Mon. Sep 24th, 2018

Turning News Into a Community Event

This week two iconic sports radio brands announced some major lineup changes. In Chicago, 670 the Score announced a new afternoon show featuring Dan McNeil and Danny Parkins. They also moved former afternoon host Dan Bernstein to middays to team up with Connor McKnight. Chicago, as you know, is the nation’s leader in Dan’s per capita.

If you hopped on I-65 and drove about 9 and a half hours south, you would end up in Birmingham, where Jox 94.5 announced a new midday show featuring Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network alongside Bama beat writer Aaron Suttles from the Tuscaloosa News and Birmingham sports personality Landrum Roberts. That show launches on March 26th.

In both cases, I noticed just how active and effective the stations were in announcing their changes. WSCR’s PD Mitch Rosen hopped on the air with Mully and Hanley Wednesday morning to announce the changes. Almost immediately all of the personalities involved were on Twitter to confirm the news.

Birmingham made their announcement on Tuesday morning during their morning show “The Roundtable” when Suttles called into the show. But the seeds were being planted 48 hours earlier when Cubelic first tweeted that Monday would be the final episode of “The Cube Show,” which he hosted on WUMP in Huntsville, AL.

From there, it wasn’t just the members of the new midday show that got involved. Every member of the Jox staff was tweeting about their excitement and retweeting listeners that were pumped to hear the new product. Roundtable host Ryan Brown even tweeted back to some listeners that didn’t like the move. He wasn’t aggressive or defensive. He made sure that those listeners understood that their opinions matter and that Jox isn’t Jox without their passion.

In both cases, the station turned their news into a community event. They took ownership of the announcements and made their listeners feel like they were a part of it. Connor McKnight sent out a string of three tweets that acknowledged not only how excited he was to be a part of the new midday show on the Score, but also acknowledged the personalities that had to exit the station in order to make room for his return and the listeners that weren’t happy about it. It showed a real…whatever the opposite of tunnel vision is.

The day before Jox made its announcement, Cubelic posted a video montage featuring various Birmingham landmarks set to Dirty Money’s “Coming Home.” Cole is a Birmingham native. That video created enough intrigue, but it was Arky Shea, Cole’s former partner and PD at WUMP, that put it over the top by tweeting a link to the original post with the message “This is probably nothing” that put it over the top.

In the case of stations like Jox and the Score, listeners are heavily invested. Many of them have been for a long time, so when Jox announces that a new show is coming and Cole posts a video like the one he did, a lot of folks quickly put two and two together. Arky being willing to help put his friend over and interact with the Hunstville listeners that were understandably bummed about losing their favorite morning show in a playful way, just added to the excitement and extended the reach of the news all involved wanted people to hear.

Take a lesson from this. It is possible to make news that is big in your building big in the community. What happened in Chicago and Birmingham last week reminded me a lot of something that happened in Charlotte when WFNZ added an FM signal. Sure, the official station social media accounts were all over the announcement, but it was the way that former WFNZ personalities put their personal touch on it that made you stop and say “Wow, this is more than just another AM station adding a translator.”

Taylor Zarzour, who hosted afternoons on WFNZ from 2011-2014, tweeted about how unbelievably it was that Charlotte was getting its first FM sports station. Others tweeted memories of past WFNZ studios and old equipment. It led to listeners tweeting their memories of listening to shows or games on the 610 signal through static that sometimes made it hard to follow action. In that moment, it became about more than just “we’re on FM now too!”. It was a reminder of what WFNZ had meant to so many generations of Charlotte sports fans.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that major events at your station don’t matter as much to your listeners as they do to you and your co-workers. The station thrives or withers with its ability to connect to the audience in a personal way. You’re not just a preset button on their car stereo. You’re a part of their daily routine. They are your community.

Last week The Score and Jox found a way to embrace that roll. Both stations had talent sharing their excitement about the new lineup announcements, but maybe more importantly, those talents took a “we’re all in this together” approach. They retweeted and commented on listener posts that conveyed that same enthusiasm, but also showed empathy and an open mind toward listeners who expressed their displeasure.

Let the listeners inside. Your shows, promotions and play-by-play rights have mattered to them for a long time. This is a community and you’re all in it together, so use that passion to your advantage. If you play it right when you have news to announce like a lineup change, those fans that are heavily invested in you will do much more to promote it than any amount of advertising can.

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