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Radio Boise: Community Building and Sustainability in Local Radio

Words by 3p Contributor
Leadership & Transparency

By Daphne Stanford

When Radio Boise went on the air in April of 2011, the station had no idea it would garner such a loyal following in the community — especially the arts community. At a physical operations level, Radio Boise is powered by wind and solar energy: “Our main radio transmission is now powered exclusively by electricity sourced from regional wind and solar energy producers. We’re supporting renewable energy by purchasing renewable energy credits from Idaho Power’s Green Power Program to match the electricity used for our radio transmission,” the station said.

This investment in renewable energy is only one part of Radio Boise’s sustainable approach, however. Radio Boise is also a big supporter of eco-friendly causes through hosting several green-themed shows on a weekly basis: "Building a Greener Idaho," "Talk Dirt to Me" and "Elemental Idaho."

According to a recent TriplePundit article on the Three Phases of Sustainability, effective implementation of sustainable practices includes incorporating:

  • Eco-efficiencies and risk reductions,

  • Competitive advantage, and

  • Reinvention and regeneration

In addition to utilizing green sources of energy to power the station and supporting green-themed programming, Radio Boise also encourages a sustainable lifestyle through a focus on ‘green’ premiums during its biannual fund drives, as well as supporting local artists, festivals and events that place a premium on sustainability and responsible use of resources, along with minimizing waste. For example, during the last Radiothon, the station gave away handmade ceramic mugs as premiums and featured a graphic designed by local artist Erin Cunningham on Radio Boise T-shirts and hoodies.

In addition to supporting local arts and sustainable causes, Radio Boise is attempting to address the shortage in local news coverage by planning a local news broadcast — currently in the works. In addition, regularly occurring weekly and monthly events such as "Radio Boise Tuesdays" and "Campfire Stories" are covered extensively by Radio Boise via a variety of social media and mediums: via live broadcasts, coverage on the KRBX website, and the establishment of an online presence via social media sites such as Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

In business and organizational marketing, establishing an online presence via social media cannot be emphasized strongly enough. In fact, Chrissy Symeonak argues, social media is essential to marketing these days: The majority of marketing, in fact, takes place on social media. It would be madness to launch a marketing campaign that lacks this crucial component. Moreover, Symeonak encourages social posts and tweets that don’t take themselves too seriously. One great example of this social media involvement in action can be seen every spring during the last week of March.

Boise’s Treefort Music Festival has been going strong for three years -- each year growing in size and number of festival days. Along the way, Radio Boise has assumed an integral role by broadcasting freely accessible, on-the-ground coverage of the festival from the main stage, as well as broadcasting live, in-studio performances of many of the artists. In addition, Radio Boise utilizes Facebook and Instagram to snap candid snapshots of moments captured in real-time and posted immediately via the use of tags and a Tumblr account to funnel all the social media team volunteers’ pictures and videos into one place.

There’s also the annual Pre-Fat block party, one of the station's largest annual fundraisers. It’s basically a night-before party in anticipation of Tour de Fat: a celebration of bikes and bike culture that begins with a bike parade and culminates in a bike-centered festival filled with bike-centered activities, contests, music and entertainment. During Pre-Fat, the station tweets and post plenty of Instagram and Facebook updates and photos, trying to encourage social shares and excitement about the event. This social media activity not only provides a great service to the community by providing coverage of events to those unable to attend in person or festival-goers who want to keep up with various events around town — it’s impossible to be everywhere at the same time, after all! — but it also helps to brand Radio Boise as a provider of local news coverage that is free and readily available to the community.

This focus on local community-building is crucial to the mission of Radio Boise, which is also in line with TriplePundit’s Sustainability 3.0 model, which calls for identifying “serious local and/or global problems which could be addressed by your core competencies.” Rather than perpetuating the for-profit model that popularizes corporate artists and capitalistic radio models, community radio creates original, innovative programming from the ground up. KRBX is sustainable because it is run by the community, it is local, and it does not perpetuate a top-down approach to media and news consumption, but rather a grassroots mining of local resources.

The station is also in support of values that reflect green and sustainable codes of conduct such as gardening, supporting local CSAs, having conversations with local figures connected to issues related to sustainability, and investigating ways to move toward greener building methods in our neighborhoods and downtown infrastructure. Shows like Building a Greener Idaho – in addition to being focused on sustainable, green building methods — encourage listeners to suggest a topic for the show. Recent guests include the Boise Urban Garden Schools (BUGS), the Boise International Market and Eyes on Conservation.

This online push to greater participation in a local radio show acknowledges the realities of audience attention and consumption: Most people are online for much of the day these days — whether while at work or after work on their smartphones. In this way, it makes sense that Radio Boise has tapped into this online audience by staying active on the social media sites where potential listeners might be present. Community has become the No. 1 way brands are marketing themselves to consumers, followed by co-creation. If listeners feel that they can call the station and request a song, that type of community connectedness and input is highly valuable when Radiothon comes around each spring and fall and listeners are asked to donate what they can to sustain the station.

The feeling of co-creation and co-ownership are important to what makes Radio Boise sustainable — not just in terms of the environment, but also in terms of local growth and people-powered energy. As a nation of consumers and citizens, we’ve come a long way in our standards of corporate and organizational responsibility — in regards to sustainability, specifically — since the first Earth Day in 1970. This focus on locally-grown values also translates to the increasingly important role that energy-conservation and environmental sustainability has in people’s decisions to support or boycott a company.

In the future, this focus on sustainability will lend even more of a competitive edge to companies and organizations that want to increase awareness of the importance of conservation to our continued health and vitality. Both as individuals and as a collective, sustainable values are crucial to renewal and regeneration for our planet and our communities.  The old top-down model of mindless consumption, of corporate news and watered down top-40 music, is being replaced by grassroots journalism and critical mining of music, literature and information.  The ability to think critically and pursue lifelong learning will save us all, and it starts with the homegrown efforts of community radio stations like Radio Boise: radio, live transmission.

Image credit: Flickr/Andréanne Germain

Daphne Stanford has lived in four states and six cities, and she plans to visit the Basque country sooner rather than later. She puts her three degrees to good use through nonfiction and poetry writing, as well as through her weekly poetry show on Radio Boise. Find her on Twitter at @daphne_stanford or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ThePoetryShow.​

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