Monday, November 28, 2011

Engaging Your Audience - Holiday Greeting Line and Listener Calendar Contests

Today I've got two ways you can engage your audience; get them to be more active participants in your station and, both directly and by example, increase your fundraising totals as engaged listeners are more likely to be donating listeners.
  1. On-Air Holiday "Shout Outs" or Greetings.
  2. Listener Calendar Contests.
More, after the break...

First, is timely, simple and easy:  holiday "shout-outs".  This idea is cheap and easy to do.  Set up a phone number at your shop to go straight to voicemail.  Promote the number on-air as the "Holiday Greeting Line", and tell listeners they can call it, leave a recorded greeting to whomever they like...friends, family, etc...and you'll broadcast them throughout the holiday season.

Added bonus: if your station is near a military base or your broadcast area is otherwise associated with the military, make sure you market this directly to local military families.  Public recognition of military service is always a winner.

Consider using Google Voice to get a "vanity" number if possible.  (or, if you're on a college campus, the Campus Telco dep't may be able to help as well)  Something in your local area code that spells out "HOLIDAY" (465-4329) or "GREETINGS" (473-3846) or something like that.  Or even a toll-free number if you're so inclined (that might kill any ROI on this, though...toll free numbers can get expensive very quickly)   Not sure what number/word combo to use?  Experiment using

Make sure you have the number noticeably featured on your website's homepage as well, and devote a page to it so you can give specific guidelines as to what listeners should say in a holiday greeting and how to record it.  See for an idea of how to do this simply and effectively.  Don't worry that people won't follow the guidelines; many won't.  But it's good to give people specific guidance, especially since a lot of callers may never have called a radio station before, much less said something that they know will ultimately be on the air.   It might be second nature to you, but intimidating to them.  Clear guidelines and suggestions can be most helpful to them.

What guidelines?  It'll vary from station to station, format to format, but I would start with:

  • Say who you are, include your full name if you like.  Or just your first name / nickname.
  • Say who you're giving a holiday greeting to.  Again, full names or just first/nicknames are fine.
  • Mention the specific holiday, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Birthday, etc.  Or just "seasons greetings" or "happy holidays".
  • Keep your greetings short - 30 seconds and under.
  • Feel free to re-record your greeting if you didn't like it the first time.  Practice makes perfect!
  • Station reserves the right to edit any and all greetings for time/content.
  • No mentions of businesses or organizations.  (adjust as needed)
Remember to adhere to the principles of OES in promoting the Holiday Greeting Line.  If you don't have lots of greetings, the overall broadcast product will be weak.   Have friends, family and co-workers at the station all record greetings if necessary.  Or even make some up out of thin air if you have to; a successful-sounding Holiday Greeting Line will ultimately attract more callers.

Second, next summer, host a "listener calendar contest".  This idea requires more work and more risk that it won't have a Return On Investment, but nevertheless will help a lot to establish a rapport with your listening audience.  It also works better for stations based at a college campus with a prominent bookstore, and works best for regions where there's either a lot of natural beauty and/or inherently a lot of interesting, artsy events happening.

Around mid to late spring, start running announcements (remember OES!) soliciting photos from listeners.  They need to be publisher-grade, high resolution.   The subjects of the photos can be whatever you want to encourage, but don't be too specific - let your listeners decide what's worthy of being photographed.

Set up a form for listeners to download and complete off your website, and then email to you with the picture attached as a JPG or whatever. The "contest" part is that whoever's pictures are chosen gets a free calendar and the pride of helping support their favorite local radio station.  Plus their work highlighted in a calendar that'll be sold as a fundraising tool for your station.

While you're soliciting entries, your underwriting staff can also be soliciting sponsorships of the calendars.  That'll help defray any production costs.  Also, make sure you arrange with the campus bookstore, any local bookstores or curio shops, and any local FedEx Offices or UPS Stores, to sell some of your calendars on consignment.   Plan for each to take a dozen.

If sponsorship dollars didn't defray the production costs (or even if they did) it's okay to sell your calendar at something of a premium...$5 to $10 over normal the whole point is that people aren't just buying a calendar; they're supporting your station.   Just make sure it's marketed accordingly; don't rely on the bookstore clerks to get that point across for you...put it right on the packaging.

I recommend you also sell your calendar online via since even though you probably won't sell all that many calendars online, you never know...AND you don't want the hassle of processing the orders and shipping product yourself.  Unless, of course, you already have a membership department large enough to handle such things.   In which case you can save a few bucks by ordering in bulk and processing all phone/online orders in-house.

You can see an example of a "Listener Calendar Contest" run last year at WEOS at

The deadline for contest entries should be sometime in mid- to late-July, as most stores start selling calendars around August.  Remember to leave time for production and distribution!   And don't forget to promote sales of the calendar on your airwaves starting in August and September, and then with another push for the holidays starting just before Thanksgiving (when people might be thinking of getting a calendar as a holiday gift).

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