(By Mike McVay) There are Four Faces of Coverage of the Coronavirus: Awareness, Acceptance, Encouragement, and Memory. Does your station have it all covered?
Awareness was when we first heard of the virus. It ramped up significantly before we were able to grasp and understand that this was unlike anything we had faced in our lives.
Acceptance is when we acknowledged that the pandemic was real, that we would all know individuals who would be infected with this virus, and that some would die.
Encouragement is what we have to do for our audiences. Encourage them that we will get through this pandemic. Share with them things they can do while sheltering. Look for positive, but factual, news to report to the audience. The peak having been reached in some communities. A decline in deaths. Talk of sports activities being rescheduled. It gives us all an “end point” to look forward to.
Memory is what we hope is ahead of us. Remembering what it was like when we were in lockdown. What good came from it, besides health, and what lessons can we learn from it?
There are some artists and production houses working on creating a musical tribute to the heroes of the pandemic and others working on an event to raise funds for the memory of this event. Don’t do anything gratuitous, and, if you’re an artist, don’t be opportunistic by taking advantage of this crisis to personally benefit.
We need to plan for what happens when we’re allowed to come back to the “outside world.” Party centers, normally only open during weekends, will be booked for events seven days a week. There will be “make-ups” for lots of events that had been postponed — wedding receptions, baby showers, graduations, birthday parties, celebrations of bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah, baptisms, funerals or celebrations of life.
Provide guidance on where your listeners can find information on filing for unemployment. Where can individuals go to find out about their options to refinance their homes or delay payments? What can be done to assist small businesses to stay in business during this time? How will the government’s COVID-19 recovery plans help everyone from individuals to big business? Surviving is what’s most important to all of us, at this moment, and will be important to our recovery.
We should be messaging that this is not a time to make jokes about the outbreak. It isn’t a time to present tongue-in-cheek contests that are about this health crisis. It’s also not a time to panic our listeners by being anything other than factual. It is a time to share positive news, too. Give the audience a reason to smile.
It may be months and months before there is a vaccination that will prevent this virus from infecting our listeners. We’re all hoping we’ll see life start to get back to normal, soon. However, we’ve not yet seen the crest of the wave of this illness in a total fashion for the United States. We have to help the world live a normal life.
Many air talents are broadcasting remotely. Encourage them to mention that fact on the air. How is working from home impacting their lives? How are they occupying their days and the days of their family members? The purpose of such talk is not to make it about them, but to create the feeling of community. “We’re all in this together. We’re going to get through this.”
Update your imaging. Eliminate the “Listen at Work” liners. Come up with imaging that reinforces “Listen while you work, no matter where and when you work, whether at home or on site.”
Look for “Wow!” moments to unite your audience. It could be playing the national anthem daily at noon to salute the men and women who are fighting on the frontline of the coronavirus. It could be creating a consistent moment to underscore that we’re all in this together. Like playing Queen’s song “We Will Rock You” at 6 p.m. nightly.
Don’t talk about what you’re doing on-air as if it is work. It isn’t “work” compared to what the majority of your audience considers to be work.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media Consulting. He can be reached at [email protected].