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The David Chronicles: Adventures In Starting A Radio Show

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by David Garland in David's Blog

The David Chronicles: Adventures In Starting A Radio Show(This is the sixth installment of The David Chronicles, which is a super personal, transparent, no-punches-pulled series of my crazy entrepreneurial journey. Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly great…and unexpected. I hope you will find it interesting, funny, helpful and who-knows-what and always look forward to your thoughts.)

It was the second year of pro inline hockey in 2007 and I received a random phone call from a radio station in St. Louis called Team 1380 (formally it was called ESPN 1380).

“Hey, David. We have been checking out pro inline hockey over the last year or so and would be wondering if you would like to do a radio show on our station.”

First reaction: Is someone prank calling me?
Second reaction: What is the catch?
Third reaction: I’ve never done any kind of show before…ever. Can I do this?

The answers that came out:

  1. No, it wasn’t a prank call (good start).
  2. There was a catch. I would pay $500/month to have a slot at noon every Saturday. The station would run advertisements. I would write and host the show. And I could do my own “in show” sponsor plugs to monetize – essentially paid programming on steroids (I later found out that a LOT of radio and TV people do this – who knew?).┬áPlus, they would give me an online version of the show I could put on the pro inline hockey website and I could use the radio station logo – which was nice social proofing for the website (“As Heard On”). And a neat part of it was once a month they would set up a remote studio at the games for the “Team 1380 Game Of The Month” and I broadcast live before that night’s hockey games, give away prizes and sticker,s and just make it a hoopla of fun.
  3. This can often be a paralyzing aspect for all of us: lack of experience. I decided to give it a show. What is the worst thing that could happen? If anything, I would learn something about media/radio. A willingness to try new (and exciting) things makes up for a lack of experience.

I signed on the dotted line and Get Inline: Your Source For Professional Inline Hockey in St. Louis was born (feel free to giggle at that clever show name…or gag).

The Business Model

Once the name was settled on (no idea where I came up with it, maybe in the shower), it was time to work on the business model.

The show would run for six months months every Saturday (24 episodes) at noon during the pro inline season.

  • Actual cost: $500/month for 6 months = $3,000.
  • Sweat cost: Writing shows (umm, how do you do that?), finding guests, hunting down sponsors.
  • Break Even: $3,000.
  • Bling, Bling: More than $3,000.

The good news at this point is we had a small army of sponsors due to some hustle. But, those sponsors had already purchased packages for the season.

My thought process though was perhaps we could leverage the show a bit to offer more value (essentially, an upsell) by offering plugs during the show. The key with signing the radio sponsors was similar to the league sponsors: organization, organization, organization, and coming in with specifics.

Although I had no idea how to create a radio show, I decided to give it a whirl and wrote out my first show with different segment ideas. Things like a weekly interview (with a player, coach, whatever), game recaps, weekend preview of the next week’s game, a top ten list (David Letterman style), and other segments to fill the show. Nothing was necessarily revolutionary here, I just tried my best to emulate what others had done and put my own spin on it (monkey see, monkey innovate).

I figured that each segment could have one sponsor. Example: weekly interview, brought to you by Pepsi.

And with that sponsorship they would get a mention at the beginning and end of the segment, plus a plug for something specific.

Example plug:

“Pepsi and PIHA One Liter Deal. Nab two Pepsi liters at a specific location and get ’em both for the price of one (or whatever it was) at (specific location) AND get a free ticket to a pro inline hockey game. It is the Pepsi and PIHA one liter deal – good for this month only.”

The sponsors and advertisers loved it and I was able to sign on almost every sponsor for the radio show. And cash flow quickly turned positive before it started. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was something KEY for media creators: the personal connection with the audience. The plugs ended up working really well because I think it tied in nicely with the show and was in my own voice as opposed to a blow hard commercial (something to keep in mind for anyone who sells advertising/sponsorships as part of your business model).

Entrepreneurial & Marketing Lessons In Radio: Trying New Things

The next part of course was doing my first show. I never took “Radio 101”, so my only experience was listening to the radio. I actually wrote out literally everything I was going to say. Think about that for a second: literally everything. Like a movie script (sigh). And before I knew it, I was on the air in their studio with my laptop in front of me, reading like some alien.

But guess what? It was a freaking blast and that was when I fell in love with becoming a content creator. There was something sort of magical about it. It got me jazzed up. Excited. Even though I wasn’t very good, I kept at it and eventually felt 1,000 times more comfortable (plus stopped writing out the whole show and instead used bullet points…big difference).

And another bonus/wake up call was the amount of people that would email me and say “I missed the show. Crap! What do I do?” and I could point them to the website to listen “On Demand.” It became quickly apparent that the longevity of the show would be extended much more than just noon on every Saturday. Creating content for people when, where, and how they wanted it was key to building the fan base.

This was also my first experience interviewing other people. I brought on a range of guests – from the players, to an R&B group who performed at one of our halftime shows (yes, there is halftime in inline hockey). This quickly became one of my favorite parts of the show and really where I developed a love for interviewing. Did I have ANY clue that I would love interviewing so much? Absolutely not. But, you never know until you try. If I hadn’t tried it, The Rise To The Top probably wouldn’t exist today.

Another takeaway from interviewing is that the guests would do a lot of promoting themselves. They would tell friends and family to tune in (and if they missed it, catch it online). Every interview was also a chance to reach new people.

Next to interviews, I loved the callers. The first week my dad called in and asked a question (big props to my dad, thanks for being the only caller). By the last few weeks, we had TONS of people on hold looking to ask questions, offer commentary, and who knows what. Similar to interviewing, I didn’t know that I would fall in love with Q&A, interaction, and answering “off the cuff” questions. It just sort of happened.

Bottom Line & The BIG Lesson

Sometimes passions aren’t something “you’ve always dreamed of”, but instead are based on trying new things and being excited about it. Something that turns you on. Whatever it might be. I would have NEVER known that I loved interviewing people and answering questions unless I had taken a random risk and stuck myself out there by doing the radio show. Later on, many of these principles led to the creation of The Rise To The Top.

My advice? Next time you see a random opportunity that gets you jazzed up, give it a shot. It might lead you to find out more about yourself and zig zag you on a path of doing what you love everyday.

What is your take?

In the next installment: Knowing When To Move On.

In case you missed it:

P.S. – Did you download a free chapter of my upcoming book, Smarter, Faster, Cheaper?

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