Monday, October 20, 2008

On Christian Radio...(this post is fourteen pages long)


I say that because it would be really easy to read these observations and get the wrong idea.

No, this post is about marketing.

My saving grace here is that I like Christian Radio. I listen to it regularly and have a deep appreciation for those who make it happen.

So before we get to the observations, let me give you a little back-story.

Tyler has a lot of Christian radio stations. At least it seems like a lot to a guy from Lufkin. But without a doubt, the most popular station is KVNE, 89.5.

It's a great station...the DJs know their jobs, they play great music, there's a lot of scripture (which I dig,) and the production level is excellent. Not to mention the fact that their Sunday morning worship show is really great!

A few weeks ago, KVNE and their sister station did one of their two yearly fundraisers. And I have to say I was amazed at what I heard.

The KVNE fundraiser sounded exactly like fundraisers back home in Lufkin. I knew the the Lufkin station had patterned it's fundraising after a station in Houston, but I thought that was just a fluke thing. Then I get to Tyler and the fundraiser sounds the same.

If you'll allow me, let me share with you some observations I had listening to the radio fundraiser. Be warned that I'm going to put down the observations in the most honest way I can, to let you know how it went in my head. I'll try to make sense of all these later in the post.

OBSERVATION #1 - They don't sound like themselves.
Why do Christian radio stations suddenly break every rule they've ever had when it's time to raise money? Seriously, it's like the manager is out of town and they're doing everything they can to destroy the station.

Your station would normally never dream of filling the lobby with 15 people, opening all the doors and running a microphone back there so we can hear the volunteers laughing, talking, answering phones non-stop.

DJs hate dead-air. They normally move smoothly from one thing to the other. But not in a fundraiser! Forgot a paper back in the fear! Just leave the microphone. We'll wait for you!

This first observation really struck me as odd - if you're trying to get people to support what you do, why in the world would you spend 4 days doing everything opposite of what you "normally do"?

OBSERVATION #2 - They want me to come by the station.
Why is "stopping by" such a big deal in these money raising campaigns? The DJs are constantly saying stuff like "Come, see us; WE ARE HAVING A BLAST OVER HERE!"

I got stuff to do, man. Why in the world would I drive to your radio station just to stand around and eat donuts? Is it really fun over there? 'Cause I've got errands to do. often does your Christian station normally want you to drive over and have coffee with them?

Probably not very often.

I believe there is a giant sound effects "machine" in the radio booth. In my mind, it's kept under a lock-and-key all year long until a fundraising campaign comes around. Then, a station manager comes by wearing a long, silver key around his neck. He slowly opens the door to the sound effect machine and steps back quickly as the DJ hungrily descends.

That's how I imagine it, because DJs go crazy with the sound effects in these deals. How come I never hear bleeps and bloops and Homer Simpson zingers and fake applause and the Flintstones all year long? If they're funny now, aren't they funny always?

Lock and key. That's all I'm saying.

OBSERVATION #4 - The Magic Phone
This has to be my favorite consistent thing among stations. The Magic Phone.

The Magic Phone is, essentially, the "last" phone. The station has a set number of lines and the Magic Phone will only ring if all the other lines are busy. It's a way of motivating folks to get on the line and make a donation.

Hearing the magic phone becomes a big deal, as it is such a rare occurence. But when that baby rings, the volunteers in the lobby and the visitors in the studio and the sound effects machine all go nuts.
This entire concept - the complete reversal of normal operating procedure baffles me. To my mind, I would think if you want people to support what you do, then you show them how you do it.

I recently took all these thoughts to work and happened upon a guy named Dan Bolin. Dan is a member at Bethel Bible church. He's also the former station manager of KVNE, 89.5.

So, I took my suspicions to him. I asked him why everybody sounds the same during fundraising; I asked him if it was really a proven marketing move. I ask him if stations are told, taught and given stats to prove that this opposite-mode of promotion works to raise money.

And Dan said, "absolutely."

And that's the part I can't figure out. It is foreign to me. I guess I can partially understand that turning your station upside down gives listeners a peek into the personalities of the DJs - that it would seem more relational.

But beyond that, I still don't see how this wild-and-crazy mode of money-raising works better than just being yourself. Maybe "different' is always good, huh?

How many of you listen to Christian radio? Have you heard any of these things I'm talking about?


Todd Hinkie said...

It might help to think about this marketing tool the same way we already think about having an Open House to sell a home.

We do things we would never think about if we didn't have a clear goal right in front of us-- selling our home.

We put signs on the street corners inviting strangers to simply come on in to our "Open House,"(where they can have free food we've purchased)... we keep things meticulously picked up because we might have to jump in the car and vacate at a moment's notice w/all the kids (roam around WalMart or something for a few hours...)...and even though we'd NEVER put a political sign in the yard, we put a nice big one out there with a tube containing flyers for all who care to stop by.

Weird, in one way, but a proven tool that works better than sending out emails to friends listing the home as a FSBO and waiting for someone to come ring the doorbell to buy. So we consider it normal.

I submit that on-air fundraising for listener-supported stations like KVNE and KGLY works the same way. And it works... the Board of Directors and staff now know they can pay the utility bills and employ the gifted members of the Body needed to keep the ministry alive, thanks to the PraiseShare effort and over $180K that we all gave and/or pledged.

I agree w/you that marketing can be a real head-scratcher at times-- regardless of the "product" we're getting the word out about.

BTW, thanks for the recommendations last week in Lufkin-- I got to see both Donnie Griggs and Al Ross on Thursday-- thank you!

Robert Conn said...

I think it is there way of proving to the people that they are real people.

"See we really do exist. Like in real-life! Can't you tell? Listen, I'll drop my coffee cup and you will hear it hit the floor... all LIVE, then you will write us a check for $90."

Todd Wright said...

A check for $90 is funny stuff.

oldfart said...

Or at least a monthly commitment of $7.50

Artie said...

My wife Donna used to work as a district director for the Muscular Dystrophy Association years ago.

All things mentioned are all things done every year at telethon. She scripted and produced the annual Telethon for Lufkin and later Beaumont (the local segments..the ones that really bring in the money). The magic phone.. appeals...inviting people to come and drop off all sounds so eerily familiar to me.

Makes sense to me.. doesn't mean I want to listen to a radio version of it. I still think some fine tuning to the whole thing could make it oh so much better.