Just In Case You Missed Something For The Holidays
December 2, 2014
The holidays are always a feel-good time of the year for the listening audiences and air personalities. Radio stations get into the spirit with holiday concerts, food and toy collections, themed-related contests, Christmas music, special programming, and staff wishes of joy for all.
I thought I would write this now instead of waiting until the first week of December because there might be some situations in need that were not on the radar when the holiday planning was done months ago. It is just a reminder for everyone to check among the staff to make sure your station is not missing any opportunities to make the holidays brighter for some people. This should also serve as a reminder to personalities and PDs that there are ways to stick to format and still evoke emotional connections with the target audience. Listeners have families and feel good spots -- especially when it comes to children. I will share my two favorite memories as a PD and as an air talent.
My Favorite PD Christmas Memory
One of most fun things I ever participated in was the delivery of toys on Christmas Eve in the station van. A week before Thanksgiving, we had received a request from a nonprofit church-affiliated organization concerning the need for more toys. They worked with social workers and covered a lot of territory; unfortunately that year donations were down and the need for a lot of things was in high demand. Rather than calling for a staff meeting, I went around and got the opinions of everyone at the station -- including the GM, who was a single parent.
After weighting all the information, I concluded we would help the organization get more toys and find a way to deliver some to listeners at their homes. It was now time for separate meetings with promotions, sales, the jocks and the GM. I always found this way worked best because it made each department feel special and it also helped to avoid any alliances which might cause delays. It was determined that sales would go to clients for toys and other premiums, all the jocks would help deliver toys, the GM took our mission to the Chamber of Commerce & Rotary, and promotions got with the production director for some extremely creative recorded promos.
Truthfully, I could have issued a memo and just told everyone what we were going to do. However, I knew this was something the entire station could pull together on if they were allowed to contribute. Things went well and we had new and used toys rolling in from everywhere. To top it off, sales had several clients do point of location registrations for families wanting toys delivered to their doorsteps.
Our meeting rooms looked like the North Pole with toys everywhere. The day before Christmas Eve, the GM had a bunch of pizzas delivered and the station staff were shoulder to shoulder putting together the toy deliveries to the Church and matching up the 30 families whose names were drawn for the home deliveries. The plan was complete -- all deliveries on Christmas Eve, which was the next night. We made one more change to the plan; it was decided someone should dress up as one of Santa's elves to add to the ambience of the home deliveries. We put all the names in a hat and the winner was a part-time jocks. One of the sales people called a client with a costume shop and was able to get our elf some appropriate clothing.
We had alerted the 30 families a few days earlier, so they could distract their kids to prevent them from learning about Santa-delivered toys from a radio station van. This was before GPS, but thankfully one of the salespersons was great at finding places and everything was routed out. We used both station vans and rolled out at 1p to make the non-profit organization drop-off and begin home toy drop-offs. It was not a problem getting various staff to volunteer, even some of their families helped out with personal vehicles. It was like a Lifetime TV moment. Things went off without a hitch. It still is one of my favorite holiday memories.
My On-Air Santa Memory
Working 6-10p during a weekday on Christmas Eve can be a lot of fun because the request lines are full of people in the holiday spirit. One year I came up with an idea that I took to my PD. I had the idea of connecting with my 18-34 target demos and make those on the younger and older side happy, too. The more I talked to non-radio people it was obvious moms, dads, and teenagers still wanted younger children to believe in the mystical Santa Claus experience. I determined this commonality took precedent over our music format, which was playing the hits with little attention to Xmas music.
I approached my PD and told him my idea of letting little kids talk to Santa on Christmas Eve. My PD had questions to which I had already figured out the answers. First of all, the recorded promos and liners would instruct parents to call-in along with their children to talk to Santa. My plan was to talk to the parents first to make sure of what they were giving the kids and match it to what the kids spoke to Santa about. Fortunately, all the moms and dads were on the same page with their children's Xmas lists.
One of the good things about small children is the ability to trust and believe what parents are telling them. A crucial selling point of my plan was to fake a technical issue with Santa's phone, but solve the problem via Ham radio and Morse Code. I would tell listeners Santa could hear, but could only communicate by Morse Code and that I would translate for the kids, parents, and the rest of the listening audience. Okay now for the truth, I knew it would be hard to get anyone to play Santa and I couldn't do both voices and be believable. For the Morse Code sound, I had this little digital phone device that gave off a beeping sound whenever any number was pushed. Magnified with a mic it worked great because I could hit a series of beeps and simulate code as if Santa could answer back to the kids with me as the interpreter. To increase the theater-of-the-mind, I would pass along Santa's whereabouts in his sleigh as he supposedly made stops around the world on route to the U. S.
The PD loved the idea because my plan didn't stop the music and I had 60-second edited sound bites with a minimum of four separate families at a time. I was able to execute everything because I had a Board Op who edited the audio while I did my show and answered the phones like a crazy man. There were three breaks an hour, but the PD added a place at the 10 after in place of the recorded promo. I had a Christmas call at the beginning of each commercial break. Because so many parents were calling, I phoned the PD and he extended my show an extra hour to accommodate more families.
My Op and I were exhausted, but on a high because of how well everything came off. The Op discovered after it was over that he forgot to pop in a cassette to record the show. But I could not be mad at him and took the blame because he really busted his butt with all the editing.
Unfortunately, during my on-air career I never got another chance to do the bit again. Although I have worked with many talented jocks, I never had anyone who I could talk into doing it. The Morse Code and Santa bit taught me a valuable radio lesson; assumed credibility comes from believability.