LAST CALL: WKKO saves face following Hands-On contest snafu

Contests are a great way to generate PR, but sometimes it's not the type of coverage you'd expect. A Toledo radio station found that out this summer when it tried to give a car away in a car-touching marathon to what it thought was a loyal listener.

Contests are a great way to generate PR, but sometimes it's not the type of coverage you'd expect. A Toledo radio station found that out this summer when it tried to give a car away in a car-touching marathon to what it thought was a loyal listener.

Seems the winner of the WKKO Hands-On Marathon was a professional contestant.

A Wall Street Journal article revealed he'd won 16 cars since 1984, journeying across the country for such giveaways.

After getting the news, WKKO decided it couldn't take back the car, as its rules didn't forbid an out-of-towner from entering its contest. "It was a disappointment to us," says John Potter, GM at the country station.

But Potter and the auto dealer involved in the giveaway decided to turn a bad situation into a PR opportunity.

They awarded a second car to Keegan Stacy, the runner-up in the contest.

Like the winner, the runner-up had been touching the prize car for almost six days straight when he was eliminated from the competition. When the station announced he too would get a car, "our listeners went nuts," Potter says. "It was just positive response all the way across the board."

What's more, local media, who had grown weary of covering the five-year-old contest, suddenly wanted to cover the second-car giveaway. "It turned into an overwhelmingly positive PR call," says Potter. A second car may have cost him in the neighborhood of $17,000, but Potter figures the value of the positive PR generated far exceeded that. He is also rewriting the contest rules for next year to preclude professional contestants from entering.

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