Rube Goldberg Radio Contesting

Rube Goldberg was an illustrator famous for depicting complicated gadgets that performed simple tasks in convoluted ways. A Rube Goldberg radio contest is similarly complicated.

“Most Christian radio station contests are WAY too complicated. People aren’t going to orient their lives around winning your prize,” writes syndicated radio personality Doug Hannah.

The only exception, I’ll add, is that if you are going to Rube Goldberg your radio contests, go all the way and, at least, make it entertaining.


Let’s talk transparency on Christian radio. Think about its purpose and the different ways to be transparent. Recently, some really talented radio people have said to me, “I don’t know how to share my personal life on the air.” So it got me thinking about the why of transparency.

Two premises we could think about:

1) If you open up to people, they will open up to God.

2) Knowing and loving God is the most important thing.

If those two things are true and if you are called to Christian radio, then it’s worth the effort to consider artistic and God-honoring transparency. Maybe fear of being too transparent keeps you from trying. Sometimes people have been too transparent with you and it was like they barfed on you. You don’t want to do that.

Brush against your life.

My first thought on transparency is: do the personal work of becoming a healthy, honest person off-air. You may have already done this work, or are in the process of this kind of work, but it takes opening up to others.  Maybe it’s a trusted friend or family member, an accountability partner, a therapist, a spiritual coach, a life coach, a 12-step group, a trusted small group Bible study – whatever works for you, find a place to be really honest, to heal, and to grow.

Then bring to your show things that are healed (or in the process of healing) and brush against them on-air. Find words to communicate the universal truth of your life and/or suffering. You don’t barf or bleed on them. But you sit beside them and you share your humanity and point towards Him. You take your life that is hammered out or in the process of becoming healthy in Him and you point towards the listener’s life and Jesus.

Consider the value of becoming honest, embracing your humanity, and how that could lead to hope in Christ for a listener someday. Because if you can connect them to Him, they can find healing and true life. But start with you and Him, and honest, deep healing.

Then brush against it on-air.  Your story is about the listener.

Something to think about: There’s more value in your wounds and scars than you know. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 in the Message

Words Count

This viral video demonstrates the power of changing just a few words to create an emotional response.

When communicating to an audience, take as much time as you need to tell the story, and no more.


Make the words count. This applies to talking on the radio, giving a speech, writing a letter to supporters, even stand-up comedy.

We live in a sound-bite world. But, it seems, this is not a new insight. German theologian Martin Luther, who died in 1546, lamented, “If I had my time to go over again, I would make my sermons much shorter, for I am conscious they have been too wordy.”

How Do I Be Good?

Steve Martin on the first question you should ask if you want to be a successful comedian:

I was talking to some students and they were saying things like, ‘How do I get an agent?’, ‘Where do I get my headshots?’ and I just thought … shouldn’t the first thing you think about is, “How do I be good?

The most successful comedians/artists/athletes are also the ones who work the hardest.

That seems obvious. But then why do we distract ourselves with a million tasks to avoid doing that one creative pursuit we know we ought to be working on? Asking for a friend, of course.

Working hard doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome but not working hard on your craft ensures mediocrity, or worse, apathy. Here’s to another work week of putting in the hours creating, refining, and shipping.

I LOVE that song!

“Oh man, I love that one.”

How many times have you heard this? A song on the radio ends, and the DJ says, “Oh man, I love that song!”

I don’t care. Because the fact that you like that song is not about me. The fact that you like that song is not topical, relevant, or compelling to my life. And sadly, if you say how much you like a song, it usually means you say it several times a show. As if the best thing you are bringing to the table to first captivate my attention or set yourself up to be heard by me is just your emotive response to a song. Over and over and over…

And have you considered this? I might not like that song. Maybe I was listening the whole time with you, wading through that tune to get to the next one. Because I need your station in my life. Because life is hard and I’m hungry for hope and encouragement. And then you come on the radio and drive a wedge between you and me with your “Man, I love that song” mindless transition that is the opposite of my thoughts and feelings.

Please never say it again. Please take yourself out of the first 10 seconds of every break you ever utter. Please?

Here are some other options, just off the top of my head …

  • “If you like that song, then you are like Sarah who just called crying because that song has made such a difference.” Then tell Sarah’s story.
  • “You just heard the new song by Matthew West, and we hope you like it.” Then talk about something really relevant, topical, and/or compelling.
  • Insert something compelling from the story you are about to tell. Like, “It was kind of scary, the way he was yelling as they dragged him off the plane.” Then do your elements and tell the story.

Seriously most ANYTHING could be better than “Oh wow, I really love that one.”

Assert yourself and try to start your next break with heart. Because she needs someone to captivate her attention and give her something that will make her next few moments of life a little brighter.


For the past 3 years, I’ve had the privilege to lead the most creative marketing team on the planet. Together, we were able to launch two nationally syndicated radio shows as a way to raise the profile of CURE  International and cultivate new donor relationships. We went out on multiple tours with Chris Tomlin, Lauren Daigle, Switchfoot, and David Crowder. The team developed a monthly giving program to help fund surgeries for children. The number of monthly donors increased 580% and revenue among the mass (non-major) donors increased 685%.

While I will miss the daily interaction with my colleagues at CURE, I’m grateful CURE has agreed to become a client of Goldsmith Media Group.

If Goldsmith Media can help your organization with strategy planning, program consulting, fundraising support, or talent coaching, please let me know: or text/call 312-772-6781.

The Secret to Becoming a Great Storyteller

Ira Glass is one of the greatest storytellers on radio. Ever. He wasn’t always great. Watch this. Take heart. It may encourage you as he discusses his own journey and even plays and critiques his own work from his 8th year on a national show.

Your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you … a lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

Everybody goes through that. The most important thing you could possibly do is a lot of work. Don’t quit.

The Fine Print

Yesterday, United Airlines had a passenger forcibly removed from a flight to make room for a crew member. The passenger bought a ticket, was seated, and then was removed when he refused to “volunteer” his seat. The video of the bloodied and screaming passenger has now gone viral.

Of course, United is within their legal right to do it. It’s in the fine print.

What if instead of doing something just because we can, (it’s in the fine print!) we empower every manager and front line team member to delight customers no matter what? In the case of United Airlines, it’s really quite simple – when a flight is overbooked, keep raising the offer amount until enough people volunteer to give up their seats. Don’t annoy your customers or do anything you don’t want to be live streamed and go viral on social media. Period.

Stop Fundraising

Fundraising is about you. Your non-profit needs funds, so you fundraise. The time to invite someone to make an emotional decision to support your non-profit is not when you need the money. That’s transactional and way too late to make the case for long-term support.

Your radio station/non-profit is NOT the cause. It’s the conduit to a cause (solving a problem in the world).

What would happen if we truly, 24/7/365, were sold out to the cause and passionately invited others to join us in real tangible ways? What if, instead of fundraising, we invite people to join a cause bigger than ourselves … we cause-raise? We’d create advocates that are as passionate about our cause as we are and, likely, they’d join us in raising whatever support was necessary.

Video Aided and Abetted The Radio Star

If you make something worth hearing or seeing, congratulations that’s a good start.
But it’s only 50% of the work. The other half is finding an audience. When you create compelling content, curate it in a way & place people can find it. (Hint: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram.)

Do: Create YouTube playlist for recurring segments.
Don’t: Post full audio of a show on YouTube.

Do: Facebook Live backstage at a concert.
Don’t: Facebook Live a remote from Verizon.

Pro-tip: If you’re not familiar with Power 105.1 NYC’s The Breakfast Club, check out their YouTube page. It’s a Masterclass is how to leverage video to reach a larger audience.