Golden Voice. Missed Opportunity for Radio


By now I’m sure you’ve heard, if it’s still holding your attention –  Ted Williams, the homeless man with the “Golden Voice …Gift from God” and Youtube sensation, has checked himself out of rehab after less than 2 weeks of treatment.


Thanks to Social Media and the mainstream media grabbing hold of it, this guy had DJ and voiceover offers pouring in from The Cavaliers (NBA), MTV, FOX Network and possibly NFL Films.

But enough about Ted, let’s talk about Radio – his other drug (if you’ve ever worked in the industry, you know why I’m referring to it this way).

While the radio industry wrestles with the challenge of a vanishing, splintered audience and competing platforms, their charge to embrace the social media landscape (like many businesses), lacks strategy and understanding of how to harness it for their cause.

Radio in general still thinks traditional mass instead of the niche quality audience and community social is known for. The language of social; conversation, engagement, pull, ground swell, movements, and influence are coming out of its mouth along with rants about “compelling content”.  But the needle isn’t moving because it’s still about them vs the audience it serves.

Radio’s chief misguided directive to its on-air personalities, often sacrificing the terrestrial customers standing at the front counter waiting to be served, is to take whatever measure necessary (tabloid headlines, bikini clad girls, huge giveaways, worn out viral videos), to drive unique hits to the station’s website. Mass hits still attract agency and direct money for site banner ads and pre-rolls. As long as there is money there, let’s keep pushing.

The “push” model that traditional media is known for is the complete opposite of the “pull” that social offers. Or, should I say PUSH is to yin as PULL is to yang. They must be used together hand-in-hand. Not as the same.

Meanwhile, back to Ted.

Despite most of the world knowing about the YouTube video of Ted through to their own social streams, and the CBS Early Show, Jimmy Fallon and Dr. Phil giving him more limelight, traditional radio chose to chase that elusive unique hit by robbing the frenzy for the video and directing to their own website, versus creating compelling content or events that relate to the movement. Just grab it, embed it, stunt it, push it on the air, drive them to the site to see what …they…already…have seen.

Great – you just competed against every major news outlet and individual person on facebook and twitter that posted it. The station likely found out about it like everyone else…through facebook.  So what makes them think wrapping it with a different bow and misguiding listeners is going to make it rack up lots of numbers? They may have gotten lucky with some hits, but they probably let their audience down by baiting them with crap. You don’t build a positive brand experience this way.

Here’s where I saw an opportunity to integrate mass traditional media plus social with the kind of “stunting” and community that radio used to be great doing.

What if… the station or morning show tapped into the public marvel for a homeless man with marketable voiceover skills and took to the streets with a Flip camera (original compelling content) and a cell phone complete with “live” (traditional) reports to the station to find other homeless men with great voices?  Better yet, just ask the homeless on the street what they used to do; Carpenter, Painter, Factory worker or Cleaning Lady?  Bet they’d even find a few families out of a home following a foreclosure.

What if… the station launched a greater initiative to help retrain, redress, make over and find placement for the numerous homeless that are living like Ted, but weren’t  fortunate enough to have a guy drive up with video camera?

While being sensitive to their challenges of drugs, alcohol, mental state, poverty and self esteem, there were opportunities to build a citywide movement for an “Extreme Home-less Makeover” involving sponsorships (sales/ROI) for staffing firms, clothing shops, spas, barbers, chemical dependency clinics, apartment and limousine services. It’s not a new idea necessarily, but it was timely and serves a bigger and better purpose.

Imagine job interview segments, housed on the website or YouTube. Daily posts on Facebook and twitter encouraging online voting and bidding for those interested in hiring one of the transformed candidates. Cross promotion between dayparts and shows…viral through social channels and back into the station sites.

I’ve seen it done over the years for really trivial things, so why not for something more meaningful?

If done delicately and correctly, it had the potential for extended engagement and ample content during the “Ted” factor and long after it had run its course.  Like Ted, some of the candidates likely would have some challenges, but six months…a year later – who knows how the station’s initiative may have helped even a few of those people in need. Afterall, the reason everyone latched on to Ted is because we relate in our own way to struggle, the economy,the underdog, second chances, reinvention and his emotional reference to his Mother.

In the end, it genuinely would’ve showed a station for something other than a megaphone pushing trivial crap from the prize cabinet that nobody ever picks up.

At least this way the station wins, secondary to the mission – community and helping people.

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