You Can Never Be Too Careful
April 15, 2014
Programming for the first time can be exciting, humbling, overwhelming, thankless, bad for your health, time consuming, rewarding, disappointing, challenging and an exercise in the constant study in human behavior.
I can remember doing my first few monthly reports and yearly budgets ... what this had to do with playing the right music was beyond me. Then there are the occasional goof-ups that happen despite your best efforts to dot all the i's and cross the t's.
We Always Remember Our First Time
In one of my first OM/PD gigs, the promotions director had quit and I was left to do the job until we, or more accurately I, could find a replacement. Therefore until such time, I had to do my midday shift, program, and do promotions.
I had come up with an essay contest for high school students around the theme of a hit song on Columbia Records. First prize was $1,000. The regional rep and I coordinated the contest rules, students began sending in their essays, and the winner of the three-week contest was to be announced on the morning show.
Whew! The name of the winner was announced without a hitch -- and that's when things took a turn for the worse. Immediately afterwards we read live liners twice an hour announcing the winner. Doing the job of three people had taken a toll on me and somehow I had misplaced the winning essay. I was frantic and then the receptionist buzzed me and said the mother of the winner was on the phone. I breathed a sigh of relief, because the winner had an unusual name and I was sure I had been talking to the correct Mom. In fact after talking with the mother I actually found the essay ... or so I thought.
Over the next week the mother expressed how excited she was for her daughter and she told me about the bad divorce she had gone through with her daughter's father -- who had remarried and had another family. Nevertheless, she had wanted him there at dinner where we were to award her daughter. Did I mention I had given the winning essay to the regional rep so he could have New York cut a check in the young lady's name?
Celebration-Sadness-Are You Serious?
The dinner took place at an Olive Garden and the morning show, the Columbia rep, the mother and daughter, and I were all waiting on the father. He had actually called the day after I had discussed the details of the dinner for his daughter, but I passed his number over to the rep because, based on what the mother had told me, he was a jerk.
Here he comes and he brought his other family with a girl who looked to be the same age as his daughter, the contest winner. He came in and did not even acknowledge his essay winning offspring or his ex-wife. I was so glad I had talked with the mom and had let the rep talk to the father all those weeks. Before dinner the rep was giving a little speech before handing over the check -- meanwhile the morning show co-host was kicking me under the table. She whispered in my ear, "Sam, these are two unrelated families with the same last name and their daughters have the same first name." No wonder the father was ignoring his daughter and ex-wife; he didn't know them!
It All Worked Out
It all worked out and later that week Columbia gave $1,000 to the other young lady, too. It came with a lot of well-deserved verbal abuse from the rep's VP/ Promotions. Honestly, to this day neither the rep nor I could figure out how such a thing could have happened -- and I never did another essay contest for the rest of my programming career.
Dealing with people and organizations can be tricky and after hearing my story you can understand why I took a lot of time to explain the necessities of paperwork to this first-time PD.
PD: This is my first programming job and my station gets an awful lot of people from charity events trying to get us to give them air time or to partner with them. I'm just not comfortable with all of this. I know the Boys and Girls Clubs, The Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, and the United Way, but I am not too sure about a lot of these organizations. My promotions director tells me who is cool and who is not, but our relationship is new and he was in competition for this job and lost out to me. I need advice.
Coach: You could use some advice in several areas, but let's start with your relationship with the Promotions Director. I have been where you are during my programming career. If you haven't yet, have a candid conversation with your promotions person outside the building and let him know how much you need his support.
For example, I remember going into a situation where some of the air personalities thought they should have been given the PD job instead of me, an outsider. Through observation, I noticed the Promotions Director did not get the respect he deserved. Therefore, the first thing I did was to tell him how important he and his department were to me. We developed a wonderful no-holds-barred working relationship, keeping each other in line when necessary. There were times co-workers thought we were arguing; suddenly realizing how our spirited discussion could be misinterpreted, we'd close the office door and burst out laughing. We got things done and maneuvered the station into a promotional branding iron.
Now on to answering your question concerning charities -- whenever any organization claiming to be a charity approaches with tickets or a proposal for an event, check on their 501(c)(3) non-profit tax exemption status. If your company does not currently have them on file, have the organization bring a signed copy of its documentation. It is a good idea to keep such paperwork on file for all non-profit organizations your currently work with or requesting help.
If the organization is legitimate, the best way to handle tickets is to have promotions give them away in the streets as part of a prize package with CDs or whatever is being handed out. Make sure it gets mentioned as part of the package in the street-hit callbacks. Once all the tickets have been given away, provide the organization with the number of times the event was mentioned as part of the prize pack giveaways and place a dollar value per mention for their records and yours. Though not sales-related, I suggest you apply whatever the station rate is for the live mentions. Even an on-air interview for the event should have a dollar value applied to it. All documentation given to the 501(3)(c) should also be placed in the station's public file; it will look good when the station license is up for renewal.
Luck is on your side if the 501(3)(c) organization is planning a huge event; you could get promotional mileage and make it a branding tool for the station. Then it becomes a situation for moderate to heavy promotional effort and a chance for sales to involve clients in a feel-good opportunity.
Select a specific number of sponsors and allow for mention by name in live liners and recorded promos. I suggest no more than three clients per liner or promo; more than that and things begin to sound cluttered. You can have more client involvement, but rotate the mentions per airing.
Also, encourage the Sales Manager to let the event be reflected in the client's regularly aired commercials. Many advertisers are hoping to tag onto community events as part of their annual agreements; especially national clients for image branding. Advertisers love spot buys with built-in marketing possibilities. Examples of worthy public service events would be blood drives, collecting food or coats for the needy, handing out school supplies, benefit concerts, walkathons, or health fairs. All recorded and live liners need to appear on the log for documentation purposes; yours, the 501(3)(c), and client sponsors. Coordinate with traffic and sales as to separate sales related from promotional. Make sure the event is on the station website, the 501(3)(c)'s site, and that your camera ready logo is on all of the organization's promotional materials, including television spots and tickets. This is a win-win for all concerns.
Do a live remote from the event. If you have a weekend public service program, schedule an interview. Set up an interview on your weekday drive-time shows. And if one or both your morning and afternoons are syndicated, pre-record a 60-second sound bite interview to air during a local commercial break.
Documentation and Double Check
I cannot stress this enough: Everything aired for this charitable community event should be documented and given a dollar amount, including the interviews. If your station does not log recorded promos and liners on the commercial logs, keep track of the number of airings and have the final totals notarized for everyone's files. One other important issue is insurance, make sure to ask for a copy of insurance coverage the 501(3)(c) has taken out for the event. Remember, if your station's name is heavily attached and something goes wrong, all bases should be covered. It costs pennies to cover a one-time event.
Things to remember on the day of include station signage, sponsor signage, passes if needed, booths, electricity and security (some events need it, some don't). Everything depends on the type and size of the event. Treat callbacks as 30-second commercials; have the jocks keep it under control. Hopefully my answer covers what you needed to know.
PD: You covered everything and more. This will help me, don't be surprised if I e-mail or call you again.