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Four Tips for Better Listener Engagement

When stations get creative, Bugs and seagulls can turn into wins

The author of this story is former general manager of KGY(AM) in Olympia, Wash., now retired.

My name is Dick Pust. I spent 51 years at 1,000-watt KGY AM 1240 in Olympia, Wash., starting as receptionist and rising to the position of general manager. I also did the morning show for 43 of those years.

In response to Paul McLane’s recent “Station Hacks” column, I’d like to share four of my favorite tricks for surviving in the shadow of Seattle, which was only 60 miles away. 

  1. Instead of asking listeners to come to the station to pick up prizes such as tee shirts and tickets, they would pick them up during a remote at a sponsor location. This guaranteed people would show up during the remote and provided potential customers for the sponsor.  
  2. Contest winners and others were always identified by both first AND last name, along with their approximate address. It was “names, names, names” that listeners loved to hear — especially if it was their own.
  3. On one occasion, the station traded out an old VW “Bug” and drove it to different sponsor locations where people were given markers to write the KGY call letters on the car. Once the car was completely covered, the “Bug” was again taken to sponsor locations where people guessed the number of “KGYs” on the car. The person coming the closest got the car.
  4. Some contests had no prize at all, other than the satisfaction of “winning.” The station received hundreds of entries in its “Name the Seagull” contest where the winner named the bird that regularly perched on the railing just outside the control room window. The winning entry was “Jockette.” She became the talk of the town.  
Credit: Getty Images/Paul Mansfield photography

You’re invited to read my book “AM 1240 Life at a Small-Town Radio Station,” at Its 321 pages include hundreds of pictures and countless stories. Or if you prefer a signed copy, drop a note to [email protected].

[Related: “How to Survive in a Small Market“]

What’s your hack? We’re looking for ideas that can help make life as a small-market broadcaster easier and more profitable. Email [email protected].