How Local Radio Can Help During the COVID-19 Crisis

by Chris Byrnes

As I write this, a state of emergency has just been declared in Ontario. Things are changing by the hour across the country and around the world as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread at an alarming rate.

In these uncertain times, more listeners than ever before will be tuning to their favourite radio station to get he latest news and local information. Many people are being asked to work form home, so you’ll notice the roads are less busy and of course lots of businesses are closed or operating on limited hours.  Concerts and events have been cancelled and movie theatres are closed, and the pubs are also closed. This means more people will have more time on their hands and perhaps will tune to their local radio station to find out what is happening and stay up to date. We are encouraging our radio clients to do all they can to ensure they sound the best they ever have sounded, given the number of listeners who will be tuning in.

This is a great time for local radio to shine.  Become even more hyper local and get the relevant local information on the air in a timely manner. Add additional newscasts or information updates and consider going to a top of the hour update for as many hours of the day as you can reasonably handle. This will create appointment tuning and given how quickly things are changing there will be plenty of content to deliver.

Be sure you have your newsmakers on the air. Reach out to the Mayor, the Police Chief, your MPP and health professionals on a regular basis who will most likely be happy to provide the local angle.

Get the latest information on your website, and update that page regularly. If the content is updated regularly, people will come back to the site multiple times. You might also add the opportunity for listeners up upload photos showing how they are passing the time at home and encourage them to leave some comments. It might spark ideas and help others also pass the time.  Read some of the comments on the air to help create that sense of community. You might also create a “cancellations page” and keep that updated.

The other opportunity for radio is to help the retail community in your area. Consider running a promo on the air along the lines of the script the team at Heart FM wrote today:

Hi this is Scott Lunn, General Manager of Heart FM. Things are changing rapidly in our province and we are working hard to keep you informed on both local and national levels. We also want to help local businesses get the word out to consumers. If you are a business in Oxford County and you are open, changed your hours or have much needed supplies – let us know and we will get the word out to our listeners. Simply call 519.537.8400 Or email me at GM@1047.ca. If you let us know at Heart FM – our on-air team will let listeners know. Information is key during these times of uncertainty and we can help. And please stay safe.

This is a simple but tangible way that your radio station can help, and yes it might cost you some revenue in the short term, but it will be worth it because it will help local business in these changing times. Announcers give a shout out to local businesses and let the public know what is open, and anything special that is going on. When supplies are short listeners want to know that there is toilet paper at the local supermarket!

Offering this free service may save some local business from going under and keep more locals in jobs. Perhaps down the road these businesses will recognise the value that local radio has in their community.

Radio is the original one-to-many medium and this is a great time to be using the power of your transmitter and the reach of your social media platforms to inform and entertain. If you are doing something to help your community and make a difference in your local area in this time of crisis, please reach me at chris@byrnesmedia.com and I’ll be happy to add it to this article which will be updated.