Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reaching Out to International Students via Radio

Living in a college town, we see quite a few international students here during the school year.

A few years back one of my clients, a medical clinic, challenged me to come up with a radio spot to reach out to these internationals, hoping to attract them (and their families) as new clients.

With a bit of probing, I was able to determine that the predominant cultures/languages among these foreign students were Hispanic, Chinese, and Arabic (not necessarily in that order). I thought it might be fun to record some of these students speaking in their native tongue, a "welcome" message to their peers. But where would I find them? And how would I be able to communicate with them?

I broached the situation with another client, who owns a popular coffee house on campus. He indicated that he'd have no trouble locating some suitable candidates - students who were bi-lingual and would enjoy helping. There was no budget for all this "talent," but the clinic's administrator did offer to buy fancy espresso drinks for the participants. So, we arranged a day and time to meet together at the coffee shop for a group recording session.

The day came, the group assembled, and everything clicked. As a bonus, a young professor originally from Poland, who happened to be in the coffee shop just then, appeared to be quite interested in our little production. She was quickly pressed into service as an "extra."

The kids were cooperative, patient, and seemed to enjoy "starring" in the project. Afterwards they all received a copy of the MP3 to send to the folks back home.

The resulting :30-second commercial pleased the client well enough that the clinic has trotted out this spot at the beginning of the school year every year since. Here's the spot:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ode to a Luminous Legume

Every year around this time, I enjoy working with Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson - a broadcast professor at the Edward R. Murrow School of Communications at Washington State University and longtime stadium voice of the WSU Cougars - as we collaborate on the new radio commercials for The National Lentil Festival, held here in Pullman the weekend before classes begin. I write the copy, Glenn provides his distinctive baritone pipes, and I mix down the final production. Over the years, our work has won awards from national and international festival organizations - but more importantly, has helped to draw thousands to enjoy the festivities.

As this year marks the festival's 21st anniversary, I thought it might be fun to play with the idea of what the typical 21-year-old does to celebrate the milestone birthday. This led to the use of the word squiffy, possibly for the first time on American radio.

A couple years ago I decided to give Tase T. Lentil a voice (mine, digitally manipulated), singing his own jingle, and we've trotted it out again for another run.

The Festival has long relied on local radio to get the word out. In recent years, radio stations in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana also have been invited to air spots in exchange for receiving "lentil loot" (t-shirts, posters, wine glasses, lentils, recipes, etc.) to give away to their listeners, extending the campaign into regions that would not otherwise be reached.

Here are a couple of this year's spots.