Stop Thief!

ESPN steals another page from Radio

ESPN is really well run, and I would almost bet they have some ex-Radio guys among their management ranks. Why? Because they do a lot of stuff successful radio stations have traditionally done. Even their self-deprecating promos are a staple of some of the best radio promos over the years. So, I wasn’t surprised when I saw them doing the heart-tugging series, My Wish.

It’s a co-promotion with the Make A Wish Foundation. Each day, for 5 days, they feature one story, one wish granted, to a desperately ill child.

If you can watch these and not tear up, you’re a stronger man than I am. I love the Make A Wish organization. They do good.

This promotion is further evidence that ESPN understands how important it is to make strong emotional connections with its viewers. Of course they like the feeling of helping sick kids, but it also supports their sports branding. ESPN helps provide access to athletes and venues that would otherwise be impossible.

But we, in Radio, can learn something from ESPN.

In this age of on-demand content and limitless choices, the days of the 1- or 2-day radiothon are done. I think telethons, like the Jerry Lewis MD Telethon, are also living on borrowed time. Why? Because, as ESPN proves, you can convey all the emotion you need in about 5 or 6 minutes.

Devoting entire shows, or days, to fund-raising will not be as effective as it used to be, because most people won’t sit through hours of this type of content. They tune into your station for a variety of entertainment and companionship needs, and changing your programming for hours or days, will just drive those fans away.

After community disasters, such as tornadoes or floods, there will still be a place for temporarily dropping your format to go with one singular theme, and being the focal point for community grief and solace fulfills a basic responsibility the license confers. However, doing a 2-day fundraiser for your local charity won’t cut it in the future.

But you can still help those local groups and fill those local needs, and provide wonderful, strong, emotional content at the same time. It just needs to be encapsulated, as these ESPN pieces are. You need to pre-produce them, run the audio on your station, and run the video on your web site. You’ll devote 5 minutes to heart-tugging content that listeners will absolutely respond to, and you’ll do it at various times throughout your broadcast day, just as ESPN does.

We can still fulfill dreams. We can still show we care. We can still be the most effective force in your local community. We just need to re-shape the content to fit the new reality.