10 Easy Ways to Seize and Own Topical Pop Culture Stories

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The Avengers. The Hunger Games. Twilight. Local teams in the playoffs. The Olympics. A major concert announcement.

On days when there’s nothing going on, it’s a challenge to be topical. On other days, it’s a crime not to be. For example, The Avengers is opening domestically this Friday and there is speculation based on overseas draws that it might be the biggest movie opening weekend ever. What’s your plan?

Here is an easy checklist you can use for The Avengers (opening Friday) or foravengers.jpg the next event happens that you want to own:

1. Participate first-hand — At least one player on your show should have first-hand knowledge of the topic. See the movie, watch the game, go to the concert. Send the biggest fan; or send the person least interested. If you watch, pay attention and notice things, especially emotional reactions.

2. Create a contest. It can be as simple as Truth or Trash trivia about the topic or a tongue-in-cheek spelling bee. Make it bigger by giving away something money can’t buy – exclusive tickets, etc.

3. Add production values. Add dynamics with audio clips. For movies use clips from movie trailers for entertainment reports or even produced show elements. For sporting events, use exciting play-by-play or a clip from an emotional post-game interview.

4. Connect to your audience with characterizing personal stories: What was the one movie/game/concert that you were most excited about when you were a kid? Are there stories there worth sharing?

5. Include a street presence. Send someone out to talk to people in line – what were the highlights? Any disappointments? How did it track with the book? Or  talk to people leaving the game or concert to capture their emotional reaction.

6. Add peripheral characters. Have a character do a movie review for you — a 10 year old boy, an elder relative of a show player; Jorge the cleaning guy.

7. Make connections between unrelated stories: e.g. Which is better, The Hunger Games or The Avengers?

8. Tie in callers:

a. Create a debate. Who’s hotter, Edward or Jacob? Who’s more capable of saving the world: Captain America or Iron Man?

b. Look for a lightning rod opinion to spark a debate. For The Avengers movie in particular, someone might say that no one over 14 should ever go to comic book movies.

c. Go on a quest: Find the person who saw the movie the most times by Monday morning. You can start it as a challenge from one show player: “I bet there’s some crazy fan that has already seen that movie three times.”

d. Create a Top 5 list. For 4/20, The Gonzo Show at The Bear/Ottawa debated the best stoner movies of all time, for example. Is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games the most kick-ass heroine of all time? Who else would join her in a Top 5 list? Increase engagement by debating who should snag the number 1 spot.

e. Broaden the topic to something bigger. For Twilight, Adam, Danaye and Fuzzy at Virgin/Calgary asked: “Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf?”

f. Have listeners write a six-word movie review.

9. Don’t overthink your “demo.” How many women’s lives are affected by the playoffs? How many guys had to see The Hunger Games? Look for ways that the major event affects your audience. Give away One Direction tickets (an out of format band your listeners’ kids love) with “ear plugs and beer money.” Be topical and talk to your audience.

10. And finally, create a story about the story by brainstorming your own event or spectacle that might get coverage or go viral. A few examples:

a. Seize the moment with a parody billboard. Several shows did this with that iconic Twilight billboard artwork.

b. Ace Burpee at Hot 103/Winnipeg produced an anthem when Winnipeg finally got an NHL hockey team this year.

c. Tie in a local charity that makes sense.

d. Get in trouble. Paul and Young Ron,Big 105.9/Miami challenged the NFL’s policy of no tailgating at the Super Bowl by staging “The World’s Largest Illegal Tailgate Party” in a field adjacent to Dolphins Stadium. The NFL and the city of Miami shut it down so hundreds of tailgaters partied in the radio station parking lot for four hours.

e. Hold a look-alike contest. (When the cast of Friends threatened to go on strike, we at Star 98.7/Los Angeles had a morning show remote to find a replacement cast; one of The Rembrandts, who sang the theme song, was a judge. Hundreds of people showed up;  it made the evening news.) 

f. Get silly. We’re not saving lives here. For The Avengers, do the show dressed as superheros or have someone watch every showing for an entire day. For wedding season, hold a mass dog wedding. For the Masters, hold a peewee golf tourney in your station parking lot.

And if you come up with something good, send me your idea – with audio, video, mug shot — at angela@randylane.net and we’ll share your idea and brag about you to all your peers.


-written by Angela Perelli


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