I was in West Africa with some radio friends on a mission trip with Compassion. At dinner, conversation turned towards the phone calls and complaints we’ve all received at one time or another. Whether it’s because somebody on air mentioned Harry Potter, or a singer in our format said something on a national TV show and you play his/her music, or you are playing Christmas music from the likes of Johnny Mathis, Percy Faith or Josh Groban, somebody listening is simply not happy with you. Maybe one of your on-air talents mentioned the word “Halloween” or the Easter Bunny, Santa, The Tooth Fairy-you get the idea, stuff that most families are familiar with.
Not too long ago, we had a radio station in our market flip formats from a Hot AC to a Greatest Hits format. We shared some audience with the station that went away, so I knew their listeners were probably looking for a new radio station to be their favorite. I wanted to welcome them to our station, so I acknowledged the station going away, and mentioned that we can be a fun place for them to listen. In fact, to welcome them, I played a song that they may have been familiar with from the station that went away, “Havanna”, using a rubber chicken. It lasted all of about thirty seconds. Ninety-nine percent of the calls were people laughing and joking that my wife, Stacey, who I do the afternoon show with, should throw the rubber chicken into a food blender to get rid of it. They got it. They understood what I was trying to do. Just have some fun while welcoming in new listeners.
However, there was “that phone call”. The one from a woman that was aghast that such a song would be played on a Christian radio station. Her children, especially the teenager in the back seat, would be corrupted forever because of what I did. She was calling to let me know that she would no longer be a listener.
I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. So what do you do? Should you stop trying to be creative? Stop trying to reach the mainstream? Apologize and promise to be more sensitive? Edit anything out that you think someone might possibly be offended by? Preach to the choir and only the choir?
(Don’t get me wrong here-if your broadcasting goal is to broadcast to those who already have a strong relationship with Jesus and you want to help reinforce that, then this isn’t for you. However, if your goal is to introduce people and help people take one step closer to Christ, while at the same time expanding your listener and donor base, then this is for you.)
If you begin to self-edit anything and everything you think someone may be offended by, you won’t have much left to say on the air.
Here’s what I do: be the man God made me to be. He gave me (and He gave you) talents and abilities. Use them. You already believe in Him. You want to reach people who maybe don’t know about Him. So go do it and try to avoid second guessing what you are doing. Trust that God has given you your own personal way of telling others about Him and go for it.
What to say to the complainers? Thank them for caring but don’t spend a ton of time bending backwards to please them. Yes, their concerns matter and you should listen to them. At the end of the day, I believe that our goal is to reach people where they are and to bring them one step closer to God.
It has been my experience that the people making “that phone call” usually stick around and become even more dedicated to the radio station.
Author and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Elie Wiesel said: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
If you don’t get “that phone call”, that could be the definition of indifference.
Johnny Stone is the afternoon show host along with his wife, Stacey, at WGTS 91.9 in Washington, D.C. Also owner of StoneStudiosLLC which produces a weekly two hour show for Country radio stations and various other production needs for radio and television stations.
Contact Johnny at firstname.lastname@example.org