Today, a guest blog from Bill Weston, the incomparable programmer of Greater Media's mighty WMMR. During a recent conversation, Bill told me this story about how great brands evoke kismet – and good luck, too.
So here’s a quick story of radio’s relevance – a parable from the Karmic Wheel. It’s a reinforcing tale for those of you who continue to invest in and build upon your brand. Without brand and awareness thereof, this story doesn’t happen.
A local woman, Patty Grabowski, suffers tragedy. Her home goes up in flames. Gas explosion. She survives, as do her parents. Her cat, “Talley,” nicknamed after Steven Tyler’s real name, Tallerico, rescued from the rubble days later. Her collection of prized Aerosmith memorabilia, along with all her other possessions – gone.
In getting back on her feet she writes a letter to Steve Tyler’s “people,” thinking not much would come of it, maybe an autographed picture. At work, a month later, the phone rings. The voice on the line vaguely familiar. She comes apart realizing her rock idol is on her cell phone, talking TO HER. Steven Tyler is calling just to offer encouragement and gratitude. They speak for an hour – about real things – her sorrows, his demons. She mentions, off hand, having that she just voted for Aerosmith in a radio station’s favorite band bracket contest - MMaRch Madness.
Tyler recognizes the brand – the WMMR call letters – and dials up Pierre Robert, a brand in his own right, on the station request line. He has no book to plug (not yet anyway), no new solo project, and he’s not shilling for American Idol ratings. Just a call to say hello. “Pierre! Still got all that hair and the beard?” Tyler gives a great interview and casually mentions, how he came to call as a result of a conversation with a fan in need from our listening area.
The station was buzzing about a rock star calling out of the blue and how personal and entertaining a conversation it was. Dozens of listeners text and call Pierre echoing what a cool gesture for Tyler to call - how it elevated their opinion of him as a result. (BTW, Aerosmith goes on to win the bracket contest due to the power of the story.)
The next day Pierre finds Patty’s number and, on the air, calls to thank her for the MMR name check that prompted Steven’s call and for initiating a wonderful, spontaneous radio moment.
During this call, Patty recounts the horror of the explosion, the sense of grief and loss and her life-long love of the band. She begins to cry. Due not to her sadness but the joy Tyler’s call brought her. An honest moment of pure, human connection. I blinked away the tears, listening in my office.
Pierre asked his audience to think about the circle that one woman created – beginning with a letter to a rock star, his return call from LA, and the radio station’s call to her. Everyone listening became part of that circle, drawn into a personal, relatable and utterly human experience. This was reinforced by a text message of thanks sent in from a listener, overcome with emotion, and forced to pull to the side of the road.
Keep building the brand. And keep somebody in the studio to answer the phone.
Postscript from Fred: While editing this blog, another great example of the power of branding for radio occurred with Entercom's KISW a couple of nights ago on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Enjoy the first 1:10 of this video with Jimmy and Rainn Wilson which could only happen for an incredible brand.