As communicators, we are challenged not only with crafting the “right” message, but also choosing the appropriate medium to make it as effective as possible. And as digital technology has fueled the explosion of social media from Facebook, through LinkedIn to Twitter and beyond, we are faced with a head-spinning array of choices we could barely imagine 10 years ago.

Are we, however, becoming so focused on “new media” that we are forgetting the effectiveness of one of its traditional cousins, which is in fact also benefitting from digital technology?

I’ve always been a big fan of radio, having used it as my lead medium on several campaigns, and many years ago having worked as a journalist and presenter on a radio station in Texas. Sadly, KXGC 97 FM appears to have been replaced in El Campo by KULP 1390 AM, although my favourite pizza parlour, Mr Gatti’s, still seems to be going strong. Perhaps the experiment of an English DJ, commenting on events in Texas and playing non-country music proved a step too far! I still can’t believe The Cure never caught on in Wharton County.

My belief in radio, however, has been reinforced by the recently released RAJAR figures. The reach for all radio listening in the UK is back up above the 90% mark and digital platforms have helped this rise, now accounting for over 36% of all listening hours. Interestingly, nearly 11% of all digital listening is in cars, up 41% year-on-year. Just think how this could grow when all new cars have digital radio as standard.

For many years, radio has offered the opportunity for fantastic regional and national reach in the UK through a network of BBC and independent stations. Digital has not only broadened the geographic reach of this medium, but helps hit specific audiences who were left out in the cold because they were too difficult to target or the economics did not stack up for us, or our clients, in reaching out to them.

BBC Radio 2 has the most listeners, while the Capital Network leads the charge for the independent stations. A quick trawl through the list of stations, however, shows a plethora of regional stations such as BBC London 94.9, BBC Radio Newcastle, Key 103 (Manchester) and Radio City 96.7 (Liverpool) with hundreds of thousands of listeners.

But with radio you don’t just get that great geographical segmentation. You can also target via interest, culture and lifestyle. In the UK, we have the diversity of Christian radio, Gaydio and the likes of London Greek Radio, while some of the newer music stations such as Absolute Radio’s 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s are obviously specifically targeted to certain age groups. As far as I know, however, Magic, Viking FM and Metro Radio aren’t aimed at conjurors, Norsemen and railway enthusiasts!

So what else can this 20th century medium offer us 21st century communicators? The stations are trusted by their listeners, who identify not only with the personalities of the stations in general, but with different presenters in particular. The best presenters make it feel like they are talking just to you, not to millions of people. This means powerful communication of your message to a highly receptive audience. And if that audience is in the car, it’s a captive audience!

Similarly, with many stations broadcasting 24 hours a day, there is an opportunity for us to give broadcasters pertinent stories they might be interested in at both a national and regional level, as they have quite a bit of time to fill. A good story can “fly” if it has multiple angles and a credible spokesperson – a subject expert or perhaps a relevant “of the moment” celebrity. A survey, whether serious or a bit of fun—if it can be sliced and diced by city, gender, age, job or even star sign—is a great opportunity to generate coverage and a chance to put your message across on air. And it’s given an added stamp of credibility by coming to you from a trusted source – your favorite station.

My experience is that if you engage with stations and build rapport by giving them pertinent content, they are more likely to come back to you with opportunities to comment on a range of subjects.

So what I am saying is that as professional communicators, we must embrace this “last century” media – it’s still important nowadays. Put in the effort to tailor what you want to say, understand the audiences and appreciate radio’s reach and you could be rewarded with coverage that may start over the airways, but could also end up online and in other media. Print and online may impact radio content, but the opposite is also true, and print and online struggle to match the immediacy of radio.

How do you start to understand the potential of radio? Listen to a few different stations on your way to work or while at home. There are plenty to choose from!

Julien Cozens, Madano