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The ‘Secret Sauce’ of a Successful Radiothon

CBS Radio-Philadelphia’s Marc Rayfield talks about successful engagement with the community

Radio World recently caught up with Marc Rayfield, the senior vice president/ market manager for CBS Radio-Philadelphia, to talk about why he believes the 98.1 WOGL(FM) Loves Our Kids Radiothon and the WIP EYP/City Year Eagles Radiothon are so successful year after year.

Rayfield believes that there are several key ingredients that make up what he considers to be the “secret sauce” that has allowed CBS Radio-Philadelphia to raise $658,270 for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and $223,150 for the Eagles Youth Partnership/City Year charities.

Rayfield’s advice for stations interested in hosting radiothons is simple and direct: be specific and be strategic.

He explains that WOGL(FM) and WIP(AM/FM) each host radiothons that resonate with their audiences. Rayfield characterizes the Eagles as Philadelphia’s most visible brand and credits that for much of the radiothon’s success. He also says that CHOP, as one of the best children’s hospitals worldwide, has universal appeal.

At WIP, the sports talk station, it makes sense that listeners would connect with a charity, the Eagles Youth Partnership, that partners with their favorite football team. The radiothon is able to leverage the Eagles’ brand because the team cooperates and participates by sending in top players, as well as Coach Andy Reid to give interviews and to auction off unique experiences through the team.

When WOGL does its radiothon for the Children’s Miracle Network at CHOP, the hospital sends in doctors, like a leading pediatric oncologist, to help highlight the good that the fundraiser hopes to do. As a classic rock station, he explains, most of their listeners are parents, so the hospital’s cause is one that their audience relates to easily.

“If we didn’t work with these organizations, we probably wouldn’t get the same response,” Rayfield said.

He also cautions realistic expectations. “First of all, it doesn’t happen overnight. The numbers now are not the numbers from our first year.”

This was also the first year that the two radiothons coincided. Rayfield explained that the Eagles radiothon was moved to early September to capitalize on the enthusiasm that comes with the beginning of football season. This change emphasizes the station’s awareness of their community and what listeners will respond to.

Rayfield says that, not surprisingly, the station’s buy-in is also important to the radiothons’ successes. “The talent look forward to helping the community. But it’s all predicated on how we do it. They don’t want it to be 36 hours of tears. We weave it in and out of what we do here on a daily basis.”

Also important, Rayfield says that each radio station only does one radiothon per year, focusing all the attention on the annual event and not overwhelming listeners with regular pleas for support.

Rayfield also recognizes that CBS’s widespread presence throughout the Philly community is crucial. He says their website is the second largest local portal for the Philadelphia market, and the stations are able to leverage that, in addition to bringing in their TV and other radio stations. “We’re able to cross promote on all platforms,” he explains.

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