(By Buzz Knight) On this final edition of our series “The Future of Audio” we check in with one of the leading international Radio Consultants Phil Dowse. Phil’s track record of bold and truthful consulting along with a myriad of creative ideas and solutions makes him an inspiring leader in the global audio industry.
BK: Give us a perspective of how radio has been impacted in the many countries you work in and around Covid-19?
PD: Radio has been gifted a unique opportunity to reinvent itself. It has a finite time frame to come out of Coronavirus with a new and a more loyal audience. It’s time for radio to galvanise its tribe. It’s time to deliver amazing stuff without accountability. There is no risk (many countries have halted Radio Surveys). This is our approach in Australia with the ARN RadioGroup.
In the UK, Europe and Australia advertising was initially hit hard but is now slowly recovering as new opportunities arise as countries see the way out of Covid. Certain businesses began to thrive early (DIY, essential services, groceries, online clothing), but now both agency and direct clients are flowing again, as market confidence begins to bounce back. It’s been a challenging time for Australian media but the number of briefs now being worked on is back to about 80% of pre-COVID volume.
BK: What specifically do clients in these situations say they’re looking for when it comes to their messaging and tone?
PD: Clients are wanting more and different opportunities. Most of the stations I work with globally have really embraced this. Bauer in the UK for instance is encouraging every client to have their radio adds updated to reflect the times. They have assembled a ‘tone’ team from content, creative and commercial, guiding brands through pandemic comms.
Most Australian stations had a number of key partnerships that were running as they went into lockdown. How they helped those clients change their messaging to be more sensitive and relatable to audiences became a big issue and opportunity. It was about getting the balance between the right tone of the station and the appropriate tone for the client.
BK: What has been the impact on listening habits?
PD: Listening habits have changed also. All markets are different but in general morning show listening is about the same but workday til 4 pm is way up with Podcasts and Digital up massively.
We identified three very distinct phases in the pandemic life cycle:
Reflection Phase/the new normal in lockdown
Escapism Phase/ How are we going to look coming out of this
As stations (and markets) move through these phases programming changes and evolves too.
BK: Just as advertisers have evaluated their tone have stations done that as well?
PD: Tone was been a key word . Station tone needs to reflect how listeners are feeling and thinking.
BK: Have any specific tactics worked you can share?
PD: Some of the tactics that have worked globally include; Countdowns. With more people at home, engagement with radio is greater. We’re finding countdowns are working really well for Cume and TSL. Top 500 songs of all time. That of 5 days of musical content. Easy to sponsor or split it up for 5 daily sponsors. Lots of social add-ons. Door Drop. With food being scarce and lots of competition amongst essential goods clients a door drop campaign where food parcels are distributed. 3 Minute adds’. Listeners buy 30 secs and get 3 mins. 30 Sec ‘Clients of the week’ spots (3 clients in each 30 sec spot). First Plane Out Idea . This is huge and will happen in multiple markets. We give away the first plane out of town. Virtual Weddings. This is a big one. No cost , great content, multiple sponsors. Zoom Break ins. Love this. You win a Zoom Code and get to have a virtual meal with the morning show team
BK: Do you see any opportunities format and content wise that could be emerging?
PD: In terms of opportunities Pop ups / Niche formats may well be the go (Digital platform or Podcast). Fix It Radio in the UK is a great example of this targeting tradies. Low cost, great sponsorship and commercial opportunities, massive TSL. Pop up stations feeding information to students studying year 12 (revision notes to year 12 students who cant get to school and to whom on line lessons just aren’t enough) is a great idea
Looking at your radio groups power. How can you turn your station into a” super brand”? Using your power to develop new content, a new show, a new podcast or a new station
Using all your groups best female talent to form a super team or show (or even podcast or station)
BK: What are the leadership challenges that you see in this moment that we’ve never experienced before?
PD: The obvious monetary ones …managing staffing in these times. In the UK and Australia most programming and on -air teams have been in studio throughout Covid with all other staff working remotely. Going forward radio station staff will go back to work in the office …for the short term anyway. As the coronavirus takes a steep toll on the economy and the workforce, many won’t have jobs to go back to. Some who are still employed will now permanently work from home, and some groups will choose to downsize their leases or look for flexible office space rather than long-term leases. This could be THE change for the new normal.
Buzz Knight is the CEO of Buzz Knight Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]