I always enjoyed taking the interns out for pizza late in the summer before they all fled back to their dorms, and thank them for their hard work but also pick their brains for ideas. They hadn’t been in Radio long enough to get screwed up or have their minds polluted with “This is how stuff is done because this is the way we’ve always done it” thought-boxes.
I’d ask them about events and contests and remotes and procedures and what would they do differently? How would they make it better? And they never ever let me down and I think really helped the stations improve as we moved forward.
The best idea I ever heard was from an intern named Katie who suggested that the station have water coolers and free water at the State Fair booth. “Everything here is so expensive, you can drop $20 before you get in the gate, it’s always so bleeping hot. It would get people to stop at the booth for a moment and maybe get introduced to the DJ’s and the music.”
Brilliant. Freaking brilliant. And NO Radio Person would have ever suggested something as insane and reckless and dangerous as free Dixie cups of water.
The station implemented it the next year and it was a homerun.
“Creating” a contest or an event or a promotion is an exercise in problem solving. If you asked a plumber, a stay-at-home parent, an Uber driver, a firefighter, a medical professional, a landscaper and a Program Director to come up with an idea on how to keep quarantined families entertained, you would not have anything remotely similar being offered as ideas. Which goes a long way towards explaining why most radio stations all do the same stuff.
I’ve always had a go-to focus group of non-Radio friends that I can hit up on Messenger and ask, as an example, “One of the casinos wants to do something on social media that would get people to sign up for their Players Club…help!” and I’ll get a dozen great suggestions.
About five or six years ago one of the groups got supremely screwed by a label. Even the label basically said “Yeah, we fucked ya.” So as a make-good, they were offered Katy Perry for ANYTHING. “Just tell us what you want her to do.”
As expected the ideas that the team came up with were all “Radio” ideas. Have Katy Perry sing in our performance room. Have Katy Perry go and perform in a listeners backyard. Have Katy Perry come and do an acoustic show at a club.
I hit up my groups of 18-49 F friends and not one of them wanted to see Katy Perry sing. They LOVED her, but what they wanted was an experience with her. For them, “hanging” with Katy Perry would be the biggest moment of their lives.
One of the women wanted to have a marshmallow gun fight with her. One wanted to go shopping with her. One wanted to go clubbing with her. One wanted to get matching ink with her. One wanted to go to circus school with her. And on and on.
So, my suggestion is that Facebook is a great facilitator of research. It makes focus grouping 30 non-Radio friends with “Hey, Brad Paisley wants to do something creative on Zoom” instant and easy.
We’re only as good as our ideas and there’s a whole resource for them that we’ve never tapped.