I have created, executed and heard a lot bad contests on the air. Also, some good ones. What makes one contest work and another not? There are infinite factors, but I’ve identified a few things that do influence the success or failure of contests on the radio. You might have more – please share them in the comments section.
1. The Prize. It can’t be lame. When I was a PD, I instituted a policy that all prizes had to be at least $25 in value. In reality, it needs to be something that your fans value. Would you want it? If not, don’t bother. For example; tire patch kits, 2 for 1 coupons, a chance to stand in line to maybe see a movie premiere and loafs of bread. These are horrible, yet inexplicably all actual prizes that I’ve helped to giveaway in my career. I’m sorry to everyone who won.
2. The Prize – part 2. It’s important that you, as the host, believe the prize is of value or at least treat it as such. If you aren’t a fan of UCLA basketball, but have to give away tickets, you need to sell it to the listeners as if the tickets are at least as valuable as they are. I’ve heard hosts apologize for the quality of the prize. For example, “I’m sorry they aren’t Lakers tickets” or “we have UCLA tickets for this weekend, if you’re in to that sort of thing,” or “we have UCLA vs Cal tickets, sorry it’s not a better match up.” If you’re downplaying, downgrading or devaluing the prize – you are destroying the whole concept of the contest. Stop being so honest and sell the giveaway. Otherwise you end up wasting everyone’s time.
3. Let the Listener Play Along. If you announce the contest on the air and then don’t say anything else about it, the listener doesn’t know what happened. It’s like a black hole. If it’s trivia…play it out on air. Make it a game. If you can’t execute the contest on air, at least acknowledge who won and how they won.
4. Don’t Make it Too Complicated. If you have to go on the website to register, listen at a specific time in the day for five straight days to hear a key words and then text them in at a certain times to win, no one will play. Keep it simple. Text to win. Enter to win. Listen to win. One or two steps only. Much more than that and most won’t bother to participate. The one’s who do make the effort aren’t typically listeners, they are the professional contest winners (a.k.a. prize pigs).
5. Promote the Contest in Advance. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth telling people in advance that you’re doing it. Give people a specific time to listen for their chance to win the prize. If you don’t tell people you are doing a contest, they won’t know.
BONUS: Why are you doing the contest? Increase TSL? Cume? Sales initiative? Know why you are doing the contest and make sure it accomplishes the goal. Everything you do on air and on-line needs to have a purpose.