By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — February 3, 1959: They were en route to Fargo, North Dakota, to give a concert, but they never made it. The small plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper crashed in an Iowa corn field.
February 3, 2020: As Iowans prepared to caucus that night, Rush Limbaugh shocked us with news that many in talk radio fear could be, to our format, “The Day The Music Died.”
I am confident it was not, although a week later, I’m still talking affiliated client station managers down-off-the-ledge. Tough as it was to see Rush look so frail in the House gallery on Tuesday night, we pray. As the president said when surprising Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom: He’s a fighter.
What can we do?
Rush recently re-upped for a reported four…more…years; so we didn’t expect to be here now. But here we are. And something good can come of this, if radio rises to the occasion.
Smart marketers know that “people don’t buy what you make, they buy why you make it,” what you stand for, who you are. And before radio went so-robotic, stations were known for their values. Local talent were cheerleaders for causes. Appearances and events brought listeners together to do good.
In 1974, I began my six-year stint as WPRO’s night time DJ by driving a remarkably well-preserved 1939 Oldsmobile to high schools all around Southern New England. The car was Grand Prize in a 30s-style dance marathon to benefit the fight against Cystic Fibrosis. Remember stations doing stuff like that?
How many times did we hear this?
When Rush was about to read a document, he’d rustle the paper and say “Here in formerly-nicotine-stained fingers…”
If you’re a smoker, how many times have you tried to quit? I never smoked cigarettes, but I have witnessed the agony of friends going cold turkey, and failing. During the 1990s cigar fad, my humidor was well-stocked, until my dentist explained the consequences, and that “each one is the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes.” That’s all I needed to hear, but longtime cigarette smokers have it tougher. Let’s help.
Rip-off this copy.
I have recommended that Rush-affiliated client stations launch a quit-smoking campaign, and promote it in his show.
“By now, you’ve heard the news, and it’s heartbreaking. Rush Limbaugh has late-stage lung cancer. Please join me in prayers for his recovery. And commit to changing YOUR life, maybe saving it. I’m WXXX’s Jeff Brody. I’ve quit smoking…at least a half dozen times. THIS time, for sure!” (Copy continues explaining the campaign.)
Even if you choose not to name Rush in the campaign, promos airing in that show will jump out of the speaker.
Brainstorm this: In your area, there are businesses that help smokers quit. Hospitals, clinics, doctors, hypnotherapists, acupuncturists. Testimonial spots are especially effective. And with New Year’s resolutions now lapsing, this opportunity has appeal. But sponsorship revenue is almost beside the point. Show listeners that radio still cares.
Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books. Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page for an instant download. And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America. Read HC’s Monday Memo each week at Talkers.com, and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke