The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.
Not too long ago, I was flabbergasted by the line at a local café. It was out the door, easily 40 people deep. The beleaguered staff people were just overwhelmed by the crowd. I, too, did not know why everyone showed up on this brisk morning at a place that is typically sleepy around this time.
It was not until I scanned Twitter on my phone to see what was trending: National Doughnut Day. Was this really a thing? Morning shows were joking about it, social media was buzzing over it and, sure enough, this lot of generous souls was picking up sweets for their co-workers.
Not unlike National Doughnut Day, National Tequila Day or any of the meme-worthy social media ginned-up “holidays,” National Radio Day is coming. On August 20, commercial and noncommercial radio will come together to celebrate and to offer funny, touching and illuminating stories of radio’s meaningfulness.
Like just about everything that has a hashtag these days, the origins of National Radio Day are fuzzy. Does it really matter? A spotlight where people appreciate radio just does not come along very often. This is our moment to jump up and shout about why radio is important to our communities.
For community radio stations, National Radio Day is a rare chance to grab some attention, spark interest among new audiences and create donor relationships you do not otherwise have.
Collect photos or video of listeners about why they love your station. This idea is the best because it is so compelling. People are naturally curious about the lives of others. Do you have a listener or volunteer with a fascinating story? Is there a person whose life was affected in a unique way by community radio? Or is there a way in which a person was given new purpose thanks to your station? You get the idea. Community radio helps individuals, groups, schools and local voices. National Radio Day is your chance to highlight them.
Host a local event. Your community radio station can organize a live concert, speaker or party in partnership with local businesses and nonprofits. You can also organize an event in honor of your local first responders, who depend on radio in their line of work and can vouch for community radio’s value as much as anyone. Noncommercial media creates a space for neighbors to get to know each other. Even a casual, small gathering is fun.
Broadcast something special. A National Radio Day special block of programming can build on anything from the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love to the forthcoming solar eclipse. Music programming presents plenty of fertile ground. However, you can air arts or public affairs programming to spotlight the day. My only recommendation is to settle on a time and theme, and plan it out. Community radio has remarkable programming that can impress during special broadcasts. Having the best programming, though, requires deliberate approaches to make it the best you can.
Make National Radio Day a one-day on-air and/or online fundraising campaign to support your community radio station. For some in community radio, asking for a donation to their nonprofit is really uncomfortable. People hate to impose on others. Others do not want to feel like they are begging. However, decades of noncommercial radio has acclimated listeners to the notion of giving funds to support meaningful programming. As well, the society at large is taking civic responsibility seriously. As with Giving Tuesday, contributing to nonprofits is now mainstream. It is hence easier than it has ever been before to give, and to ask for a donation. People want to help, expect you will ask and feel honored to be considered part of the team.
You can follow National Radio Day as its own hashtag on social media, join or share the National Radio Day Facebook event set up by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, organize with a station or simply share your personal story on August 20. National Radio Day is a fabulous time for community to commercial radio. We just cannot let this moment slip away.