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A Loyal Reader Writes:

“I think I know the answer, but I would like to know how you feel about making listeners pick up prizes.

“I’m talking about movie passes. Not CD’s that could be broken in the mail or concert tickets that could be lost.

“Our manager insists we have all winners who live within the city limits pick up all prizes.”

I’ve addressed this at length before.

Having listeners pick up prizes — not only movie passes but also CD’s, tickets, etc. — does the following:

• Makes the station seem cheap.

• Makes the station seem petty.

• Makes clear that the station doesn’t care about the winners.

• Takes an exciting an event in the listener’s life — winning a radio contest — and turns it into a chore.

How many stations are so shortsighted as to make their listeners pick up their prizes?

Almost all of them.

The fact that so many stations act so foolishly doesn’t make it right. It just makes it commonly foolish.

Years ago a program director told me his radio station’s general manager justified the practice by saying, “Heck, people don’t even bother to pick up 90% of the prizes we give away anyway!”

Ummm….Yeah. You’re giving away prizes that people don’t want enough to expend the time and energy required to come to your station “during normal business hours” and pick them up.

The fact that people don’t pick up their prizes is not evidence that you’re doing something right.

radio station prizes promotions

Bottom Line: If I win $10,000,000 in the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, they come to my house to deliver the check.

But I’m supposed to sacrifice an hour of my life to come to your station and pick up two tickets to the local boat show — which otherwise sell for $2 each?

Sorry, no.

If you can’t make winning a radio contest an exciting, enjoyable experience from start to finish, keep your stupid prizes and play another record instead.

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  • JayJay November 22, 2011, 3:25 am

    We post out prizes when we can (the joys of having a dual market!) but otherwise a lot of the time people have to come into the station. Truth be told, we don’t have enough staff on the books (due to the all mighty $$$, not skills!) to keep the station running smoothly on a day to day basis (and if someone is off sick or on holidays.. forget ‘smooth’!) let alone to pay for a casual (even a keen, green, teen announcer!) to run around and drop off prizes. If we could hire more staff, I’ll probably look at more copy writers/producers/promotion assistants before a casual to drop off prizes… is that the sad reality of radio in 2011???

  • Chuck Woodford November 22, 2011, 4:22 am

    One of the reasons I was always told that listeners had to come to the station to pick up their prizes was because we needed to have them sign for the prize so we could prove that we gave it away on the air and didn’t just start handing out free stuff to staff and clients. I always felt ridiculous killing the excitement by telling them they now had to sacrifice their lunch hour (or half hour) by driving across town to pick up a 10-dollar CD.

  • Tad November 22, 2011, 5:17 am

    I got my GM to reimburse me for the cost of a book of 1st class stamps every month and I mail out all I can. I have to do it myself but it gives me access to a HUGE database of P1 listeners and lets me seem more in touch with them. They don’t get a station envelope. They get a package from “Tad” their best friend on the radio. Trust me guys, making that personal connection with our listeners, even if it is only ~3% of them is (in my opinion) the strongest leg we stand on. Satellite radio can’t do what we can on a personal basis.

    Take it into your own hands. Mail out those CDs, tickets and movie passes. It will pay off in the long run. Also try to send it to their workplace, its creating direct water-cooler talk without being on the air. Good luck out there.

  • OBXScott November 22, 2011, 6:13 am

    I agree totally, but the suits always complain about the cost of postage and how it impacts the budget.

  • JJ - The Dude of the House November 22, 2011, 6:35 am

    I once won a Chaka Khan album from a station 30 miles away when I was a teenager. Couldn’t find anyone to pick me up. I’m still pissed at the cheapness of that station 20+ years later.

    Great piece, Dan!

    JJ – The Dude of the House

  • Earl Jive November 22, 2011, 9:51 am

    I have to disagree with this. I have, as facebook friends, at least a dozen people (many who are now broadcast professionals) whose first introduction to me or my radio station was picking up a prize at the radio station (in the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s… I’m a Geezer). Unfortunately, discussions such as this rarely take into account the subject, i.e., the person picking up the prize. I’ve heard stories of the excitement of the listener to have an opportunity, a reason, to connect to his favorite station.
    The difference could be that I’ve had the good fortune to avoid generic, cookie-cutter, copy cat radio stations, that could just as well be making screws as its business. All the stations I’ve been associated with have had passionate listenerships: KRLA, KPPC/KROQ, CHOM, CFNY.
    This premise may hold true at the cookie cutter stations whose listeners have a loyalty level equivalent to a pencil purchase, but if you’re going to meet your favorite artist back stage… it’s hard to mail that.
    Should the station’s prizes really only be sales promotions?
    I don’t recall ever giving away $2 tickets. US mail can take 7 days. Guest lists, mobile cruiser van, will call and email are alternatives.
    As a 15 year old, one of my favorite memories was going to KFWB on Hollywood Blvd to pick up records I’d won on the air. I met Gary Owens, Gene Weed, B. Mitchell Reed, and the music director Don Anti.
    Think about it from the listener’s/winner’s perspective: Giving the winner the option of picking it up at the station is really the best of all worlds, and bonds the listener to the station.

  • Tom Fricke November 22, 2011, 9:52 am

    agree w/Earl, especially in a smaller market where it’s not a big deal to drive 10 minutes to the radio station. We treat winners as guests; introduce them to staff, give ’em a tour of the studios (most have never been in a radio station before!). Listeners get a strong, personal connection with the station and makes the prize pick-up a pleasant experience.

  • Kelly Wayne November 22, 2011, 9:53 am

    Wow…Earl, you have brought back some amazing memories in Radio and I too have had the pleasure in my younger years of going to a real live Radio Station, that was bigger than life…in my world, to pick up a prize, and Oh what an experience. and i haven’t thought of Don Anti for quite a while now…I’m just glad that I got into Radio, When I did to experience the magic that seems to be going away.

  • Scott Michaels November 22, 2011, 9:54 am

    If it’s an Experience for listeners to come to the Radio station then Staff better make it a good experience. how many times has someone come in and met by the front desk person who could care less or couldnt find a prize because the morning show forgot to put it in the prize drawer .. and the DJ’s just walk by not even saying hi..we better train our staff no matter who they are to treat our listeners like “Friends” so they leave the station with a good feeling..otherwise what’s the use..

  • Dan O'Day November 22, 2011, 10:13 am

    @Earl Jive: “Guest lists, mobile cruiser van, will call and email are alternatives” — Absolutely. And none of those requires the winner to come to the radio station.

    “Giving the winner the option of picking it up at the station is really the best of all worlds” — I agree. And that doesn’t contradict my point; REQUIRING the winners to pick up their prizes doesn’t give them that option.

  • Dan O'Day November 22, 2011, 10:14 am

    @Tom Fricke: If you make coming to the station an option, great. But not every winner wants to come to the radio station, and not every winner has the time.

  • Dan O'Day November 22, 2011, 10:14 am

    Scott Michaels: What you described is the all-too-common experience of prize winners who are forced to go to the radio station…and it’s inexcusable.

  • Dan Richards November 22, 2011, 11:11 am

    Generally, I’ll agree. However, there is no one in the station I work for that has the time to mail out the prizes. We don’t have anyone working our front desk. We have no support staff. Just 2 on-air personalities that have plenty to do to begin with. Giving away prizes that are “worth it” builds excitement for a winner to actually go to the business that is giving away the prize.

  • Dan O'Day November 22, 2011, 11:48 am

    @Dan Richards: The set-up at your station — which mirrors so many stations across the U.S. — reinforces the folly of requiring prize winners to come to the radio station, wait around until someone appears, and then hope that person can find someone who knows where the winners list and the prizes are.

    To be clear: I’m not criticizing your station, Dan. I’m simply recognizing the challenges you face. If there’s no one on staff who has time to mail the prizes, there’s also no one on staff who has time to properly greet the arriving prize winner, take the person on a station tour, hand over the prize, etc.

    Mailing the prizes actually should take less time than giving them to the winner in person. And you can schedule the time needed to mail the prizes, whereas if the winner comes to your station “during normal business hours,” you need to interrupt whatever you’re doing to accommodate them.

  • Natalie Rowland-Wright November 22, 2011, 12:07 pm

    I also think there is a huge margin of error here while taking down their address. You are bound to get one wrong and then the listener miss that awesome concert. Also, it’s amazing how many people don’t even know what they are winning and just want to participate in the contest. They like the thrill of winning. And let me tell you, if the listener is excited to win and the prize happens to be tickets to say, Katy Perry, and then they don’t pick them up, I’m more than happy to reach out to our listeners and make them feel rewarded by giving them the last minute hook up and giving away the prize again. And if you are a caring station (perhaps in a smaller market), you WILL take that time to say hello when you pass. I always end up walking to the front desk as someone comes in to pick up their prize and introduce myself and say “hey you just won from me. You were great on the air.” But maybe that’s because long ago I realized that I’m the nice girl and that’s how I make connections with people on air. And while we are at it, I think it goes a long way with the listener when you say “thanks for listening” to them when you get off the studio line with them.

  • wayne ens January 9, 2012, 5:04 am

    This is a no brainer. I’t’s not a ‘prize’ if you have to do more to get it than win the contest.
    Sell a campaign to a chain of stores that has a good distribution of locations in your market to become your ofical prize depots. Determine which location your listener is closest to, and have one of your sales people or toher staff drop off the prize at that location.
    The retailer gets mentions and traffic!
    The smart retailer will give a surprize coupon with every gift to encourage purchase while winners are there.
    Or sell a local delivery service or cab company a half cash/half trade deal to get them to deliver the prise directly to the winners chosen destination.
    Between the on air mentions, the traffic, the good will generated by be the station’s prize distributor and a host of other factors, good sales people can develp creative ways to develop win win relationships with listerns, advertisers and the station……are there any creatve sales people left out there?

  • J January 10, 2012, 3:49 am

    We only have people pick up the prize if its last minute giveaways, or we dont have the people to take the prizes out. I prefer having the prizes taken out, it gets the station brand out there, and also gives us the chance to meet our listeners in their situations, and I always make a point of thanking them for listening to the station too. Maybe not what some people believe is the best use of my time (Programme Controller), although I’m the PC 24 hours a day, not for my contracted hours.

    PS My station rocks 🙂

  • Dan O'Day January 10, 2012, 9:55 am


    gives us the chance to meet our listeners in their situations – In all these years, I haven’t thought that aspect. You’re absolutely right:

    1. You get to enter their lives very personally, directly, and almost literally.

    2. While so many radio people say it’s okay to make people come pick up their prizes because “that way they can see the station,” when someone from the station delivers the prize that person gets a chance to learn more about the station’s listeners.


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