Expert Columns

Think about the last two or three Facebook posts you've seen today. Probably family pictures...Thanksgiving plans...maybe something about the NFL. Did you happen to notice anything related to faith? A photo with Scripture? An inspirational quote? How about someone asking for prayer?
Chances are, you'll notice religious posts frequently. That's because 20-percent of social media users share something about their faith -  according to a new report by Pew Research. (“One in Five Americans Share Their Faith Online” - Religion and Electronic Media, Pew Research, 11/6/14)
Interesting stat, right? But what does that have to do with your radio station? According to the research, that's about the same percentage of Americans who listen to Christian radio.
This is good news for your station. And a way for you to have an impact in your listeners' lives. If people are listening to your station...and sharing their faith...you have the opportunity to help them continue sharing. Here are a couple of simple ways to help:
1) Continue to engage with listeners via Facebook and Twitter. Become as much of a presence online as you are on-air.
2) Find out what your listeners are sharing and promote their feeds. Make them the star. Invite them to become regular contributors to your station's online social media sites.
3) Create content they can share. You prep for your daily show. Why not share that same material online? Create branded pins, posts, and tweets. Include your station logo and website on each one. It takes time to build these graphics, but the return is that you're building promotional materials that will share your station's message on multiple newsfeeds.
4) Promote posts on air. Got a powerful quote? Don't just read it and move on. Tell listeners they can get it on your Facebook page and share it with their friends. Make the most of your content.
One last thing about the research: Sharing faith online takes various forms – everything from Bible verses to inspirational quotes to prayers and prayer requests. You can create and share a wide variety of content. The choice is up to you. How will you connect with your listeners both online and on-air?

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and that means the next big event is not Christmas. It's Black Friday. You know, the day everyone hits the stores as early as possible to scoop up the best bargains of the season. You can bet that many of your listeners will be out there to get some of those great deals. So in light of the upcoming shopping season, here are some topics you can use as on-air conversation starters...or even ideas for your November/December promotions.
1) Impulse shopping vs. list shopping. Which is your style? (Promo idea: Give away gift cards to stores so that mom can grab some of those bargain ideas.)
2) How much is enough? How do you set limits? Do you?
3) Do you use credit cards when you shop for Christmas gifts? Why or why not? How do you keep them under control? (Talk with a financial planner and get ideas on how to control credit cards this season.)
4) Holiday charities. Do you shop for Toys for Tots? Operation Christmas Child? What does that teach your kids?
5) Do you and your spouse have different spending habits? Gift ideas? How do you work together and find a “happy medium” during the holidays? (Maybe bring in a marriage counselor to give ideas BEFORE any problems start.)
These ideas may not fit your format. Or your audience. But find ways to be relevant to your listeners this Christmas season and remind families that you are on their side.

Looking to fine-tune your message on social media? Recently web site Buffer.com posted some of the best-researched data on ideal lengths for posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs. Here are their findings:


• Twitter – The best-received Tweets come in between 71 – 100 characters. This allows followers to re-tweet your message and include their own hashtags.
• Facebook – The most-read posts are roughly 40 characters. (About the length of an e-mail headline)
• Blogs – 1,600 words. (Roughly something that can be read in 3 -to- 6 minutes.)
• YouTube Videos – 3 minutes.
• Podcasts – 22 minutes max.

(Source: Blog.BufferApp.com/Optimal Length Social
Media. 10/21/14)

A good way to think about social media is to view it with the same mindset as an on-air bit. Short, to the point, attention-getting, and engaging. But like any communication, the shorter it is, the more challenging it is to produce something that conveys a meaningful message and connects with your audience. And, really, audience is the key. As you get to know your audience better, you'll find better ways to connect with them. Remember: The key to good communication – online or on-air – is to keep it short, simple, and audience-focused.

Bill Arbuckle

Bill Arbuckle is a 25 year media veteran with a passion for helping radio stations tell their stories and strengthen their local brands.



Here we are. The first week of November. The holidays are here! While you're working on all of your promotions and events, remember to keep up with your social media messaging. Use it to remind listeners about the station's schedule...and be sure to program some original holiday content into your feeds. To help you develop some creative holiday content, here are some suggested topics:
1) Recipes! A couple of months ago, I encouraged you to begin collecting recipes. Now's the time to share them. People are looking for simple, easy-to-make holiday dishes...and you can help. But don't just share anything. Ask your staff for family favorites...or have local moms send in their “best of” holiday recipes.
2) Holiday Scripture. Scripture is still one of the best things to share on Facebook and Pinterest. Especially when you overlay the text on an appropriate photo or image.
3) Weather and Driving Tips. Families are headed all over: From cross-country to across town to get the the mall. Help them reach their destination safely. Post reminders about safe travel tips, stuff to pack in the car during bad weather, and best traffic routes to get around town. Don't forget that weather report or storm reports are helpful.
4) Photos of Local Decorations. People go all-out decorating for the holidays. So invite them to snap a few photos and send to your station. Or, send your team out to take photos of local displays.
5) Make “Throwback Thursday” All About Gifts and Celebrations. Got some old photos of unwrapping that Bionic Man action figure from the 70's? Show it off! Invite listeners to post some of their Christmas memories on your site.
Holidays are a great time to build community and to celebrate the good gifts God has given us. Use these next few weeks as a time to build relationships with your listeners and celebrate with you.

The next couple of months are going to be a blur of activity. Families are rushing to get everything from Halloween treats to turkey dinners and Christmas presents. Your staff is likely working on some major projects...and there's a lot to be done. So while you're making plans, make sure to start thinking about your year-end giving campaign.
Last week, we talked about some of the initial planning ideas. This week, as promised, we'll talk about setting a timeline for your campaign. And, by the way, I realize that year-end giving isn't the only thing going on during this time of year, so feel free to use as little – or as much – of the suggested timeline.
To help maximize your message, I recommend an eight-week timeframe that begins Monday, November 3.
WEEK 1: (Week of November 3) Plan the basics – Determine the objective (What are you asking for), set your message (What will you say), and plan which channels you'll use to distribute the message (On-air, direct mail, e-mail, social).
WEEK 2:  (Week of November 10) Set the launch date and write the copy. Write all of the key copy you'll need. Yes, this will take a full day. While you're working on it, draft your first direct mail piece and prepare to send it this coming week.
WEEK 3: (Week of November 17) Send your first direct mail piece on Monday. It will arrive at homes on Wednesday – a week before Thanksgiving. By mailing it on Monday, you'll give listeners time to think and respond before the holiday rush. At the same time you mail, start your on-air campaign. This should be something that refers to the letter, and begins the ask.
WEEK 4: (Week of November 24) This is Thanksgiving week, so listeners will be traveling or finalizing holiday plans. Keep the message consistent through the week so that listeners are aware of the need. Also keep in mind that this Friday is Black Friday and people will be out shopping. Use Friday to remind about the benefits of year-end giving.
WEEK 5: (Week of November 30) Monday is Cyber Monday. People will be online to snag some great deals. While they're online, direct them to drop by your web site and make a year-end donation! Also, start to increase the ask. Don't forget to share your message on all outbound channels: On-air, web, social media, e-mail and direct mail.
WEEK 6: (Week of December 7) Listeners are in full-on holiday mode. Office parties, kids' school presentations, and gift buying. Make sure your year-end giving message is getting high priority. If you are sending direct mail, drop your second ask this week. Use your station e-mails and weekly newsletters to highlight the year-end giving campaign.
WEEK 7: (Week of December 14) Heavy rotation of your year-end giving ask. All outbound channels should be highlighting the message. This is the biggest week for pre-Christmas asks.
WEEK 8: (Week of December 24) After Christmas Day, your primary focus is the year-end giving message. Use all outbound channels (On-air, e-mail, web, social) to share the message and remind listeners that they can make a tax-deductible donation. Some listeners will be out making last-minute drop offs at the local Goodwill or Salvation Army, so encourage them to come by the station.
WEEK 8.5 (Week of December 29) Don't forget that you have Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week to share the year-end giving message. Make the most of it!
FINAL THOUGHT: Over the years, I've found the greatest challenge to year end giving is this: I'm not the only one asking. Other non-profits are doing the same thing, and the danger is that listeners get weary of hearing the same message. So make your year-end giving message stand out. Find a positive, unique way to cut through the clutter and invite your listeners to share in the work of your station.

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