“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly,” WKRP General Manager Arthur Carlson moaned in one of the show’s most famous scenes.
A reliable source tells me this episode was based — as were many others — on fact, having been written by a sales vet from a station in Atlanta.
Anyone who has worked in our business for more than a few years knows too well how wrong a holiday promotion can go when it isn’t conceived and executed carefully.
Let’s go through a few staples to get us in the mood and help you generate even more ideas while joyfully upping revenue and ratings.
Stick Up for a Cause — Everybody loves drumsticks, so why not use ’em to help you raise big bucks for charity?
Collect a half dozen drumsticks from well-known musical groups. Frame each collectable, perhaps with a lyric sheet of the band’s most famous song and an autograph from — who else? — the drummer.
Take great pictures of each framed collectable and let the auction begin. While you could do a live auction on-air only for a few hours, you’ll make more money for the charity of your choice by putting them on eBay and linking the photos from your website to the auction.
Whether you decide to run the auction for one day or several, be sure to update your listening audience about the current bids. If it’s possible to get the drummer(s) to do a live call-in, it will add extra authenticity.
Have your morning show make an on-air check presentation to the charity the day before Thanksgiving. You can position a title sponsor by calling it “The [Name of Client]” Drumstick Auction. If the client has a featured location you could put the sticks on display there too.
Ask for Food — I feel compelled to encourage you to consider food collection this Thanksgiving. There are many food banks that need assistance to meet the demands brought by unemployment and under-employment.
While it can be difficult to get listeners to donate cash, it’s relatively easy to get people to bring food, if you ask for it properly.
I still love hearing a DJ or several DJs camped out in a truck they’re attempting to fill with food until they can’t lay down anymore. It may take you a week to fill a big moving truck, so be prepared.
The good news is that the longer the promotion goes on, the more publicity you’ll generate via television coverage and action on Facebook and Twitter. Use short sounds bites from people who depend on the food bank and from representatives. Your title sponsor can serve as a drop-off location.
Post pictures of progress on your website or stream the entire activity live with a “turkey-cam.”
Simple Helping — A much smaller but worthy Thanksgiving promotion involves having your DJs dish out food at a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving. It will be an experience they will never forget; and their participation will remind your audience that your station cares about your community.
DecemberReligion and Culture — As we flip the calendar to December, I’m reminded that people increasingly have become cynical about holiday commercialism.
If you’d like to walk down a path few commercial stations choose, you could actually create a December services and events calendar on your website and promote it on-air.
This isn’t just for stations with a religious bent, nor is about one specific faith. There is room to celebrate faith and culture observances like Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa by letting your listeners know where they can attend services and special events. Highlight a few of these on the air, mentioning your title sponsor and driving traffic to the website section.
Gordon Jump, aka Arthur Carlson, delivers the famous walk-off line.
Could you live stream any of these services or events? Why not? People won’t watch them if they’re not interested.
Twelve Keys of Christmas — Now on to crash commercialism.
Do you know anybody who wouldn’t want a car as a holiday present? Find a car dealer to give you a car (or a long lease on one) to give away on-air. The “Twelve Keys of Christmas” works great when you register people all day for 12 consecutive days, picking one key winner each day. As you’re doing this, ads are running for your title sponsor encouraging listeners to visit the dealership because 12 additional keys will be given away on-site, one per day.
Key winners will try their key during the event you stage a few days before Christmas.
Digital Day — When’s the last time you did a promotion for HD Radio? The holidays are a perfect time to promote your HD stations by giving away digital receivers while tying into a local retailer for a special sale.
If you can’t get radios to do giveaways, can you give away a show-hosting opportunity to a listener? Maybe this winner could host a Christmas-, Hanukkah- or Kwanzaa-themed show on one of your multicast channels.
Shopper’s Delight — Perhaps there is a major (mid- to high-end) store in your community who would host a special evening shopping event in which consumers make a substantial donation to a charity for the privilege of shopping at 50 percent off for a few hours.
Naturally there have to be some limitations to this promotion; but I have seen it raise thousands for charities, while making money for stations because of the sponsor involvement.
Choose your charity wisely, as it will be handling many of the logistics and inviting their membership to participate.
First Baby — Is it New Year’s yet? Call me sentimental, but I still love the “first baby of the year” contest. “Calling all pregnant couples due to deliver around Dec. 31! Will your bundle of joy be the one to win all the goodies we’ve gathered from these sponsors? Send us your sonogram!”
Listeners can follow along by placing “bets” on your website. Whoever picks the correct couple also wins the same prize(s) supplied by the contest sponsors.
If none of these ideas suits you, I suggest viewing a few short pieces on YouTube of WKRP. While you might not find anything useful, you will at least get a laugh. This will put you in a better mood for brainstorming your own celebratory promotions.
Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media.Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.