Risk-Taking – Two Strangers and a Wedding

radio station marketing

In the radio world, it often pays to take risks. If you want your station’s marketing strategies to pay off, you must be bold. Risk-taking is a way for your station to stand out and define itself; becoming more visible to listeners. Furthermore, making a bold move will stop you relying on the same old marketing strategies. Although these strategies may be safe and give you a good return on investment, they will not allow your station to reach it’s full potential.

Birmingham’s heritage commercial radio brand, Free Radio Birmingham (formerly BRMB)’s, competition managed to perfectly rock the boat, causing just enough outrage to get their station talked about. The station’s 1999 ‘Two Strangers and a Wedding‘ competition was one of the most outrageous publicity stunt in UK commercial radio history. The competition involved getting two contestants, who have not met or made contact with each other, to get married in order to win prizes.

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Carla Germaine and Greg Cordell Source: Birmingham Mail

The competition caused moral outrage among those that believed marriage vows are sacred. Churches and MPs heavily criticised the competition. Three joint presidents of Birmingham Churches  the Bishop of Birmingham, the city’s Catholic archbishop and Free Churches representative wrote a public letter of protest to Free Radio Birmingham, urging the station to reconsider its decision to back the wedding. The letter stated that “Both marriage and the human beings involved are too important to be manipulated in this way.” Free Radio Birmingham spokesman Mr Owen defended the wedding by saying it was “more scientific than most arranged marriages”.

The two winners, who were matched by a group of relationship counsellors and astrologers, Carla Germaine and Greg Cordell, did not meet until the ceremony. They had to sign a prenuptial agreement preventing them from making any claims on the other’s property if the marriage were to fail. Their prizes included a free honeymoon in the Bahamas, the free use for a year of a Ford Puma sports car as well as a two bedroom apartment in Birmingham exclusive symphony court development.

Five years later, PR expert Mark Borkowski described the promotion as one of the best ever radio publicity stunts “it was something that everybody was talking about. It was a precursor to Big Brother and other reality shows”. He said that the promotion involved a lot of risk, “But they increased their audience reach from 27 percent to 40 percent. It had humour, risk and a bit of rock ‘n’ roll.”

There are too many radio stations who are tiptoeing through life, hoping their marketing strategy will keep their station safe until the end. Sticking to your station’s set marketing strategies might not let you down, but they also won’t let you up. Your radio station would certainly benefit from a bit more risk-taking and attitude. I encourage you to follow in the footstep of Free Radio Birmingham by being more imaginative, creative and bold.

Here’s a food for thought; your audience consists of mostly internet and mobile users; they carry their phone with them wherever they go and use the internet to find out everything they want to know. Are you embracing this change in trend and going where your audience is? Or, are you sticking to your more traditional outreach of events and outdoor activities in an attempt to reach new audiences?

Challenge yourself to achieve higher and the results may surprise you.