Hands up — who’s secretly stocked up on hand sanitiser, avoided the lure of the malls and forwarded an info graphic from a school or neighbourhood group to someone in your family regarding the Coronavirus?
I travel to three separate airports weekly, one of them being King Shaka International Airport in KwaZulu-Natal. I was there on the same day that the first reported case in SA, travelled through the arrival hall. I must be honest, for a brief moment in time I wondered if he had licked the lift button or the luggage conveyor, luckily, I had a dust mask on that I purchased from my local hardware, so I was obviously safe. It’s been a few years since we’ve had to avoid polony sandwiches now it looks like we need to avoid Corona beer as well?
It’s virtually impossible to avoid the subject. From voice notes, social posts, graphics, phone calls, email chains and discussions. There is so much talk, it’s no wonder people have stopped buying Mexican beer.
This is my point. In an age of information overload, misinformation, alternative truths and where everyone and everything is quoted as the truth, who do you believe?
In a recent LinkedIn post, Paulo Dias (Radio Content and Convergence Specialist) wrote: “Radio shines brightest in times of crises, tragedy or disaster. Social and digital media is the quickest way of disseminating information, but this speed results in a lack of proper fact checking and every true piece of information is drowned out by hundreds of inaccurate takes. This is where radio comes to the fore with factual up to the minute information that is also able to move with the speed of culture.”
As a medium, radio has always prided itself on being able to share information in a quick, efficient, effective and relatable manner. Coupled with this, radio is a trusted source. Research in Europe and the US indicates that radio far outweighs social platforms when it comes to credibility and trustworthiness.
If there is going to be anything said or shared about a light Mexican beer, radio should be doing it. Apologies — take two. If there is going to be anything said or shared about the Coronavirus, radio should be taking a leading role. I agree when Dias says, “what an amazing opportunity for radio to calm fears, educate and cement their place in listeners minds”.
The reality of COVID-19 was never if, but when South Africa would report its first case. In the short window period before it landed at King Shaka from the ski-slopes of Italy, content teams should have been activating plans to know, understand, interpret, seek guidance, expert opinion and create messaging around what the Coronavirus means for the average South African. There was an opportunity to understand what the common myths were, get a handle on the impact and see what international media houses were doing. Commercially it was also the perfect opportunity to approach the Department of Health with campaigns that targets all sectors of society using radio dramas, social media, influencers (not to be mistaken with influenza), interviews, on demand audio and regular commercials. The need for the trusted platform and source to speak loudly and clearly is obvious.
Recently, I have basically shut myself off from the Coronavirus hype because I don’t really know where to look and what to believe. I’ve leaned to bigger news sites, but still get a hint of hype at times. I’m sure that across the radio dial there are brands doing some good stuff (I’d love to hear from you what has been actioned). In what I have sampled across three provinces as a regular listener, in the early stages, is a what might be referred to as a strain of content, knowledge and information light.
In my mind it would be great if an influential presenter could contract the Coronavirus.
This way we may start hearing some clear, concise and considered content (in quarantine of course). We’d get less useless banter and more relevant action points. We’d understand the real threats and separate the babble and hype. We’d have honest conversations, extended messages on social platforms and direct information and knowledge. I haven’t yet heard a presenter make the audience the crux of the conversation. Ultimately, as a listener I want to know the threat and how to best avoid it.
In his post Dias closes with a quote from US based Jacobs Media: “COVID-19 is a chance for aware programmers and managers to once again be reminded radio is, in fact, licensed to serve our communities. When there is a perceived threat to our audience members, then we have a duty to address it — in one way, shape, or form.”
I couldn’t agree with Dias more when he ends and says, “as this story develops, I really hope to hear more concrete conversation pieces on radio and less parody songs made to go *cough cough* viral.”
If you’re on the front of the content curve serving your audience, please share examples of your content to be shared and showcased, mail me but please don’t sneeze on the screen!
– Tim Zunckel started his journey in the radio business in 1996 and currently works as a coach, mentor and programmer.
His talent lies in broadcast management training, programming strategy and talent development.