Three months ago, the Delaware Transit Corporation’s intermodal transportation agency, known as DART First State, began a campaign to raise its profile by appealing to radio audiences in Wilmington. Marketing Manager Drew McCaskey says he pitched the idea of a three- to five-minute weekly radio show called “Getting There Starts Here” to two stations. All-news WILM, the largest all-news radio station in Delaware, graciously accepted — at two minutes, equivalent to approximately $200 of air time on a Saturday morning.
As any radio professional will tell you, two minutes of interesting air time can be difficult to generate on a weekly basis, but E.B. Hawkins, general manager and co-owner of WILM-AM with his mother Sally, is only mildly concerned. “If people started calling in saying, ‘Why do I have to listen to this junk?,’ we might ask them to spruce it up a little,” he says. “But my suspicion is that they will rise to the occasion and make it interesting.”
That’s the mission, says McCaskey, who already plans to replace the opening theme music, “It’s Your Thing,” taken directly from a commercial put together by the American Public Transportation Association’s (PT)2 campaign, with a DART First State-specific jingle. McCaskey says he was able to get two versions put together professionally for approximately $5,000.
A strong debut
DART First State debuted March 23 with a segment introducing the weekly show. The first standard segment was broadcast the following Saturday, March 30, with a storyline about a Baltimore couple who were on their third visit to Wilmington, partly because of the convenience and economy of DART First State’s 25-cent City Circuit route. “It was based on rider e-mail that we received,” McCaskey says. “The downtown loop made the couple’s visit more pleasurable and memorable.”
Hawkins listened to the segment and rated it a 6.0 or 6.5 on a scale of one to 10. “It was kinda cool,” he says. “Sounded like a well-crafted infomercial, in a warm sort of way. It was a darn good presentation for people who aren’t in the broadcast business. I’m optimistic about it becoming nearly exciting.”
Route of the week
McCaskey says content for a year’s worth of shows will not be a problem because the transit authority has, among other things, 60 routes statewide to feature as a “route of the week.” He’s put a team in place to handle the weekly chore of writing and taping the two-minute featurette. The stars of the program will vary from week to week as transit employees get their chance to hit the airwaves.
If everything goes as planned, McCaskey hopes to extend the show to five minutes. And he might just get those extra minutes because Hawkins is not only a media maverick but also a big public transportation supporter. “Public transportation has never been suitably publicized,” he says. “We’ve got 40,000 to 50,000 listeners on a Saturday morning, and DART wants to get the word to people who are users or potential users of what services are available. We have every reason to support their efforts.”
And McCaskey appreciates Hawkins’ generosity. “We’re really thrilled with this relationship,” he says. “It’s going to allow us to develop a rapport with the listening public. We feel we’re an integral part of the life here and our system adds to the quality of life.”