While Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time of reflection, anyone in radio knows it can be a frenzied, crazy, frantic run-up into the New Year. Not only is it busy for radio people, but it is just as busy for listeners. Think about your family. There is a good chance you are traveling, hosting guests, cooking, shopping, going to programs, and many other things. How do we cut through that clutter to provide promotions that are meaningful? It is all about the gift you can give as a radio station.
That gift is pointing people away from consumerism to sharing with those who may be struggling. This can take on many different forms.
Many stations have a version of this classic promotion. Listeners nominate someone who is need, and the radio station reaches out to take care of that wish. I will never forget Christmas 2006 in Idaho with 89.5 KTSY. A single mom who was a victim of domestic violence was living in a tiny house with her children. They were sleeping on mattresses on the floor, and there was no other furniture in the home. On Christmas Eve, the KTSY remote van pulled up followed by a furniture truck. Our staff brought in a Christmas tree, presents, a kitchen table and chairs, beds, and about anything else you can imagine to make Christmas amazing.
Some stations may think this is not practical with a small budget. Here is the thing, none of that money came from KTSY. A local mortgage company sponsored the Christmas wish program in return for getting to help sort through the wishes. When we ran out of money, we approached a furniture company that was excited to get on board. Today the tradition continues at KTSY with “Hope for Christmas,” where listeners nominate a family whose house is in poor shape, and KTSY brings in an entire team of volunteer contractors that fix up the home.
If you do not have a sponsor, take a page from KLTY’s book, and have listeners meet other listeners needs. It is a powerful way to connect with the audience.
Toys for Tots and Angel Tree
Christmas and toys for children always seem to go hand in hand. For years, many stations have done toy drives for Project Angel Tree or Toys for Tots. At WGTS, we kicked up the holiday spirit another notch. We hosted a free concert in the middle of the largest mall in the Washington D.C. area. We encouraged everyone who came to the concert to bring toys. We had the Angel Tree right there, so if you did not bring anything you could take a tag off the tree and go shopping right then and bring it right back. By the end of the night, we had bikes, Legos, dolls, clothes, balls, and every other toy you could imagine. The Salvation Army had to call in other vehicles to take away the entire haul.
Many companies are looking for ways to give things away, and you can be the conduit to make that happen. A couple of years ago, Walmart approached us about having kids come to the store to play with the new and hot toys and to review them on a Facebook live broadcast. My co-host and I brought our kids to the store. Walmart set up a play area in the middle of the toy section with our step-and-repeat in the background. Our kids played with everything and reviewed it. In return, Walmart donated all the toys that our children had reviewed to the local Salvation Army. Again, this did not cost us anything but our time.
The Christmas Concert
There is a good chance you are involved in a Christmas concert of some sort this year. One of the easiest toys drives I ever did was on the For King and Country Christmas tour. We simply told listeners we would be there with the Salvation Army, and for everyone to bring toys for the 14,000 kids the army was trying to serve that Christmas. Listeners answered the call, and we were able to fill an entire box truck with toys. Keep in mind this was a concert that everyone had to buy tickets to go to.
Another way to do this is to do a free concert, where the admission fee is a toy per person or a food item. We did this at KTSY one year with Natalie Grant, and it was a ton of fun. She ended the night with listeners singing Silent Night with her.
The next year I had a much smaller budget and could not afford an artist. I convinced the local civic center to donate their performance hall. I asked every staff member what their talent was, and we put on “A KTSY Christmas” where staff members and their families performed. While we will not be hitting any Nashville stages anytime soon, the listeners loved it, and we collected just as many toys.
Find the Christmas Spirit and Amplify It
Christian radio is fantastic at pointing the Christmas lights at a cause and rallying listeners to that cause. If you cannot launch a project of your own, find out what your local rescue mission is doing, team up with the food bank, partner with a local TV station that is doing a coat drive or see if Santa Claus is doing anything to help foster kids. Your community will be better for it. Your staff will feel good. Most importantly, you will be celebrating the gift of God’s love and passing it on. Here’s to a fantastic Christmas season!
AM Show Host/Promotions Director, WGTS 91.9