Calling An Audible, Part II
October 23, 2012
I got tasked with coming up with "the top 10 promotions" (that I could recall) by one of the OMs I work with. Wow. I'd never really thought about that. So I sat down with a sixer of Coors Light and when the list was completed and whittled down and adjusted and scratched off and penciled in, only two of the 10 were even close to being classified as "contests." The rest were all audibles ... quick and decisive reactions to huge news stories.
We get so caught up in trying to get people to like us by giving them things (like the little boy who gives all the kids on the playground his lunch items just to be included ... we're that pathetic) that we lose sight of the stuff that actually makes us local and relevant.
KDWB/ Minneapolis has done bigger and better "things" than just about any station I know. And no one can tell you what their last ratings contest was. Ten years from now no one is going to remember the time they had people submit their bills. Those are the fundamentals. And they do them well. But I can assure you that 10 years from now a large part of the market will recall verbatim the time that KDWB became "101.3 K-Jabs" in honor of a local kid paralyzed in a hockey game.
It was huge. And it came together in 24 hours.
And then there are the other stations. I know of one that has not deviated from its list of plays in 20 years. Not once in decades have the people in charge got up and said, "You know what? (Whatever) is bigger. We need to do something with that and bag (whatever) for the day." Not once. And this explains them missing, well, everything. Disasters. Tragedies. Storms. Local teams in the championships. Everything. I told one of the muckety-mucks, "They'd miss a nuclear war." And it's true. They are the most irrelevant station in radio.
So what would you do if Big Bird got threatened with unemployment? Hot in Houston had a bird out the next day holding a sign at busy intersections that said "Hot Hits 95.7 Likes Me Too!" #1 trending item and they acknowledged it. Not a bases-clearing home run, but a good example of just jumping on something that people were talking about.
K-Hits in Tulsa called an audible in late September when the fun and open-minded folks from Westboro Baptist Church announced they were coming to town to make an appearance at the funeral of a local soldier. In a matter of hours, the station negotiated a deal with the psychos to have a half-hour free on the morning show in lieu of hitting the funeral.
Bing. Bang. Boom. It was huge, and the station was perceived as heroes in that community for doing it. You're never going to get 8,000 e-mail comments thanking you for running "The Secret Song" contest.
Wanna talk balls? 96X in Edmonton suspended its Fugitive(tm) contest three days before it ended because of a quadruple cop killing that was basically the #1 news story in Canada. They realized as they put it on the air, that "at a time of tragedy and sorrow in our community, it would be thoughtless and insensitive to continue with a silly radio contest." They got over 9,000 e-mails of thanks.
It's been genetically cleansed from most U.S. Radio DNA to change the game plan, so one of the exercises at seminars is The Reaction Game. I divide the room into "stations" and throw them each a curve. It's 9a on a Tuesday morning and ... our market just got the NFL franchise it had been fighting for for years. The mayor got busted with a naked Cub Scout overnight. There's been a school shooting. A bridge collapsed. A plane with the #1 artist in the format has crashed and we know nothing else at this time.
"You have five minutes to get something on the air. Go."
It's a great exercise and people really get into it. But undoubtedly I get a few, "Yeah, this is fun but we could never just go and change things because a tornado just plowed through downtown." To which I reply, "Sure you can."