(By Chuck Knight) Remember the phrase “Life changed forever on 9/11”? Life just changed more drastically on 3/11.
Perception is Reality
This is serious. Doesn’t matter if we think the reaction is overblown. Perception is always reality. Look no further than the public panic buying at your grocery store that started on Friday. Schools are now closed, restaurants and bars are being ordered to close, sporting events cancelled, our 401K accounts are trashed. As of this writing, the CDC is recommending gatherings to be limited to no more than 50 people for the next eight weeks! Our country, and world, are effectively being closed down like never before. Disruption to individuals, families, businesses and our culture is magnified beyond measurement compared to 9/11. Yes, this is serious. Time for us to evolve our products once again to be in step with our listeners’ changed wants, needs and desires of us.
We’ve all seen plenty of online discussions about if we should still be light-hearted and irreverent with morning show content and positioning. The time for this passed on 3/11. We weren’t being comedic about the 9/11 attacks. No. 3/11 is worse. Sophomoric humor and parody songs are over. Doesn’t mean we don’t talk about the ridiculousness of the two Tennessee idiots who bought 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer or we involve listeners calling in with their stories of the pathetic panic buying behavior they witnessed late last week. Those are things we can still chuckle about. But as a society, we’re desperately searching out information that can help us separate fact from fiction so that we can begin to know how to keep our families safe. If you’re a morning show, hit your contacts list. Lots of LOCAL angles … doctors, mayors, health officials, first responders, elected state and federal representatives, business owners, artists, concert promoters. These people want to speak to your audience and they have more credibility in their storytelling than us. You should want them on your show because they and their information are what makes you more valuable to your listeners than the people on the other station. Give your listeners what they want or they will be forced to go elsewhere to find it.
As Gary Berkowitz suggested in his column last week, commit to hourly news updates across all formats. Make sure to often promote the time listeners can hear and make appointments to tune in for those updates. “Get updates at 15-past every hour and breaking news at once.” No news voice at your station or cluster? Team with a local TV partner, offering them all that free exposure in exchange for an hourly update. With lifestyles changed, be prepared for Radio cume and TSL to be disrupted and look a lot more like the holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s. If that’s the case, is once an hour enough?
Audit your standard positioning to make sure it all still makes sense. Does some of the edgier stuff not fit right now?
Review your active music library. Are there titles with lyrics that don’t fit in this new reality? Think about the library structure in general. People are already craving for things to get back to a routine that is familiar to them. Think about making your library more familiar to be in-step with that. CHR, Hot AC, Country and Active Rock, more recurrent and late gold. Classic Hits and ACs, reintroducing some high-testing 70s. Classic Rock, less early 90s, more 70s. This can be a short-term tactic that can give a more familiar comfort to your listeners.
Yes, our lives changed forever on 3/11. We’re in unchartered territory. We all have a responsibility to keep the industry discussion going on how we should, and can, be confident enough of our products to evolve them to best serve our listeners’ current wants, needs and desires of us. The more collaborative discussions we have the better we’ll all be for them. It’s our moment to shine and I know we will.
Chuck Knight is the CEO of Chuck Knight Media and can be reached at 484-401-9699 or by e-mail at [email protected]