In times of public crises, radio stands the test of time as a go-to, trusted and timely source of credible information. As fear of COVID-19 virus spreads across communities, radio once again, stands strong.
In times of crisis, your station is your guide: Audiences flock to familiar voices to get information they trust and to alleviate concerns. Starting the week of February 24th, we observed an average increase of almost 12%1 in ratings across Entercom’s news stations in large metropolitan markets2 as tensions escalated. This coverage has not been restricted to news stations. A broad range of local radio stations have prioritized the health crisis news across their broadcast and digital channels. Here is an example from Entercom’s KFRG in Riverside. These stations gave a local voice to a national concern.
Digital audio draws audiences with location-smart with fast alerts: Location-specific and reliable breaking news updates transform digital audio channels into powerful crisis communication tools. Compared to a year ago3, during the week of February 24th, RADIO.COM has seen an increase of 29% in total listening hours – which is an additional 446,000 hours on this platform alone. The surge in audio activity was also evident in rising audience numbers: 213,000 additional people listened to RADIO.COM news stations during this week.4 As public health threat persists, this trend is carrying through most streaming platforms.
The impact for brands is real: Times of crises tend to threaten business continuity and revenue. The sudden and dramatic shifts in consumer behaviors – choosing not to travel, dine out or purchase non-essential items – curb marketers’ abilities to grab attention with typical messaging and media strategies. Here are some best practices we’re advising clients to deploy right now, whether adjusting existing materials or creating new advertising:
When times are good, you should advertise. When times are bad, you must advertise: History shows that businesses that stop advertising in times of crisis or economic downturn are likely to lose share of mind, heart and market5. Stay present with your audiences, but acknowledge the issue at hand in both message and tone. Be the leader they want you to be.
Be sensitive to public sentiment: When consumer worries are escalating, audiences are simply not as receptive to promotional messages. Be transparent in communicating how your business is being responsible during the public health crisis. Be empathetic to listeners. You may need to trade promotional time for statements about your strict adherence to CDC guidelines and your business’ unwavering commitment to the community it serves. This is always budget well spent.
Inform and be helpful: Despite changing typical patterns, consumers still have needs. Inform your audiences of what you have in stock and remind them what they might need to be prepared and to continue their daily course of life. Deliver messages of support and outcome, not ones that can fan the flames. This is how you earn trust and brand loyalty.
2Markets include New York (WCBS-a, WINS-a), Philadelphia (KYW), Chicago (WBBM-a), LA (KNX) and San Francisco (KCBS-a)
3YOY represents a comparison between week of 2/24/20 and 2/25/19
4Source: Triton, RADIO.COM Radio Format; week of 2/24/20 vs 2/25/19, All Dayparts.
5Based on a review of studies conducted by McGraw Hill, Penton Research Services, Coopers & Lybrand, Business Science International, Strategic Planning Institute of Cambridge, MA.