Writing A Column About Writing A Column
November 24, 2015
Writing a weekly column is a challenge to the brain's creative cells. Usually my mind starts to draw blanks just before the holidays. It's times like these when I remember reading that David Letterman's writers used to visit New York's Museum of Television & Radio whenever they needed to unlock brain freeze.
Then I remembered what I used to do whenever I needed to re-position a station I was programming. I would look back through my collected archives of printed materials and the files I had carefully collected, titled, and stored on an external hard drive. It dawned on me that I had never written about the importance of collecting any and everything that has successfully worked in radio and other businesses.
I know many who do this, but it doesn't usually come up in conversation unless someone starts reminiscing about something that worked at a previous station or maybe something learned elsewhere and reapplied for radio purposes. The ideas are all around us; organized hording of written materials and computer files is the best way I know to stay fresh. Yes, looking to the past and adding some up to date lifestyle nuances can kickstart an on-air bit or brighten up a promotion.
Only The Names Change
History repeats itself a lot, but with the modern day 15-minute news cycle, memories seem to be short-lived. Politicians are the best example, giving a sound bite on a subject one day and then denying they said it the next. It is kind of strange -- and a huge percentage of people actually forget. This type of recall or lack of gives a personality or a programmer a chance at doing a lot of things. We are very much a Black Hat-vs.-White Hat society. Who's our enemy, hot TV shows, comedians, athletes, sports franchises, movie stars, reality show stars, kid singing groups, singing divas, wars, civil unrest, minimum wage hikes, and a lot of other stuff; recurring themes with a continuous cast of characters and organizations, only the names change.
How It Relates To Collecting Information
Keeping a collection of stuff is kind of like using a diary to focus or refocus your life. Only in this case, it's to retool an idea to either make an audience laugh or help with ratings for profit.
Talk Is Cheap ... Here's An Example
I moderated a morning show panel years ago and one of the personalities talked about an annual fish fry his station did every year at a park. After the panel, I asked him a couple of questions and mentally stored the information. I called him a couple of months later and he talked about how TV and local newspapers covered the Fish Fry and he invited me to come down and check it out. I could not make it down, but made him promise to send me any of the local coverage of this event. He followed through and I filed it away. Four years later when I was looking for a way to get a station over the hump to beat a competitor, I was going through my boxes of catalogued stuff and came across the Fish Fry promotion and a lightbulb went off in my head.
What if I could find a way to map-out a series of picnics in our hot zip code areas in the actual neighborhoods and not make listeners drive to a location ... but do it right in their backyards? I told the promotions director about my idea and he gave me all the "What Ifs" -- liability, cooking, organizing, cleanup security, etc.
All We Had To Do Was Show Up
Believe it or not, we came up with a way to persuade the neighborhoods to do the organizing, cooking, and even provide a DJ for the occasion. The whole idea formulated and mutated until it was time to go to sales, get the food provided for, and get businesses involved who wanted to market services and goods. It turned out that a couple of banks, car dealers, finance companies, and relators purchased the food; in exchange they also came out to troll for customers.
Meanwhile residents put together programs to honor students and people of note in their communities. The neighborhood got the police & fire departments to come by with safety demonstrations. It was great; the community even did their own cleanup. Needless to say, the first event became our template and we proceeded to put on 12 of the neighborhood picnics over the summer months. My station just showed up with the van, took part in the program, ate, and the personalities made friends with the listeners. Audience-wise, it was the whole family and a lot of press coverage. That summer we beat the direct competitor and never lost to them again.
The experience opened my eyes in a big way to making sure I catalogued every article and idea regardless of where it came from. The only drawback to becoming a human Library Reference Desk is the expansion to your surrounding and your external hard drives. But I think living space is overrated ... save away!