Aug. 20 is our time to celebrate community radio

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.

It seems like every morning drive-time radio program is filled with the chatter of whatever random “day” it is from one day to the next. There’s National Pancake Day and National Cheese Day, National Doughnut Day and National Lazy Day. Where do people come up with this stuff?

Regardless of what you think of these alleged holidays, Monday, Aug. 20, should be on every station’s radar. That is because it is National Radio Day.

The origins of National Radio Day are somewhat of a mystery. Then again, it seems like a lot of these kinds of observances are shrouded in some murky origin. For purposes of your station, though, there should be no guessing about its possibilities.

Radio’s future has oftentimes been questioned, but its present is undeniably solid. The latest data indicates upwards of 90% of Americans tune in to radio every week. When emergencies happen, radio is there. Even in the age of streaming, radio remains the Holy Grail for bands and for music discovery. And, as the national rancor over media hits a fever pitch, radio has a trust few can match.

[Read: Community Broadcaster — Under the Gun]

For community radio stations, the impact of radio is even more amplified by each outlet’s public service. So many stations offer area nonprofits airtime they’d never get elsewhere. Scores of independent musicians get their first airplay on community radio. And the signature programming at many stations becomes something a city or town can be proud of. Community radio wins local awards in areas nationwide because the medium brings something different to residents. These stations become destinations, notching up cool points for places that might not be otherwise as creative, iconoclastic and fun.

What makes National Radio Day so good for community radio? There are four key spots that make this day such an outstanding one for stations.

First and most crucial is the moment your station can tell its story. National Radio Day is a time for your station to promote to your audience why you matter and the difference you make in their lives. It is a chance to talk up to listeners about what your programming, presence and meaning to local arts and culture brings. And it's also a chance for listeners to talk back via social media about your station.

And let’s not forget, National Radio Day is a plum day to remind listeners that their donations to noncommercial radio are critical and appreciated.

Second, National Radio Day can give community radio an opportunity to highlight its roots. Whether you partner with other stations in your region, work with a local high school, or have teamed up with your city to host events, community engagement is one of the best and most invigorating things about local stations. Why not bring one of those valued friends on the air to share how much your station boosts the area?

Third, National Radio Day can cut a path for community radio to talk up its role in local commerce. While stations are noncommercial, their daily activities contribute to area industry, entertainment and also to the job market. For community radio stations that do underwriting, National Radio Day is an opportunity to remind your business partners how much their support means, and how radio is still strong and relevant. Don’t neglect to remind everyone that your station ultimately brings dollars into your city in big and small ways.

And lastly, National Radio Day is a time for radio stations to speak up about what they mean to communities facing challenges and danger. Whether it is community radio stations responding to wildfires, outlets giving audiences a place to talk when a traumatic event occurs, or these comforting voices giving solace when we all need it, community radio is responsive in times of need. Community radio stations may not have the big budgets or fleet of news vans, but make up for it in the commitment of volunteers passionate about their cities. Stations’ ability to leap to action is a story that is often untold.

National Radio Day 2018 comes on a Monday, which is rarely the most thrilling day to hold a celebration. Nevertheless, community radio should be turning up loud and proud for all we provide cities and towns. If we don’t, who will?

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