Radio is at it's best when it stirs the imagination. Take, for instance, radio's best-known Halloween prank. On Sunday, October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater of the air pranked a million listeners with the broadcast of “War of the Worlds.”
While the stories of widespread panic and mass hysteria are largely the stuff of legend, the news-report style of the show had many convinced that someone...somewhere...Martians, maybe...had invaded the United States.
The “War of the Worlds” broadcast was a masterful mix of writing, production and storytelling. Actors played their parts – from the “Secretary of the Interior” to the daring “reporters” who delivered updates from the front lines of the alien invasion – sometimes narrating their own demise:
Streets are all jammed. Noise in crowds like New Year's Eve in the city. Wait a minute . . . Enemy now in sight above the Palisades. Five -- five great machines. First one is crossing river. I can see it from here, wading the Hudson like a man wading through a brook . . . Now the first machine reaches the shore. He stands watching, looking over the city. His steel, cowlish head is even with the skyscrapers. He waits for the others. They rise like a line of new towers on the city's west side . . . Now they're lifting their metal hands. This is the end now. Smoke comes out . . . black smoke, drifting over the city. People in the streets see it now. They're running towards the East River . . . thousands of them, dropping in like rats. Now the smoke's spreading faster. It's reached Times Square. People trying to run away from it, but it's no use. They're falling like flies. Now the smoke's crossing Sixth Avenue . . . Fifth Avenue . . . one hundred yards away . . . it's fifty feet . . .
But all of that happened long ago. What does an almost-eighty-year-old Halloween prank have to do with today's Christian radio ministry?
Simply this: radio is at it's best when it stirs the imagination. And it's what can set you apart from the rest of the pack. Everyone reports the same traffic and weather. Everyone plays a mix of the same songs. But not every jock or personality can make me feel the emotion of a song. Or the frustration of the morning rush. Or a thousand other things. But you can speak the truth in a way that's engaging and compelling. You do it by using words and emotions that pique my interest and challenge me to engage with your message.
We're near the end of October. So take time to listen to radio's best Halloween prank and let your imagination be stirred by listening to the old “War of the Worlds” broadcast. Enjoy some good, solid storytelling. Then get back on the air, stir some imaginations and create some great radio.
(Attribution: Script from the “War of the Worlds” adapted by Howard E. Koch, 1938)
The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year, but it's also one of the best times of the year to promote your station. So before you head out on a remote, a toy drive, or a Thanksgiving marathon, review this checklist to make the most of your station promotions.
• Give your entire staff a one page description of the event. Include the Who, What, Where, When, and Why. Add important phone numbers for key contacts including the host at the site.
• Line up all messaging on-air and on-line. Taking the time to coordinate your communications allows you to reach your audience on their platform of choice: live broadcast, web, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
• Think about the remote as a chance to gather audio testimonials, photos, and quotes from your audience. Use these in other promotions, direct mail pieces, or online posts.
• Fill your promo box/bucket. Make sure you're well-stocked with stickers, station guides, pens, entry forms and giveaways.
• Check your equipment. Does it work? Do you need extra batteries? Memory cards?
• Does everyone on your team have station gear or name tags?
• Bring your cellphone charger. Otherwise, your phone will die at the worst moment possible.
Remember that today's radio remotes can be much more than a couple of call-ins to the station. They can become multi-platform events that reach audiences on the medium of their choice. Make every effort to keep people excited and interested in your station.
Bill Arbuckle is a media and marketing pro with over twenty-five years experience in creating media promotions.
He is a Colorado Springs-based morning show co-host and writer. You can connect with him at
So you're writing a promotions campaign and you want people to support a local ministry that helps the homeless. How do you get listeners to take action?
Here's the answer: Give them very specific instructions.
Seems like a trite answer, but there's much more to it than you'd think. Such as:
1) Determine what you want people to think, feel and do. If you want people to support the local homeless ministry, then take them inside the life of a homeless person. Don't just give a couple of stats about homelessness... tell people what it's like to try to stay warm at night by sleeping in a pile of newspapers. Then explain that a gift of five dollars buys a heavy-duty blanket. Finally, give them an action they can complete on their smart phone.
2) Keep it simple. People can't handle complexity. But they can handle basic instructions. "Give five dollars at HomelessMinistry.com" is easy to process. "Give five, ten, twenty-five or fifty dollars," means listeners have to make decisions about whether to give, how much to give and how much money is in my bank account. Too many options means no decision ever gets made.
3) Remember that timing is key to a response. Most people have the attention of a goldfish. That means you have to make a point, drive people to a decision, and get them to take action in about eight seconds.
A good call to action consists of simple, clear instructions. Make it easy for people to respond and you'll see results.
Bill Arbuckle CMW
As Christian communicators, we have the honor of telling the greatest story ever told. But our world is noisy. How do we cut through the clutter to share our message?
If it's true that people see thousands of messages each day, how can we make sure the truth of God's Word and His love rises above all other messages?
The answer is two-fold: First, to that we're not the first generation to ever deal with a noisy world. And secondly, to look to how others have succeeded in sharing God's truth. In the middle half of the last century, author C.S. Lewis shared his thoughts on how to spread the Gospel message. His words are still good for today:
“We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way round. Our Faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defense of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian.” (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock)
What opportunities do you have today to tell little stories? To write little books? To share the simple truths of the Gospel in small but powerful ways? Small stories can make a big difference.
Bill Arbuckle CMW
How do you measure results when you're writing spots, Facebook posts and promo pieces? As our sponsors, advertisers or donors request more data and proof of performance, it's important to know how to write for results. So before you sit down to write up your next flight of ads or sponsor appeals, take time to ask - and answer - these three questions:
1) What do I need to accomplish? In media, we're always taught that the first question to ask is, "Who is my audience?" But before you ask that question, you need to answer the basic question, "What do I need to accomplish?" What is the advertiser asking you to do? Why is she asking for that result? What do you need to do to achieve that result? Know what it is that you need to do before you sit down to write.
2) Who is my audience? You may think you know about your audience...but do you know them personally? When was the last time you sat down and talked to a real, live person in your target audience...and not just to ask what she likes about your station?
3) What do I want my audience to think, feel or do as a result of my message? Now we're talking real, specific behaviors and actions that can be measured. What do you want your audience to think about your latest fund-raising appeal? Why do you want them to feel that way? What one specific action should they take to act on that feeling?
Answer these three questions before you write. You'll find that the answers will focus your creativity and result in strong calls to action that listeners can't miss.