During Memorial Day weekend one of my two favorite "music" sites, rewoundradio.com, ran over 125 different WABC airchecks. WABC was a New York-based "clear channel" station which could be heard all over the eastern part of America. Most of the disc jockeys became reasonably well-known nationally, some for the voice-over work and amazing talent like Big Dan Ingram and others became famous because they could be heard at night over a wide swatch of the country. Radio personalities such as Cousin Bruce Morrow (who is still going strong on Sirius/XM long after he began on the air), Chuck Leonard and Charlie Greer became almost like family to many of those listeners in far-away places.
But there much more to WABC then the disc jockeys and the popular music. There were also the constant contests the station ran, many of which were devised by innovative program director Rick Sklar.
When the famed Mona Lisa painting came to New York, Sklar created a contest (judged by famed artist Salvador Dali) by having listeners draw their own Mona Lisa. They also had a Principal of the Year in which anyone could mail in a postcard to vote for their favorite school principal.
In today's world, which is not dominated by AM stations or a few television networks, companies sometimes forget to promote. Those who do see some of them really take hold and are run them each year and other times they are one shot deals such as PSA’s contest run during their race toward 100,000 total cards graded. Either way, contests such as those usually bring back more in the way of positive publicity than they cost to run.
Recently, grading and authentication firm SGC (Sports Card Guaranty) debuted a new "flip" or label, for the cards they encapsulate. While company officials felt it was something they had to do because of changing technology, the move drew some fire from collectors on message boards who felt the new flips did not keep the green borders for which SGC had been previously known. Others felt the quality wasn’t reflective of SGC’s strong place in the market.
Fortunately, SGC listened, tore up the initial plan and has decided to go more with a basic design created by a Net 54 member while making the appropriate tweaks to deal with the changing technology. The label (an example at right) will include a green border containing the white SGC letters along the top edge.
"It is clear that the loyal and passionate collectors who keep SGC in business have spoken and we are happy and obliged to listen to them," said President Dave Forman.
The decision was greeted with a big thumbs up from the pre-War card collecting community. However, I kept thinking the company could have avoided some of the backlash by involving its members in a contest to pick the next flip.
Unlike the process of actually grading the card or how a card is sealed (both of which are proprietary, and rightly so) a flip which identifies the card and the grade is just a label and the proposed change could have spawned some fun.
I realize this would have been extra work, but perhaps three or four designs could have been created, the reasons for the design change explained, votes taken and a randomly drawn winner could have received some free grading submissions. Trust me, the cost to SGC would have been minimal and the positive PR benefit would have been huge.
SGC would have engaged their user community, showed off some transparency as a company and probably gotten some free publicity from other websites and forums. This truly would have been a win-win for everyone.
In the end, all turned out for the best and I think SGC is to be congratulated for listening to their clientele and realizing some changes made within the card collecting community can only make their brand even stronger. And, after all, isn't that the goal of any company? To improve their brand?
Rick Sklar had it correct more than 50 years ago: if you engage your listeners, good results usually occur. I suspect going forward SGC will become a bit more PR oriented as well and for them, that is a great corporate move.