Budget ways to promote your hobby radio station

Most hobby and community broadcasters can’t hope to match the marketing spend of corporate stations. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to advertise and promote your station.

As a low-budget broadcaster your musical output may be just as good as the commercial station but how do you let people know you exist? Here are a few ideas that could help build your listener base…

Free business cards

Do a search for ‘free business cards’. You might be surprised to find there are firms that will print you a few hundred business cards for the cost of postage.

Create a simple design including your station logo, name, strap-line, and website and get your team to leave the cards on buses, trains, and at shops, pubs, cafes, schools, colleges…Wherever they go.

Drink coasters

Design and print drink coasters with your radio station details and leave them at clubs and pubs. You’d be surprised how often they are retained and used.


How about pens or pencils with your website printed down the side? Yes, they are a bit of a cliché but people keep these so they are a great way to drip, drip, your station’s website into people’s minds.

Online supporters

Do any of your supporters or team members have their own website? If so, create some art promoting your station and have them feature it on their site – ensure it can click through to your website (launching a new web page in the process). For example, your web artwork could say: We listen to Radio Local – you can too – click here.

There’s an App for that

Got anyone on your team who can create an App for your station? Getting your radio station on as many devices as possible is a super way to put your station in the hands of thousands of people. Sure, time, expertise and effort is needed, so perhaps agree to promote your coder’s services on your website and on air to help compensate them.

Email signatures

Be sure to add a clickable link to your station in every email you and your team send. Add it as an email signature. Then everyone who gets emails from you and your team will see a link to your station.

This is free and can be very effective. Each presenter can include a line about their show and when they can be heard on the station as well as a link to the podcast version of their shows on your website.

Email database – EDM

Use an email service such as Mailchimp to build your own database of listeners and keep them up to date with your schedule and public events. But don’t ask them to join your email list; ask them to join Your Radio Station’s club or Inner Circle.

Down the track you may be able to offer them discounts with advertisers, but try not to send out emails more than once a week.

Local newspapers

Keep your local newspapers up to date with your programme changes and any special events. Even if they don’t print any (or every) announcement you send in, keep sending them anyway. Keep your station on their radar no matter what.

News reporters come and go, and while the one covering your patch might not favour your station, the next one might.

A good quality photo and a caption might help fill a slot at the paper (and its website), so do include good quality photos with your weekly press release when possible.

Talking of local newspapers…If you run news then ask if you can draw on their services for your news, give them a mention and hopefully they might reciprocate.

And talking of news, don’t forget your local Talking Newspaper for the Blind service. You could make a good connection there by recording items for them and ask if they will mention your station to their listeners. You could record some news items, or perhaps produce a weekly music section – pop news, new releases, entertainment gossip etc – for them to use.

Schools and colleges

Make connections with schools, colleges, and sports teams. For example, when it comes to key amateur sporting events, send your team to the sideline to report on the match or event. Using nothing more than a phone they can broadcast their commentary of the match live on air.

Your local corporate station won’t do this, but you can attract a huge audience of mums, dads and grandparents as a result. Be sure to know players’ names by their shirt numbers, mention their names often, and who knows who’ll be listening…You might attract a sponsor for the sports spot.


Talking of sport, local sporting fixtures and results often go overlooked by local media. So see if any of your sports-minded team can cobble together events and results for your website and perhaps as a short sports news item.

Perhaps ask your local MP, town mayor or prominent local councillor to provide a weekly or monthly update on what they are doing for your town or city. It could help build some powerful relationships when it comes to ad-hoc arts funding that many local and regional councils offer (that you could apply for).

Bumper stickers

The car sticker is still a good way to get your station branding on all manner vehicles. Sure, there’s a cost but they last a long time and you can offer them as contest prizes.

Give yourself time

None of the above will set your station alight over night, you do not have the power to achieve that, so you have to go with the slow burn, build listeners one at a time, keep producing great content and making good relationships across your local community.

As I always say, if you really want to be a commercial success you have to keep it local. As far as possible, keep your station focused on the community, local people who can support you.

You may also be able to have someone sponsor some of the more expensive items on the above list. For example, business cards could feature your station on one side and your sponsor’s details on the other.

It’s also worth saying that you don’t need to do all of the above at the same time. Develop a promotional plan based on the easiest ideas first – consider doing one a month – and take into account the time of year for sporting events. Oh, and all this needs to be done alongside your social media promos.

Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a journalist and editor based in Melbourne.

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