What’s one of the first things you do when you get in your car? Turn on the radio! This simple entertainment medium can mean big exposure for your events and organization because of the wide audiences radio stations reach. Here are a few tricks for getting your news out there and on the air.

As a former donor recruitment representative for a local branch of a regional blood bank, I often turned to radio stations for support. I developed relationships with the news directors and program directors of the local radio stations in the communities where I worked. This is the number one way I was able to get great publicity opportunities for my events.

First, I will tell you about the wrong way to build this relationship. I had a blood drive with a poor turnout and needed help fast. So, I called the radio station in this small town of about 12,000 people and asked for the station manager, Bob. I told him the situation just knowing he would help me out. He rebutted that he was tired of us calling him with these desperate pleas every time a drive was bombing.

I explained patiently to him that I was a new rep and would be sure to give advance notice in the future for this one-time favor. He reluctantly agreed. To make amends, the next week I stopped by with t-shirts and candy for Bob and his staff to thank them for their assistance. This little favor allowed me to do two things: show my gratitude for their support and get recognition for my organization.

I used this meeting for some information-gathering as well. I learned when they made community announcements—every hour with the news—and how soon they needed announcements—seven to 10 days ahead of time. They even let me call two days before my semi-annual community drive (300-plus donors in three days) and record a free commercial! It played throughout the event. Several donors at the drive told me they heard me on the radio.

In this same town, I was able to make similar contact with the radio station down the street. For smaller events, they would put my drives in the regular news items. For larger events, they would have me come into or call the studio for a short interview, which would play the day before and of the drive.

I had a similar arrangement in most of the small towns where I recruited. We had an agreement with some stations that we would pay for live remotes once or twice a year. They usually gave us all-day coverage (two-hour remote and mentions all day) and a discounted rate with this.

That leads me to those of you in larger markets. Larger markets have more radio stations that are typically owned by large companies. They are less willing to give you free publicity.

However, it’s still possible to get your name out there. You just have to be creative in your approach. Contact each station in your area to find out how to submit items for the community/events calendar. Also, contact the news director or station manager by phone or in person. Your e-mails will more than likely be ignored.

Also, find out how they like to receive announcements and press releases. Some radio stations use a statewide or regional news service. Find out who your contact will be there. It’s all about getting to the news decision makers. If you do end up having to do paid remotes or advertising, don’t take their flat rate. Ask for a better rate or some free commercials, mentions, or food. Salespeople have some wiggle room in this arena.

One secret to large markets is to approach public and listener-supported stations. Many people listen to these news/talk, Christian talk/music, sports, and lesser-known music genre stations for their original content. They have more community-driven focuses in many cases.

For example, I’ve been contacted several times by networks such as American Family Radio when we issued severe blood shortage notices. This network broadcast the interview in many markets. The approach is the same: send a short announcement via the method the station prefers, and follow-up with personal contact or phone contact.

Another idea is to piggyback on a radio remote hosted by a business. Many businesses are willing to coordinate your fundraiser or event with their advertising. For instance, the local Saturn car dealership hosted a drive and paid for a radio remote and gift certificates to the first 50 donors. This is part of a national campaign they do in conjunction with Valentine’s Day. It pays to have a tie-in to an awareness campaign or national event.

Again, your creativity will get you results. Don’t be afraid to find out what companies are doing to promote themselves. If you can convince them to tie in your event/fundraiser, you will benefit from the free or low-cost publicity, and the company will benefit from supporting the community.

In summary, with a little relationship-building and research, you can get your news out there to an audience you may not have accessed before with the turn of a dial.

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Posted on 21 February 2007

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