As I draw towards the end of the enormously challenging but quite riveting Phil Cooke book "The Last TV Evangelist" (review on the way before too long, I promise), I have already started to implement changes in my radio show based on some of the things I have been thinking about as a result of the book.
One thing that has been on my mind for the last several months is that I need to make sure that my prep (material used in the show other than what is a constituent part of it) is going to help, stretch or challenge the listener in some way.
I am choosing articles which are actually constructive in a practical way, which will make the listener think, maybe move a little outside their comfort zone, and yes, maybe chuckle a bit too. The modern-day listener from the emerging generation (Generation X and Millenials) has plenty of options to choose from, bearing in mind that listening to the radio for music alone is becoming less and less necessary to those of us in touch with, and a part of the digital revolution.
I myself only listen to talk or sports radio. I have no need to listen to music radio. Why should I? I can make up my own playlist from the music I already have on my iPod, or even my in-car CD collection. So I should be under no illusions that anyone from the emerging generation would feel any compulsion to listen to what I broadcast...unless I can make it compelling.
I therefore feel it is one of my tasks to help these people see that it actually IS possible to use such platforms for good, but it does take a paradigm shift. After all, it is possible of course to use the good old-fashioned book for bad purposes just as much for good. New doesn't necessarily mean automatically evil.
With that in mind, I today launched a new feature on my show called "Twitter Watch". It's a very simple idea. I trawl through the tweets of prominent Christian speakers, thinkers, authors and communicators, so that my audience doesn't have to. I then pick out one nugget of wisdom, challenge or encouragement each hour from one of these live, updating feeds (and don't forget there are feeds including quotes from great but deceased names such as C.S. Lewis, Oswald Chambers, Corrie ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer), to hopefully illustrate that Social Media can be put to good use.
Within a half hour of the first spot, I received a phone call from a lady who calls quite regularly, and who is very much from the baby boomer generation, and who has a certain level of...let's say...suspicion towards the digital revolution. But she wanted to encourage me that the first tweet I selected (from Bonhoeffer as it happens) really encouraged her, and went some way to demonstrating that Twitter etc aren't all bad.
A small victory perhaps, but I do feel it to be a vindication of my attempts to win over those who listen, without railroading them into something they don't understand or necessarily want to be a part of.
I would be naive if I thought the battle was over, but I was massively grateful that this lady took the trouble to call and encourage me, even if she was a mite outside her own personal comfort zone.