KOGM(FM) in Opelousas, La., owned by Delta Media, announces birthdays every hour, every weekday morning.
Midwest Communications station WIKY(FM) in Evansville, Ind., runs the Donut Bank Kid’s Birthday Club. “Just enter your birthdays in the form below. We’ll announce birthdays every weekday morning at 7:05 and award a birthday cake from Donut Bank!”
WITZ(AM/FM) in Jasper, Ind., licensed to Jasper on the Air Inc., invites listeners to “let WITZ announce your new ‘bundle of joy’ on the air! Just click on the link below, print out the release form, and fax or mail it to WITZ.” Let’s consider the special moments in your life that you share with extended family and the closest of friends. These highly-charged, emotional get-togethers typically celebrate or commemorate life-cycle events. Marriages, new babies, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, military promotions, holiday greetings to loved ones, or even get-well wishes for someone with a serious illness — all show a willingness and commitment on the station’s part to be a member of the community.
While milestones are the most meaningful and memorable activities in our lives, they are rarely reflected in any meaningful way on modern local radio.
On-air reflection of these cherished memories has gone the way of the lost-dog announcement. While I’m not suggesting that we annoy the public at large with details about where Fido was last seen, localism has to involve emotional connections we make with listeners. To that end, one path to examine is how your station might better connect with listeners who are experiencing the most vibrant — or most challenging — times of their lives.
Your training may have taught you that only small-town radio can successfully mention names and personal life cycle events on-air. But that assumption will limit your thinking on how to approach this challenge.
If you wouldn’t hesitate to mention the name of one contest winner on a big station in a major city, why would you shy away from congratulating a couple on an anniversary, or mention a high school graduation ceremony involving hundreds of kids?
Listeners have stopped calling radio stations to tell us about their birthdays or ask us to congratulate a spouse about an anniversary because we’ve stopped transmitting this personal news in any meaningful or consistent way. If we never congratulate people on the air for getting married, why in the world would they ever let us know that such a momentous occasion has occurred?
It takes effort and commitment to amplify personal events on-air on a regular basis. Your on-air staff first needs permission and then guidelines on how best to work in the content. You may even want to keep a daily log to determine how often you’re actually executing against this tactic so you can tell if there’s enough frequency for listeners even to notice that you’re doing it. Be sure to determine how much of this information should sound live and what should actually be produced.
News and talk broadcasters will certainly want to take a different approach than music-based stations. A man- or woman-about-town could do a feature on upcoming weddings, local awards or people who have helped others who are struggling with life.
Did a group of co-workers come together this past weekend to volunteer at your area food bank? Take 20 seconds to recognize them and their company by name, and it’s easy to solicit others to get involved. Whatever the size of your community, you have just made your station a caring part of it.
A CAUTION ABOUT DATA
If you decide to capture personal data on your website or social media platforms, it’s important that you understand age restrictions.
While it’s fine to wish a kid happy birthday on the air, it’s not okay to ask young children to disclose their name, age, email address, home address and other details without parental permission. The International Association of Privacy Professionals states, “In the United States, since the passage of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in 1998 and the Federal Trade Commission’s subsequent COPPA Rule in 2000, there have been specific rules regarding the collection of data from children under 13.”
Check with your attorney for details about this and other legal considerations involved when gathering data about listeners.
— Mark Lapidus
Naysayers may claim that this on-air approach is meaningless today because of social sharing. It is true that with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you probably know as much as (or more than) you want to about the lives of your friends and family.
However, as ubiquitous as social sharing has become, the quantity of people reached is of an entirely different nature and is still on a very small scale. Embrace localism more than ever and don’t allow media writers to define broadcasting as meaningless or old in today’s new media world.
There is still something very special about letting your entire community share collectively via radio. You have the power. Use it or lose it!
Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. Contact him at[email protected].