Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Season of Caring…in Troubled Times

We’re pretty lucky to be working in this format. Country listeners are some of the most community-oriented and charity-minded people out there. We’ve seen time and time again how they’ll answer the call for help, no matter how great the need. It’s also true that we’re living in an age when many of our listeners are worried about how they’re going to pay for their next bag of groceries or tank of gas. So how do we reconcile those two realities?

This question came up in a recent brainstorming session PD John Paul led at KUPL-FM/Portland, Ore. I was there for the meeting and was glad that this issue came up. Especially with the holidays just around the corner, we want to find ways to help our listeners help those in need – and feel good about themselves – and, especially in these troubled times, do so without breaking the bank. I think this presents us with an opportunity for a real win-win situation. Or, depending on the example, a real win-win-win situation.

Our challenge is to find worthy causes and then find no- or low-cost ways to connect our listeners to those causes. It’s also our challenge to make listeners feel like their contributions are valuable, no matter how big or small those contributions might be. It’d be tough for any one of us to cure hunger or homelessness on our own (although we’d probably all like to have a $700 billion bailout at our disposal), but if we each contribute one can of food or one article of clothing, pretty soon we’ll make a meaningful dent in a problem in our own communities. We can do just that by organizing food drives and clothing drives. We can also make it so listeners need donate nothing more than their time, volunteering at soup kitchens, women’s shelters, homeless shelters, etc.

I think those are all nice win-win examples: Our listeners get to feel good about doing good, and one or more organizations in our community will get some much-needed help. But what about a win-win-win? That was my favorite idea that came out of this meeting. The triple-win is where a sponsor donates (for example) $1 for every person through their door who mentions our radio station. That’s it. It doesn’t matter that not every one of those listeners will buy a car/TV/washing machine/shirt/mop/hamburger/whatever from that business. We don’t sell cars and washing machines; they do. What we’re doing is driving verifiable traffic to their store so that they have the opportunity to sell whatever it is they sell, while not stretching our listeners any more than they’re already being stretched. And they both get to be community heroes at the same time. That’s why it’s a win-win-win: Our listeners still get to feel good about doing good, one or more organizations in our community will still get some much-needed help, PLUS, our station gets to show a client a solid return on their investment.

Change the details as you see fit to make this work for your station, your market and your client. It’ll no doubt take the right advertiser to sign up for this kind of deal, but we already know we’ve got the right kind of listeners.

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