations and the advertisers on them.

(Editor's note: For more on how you can use radio, see the series of articles beginning with "New Ground Rules for Radio in the Age of Social Media.")


1. RADAR 115, December 2012 and comScore daily usage for July/August/September 2012.

2. RADAR 115, December 2012.

3. Alan Burns/Triton Digital, "The Future of Radio," September 2012, National Consumer Database; 25,000,000 Panelists; August and September 2012; All Ages, Genders, and Format Fans; Total Polled = 41,252; Roughly in Line with 2010 Census.

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Five Ways to Connect With Millennials... Yes, via Radio

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image of Mary Beth Garber

Mary Beth Garber is EVP of radio analysis and insights at Katz Radio Group, which is part of Katz Media Group, a leading media representation company and a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications.

LinkedIn: Mary Beth Garber