“You’re off the air,” the caller alerted me. We had no air monitor at my first radio station so we depended on listeners to let us know. I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, as Dave Barry would say. It happened so regularly that anytime I heard the phone ring in the outer office my Pavlovian response was to immediately peek to see if the carrier was on. Our little 500-watt radio station probably had more watts than listeners but fortunately a few of them cared enough to call.

Does anyone care? Are we doing enough? Is it making a difference?

It’s tempting to think that our tools define who we are. The carpenter is defined by his hammer; the accountant by his spread sheets, the radio station by its wacky deejays and 40-minute music sweeps. (BTW, almost all programming discussions default to how we use our tools.)

Most things that bond your listeners to your radio station have nothing to do with the things you’ve created. Apple didn’t create a bond because of the iPhone 11. Harley-Davidson didn’t create a bond because of the liquid-cooled 750cc Revolution X™ V-Twin engine.

“Those products and brands make us feel like we belong and we feel a kinship with others who buy the same things… Apple didn’t invent the lifestyle, nor does it sell a lifestyle. Apple is simply one of the brands that those who live a certainly lifestyle are drawn to…

Products are not just symbols of what the company believes, they also serve as symbols of what the loyal buyers believe.”

Simon Sinek, “Start With Why”

We in Christian radio are far too eager to define ourselves by the hallway full of gold records and awards. Your listeners don’t care. But they care very much about what you stand for.

And here’s the surprise: they’d care about it even if you went off the air.