Sunday, June 15, 2008

Radio's Split Persona

The pictures and news accounts of the Iowa floods got me thinking...

Radio, as always, in times of need and disaster steps up and provides information, help, and aid. Competing groups find common ground in order to help the communities they serve--even loaning studio space and technical assistance to competitors to help keep them on the air as was done this week in Iowa.

During disasters radio becomes relevant for both young and old. Raging waters and floods know no age. Radio is vital in times of need and that's been the case since the beginning of wireless broadcasting. This too shall pass--as the flood waters reseed and the process begins to return ones city, neighborhood, and life back to normal; radio will reseed back to "50 minutes of music this hour" with fewer interruptions and less relevancy to listeners both old and, especially, young.

So while parts of the country are trying to cope with the intense challenges put forth by Mother Nature, the rest of the country is knee deep in the summer season. Let's compare how radio stations act in times of need versus more normal times.

On the beach at Manasquan at the Jersey ShoreI am not one to live in the past, however, I can't help remembering how active radio stations used to be during the summer in years gone by. Now, before you jump on me about all your station does...I know there are active stations, very active stations, out there making friends and connecting with listeners in your part of the world. But more and more, aside from showing up at one big summer festival or event, it's business as usual for radio stations around the country.

Whether it was beach patrols, station branded ice cream trucks (still a great idea!), free weekly car washes, fireworks shows, community pool tours, or even a dopey morning show promotion I was involved with many years ago--Burgers For Breakfast! Dopey or not, it drew a lot of people, attention and listeners felt a bond with the station.

Being out in the community--shaking hands and kissing babies, as we used to say, will not be the savior of radio especially with younger listeners. But let me suggest, if your STAR talents (you have local stars on your station, right?) meet listeners face-to-face those personalities will mean more in your city.

Anyone can play songs. You don't really even need jocks to do that anymore. But personalities that communicate well, tell entertaining, funny, or meaningful stories of interest to the listeners (good enough to podcast) have a chance to go beyond being an anonymous voice on the radio that nobody cares about or relates to.

What is your station doing?

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