Sometimes, the best way for a radio show to draw a crowd has little to do with what goes out over the airwaves. But in our litigious, politically correct times, it’s not always smart to try an old-fashioned radio show stunt.

Rusty Walker, part of “Walker Daniels in the Morning” in Kansas, said her station hit the proverbial home run late last month with its Golden Horseshoe contest at the Big 94.5 Country Topeka Rodeo. The annual event asks contestants to throw a horseshoe 47 feet (competition distance for men is 37 feet) to try for a ringer. The prize was $10,000. Only it’s darn near impossible to do, as they’ve learned in past outings.

This year someone actually did it, or got so close the insurance company behind the event had to analyze the results. The subsequent drama earned the station a ton of web traffic — more than 8,000 hits in less than 24 hours, Daniels told LifeZette. The video of the throw scored more than 20,000 views. By the way, the lucky fellow won the jackpot after the results were examined further.

“It was a good thing we went over the rules with the guy,” she said. “We’re gonna be prepared for the worst.”

That’s the beauty, and potential trouble, with radio stunts. Anything can happen. Sometimes it’s a this-close horseshoe contest. Daniels recalled seeing a radio listener swallow a two-foot long snake for the chance to win George Strait tickets.

A worst-case scenario happened back in 2007 when California resident Jennifer Strange, 28, died from water intoxication after participating in a “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” radio contest. Listeners to KDND 107.9 in Sacramento were asked to see how much water they could drink without relieving themselves, with the winner getting a Nintendo Wii video game system.

Stunts still cut through the cultural noise, which is more important than ever in our social media age.

“You’re so afraid of offending someone.”

Who do you think would win the Presidency?

By completing the poll, you agree to receive emails from LifeZette, occasional offers from our partners and that you've read and agree to our privacy policy and legal statement.

Mary Kay Lemay, director of marketing at Washington’s WTOP-FM and Federal News Radio, said it’s getting harder to grab people’s attention. Today’s radio stations must deal with that reality, but often without the tools they once wielded.

For starters, the era of the chat fest, laugh riot “Morning Zoo” format is mostly over, Lemay said. The radio industry itself has shed original personalities for syndicated stars. Stations often have smaller staffs to pull off promotional measures.

“Those kinds of wacky stunts would take time and resources,” Lemay said.

And then there’s the risk that a radio promotion might cross someone’s line.

“You’re so afraid of offending someone,” she said. “If we offend somebody, it’s going to be all over the place (thanks to social media). You have to be so protective of everything.”

Even the radio stations’ commercial partners think twice now before embracing a promotional stunt.

The era of the “Morning Zoo” format is mostly over.

“I don’t think clients are as open to taking chances,” Lemay said. “Everybody’s so afraid of litigious people.”

Not only will a button-pushing event give radio station managers agida, chances are listeners won’t care in the first place, said Jenny Russak, director of digital and marketing with iHeartMedia Inc.

“We’ve done some politically incorrect stuff out there that’s fallen pretty flat, like giving away a divorce for Valentine’s Day,” Russak said.

Yet some seemingly ridiculous stunts still score with the public.

“I swore up and down against giving away a lifetime supply of bacon on a classic rock station,” Russak said. The promotion ended up sparking more than 3,000 entries, making it an unabashed success.

One constant remains when it comes to radio show promotions. You’ve got to be in it to win it. Really.

“People think they’re not going to win so why bother,” said Russak, who adds the odds aren’t as impossible as some might think. “We have people who win (something) every month.”