Drexel University’s independent radio station WKDU 91.7 FM hosted representatives from approximately 15 different nonprofit organizations based in Philadelphia April 25. The station was providing assistance to the nonprofits by helping them to write and record public service announcements that will be broadcast on an hourly basis by WKDU.
The idea for the event began with Chris Burrell, the station’s electronic music director as well as an adjunct professor at Drexel. Burrell began working at the station as a student and has continued on into his post-graduate life. In all his time spent working with marketing and learning more about local nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia area that needed a stronger voice, Burrell saw a possibility for partnership. He and the other leaders at the station decided to host nonprofit organizations’ PSAs during broadcasting times. When it turned out that many organizations did not have a pre-recorded or appropriately formatted PSAs, the station made another welcoming decision, opening their recording studio doors to those organizations.
“[The workshop] seemed like a great opportunity. I mean we’re always obviously looking to make connections with local media outlets to help spread the word … and it’s great to have an opportunity to come in and record a professional PSA, but also to make new connections,” Elisabeth Flynn, senior communications manager of the Mazzoni Center, a participating nonprofit, said.
Some of the other nonprofits in attendance were the People’s Emergency Center, Rock to the Future, the Ahimsa Center, Women In Transition, Minding Your Mind and ArtWell. The range of styles in the PSA announcements was profound. While some were focused on giving statistics, information and help lines, others were lighthearted and upbeat, providing information about free or low-cost programs available for the Philadelphia community. The types of organizations were also varied. Women In Transition, for example, is focused on assisting women in repairing damaged lives and putting an end to domestic violence and sexual assault; while Rock to the Future provides a space for young people in the Philadelphia community to receive music lessons and join musical groups and performances.
The first step of the creation process was facilitated by Maren Larsen, the personnel director and event coordinator for WKDU, as well as a communications sophomore with a concentration in journalism. Larsen assisted the nonprofits in writing short and powerful messages to be read in their PSAs. The goal was to keep the PSAs between 30 seconds and one minute long. Larsen worked on several drafts with some of the representatives, and with others she merely helped revise a final draft that the representatives brought with them, prepared ahead of time. “It’s so cool to meet all of these community organizations that I’ve heard about. … It’s amazing what people do,” Larsen said. After getting their messages on paper, the representatives moved to the recording studio.
Esmail Hamidi, an electrical engineering junior who is also the station manager at WKDU and elected to be the upcoming general manager, operated the recordings and the final edits of each PSA. Hamidi mentioned that he has experience with radio announcements from co-op and used those skills to aid the recording process with the unexperienced speakers from the organizations. “Last year I did a co-op with iHeartMedia, and they have six radio stations in the area. So in my spare time … I was making commercials for the radio with my own voice. And I never did that before, so they coached me through it, so I learned all the tricks and brought that here,” Hamidi said. He sure had his work cut out for him and admitted that there would be a lot of extra time required to get the final edits together for the PSAs to be put on the air but that he was enjoying the task.
Computer science senior, WKDU general manager and president Peter Liu spent the day ensuring that the process went smoothly and discussing various genres of music with the visitors. Near the end of the day, Liu and Burrell discussed the success of the event. “It went smoother than anticipated, which rarely happens,” Burrell said. In the course of about six hours, 15 PSAs were recorded in the studio.
“We met so many awesome people today,” Burrell added. In order to get support and publicity for the event, Burrell used his connections to the several nonprofit representatives he teaches in his classes. “I used a few of my connections with nonprofits in [the] LeBow [College of Business]. … So [Lawrence Souder] knew a bunch of nonprofits, and he linked me up with a bunch of organizations and with the Lindy Center [for Community Engagement], so I [was able to] reach out to them also,” Burrell said. All the representatives of the organizations were very grateful for the assistance in being heard given by WKDU, and the fruits of the team’s labor — professional PSAs ready to be broadcast daily — can be heard hourly on WKDU 91.7 FM.