My teenage son just issued the challenge: publish a short story on Wattpad.
I didn't know much about Wattpad – and don't really know where to start – but that's part of the challenge. We're daring each other to try something new. Something uncomfortable. Something that helps us grow our skills and use our gifts. Something that helps us connect.
He started the challenge by writing a story and then asking how to record it. As a radio guy, I'm thrilled to share some of the craft … but I never saw his challenge coming!
I've accepted his challenge – in part because it's something fun I can share with my son – but also because I need the nudge. The dare. The push to try something new, something uncomfortable.
Why am I sharing a personal challenge when there are so many big issues that need to be addressed? Because we all need a push. We all need to learn. To find new ways to grow our skills and learn new mediums to connect with audiences.
Our world gets the need to grow and build new connections. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently suggested that his social media platform can share “fill the void left by decreasing religious participation.” (The Foster Letter/Religious Market Update, 7/10/17) The social media mogul explained his desire to reach out. “It's so striking that for decades membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one-quarter. That's a lot of people who now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.”
Zuckerberg's words are as much a challenge to me as my son's dare. If we're not filling the void … if we're not shining a light … if we're not telling good stories … then who will?
So I'm accepting the challenge. And now I'm daring you. Try something new this summer. Learn a new platform. A new skill. Connect with a new audience. Shine a light. Fill the void.
I dare you.
What's the next big promotion on your calendar? You've probably got Back to School events listed somewhere close to the top. As you start planning, here are a few ideas that can help you get ready for the new school year.
1) Ask this question: What can we do to become our listeners' number one resource for Back to School? The answer to that might take a good bit of work. That's why it's important to start now. Maybe you take the time to reach out to school principals and administrators to offer your station's services. Post announcements on your social media channels. Dedicate a section of your web site to school resources – calendars, shopping lists and school supply needs.
2) Promote student health and safety: Let's face it, today's students face some unusually tough issues. Cyber-bullying is one of those issues. Immaturity and social media make for a volatile mix. Maybe we can do something to help. Feature some interviews and podcasts with experts who can help parents guide their kids through some rough waters. What other topics can you address?
3) Use your social media channels to get moms connected. Invite your local MOPS group to host a live online chat. Turn your Twitter feed into an encouragement channel – ask parents to share what keeps them going.
4) Talk about nutrition – What recipes or power snacks help students thrive throughout the school year. Bonus points for anything that steers kids way from Monster drinks and Red Bull!
5) Promote clothing exchanges, school supply drives or other events that offer free – or reduced cost – supplies. Mom will love you for showing her ways to save money. Contact churches and community groups who host these types of events and help them with promotions.
You can't do everything. But you can look for ways to show listeners that you care about their kids. Parents – especially moms – will appreciate knowing that you're a on their side as they get started in the coming school year.
Molly McKenna is Director of Brand and PR Engagement for fast-food giant McDonalds. In her role, she's tackled a wide range of problems and promotions – everything from national promotions to backlash about food preparation. But in every situation, she sticks to five simple practices to motivate people to respond to the McDonalds' message, no matter what it may be. Her ideas may help you as you plan your next promotion or fundraising event.
1) Meet people where they are. It's not enough to know who your audience is. You need to know know where they live and hang out – both in-person and online. And then, take your message to where they are.
2) Work into their existing routines. When does your audience check social media? When do they log in to check email? When are they in the car? Work your message – and its timing – into these routines.
3) Make it compelling. Boring campaigns are boring … no matter who plans and promotes them. Boring prizes, boring giveaways and boring benefits don't spur people to take action.
4) No extra steps. Is your message or promotion too complex? Does it require a lot of extra work just to register? No one has the time or patience to jump through all the hoops. Keep your message and calls-to-action simple.
5) Make it functional. Does your promotion have a point? Is it easy to understand? Can your audience take action right away? Or do you need to refine and simplify the message?
You invest time and effort in each message or promotion you put together for your audience. Make sure they know what you are saying, where to find the information and how to put that message into action. Molly McKenna's five steps will help you do just that.
You've heard the old saying about advertising: “Sell the sizzle … not the steak.” The best part of any promotion – on air or online – is creating anticipation – the “sizzle.” Anticipation is a key element to every promotion. People want to get excited about a product or an event, and it's your job to keep that level of anticipation going strong throughout the entire promotion.
Here are four simple ideas you can use to get people interested and encourage them to buy into your promotion:
1) Offer a sneak peek. Whether you're promoting an upcoming concert, inviting people to tune in to an interview or purchase a new, exciting offer, do this: get them hooked by giving them a sneak peek into your promotion. It can be as simple as airing a snippet of an interview, linking to a video or posting part of a book chapter online. Give people an advance preview of your promotion.
2) Inside knowledge. People really like knowing what's going on behind the scenes. We want to know something that no one else knows. So offer some “top secret” info about your next promotion. Maybe you're sharing an exclusive interview … or behind-the-scenes photos. Invite people to see “the man behind the curtain. They can't resist.
3) Build some FOMO. What's FOMO? Fear of Missing Out. It's why we have operators standing by right now. Why you have to fund the Kickstarter before midnight. Why the best concert seats cost so much. People don't want to miss the next big thing. Urgency works. Scarcity sells. Does your promotion have something irresistible? Maybe you should add some FOMO to your next event.
4) Give people ownership. Kickstarter is a prime example of ownership in action. We want something … we're promised something … but we have to do something to make it happen. And when we fund the Kickstarter, when we put some “sweat equity” into a product or promoton, we're likely to see it through to the end. This is what makes charity funding events work. But there's a catch: we need to see the payoff. It's not enough to throw time or money at a problem. People like to see results: photos, letters, videos, news reports … they're all an important part of completing the circle of ownership. People are more likely to support your project the next time if you give them tangible proof that their ownership efforts pay off.
Add anticipation – sell the sizzle – in your next promotion. Give people something to look forward and you'll cut through the clutter and capture their attention.
What if a tragedy struck your town? What if your staff had to get information to the public – quickly – to direct listeners away from problem areas?
We pray that it never happens, yet no city is immune from terror attacks, home-grown radicals or just plain-old natural disasters. So take the time to put an emergency communications plan into place. Here are a few suggestions:
1) Start with your staff. Make sure your team has everyone's contact info and knows who to call during a crisis.
2) Designate one key contact person and a back-up. Make sure everyone runs all communications through the key contact so that your entire team stays on message and keeps all communications consistent. Now is not the time to be a wild card. Stay on message.
3) Make community connections before disasters happen. Don't just know the right Twitter feeds to scan … get to know the people behind the feeds: public information officers, local lawmakers, safety officials and religious leaders.
4) Know your audience and the information they need. In a time of crisis, you need to become the expert on the information your audience needs right now.
5) Plan follow-up information. How will you help the community once the incident has passed? What information do your listeners need in order to resume their daily lives?
Plan now so that you can help your team and your community when disaster happens.