#RadioStrong During the Covid-19 Pandemic

I’m so proud to work with some incredible partners in the radio industry. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve asked them to share stories of how they’ve served their listeners during this challenging time. Below are their stories. Stay safe, be well. – Deena


Pio Ferro and Skip Dillard/ Emmis Communications New York

Our biggest job is to give listeners accurate and “actionable” information and after that, give people hope and encouragement. We do video calls with our staffs and discuss ways we can authenticate information to quickly share with our listeners, both on air and through social platforms. Our stations have also expanded our public affairs/spoken word programming and news to accommodate the need for information and assistance.

The New York Radio group launched the #SaluteOurHeroes campaign to spotlight and celebrate healthcare workers, 911 operators, essential workers, first responders and others risking their own health during this crisis.

We have increased our weekend PSA efforts, with Hot 97 adding a special 2-hour Saturday show.

Hot is currently doing “Half a Grand Helping Hand”.

Our client Major World (car dealer) has changed their messaging to “clap” for our local heroes @ 7pm to acknowledge their efforts.

Brian Figula/ Bonneville San Francisco

Cluster: Developed a free outlet for local businesses to advertise on our websites. We call it “We Got This Bay Area”. It’s an opportunity to help local businesses and existing advertisers.

KOIT: We created a “KOIT Community Facebook Group”. An outlet to share ideas, comments and assistance when needed. Staff is engaging daily.

KOIT: 3 things you should know information updates hourly.

The PD and support departments meet multiple times per week to brainstorm ideas for clients.

KBLX created a fun rap reminding people to social distance, wash your hands etc. It’s called “The Commandments”, a play off a Notorious BIG song.

I’m reminding staff that this pandemic is an opportunity. Regarding work, engage MORE with digital. Help people if you can, it feels good and goes a long way right now.

Rick Cummings/ Emmis Communications

In early February, our Sound that BRANDS podcast company launched Coronavirus 411 podcast, a twice daily short form podcast update of “just the facts” from around the globe. It quickly ranked top 20 on Chartable and is being heard in 65 countries around the world.

In conjunction with Benztown, we took Coronavirus 411 to radio, with a brief ‘broadcast’ version for Benztown affiliates. Requests from non-affiliates for the content were substantial so, in short order, we made the broadcast updates available for free to every radio station in the United States. The broadcast version also updates twice daily during the week at 7am and 3pm Eastern and once daily weekends.

David Wood / Emmis Communications Indianapolis

Our big push on B105.7 and 97.1 Hank-FM has been our “Take Out, Take Care” initiative. We’ve created a prominent area on our websites to promote local restaurants that are doing take out or delivery. We offer it free. We also are talking about it and the restaurants on the air. At last count (early in the week) we were over 150 restaurants. I’m sure it has grown since then. Here’s a link.

The WIBC/Network Indiana newsroom has truly become “Indiana’s Newsroom” by providing two Indiana-centric COVID-19 updates every day to the 40+ NI affiliates, as well as 60 additional stations around the state.

Fred Rico/ KAJM, Phoenix (Sierra H Broadcasting)

Morale is good in the station. Telling the skeleton crew of jocks that we’re here to provide comfort and information when it’s pertinent. Keep the titles of songs happy. People are not going to tune in for news… they are tuning in to escape a little bit.

Doing as much as other businesses are sharing with us, about specials, hiring, and good deeds. We’ve found that most businesses are just looking at survival not marketing. So we’re keeping it simple for them, just tell us what you do and we’ll do the rest.

Listeners are sharing their stories with us.

Cumulus Media

We heard from some of our friends at Cumulus that for the class of 2020 they are getting pictures of seniors on websites and socials and reading names on air. Some personalities are doing commencement addresses to all graduating seniors on air. WLEV in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania spread some holiday cheer by playing Christmas music for the weekend.

John Anthony/ WJKK, Jackson, MS (New South Radio)

We’re all well here in Jackson…we’re working half days at home and half in studio. Our cluster is working with the Dickey’s Barbecue chain here to Feed The Frontline….listeners can pay a $75 fee to feed 10 first responders of their choice or leave it to us to decide where the greatest need is. We’re just beginning today but plenty of hospital workers, EMTs, firemen, police officers and more will be fed.

Also, the state of Mississippi is under a Shelter In Place order until April 20th, as per Governor Tate Reeves. Our Lt. Governor has asked that all houses of worship sound their church bells at 6pm every day until the 20th and encouraging families to do the same from home in their driveways via an app on their phone. Our cluster is embracing this and doing the same every day at 6pm.

Tony Lorino / Throwback Nation Radio

Our affiliates of Throwback Nation Radio have been doing extraordinary work in their home markets saluting medical professionals and those on the front line, and helping local businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. While they continue their local efforts, we wanted to add some unique, inspiring ideas for their listeners at night, and that’s how our 60 Days of #ThrowbackNationInspiration was born. We began the project on March 18th (the day after St. Patrick’s Day), sharing one positive tip each day. The topics include things to do for your family, ideas for meals, reconnecting with friends, and ways to de-stress in an awkwardly stressful time. Some of our tips are SIMPLE; making a Spring 2020 playlist, or calling your grandparents. Others are a little more complex, like putting out a “Little Free Pantry” for kids who aren’t getting meals at school right now. In every case, they help our audience stay safe – and stay SANE with kids home from school – and hopefully bring them some joy during a time where there is so much uncertainty. We share each tip on our Facebook page daily  and on Instagram @throwbacknationradio.

Dave Radigan/ WEBO, Binghamton, NY (Radigan Broadcasting Group, LLC)

This is not our station’s first rodeo.  Our small rural community in the Binghamton, NY market was flooded in 2005, 2006 and 2011. Each was supposedly a “100 Year Flood”, and each was worse than the last. Since then, you can imagine that we’ve been preparing for the next disaster, though we thought it would be another flood. We never could have imagined a pandemic. When our county announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19, it got our attention. Schools closed, and businesses followed a week later.

Admittedly, my first inkling was how can we save money? What can we cut? Thankfully, common sense quickly prevailed. We don’t run from emergencies, we run towards them. Our immediate reaction was not to cut staff, but to put in overtime. We INCREASED our news coverage from 5 or 6 morning newscasts to hourly updates from 6am to 6pm Monday through Friday, plus our regular Saturday news updates. We added an afternoon news announcer and extended our morning updates. We re-imaged the station so we didn’t sound tone-deaf to the reality of the current situation. We took our top of the hour network newscasts OFF of evenings to give our listeners respite from the headlines.

But, the best stuff we did involved our listeners. We opened up the phone lines again. Put callers on the air. Let them call in requests, and put people on the air wishing one another happy birthday or anniversary, wishing each other well, and saying hi to their community. Doing this, we took a suggestion from a listener to host a daily Dance Party on the radio. It was intended for kids stuck home from school with their parents. We emailed my kid’s teacher and asked when would be the best time, pulled together a special list of songs kids loved to move and sing to. We sent an email to every school district and they sent it on to their teachers, staff, and school bus drivers. They began calling in, and when kids heard their teachers, students called back to answer. Now, people are sending videos of their co-workers dancing and singing along to Baby Shark, Gangnum Style, and the Quad City DJs. We re-taught the community what local radio can do, and why local radio is so important.

Calls are still coming in at all hours and for all reasons. They are recorded in a voicemail box that gets e-mailed to the entire air staff. They edit them and use ’em… early and often.

Radio has a great story to tell, and this is an opportunity to tell it.

Matt Gapske/ KZPT, Kansas City (Entercom Communications)

The Points of Positivity is one of the things we’re doing to stay #RadioStrong on 99.7 The Point. We’re inviting listeners to text in the songs that make them happy, no matter what, every single time they hear them. Once an hour, we’re playing back one of these songs and giving the listener a shout out when we do. It’s like an old school dedication of sorts. Many times these songs are out of format for us, but we break the rules to give our listeners a smile! We started with these Points of Positivity about 3 weeks ago, and since then, we’ve received nearly 1000 texts and counting. It’s a way for us to stay connected with our listeners, and hopefully, lift their spirits and give them a little piece of comfort.

Also, our morning show, Ponch and Nikki, have jumped right in and starting welcoming “Front Line Friends” on the show. They are checking in with doctors and nurses, first responders, grocery staff, and other people who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight in Kansas City. Part of this is to give a window into what’s happening for our listeners, but to also simply check in on those folks who are out there in harm’s way just to keep society going and to raise them up.

Lastly, our morning show is also supporting local restaurants each morning with “Ponch and Nikki’s Eat Local, Save Local” trying to put a spotlight on an industry that is struggling mightily right now. Every day, they have a short interview with a local restaurant’s ownership or management, and give them a forum to talk about their business, discuss their situation with employees and staff, and let them highlight their carryout or delivery menus, while encouraging our listeners to patronize these places to help them stay afloat. It has sounded great on the air, and based on follow-up, it seems to be making a difference for these businesses.



I’d love to include your radio station and company in our list of stories–please email me at deenahollander@advantagemusicresearch.com.