The Ron and Don Show’s On-Air SMS Fail

As I was driving home from work last Friday I tuned the radio in my car to 97.3FM, a News/Talk station here in Seattle. Not sure if it’s a sign of my age or an indication of the state of radio broadcasting in this area but I recently replaced 103.7FM, which used to have great contemporary rock programming, with a talk radio station.

On 97.3FM it was time for the Ron and Don show and they had started talking about the Colorado fires when I tuned in. The worst wildfire in Colorado history has destroyed nearly 350 homes and killed two people. When you look at the images and video it’s simultaneously amazing and troubling.  One of the radio hosts was beginning a call-to-action. He wanted us to donate to the Red Cross in order to help those affected by the fires. But I was a bit confused by what he was saying.

Listen to the audio here.

He says,

“Text the word redcross…Text redcross, and then what you want to do is text #90999″

Then, after some words about how awesome the Red Cross is he goes on,

“…after the bottom of the hour news updates I’m gonna jump on my phone, type RedCross and then #90999, that’s 90999, send that to the Red Cross… “

Huh? What am I supposed to do? Text what? Redcross or #90999? Do I put #90999 in the message along with the word ‘redcross’? Is ‘redcross’ one word or two? Where do I send the message? Is there a number for the Red Cross? Should I know it? It seems like he’s saying to send a text to a short code, similar to the efforts to raise money to support relief efforts in Haiti and Japan, but I’d never heard the use of a pound sign (#).

I’ll give Ron and Don credit for trying to rally the support of the Great Northwest but this was a disaster of its own.

FAIL.

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 What could have saved this campaign?

Here’s what I think happened. Ron and/or Don or perhaps their producer did a little research about how they could promote mobile donations to the Red Cross.  They found the information on the Red Cross web site and wrote it down. Then when the time came the show’s host just grabbed the paper and tried to give the instructions.

Here’s what didn’t happen: Testing. The radio host clearly is not very familiar with mobile donations and doesn’t appear to do too much texting, otherwise he would have known how confusing he was being. He needed to try the donation process before delivering his call-to-action.  Had he done that, his instructions might have been something clearer like, “Text the word ‘redcross’ (one word) to the number 90999. Text REDCROSS to 90999″ or “Send a text message with the word REDCROSS to the number 90999.”

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