Just Ask ...
March 22, 2016
Human beings are an interesting lot when it comes to collecting things -- coins, beer bottle caps, stamps, antique cars, recipes, baseball cards, maps, books, etc. I get asked a lot how do I know this or that person. It's simple: I collect associations and friendships of people I want to know. If there is a specific piece of information I want to get a better understanding of, I try to contact directly one of the recognized authorities on the subject.
I have always admired those who share my approach to connecting with people. Recently 76-year-old IIeana Yarza had written a letter to President Obama and invited him to stop by her home during his visit to Cuba. To her surprise, the President actually wrote her back and said he would if time permits. She took a chance on making a connection and got rewarded with a response.
My Curiosity Piqued
I learned a long time ago to allow others the opportunity to say yes or no. One of my earliest lessons was in Chicago doing evenings on WJPC, which was owned at the time by Johnson Publishing. There was a local weekend TV horror movie host named, "The Son of Svengoolie," on WFLD Channel 32. He was the son because the first guy who had the gig moved and it would have been a little obvious if his replacement was just handed the same name.
Formulating The Idea
The formula was typical -- a terrible horror flick cutting to a commercial break with the host doing his best impression of a one-liner comic and the corniest jokes you ever heard. However, the Son of Svengoolie took it to another level and included a lot of political satire. I saw the show and thought, "This show is so off the wall, I should try and get on for a guest appearance." My sole intent was ratings and exposure.
Plan of Action
I told everyone around the company what I wanted to do. My on-air plan was to tell everyone I had come to Chicago to be close to my half-brother, the Son of Svengoolie. I created a storyline involving our supposed mother and how we had been separated years earlier. To tug on the hearts even more, I told listeners how our mom always liked him best and I was sent to live with relatives. The young end of my 12-17 audience ate this up; even the young son of my GM asked his dad if I was okay. I was getting letters and phone calls. By the way, I did this while never breaking the programming directives of the PD.
Executing My Plot
Every night the number-one thing I would stress to listeners, "I just want to see my half-brother again, but he won't return my calls." Others around my company seemed to be enjoying the whole farce; many had ideas of how I could get on the show. There was no suggestion I did not follow, but none worked.
The Lightbulb Went Off
Finally, it came to me, why not just call him directly? I found out the Son of Svengoolie's real name was Rich Koz, I called the TV station and got him on the first try. I was surprised, but took the opportunity to tell him my scheme. He laughed and said he loved the idea I proposed -- both of us making appearances one another's shows.
The whole thing taught me a lesson: Never be afraid to approach anyone directly. After that day I became a collector of people I wanted to know. By the way, Rich Koz is still doing his Son of Svengoolie act on the MeTV National Network.
(L-R) Sam Weaver and The Son of Svengoolie - 2016
Just Contact Them...
Don't be nervous or waste your time scheming to meet someone you want to have a conversation with. These days there are so many ways to do it -- Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Snap Chat and other social media platforms. If you are still unsure of directly approaching someone, an e-mail introduction through someone else is a great direct-indirect way to break the ice. Third-party e-mail introductions work very well and can help you in your quest for knowledge. From now on, don't hesitate to contact anyone in radio or any other industry, regardless of stature. Allow them the opportunity to get to know you.