CMT: Helping Viewers Get Involved

One Country Integrates Programs With Programming to Promote Action

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MTV Networks has a long history of incorporating social responsibility into our business practices, starting with MTV 's first "Choose or Lose" campaign in 1992. Likewise, the genre of country music has always focused on family and community. In the fall of 2005, those two facts led CMT to establish our own national call to volunteerism with the creation of CMT One Country. The goal of this initiative is to encourage viewers to take action in their communities and is a natural extension of the CMT brand and the values it represents.

CMT One Country's goal is to make it easy for our viewers to get involved by directing them to CMTOneCountry.com, where every user can find volunteer opportunities in their hometown just by entering their ZIP code. We aren't afraid to use a carrot to get them there either -- we have a monthly rewards system where every viewer who logs at least four hours of service is automatically entered to win goodies from CMT, including an iPod, CMT swag and a donation to that viewer's charity of choice. Each of those monthly winners is entered to win a VIP trip to the CMT Music Awards. The rewards system provides us with great examples of our viewers who showcase how one person can make a difference and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same, which is what CMT One Country is all about.

CMT One Country also has six national nonprofit partners that we highlight year-round across CMT's multiple properties: Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, Hands on Network and the USO (United Service Organizations). Our partners focus on issues our audience cares about -- things such as affordable housing, fighting hunger, support for our military and their families, providing access to the best hospital care for children and providing safe places for children to learn and grow. Additionally, these partners have local affiliates across the country that our viewers can connect to in their hometowns.

What has been one of the most important developments in the growth of CMT One Country over the past several years is how its mission has become intrinsic to all CMT's existing programs and properties. CMT One Country has evolved from a public affairs-driven program to one that the entire staff embraces as a critical component of the work we do. When creating a new program or project, CMT employees are often the ones who develop ideas of how to demonstrate acts of kindness or making a difference and approach my team to figure out how we can connect these ideas to CMT One Country.

A great example of this is the annual CMT Music Awards, which is our channel's biggest night of the year. It's important for us to highlight every facet of our artists' successes, including the generosity of the country music community. With that in mind, a member of our marketing department presented the idea that CMT One Country make donations to each winning artist's charity of choice; knowing my department did not have the budget to fund those donations, offered his budget to do so. Four years later, this has become a featured element of every awards show. We promote the artists' nonprofits on the voting page on CMT.com during its highest traffic of the year, and we engage the charities so they can reach out to their supporters to vote for them as well. As social networking has taken off, this has provided another great way to connect to our viewers, our artists and their charities to one another.

A few years ago, a member of our talent team approached me about making donations on behalf of our CMT Music Awards performers and presenters rather than giving them gift bags filled with more "stuff" they don't need. We decided to make a donation on the artists' behalf to local CMT One Country partner Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to support its BackPack program. CMT One Country's donation has provided 238,400 meals to 596 school-age children during the past three school years, and the artists continually express their support. Darius Rucker, Trisha Yearwood and Paula Deen have helped promote the BackPack program in conjunction with the awards. We also place CMT One Country backpacks in the artists' dressing rooms for them to sign during the show, then donate them to Second Harvest to auction off for even more money for the BackPack program.

This year, through our press team, we were able to launch a new partnership with Ladies' Home Journal's Do Good program to reach its readers and provide LHJ exposure to our viewers. We worked with its editorial team to book Sheryl Crow, this year's CMT One Country spokeswoman, as the LHJ June issue cover story, in which she talked about the importance of giving back to the community. Crow also attended the CMT Music Awards, walked the red carpet to talk about CMT One Country, performed with Kid Rock and mentioned the donations to winning artists' charities as a presenter on the show. We launched a Do Good/CMT One Country sweepstakes in conjunction with the June issue to reward LHJ readers and our viewers for volunteering, with a trip to the 2012 CMT Music Awards as the grand prize. Finally, we co-hosted a volunteer event at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee the day before the awards, where artists joined local volunteers to fill backpacks for their BackPack program. This event was covered by CMT's weekly show "CMT Insider," LHJ.com, as well as local media.

It is my hope that CMT will continue to create programming that matters and, with the help of our creative and talented staff, will cultivate many more ideas to use our broad reach to make a positive impact on communities across the country. After all, the power of one person to make a difference is extraordinary, and united we are "One Country."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lucia Folk is senior director, public affairs, for CMT.