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Don’t Get Shut Down By ‘Snowmageddon’

Ways you can grab listeners’ attention during severe weather

credit: iStockphoto/Aurelian Gogonea
Weather is local. Radio is local. Let’s get ready to take advantage of this natural synergy.

In colder parts of this country, the prediction this season is for more snow than usual. Are you ready to maximize your winter success with the proper plan? Pour yourself a hot beverage and plow through these thought starters to get ready for tons of the cold, damp white stuff.

Hire Extra Staff

When driving becomes even slightly risky, you should arrange for a driver who will be ready to pick up any needed on-air personnel in a vehicle with four-wheel drive. If you don’t have the vehicle or driver, rent this service in advance from a limo or bus company.

Considering the extra staffing you may need to cover what’s going on in your community properly during a heavy snow day, assign one or two extra on-air people to help the morning and afternoon shows. Also station people at various points in your city to report back neighborhood by neighborhood.

Blast Your Listeners With Creative Content

Make no mistake. Reporting, reacting and engaging the audience during bad weather isn’t just for an all-news station.

Sure, they probably do an excellent job, but even if that’s not your format, so can you. On top of conveying basic facts, with some preparation you can be much more engaging about what’s going on.

Start a list of severe weather-related topics you can cover and your staff can help you expand it. How’s the milk and toilet paper supply holding up? Where’s the biggest snow fight? Where are the coolest snow men? What are kids doing other than their homework because they are off school? Any movie theatres open? Best DVD rentals? How many babies will be born in nine months because of what’s going on today?

See if you can get one of the local meteorologists to come in after her shift to talk about what’s going on behind the scenes and about what the weather service is really “saying.” While none of this content has to be long, it should all be engaging.

The good news is that a lot of it can be recorded, quickly edited and then put on the air — if you are staffed properly.

Make It a Competition

People love to predict the amount of snowfall. So turn the snow day into a contest, in which the grand prize is a trip to a tropical destination far away from the wind and cold.

If you work far enough in advance, you may be able to get one of the tourist agencies or airlines from a Caribbean nation to donate the trip — or at least the airfare — in exchange for promoting them. Secondary prizes could be ski equipment or passes to a ski resort. Naturally, the entire contest could also be pre-sold to a title sponsor.

Sell Relevant Ads

Speaking of sponsors, there are many who would love to get specific messages out to people on snowbound days. These must be sold in advance. Targets include companies that sell generators, insurance companies, hospitals, utilities and TV stations that want to promote their weather position.

Stay On!

Of course, all this advice is for naught if your station isn’t able to remain on the air during a bad snowstorm. For shame if you don’t have full-time or readily available engineering; but if this is the case, you must have your contract team ready with a strategy and execution plan to keep you running. Either way, put your engineers to work on this problem now; give them the responsibility to review and anticipate the facilities’ needs in event of a weather emergency. They love solving such problems.

Don’t wait until your entire block loses power to realize that you could’ve been broadcasting remotely from another location if you’d thought about it in advance. If you’re in an isolated area, ask if you have a method of communicating (other than by mobile phone) if, heaven forbid, cell towers went dead.

Also remember that you might need supplies — food, water, flashlights and snow shovels onsite. And oh yeah: Don’t forget the toilet paper.

Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. Reach him at [email protected].