May 28, 2013
The night that the tornados hit Moore and Oklahoma City, I was, as I always seem to be, in a hotel room after spending a day at a radio station. I was checking e-mail and got a frantic one from Jet Black at Journal in Tulsa with a message to "Watch this, quick!" and a link to KFOR in OKC.
Ten minutes later an e-blast went out to the stations and people began springing into action.
But, as with Sandy Hook and Aurora and Sandy and the mass power outage in D.C. last July ... the response was tepid.
I don't expect stations to go and grab a semi-truck and "start collectin'" with every tragedy. And some of these are decidedly non-collectable events. But for God's sake, acknowledge the #1 news story on Planet Earth.
There were stations within 50 miles of Newtown that never referenced it. "We don't want to be seen as being opportunistic" is a familiar mantra that I hear these days. Radio is ALL about opportunities and exploiting them.
The greatest stations in history have always had their radar up, pinging for things that they can jump on and create content and buzz out of.
I call it Promotional Playdoh. Everything is something we can take and mold to our needs. Our franchise in the NBA playoffs. A teachers strike. A local high school having the first winning football season since 1952. The high price of gas. And especially these horrific events that take center stage in the news cycle for days and days. How can we possibly defend the relevance of local radio when we miss this stuff?
Now, granted there was stuff that stations did that was outstanding. CBS in St. Louis, KAJA in San Antonio, Power 96 in Miami, Summit in Birmingham, Clear Channel in Dallas and KDWB in Minneapolis all sent caravans of supplies to the stricken area. It was work, but it also told the listeners, "We actually genuinely care and aren't just trying to appear that we have a soul by running PSAs." And there was a payoff for the listeners who donated; they could follow Steve O from the Dave Ryan Show as he tweeted his journey and videotaped the emotional delivery.
And it was "tangible." Read my most recent blog at www.cpr-promotions.com about "tangible" and how that should be a litmus test for these kinds of campaigns.
CBS in Houston and KSON in San Diego did outstanding, visual and loud fundraisers for the Red Cross. If you're serious about raising money, then you've got to do something a little more compelling than push a text code.
We're in Show Business. If you asked Steven Speilberg or Monty Hall to help Oklahoma City, I can assure you they wouldn't just tell people to text a code.
I asked one of the "text a code" stations what their local response to their plea had been and I got a non-committal "I couldn't tell you. We ran the same code that everyone ran" and it was clear that this campaign to help a community where kids were killed in a crushed school, meant as much to him as deciding what song to drop in the 1a hour.
What happened to Radio? When did we stop caring?
Arguably some of the best promotions in history have been stations rising to the occasion, activating the audience and for lack of a better term, "helping out." The Boxx in Houston driving eight semis of water to L.A. after the earthquake. Operation Teddy Bear that CBS in Pittsburgh and quite a few other stations did after Sandy Hook. Magic in Colorado Springs caravanning to Florida after Charlie.
It's been eight years since Katrina. My stations sent 118 trucks of water to the zone, collected over a million for relief, sent backpacks of school supplies from Seattle, and housed people in Houston and Birmingham.
Would this response be the same in 2013? I don't think so. And that's sad.
Great radio stations call audibles. They do what KDWB in Minneapolis did with K-Jabs, and on 24 hours notice they changed the imaging and web to honor a local kid paralyzed in a high school hockey game. That took balls. "But Paige, we can't just go and blah blah blah..." Sure you can.
I like CPR because radio stations have energy levels and amazing radio stations' energy levels look like an EKG from a 300-pound man running a marathon. It's just pinging up a storm.
What's your EKG look like? Do you have a heart? Are you continually searching for things to take and play with?
You should, because the bell curve of radio has gone so "handi-capable" that any station that is activating the listeners and has an emotional connection to the audience ... WILL win.