URN: the kind of noise students make
‘It’s the kind of noise students make!’ …
… it’s the kind of creative and genius strapline which the URN team at University of Nottingham to pick up Gold at the Student Radio Awards in the Marketing and Station Sound Category (as well as the Best Student Radio Station too!).
URN decided to strip back their ‘commercial’ radio sounding station and went to a purely ‘student radio’ focused sound. A “sound” which made the station look real and pure to its listeners.
Lou Nash at URN tells us more:
This year we have taken a very different approach to branding at URN. The previous year saw a drastic turn towards a very commercial brand, with highly produced and polished idents and sweepers. Although this gave the station a very professional sound, this year’s team felt that the station’s imaging did not reflect the station’s output. URN is, by design, a student radio station, and thus what it produces is a student sound, aimed at and created by students. All our presenters are students, and the vast majority of our listeners are too. Therefore we wanted our station sound to reflect both the presenters and the listeners. A major part of this was to completely stop using commercial voiceovers, and instead exclusively use student voices. Although this made the job much more challenging due to students not being experienced in voicing idents and trails, the results were felt to be much more suitable for the vibe of the station. We therefore wanted the imaging of the station to highlight and celebrate this. With this in mind we came up with a new strapline for the station:
‘It’s the kind of noise students make!’
The simplicity and honesty of the new strapline was designed to reflect the essence of URN: the fact that we are a radio station wholly run by and presented by students. Despite the negative connotations of the word ‘noise’ we thought it appropriate not only as a word that incorporated both sides of radio: music and speech, but also as a more genuine and humorous statement about the inevitable reality of student radio, and the very real possibility of things going wrong! However it has developed from a simple strapline into the station’s general philosophy and attitude to what we do, and what we are trying to achieve.
Earshot Creative decided to take a deeper look into the award winning entry, by speaking to Lou Nash about some of the key elements of her marketing and branding strategy..
SO WHAT IS THE KIND OF NOISE STUDENTS MAKE?
With our new brand and station ethos in place, we were keen to listen to our fellow students and make sure that the kinds of noises we were making were what they actually wanted to hear! To do this we wrote and emailed out a survey to every student at the university asking for feedback including how often, when, to what, and how they listened to URN and what they liked and didn’t like about our programming, music and website.
Over 2000 students completing the survey, confirming our thoughts that URN had lost touch with its audience. We found that what students wanted was something different, that was relevant to them, particularly when it came to news, and coverage of live events both on and off campus. They also wanted us to shift our playlist to include a bit more new music they wouldn’t find elsewhere. Having our thoughts confirmed by thousands of other students spurred us on to make URN bigger, better and more relevant than ever before.
ONLINE - URN1350.NET
Once again the website has been integral to our brand. Individual pages were created for both SU and URN events including Week One, Varsity, SU elections, Summer Party, After Dark Unleashed and Beat That. Due to the significance and importance of the tuition fees scandal to students, we also had a ‘2010 Demo’ page where on the day listeners who were not able to attend, could track the reporters route along the march using GPS, and view our twitter and photo updates and latest reports. This ensured that were became a resource: somewhere students could go to find out about the big events on campus and off, as well as our coverage of these events.
As part of our aim to keep the website up to date, new promos went up every week promoting future URN events, special shows and OBs, as well as interviews and coverage of SU events. The consistent yet ever changing look of the website kept people interested and instantly informed whenever they visited.
ON CAMPUS AND STUDENT VOICE
Our presence on campus has expanded phenomenally this year with more outside broadcasts than ever before, 24 in total, thanks to our Al Fresco week, as well as more visible involvement in Students’ Union events. All of this was aided by a greater sense of continuation and uniformity within our brand with new banners designed to mirror the T shirts worn by the URN team out and about on campus. We decided to focus our on campus brand to revolve around to colours: teal and purple, both of which feature extensively on the website. This helped us to create a recognisable and memorable visual identity around campus.
An incredibly important part of our news show The Pulse, is the discussion of events that affect students. To get a range of views, and find out what Nottingham students really think, reporters go out around campus every day, wearing URN t shirts, to vox students about their opinions on that day’s stories. This not only improves and varies our output, but also promotes The Pulse to students, with those interviewed more likely to listen in future.
Week One was, as usual, a great opportunity to really get the word out about URN to both new and existing students. Our branding started even before the freshers had got to Nottingham, with a page in the Students Union guide dedicated to URN, where we publicised our Week One coverage and our New Members Meeting the following week. Our biggest branding operation was on Move-in day when we sent out a team of more than 20 URN reps, armed with flyers, branded beer mats and fridge magnets. This team also acted as an OB team out in the field. Our on air content throughout that day consisted of The Move-In Show from 11am until 4pm with two anchoring presenters in the studio phoning the team to get freshers involved in various challenges related to their new halls. Students from Derby Hall were instructed to find an object to use as a ‘horse’ and then have a race that was commentated live over the phone by one of our team members. Similarly students from Sherwood Hall had to construct bows and arrows and see whose would go furthest. We also ran a Hall Pride competition where our team would have to gather as many students from a particular hall and get them to shout down the phone ‘We’re [name of hall] and we love URN!’. Each was put through the ‘pride-o-meter’ to see who was loudest, with the winning hall having gathered over 100 students to take part. These kinds of activities immediately appealed to students who had just moved in and were looking for a way of making friends and getting involved.
Throughout the rest of Week One we ran a series of competitions which encouraged students to head to the website and tune in. To utilise the free bus service put on by the Students Union, our mascot Ben the Bear was sent into the town centre each day to hide out and be found by freshers who tuned in listening for clues as to his whereabouts. The first person or group to find him would win tickets to that night’s fresher event, as well as free milkshakes and cinema tickets.
Every evening saw an extension of our usual Friday night Pre-Ocean Show, the warm up to Nottingham Uni’s favourite Friday night club night. Branded ‘The 60 Minute Win It’, it immediately drew in listeners simply due to its name. We also distributed flyers highlighting the prizes that could be won, which included an ipod, dominoes pizzas, bus passes, club night tickets, a wii, meals for two, gig tickets, drinks vouchers, and even a weekend pass and flights to Oktoberfest.
Then first three days of Week One once again saw us broadcasting live from Freshers Fair. This gave us a chance to recruit new members, enhanced by them being able to see us in action. We were played out across the fair, meaning that every fresher would have heard us at least once during Week One. We also interacted with students on other stalls, even staging a dance competition with the cheerleaders, which attracted quite a crowd and was judged by a member of the SU Exec!
Our involvement in Nottingham Uni’s Summer Party had always been very exclusive. Based backstage we would send URN reps out and about getting voxes and bringing the festival to the presenters. This year we wanted to be much more daring and innovative and decided to position ourselves right in the centre of the action. This not only allowed the presenters to really get a feel for what was going on, and thus improve the broadcast itself, but we became a very prominent presence. The team wore our new purple branded t shirts which really made us stand out in the crowd. And with the broadcast coming from the centre of the festival it meant we could get people straight on air, thus making them feel more of a part of our broadcast, rather than voxing them and editing it down to be played out half an hour later. To entice people over to our stall we branded ourselves as a ‘Survival Station’ giving out free sun cream and water, as well as letting people play in our branded paddling pool to cool down. We wanted people to have something to take home with our logo on so we also gave out 250 branded beach balls. The choice of beach balls was even more effective than anticipated: as soon as the big name bands started playing out beach balls could be seen bobbing up and down amid the crowd, with some even making their way onto, and back off the stage! URN beach balls soon became the must-have memento of the day.
GETTING OUR DJ'S OUT AND ABOUT
Due to our growing reputation as a source of great music and musical talent, URN has been asked to provide DJs for a number of important SU events including Graduation Ball, Media Ball, Ice Hockey Varsity as well as the weekly Karni After Parties. They have also built up fantastic reputations beyond the Students’ Union, meaning that URN DJs can frequently be found taking our music directly to our audience, and playing at the big clubs and bars in town including Oceana, Gatecrasher, Stealth, Dogma, Market Bar, Detonate, Crisis and Twisted Hearts.
To ensure that each area of URN had the opportunity to showcase themselves, we organised a series of events which were publicised across campus. To highlight our After Dark shows to a wider audience we hosted a week of brand new music, allowing the After Dark presenters to ‘take over’ the Afternoon Show every day for a week. Each day was themed by music genre with appropriate DJs creating mini-mixes to showcase the kinds of music they play on their shows. This allowed our regular daytime listeners to get a feel of the After Dark brand and what it could offer. The After Dark Unleashed week also included free gigs held on campus and hosted by URN. As in previous years we had a great turn out and an enthusiastic response and were able to push the URN brand by handing out URN beer mats. On the Friday evening, the final day of After Dark Unleashed, we took over the biggest and most popular bar in Lenton, the student area of Nottingham, where a large number of students gather each Friday night to meet friends before going into town. We staged live performances from local up and coming bands, and our very own URN DJs kept the crowds there until the early hours.
STUDENT NOISE TO MAJOR EVENTS
This year we also broadcast and produced shows for national and even international events. One of the most successful was our Oscars night. We realised that students in halls and those without a satellite television were unable to watch the Oscars, due to it only being broadcast on Sky. Therefore we decided to produce our own coverage of the night itself, starting at 10pm and continuing on until 5.30am. By providing a service that was not available to a large percentage of Nottingham students elsewhere we became an invaluable resource, and incredibly relevant.
Similarly we decided to take on Red Nose Day. Instead of broadcasting the event itself, which would have been unnecessary, we decided to raise money for the cause by doing a variety of ridiculous things around campus, thus also promoting ourselves. One such act of silliness involved staging a flashmob in the Students Union shop, promoted through a secret facebook group. On the day the on air presenter played a certain song – the Baywatch theme – a Nottingham Friday night favourite during which it is Nottingham tradition that every male in the room removes his t shirt and swings it around his head. When the song came on a large group of URN and other boys, including members of the SU exec, dutifully donned red noses, took off their tops and swung them around their heads whilst singing along. The girls then went round with URN collecting buckets encouraging people to donate any spare change to Red Nose Day. The reaction was incredible, some boys who had nothing to do with us joined in, many people stood and stared!
Our big focus this year has been to get more student voices on the air. To achieve this we not only did away with our old professional voiceovers, but also our very limited set of student voices. With ‘It’s The Kind Of Noise Students Make’ acting both as our new strapline and philosophy, we wanted to use multiple voices to highlight the diversity of the station. We didn’t want to limit our brand to only two or three voices, but to record fresh voiceovers for every ident, show starter or trail made. We realised that certain voices work in certain ways. While one voice may sound great in a trail promoting a morning entertainment show, it could equally sound terrible used for an ident for a specialist music dubstep, reggae or drum and bass show.
‘It’s the Kind Of Noise Student Make has revolutionised URN. This year membership doubled compared to previous years, with over 200 members! They’ve had, more visitors to the website, more comments on blogs and texts into shows, and more listeners. The general atmosphere in and around the studios has also been much more welcoming and friendly. Presenters from all areas of URN have got involved and worked as a team to produce fantastic coverage and broadcasts of events, to create a naked calendar, to form a flashmob, and to beat a world record. And this has all been a result of the complete change in attitude to the branding and marketing of the station.
Take a listen to the station and find out more at their website – www.urn1350.net. Lou Nash from URN will also be appearing on a forthcoming episode of the Earshot Creative Review podcast too.