By: Dr. David Bridwell, People Scientist
It is very common to hear people saying that if you’re a company, then you need to leverage social media as an outlet to express your ideas. This mentality isn’t unique to today; historically, social media has been a consideration when people have had to shift their attention from one form of media to another. For example, companies had to adapt from the written word to radio, from radio to TV, from TV to the internet, and from the website to social media. And when these companies were able to adapt to these new changes in technology, they had an easier time spreading (and discovering) their message.
When radio came along, some individuals might have recognized that it was a powerful outlet for people to share their actions and what they care about, so those individuals were motivated to start their own radio stations. This is akin to our modern world where we are creating our own social media accounts that can potentially operate as our own “TV channel” or “radio station.”
Typically, we think of the radio station as getting its content from an external source and then selling commercial time to another source. And normally, that’s how it works. But what if instead of paying an already existing radio station to broadcast your commercial, you create your own radio station? This mindset is not as uncommon as you think; therefore, you have companies that have created their own radio stations to help spread awareness.
The National Life & Accident Insurance Company elected to do just that on October 5th, 1925. Edwin W. Craig was able to convince the company’s board of directors to invest in this technology in order to enhance the company’s identity, and the call letters for this radio station, which would become famous, was WSM, which stood for We Shield Millions. These call letters were literally the company’s slogan.
They got people to listen to the station by playing music, and two months later, everything changed when they introduced a fiddler named Uncle Jimmy Thompson. People gravitated towards this fiddler’s performances in the studio until they needed to move out of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company and build an auditorium for the crowds. Soon, they formed the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
The National Life & Accident Insurance Company played an important part in associating the city of Nashville with country music. They expanded the radio station to a music recording studio, and they made the first modern country recording there in 1944. Their recording studio was the first of many that popped up along “Music Row.” Their influence inspired Nashville’s nickname “Music City, USA”.