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Radio Can Both Help and Entertain

Done with care, your station’s content can reflect economic reality

As one out of 10 Americans is facing unemployment and the rest are being pounded with dour economic news, most radio stations are broadcasting the status quo of day-to-day life and business-as-usual.

But while the situation is worse in some areas than others, it’s now common for nearly everybody in our country to have a personal relationship with someone on the losing end of the financial picture. As our economy zooms up and down like a roller coaster, it is a legitimate position for a station — especially a music station — to remain in entertainment mode, offering listeners an escape from bad news.

However, I hope that some programmers will use their creativity and license to serve their local listeners by reflecting today’s economic reality and offering help and hope to those who need it.

When I made this proposition recently to a young program director, he seemed willing but uncertain as to how he might proceed. Here are a few idea starters:

iStockphoto/Lilli Day

On-Air Job Flash: Several times daily, air a pre-produced short vignette with five or six job listings referencing how listeners can get more details.

Sure, people can search for jobs all day online, but there just might be that one person who hears just the right opportunity from your station; plus, the frequency of these vignettes sets the stage to alert the community that you’re reflecting today’s economic reality.

Make sure you mix up the job listings so that you’re balancing blue- and white-collar positions. Put a few of the really cool openings on your Facebook page.

You should also keep your eyes open for job fairs to promote. After these listings are on the air for awhile, your sales manager will ask if they can be sponsored. As long it’s done tastefully, this will sound fine. It’s likely that job fairs may even have an advertising budget.

Employment Coaching/Advice: Find a local career counselor who is articulate and can appear on your morning show a few times a week. Have her cover the basics — from interviewing tips for those who are a bit rusty to advice on how to network.

Part of the counselor’s role is to play psychologist. A good one can be quite interesting. Take calls from real people and let them tell their stories. If your career counselor is game, perhaps he or she could write a short blog on your website.

iStockphoto/Catherine Lane

Drives for Those in Need:

1) I worked with a station recently that held a “dress for success” clothing drive. The promotion asked working women to donate nice office attire which they no longer wore.

2) When unemployment is high, food banks are strained to keep up with demand. You’ve probably asked listeners to “stuff a truck” by donating canned foods, baby products, toiletries, etc., for holidays like Thanksgiving. You’ll find many willing to share what they can once they hear that your personalities are involved.

3) Send kids to camp this summer. No doubt there are a few great camps in your area, perhaps even run by the county. They all cost money. Could you raise funds to send a half-dozen children to camp? By using the voices of the kids (no names) explaining why they’d like to go, you will no doubt generate interest and funding.

4) Consider an online drive for drivers. A bad economy often leaves people without sufficient transportation. You could put a ride board on your website, helping to make connections between people.

Stock Alerts: Yes, your middle- and upper middle-class listeners are concerned for their investments. People want to hear about how the volatile market is doing on a regular basis. These updates should be quick and can highlight local stocks if applicable to your area.

Whatever you choose to do to help your community, remember that you’re surrounding your good work with engaging entertainment. The combination of social outreach and fun can push your station from ordinary to extraordinary.

The author is president of Lapidus Media. Write to [email protected].