While not all media outlets are closed today for Martin Luther King Day, it was actually the media that closed the book on making this Day one that is recognized throughout the country.
Ten years ago, Martin Luther King Day was not considered a holiday in a few holdout counties, including Greenville, South Carolina. The county government sparked controversy when they asked county workers to vote on which holidays they wanted to recognize, in spite of the fact that MLK Day was already being recognized as a Federal holiday, and one that the State of South Carolina recognized for state employees.
One of the days proposed, along with MLK Day, was Confederate Memorial Day (but, hard as it is for me, we won’t go there in this blog…). Many county workers went on record as saying they were uncomfortable being put in the position of being asked to make this choice on a very public stage with national focus.
The county employees initially voted for floating holidays, rather than for MLK Day. So, what was it that finally pushed Greenville County to officially become the last county in America to grant workers a day off?
Local media outlets united and did what local media outlets do best: they used their airwaves to report information and to motivate viewers and listeners to take action. Ad agencies created compelling messages, and some radio and television stations took a stand. They used their paid time, PSA time, and their personalities to bring about change.
I fully understand that there are benefits to having non-local programming. Sure, there is a case to be made for having better personalities and programming than a market could attract or afford. But let’s face it – many of these decisions are based in cost-cutting.
Technology is allowing us to do more with less in our industry, which is not totally a bad thing – after all, I work for a media sales software CRM and Yield system , which has made keeping track of things a lot easier. But when it comes to promoting change, from a political stance to which product or service is the best, live and local has the power:
- Local personalities are relatable; they talk like your audience, go where they go, shop where they shop, and cheer for their sports teams. From an advertising prospective, people like people who are like them, and people buy things from people they like.
- Local programing provides relevant information. During the latest Snowmageddon, parts of the country were measuring the wind chill, while others were watching the palm trees grow. Neither locale cares about what is happening in the big population centers; they care about “their neck of the woods.” From an advertising prospective, selling snow blowers in Tucson won't sell many snow blowers.
- Local programming can provide information immediately. It is immeasurable how many lives have been saved by weather people disseminating warnings about tornadoes or hurricanes. School closings, closed highways and Amber alerts can be aired to the masses quickly. From an advertising prospective, clients can get their focused messages out relating to local conditions very fast, striking while the iron is hot and consumers have needs.
- Media can bring positive change to the community. Whether it is backing a cause like MLK Day, encouraging people to get healthy, partnering to bring new business to the city, or supporting the arts, a radio or television station can provide facts and motivation to be catalysts for change. From an advertising prospective, businesses can be recognized for their contributions to make their community stronger.
I notice that Greenville, South Carolina, has quite a few activities this year surrounding Martin Luther King Day and the Day of Service. Their community — and yours — will be stronger because of the day’s activities and acts of service.
Use your power for good.