The other day, I got a call that I knew was coming. That didn’t make it any less strange.
“Hey hon,” my mom said. “I don’t think you and Richard should come home for Christmas.” My husband and I live a few hours away from my mom’s place, which is just outside my hometown of Detroit. “It’s just not worth risking anyone’s health. And of course, I’m not having the Christmas Eve party.”
Whaaa? I mean, if there was ever a time for a bye year on my mom’s Christmas Eve party, where she’s made Lit’l Smokies with grape jelly in the Crock-Pot (sound gross, actually delicious) for 30+ years, it’s 2020. But that party is an institution with our family and friends. Far from a rager, it’s a time for people who love one another to reconnect, appreciate each other, and be reminded of our gratitude for our relationships. That said, it’s just not safe this year.
You may be in a similar situation, and it’s certain that a meaningful portion of your listeners are, too. As we close a year that has been phenomenally stressful for most of us for many reasons, not the least of which is the contagious, deadly virus out there (come on, vaccine!), many of the year-end social and spiritual outlets we’ve relied on forever aren’t available to us — at least in the same form we’re used to. So, how can CCM radio help fill these gaps?
This is an excellent time to think through how you can deepen your relationship with your listeners around the holidays, if you haven’t already.
Make your best content available on your listeners’ terms.
CCM radio personalities provide an invaluable sense of positivity and community to your listeners. That said, not everyone is ready to receive a message at the same time we choose to deliver it over the air. Why not make your best broadcast content available on-demand so that listeners can access it when and how they prefer? (If I may, consider that Futuri’s POST systemmakes this very quick and easy!) Doing that and promoting its availability on-air, on your website, and on your socials helps ensure the right message gets to the right person at the right time. This is especially important during this unique holiday season.
Create virtual events to celebrate your listener community.
Yes, it’s true — there is a burnout factor when it comes to virtual events. Especially if you work remotely, being on Zoom all day can be *a lot*, especially now that the thrill of wearing pajama pants below your on-camera blazer has worn off. But this year, many listeners who are being cautious about gathering in person are turning to technology to fill the social void created when the holiday season is happening during a pandemic.
How can your station brand and personalities bring your listeners together virtually in ways that are fun and engaging? Pro tip: Simply opening up a Zoom room without a plan ain’t it, unless your goal is to have a bunch of people staring at each other for half the time and talking over each other for the other half. Create a structure, a hosting plan, and a great hook like you would for any in-person station event. Bring local businesses in to underwrite prizes. Maybe even arrange for unannounced artist drop-ins to up the surprise and delight factor. Bringing this type of holiday joy to your audience is an excellent way to deepen your listener relationships, build your database, and grow your holiday giving efforts with the right calls to action.
Be there for your audience wherever they are, 24/7.
Note that I didn’t say “be fully staffed 24/7.” Podcast and on-demand content, regular updates to your website (consider content like a roundup of online holiday services), and social media content — especially video, which is highly engaging — can all be scheduled. Paired with your broadcast content, by thinking beyond the daypart, you can emphasize that your brand is welcoming, inviting, and here to deliver a positive experience whenever your listeners want one.
While this holiday might be a tough one, I’m eager to see all the creative ways this community will step up to the plate to serve your audiences in unique ways during this unprecedented time. I hope your holiday season is full of blessings for you, your loved ones, and your audience — and hey, hit me up if you want Mom’s recipe for Crock-Pot grape jelly Lit’l Smokies. I assure you you’ll do a better job at executing this holiday favorite than I will!
SVP, Strategic Marketing and Brand Development
Zena Burns has spent 20+ years in key roles helping develop multiple iconic brands, including iHeartRadio and TEEN PEOPLE Magazine, and their digital strategies. Today, Burns is on the leadership team at Futuri, where she uses her diverse professional experience to help their more than 1,500 radio, television, and digital publishing partners worldwide grow audience and revenue with the company’s innovative audience engagement and sales intelligence technology.