Picture: 123RF/TZIDO
Picture: 123RF/TZIDO

The lockdown, unemployment and general state of uncertainty have had a significant psychosocial impact on communities. During this time radio stepped up to the plate proving its empathy, relatability, adaptability and agility.

Radio integrated platforms to strengthen community reach during this period. Research indicates that listenership has increased globally. Programme schedules shifted and drive time shifted gear as audiences looked to trusted traditional media for credible news and information even amid the rapid uptake of online media services.

During a recent FM Redzone digital online panel discussion with National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) commercial radio members, Arye Kellman, co-founder and chief creative officer at Tilt, discussed how radio stations and brands have used this period as an opportunity to collaborate in support of communities and connect stakeholders.

There is no question that as a media platform, radio is unmatched in its ability to reach people and engage meaningfully. What worked for East Coast Radio during the lockdown was understanding its ecosystem, said Boni Mchunu, the station’s MD. This meant that it changed its drive times during level 5 lockdown, though these are now returning to normal.

The role of radio in disseminating accurate information took on new meaning during the pandemic, agreed Nick Efstathiou, CEO of Central Media Group. Not only is radio a trusted platform, it was able to respond very quickly both to the needs of listeners and in terms of changing clients’ advertising messages.

YFM hosted a 36-hour music event in April to lift its audience’s spirits, said station MD Haseena Cassim. The station has had to shift to virtual events during the lockdown and has seen listenership figures increase, as well as a 40% increase in streaming. This upward listenership is trend is continuing. “Lockdown served us well in terms of listener numbers,” she said.

During the lockdown it was important for radio stations to reimagine what their audiences were going through and become friend, adviser, psychologist and barman to its listeners, said Alfie Jay, MD of Algoa FM. Different markets and regions experienced different dynamics, which meant that research became more important than ever.

The panel expressed concern around how December and January would look in terms of advertising spend, given that consumers are under pressure financially. Mchunu predicted that domestic tourism would see an upsurge given how long SA has been in lockdown.

The industry is working to ensure a credible research product, understanding that metrics and data play an important an important role.

The panel agreed that one of the biggest blessings for radio stations during the Covid crisis were their people, who were able to be agile and continued to demonstrate empathy to listeners. The biggest lesson out of Covid, said Cassim, was that being human has never been as important.

The big take-out:

 Radio has grown in credibility as a result of the Covid crisis.

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