The author is co-founder of consulting firm P1 Media Group.
The year 2020 was like no other, a year we’d all rather forget. Coronavirus turned our world upside down.
But rather than dwelling on how COVID-19 decimated radio listening, revenue and personnel, we want to close out the year by sharing some of the amazing and extraordinary ways radio worldwide responded to the pandemic.
In mid-March when the lockdowns began, P1 Media Group felt compelled to do something, someway, somehow, to help radio. We knew there was no programming playbook for COVID-19, yet listeners all around the world were depending on us to keep them informed and entertained during this unimaginable time.
With P1’s global footprint we were beginning to see some very interesting ideas stations were executing in different parts of the world and had a feeling that if we could create a hub for stations to share and exchange these ideas, those ideas would spark more ideas and inspire more stations, and radio listeners everywhere would benefit.
It was our desire to use radio’s collective brainpower to help us through the pandemic that led us to the formation of the Facebook group “Coronavirus Radio Ideas.”
Thanks to the support of Benztown and Radio Days Europe, the Coronavirus Radio Ideas Facebook group took off like a rocket.
It quickly attracted several thousand members representing radio in more than 80 countries spanning six continents. Over 300 ideas were shared in the first months, covering everything from programming to podcasting, promotion to marketing, sales to social media and much, much more.
A laugh and a smile can be just what a listener needs to cope during challenging times and radio delivered its share of smiles both on air and online.
“The Kyle and Jackie O Show” from KIIS in Sydney, Australia created several amusing social media videos. One featured show producer Pete demonstrating social distancing on the sidewalks of Sydney with a homemade contraption that kept him six feet apart.
Another video revealed how parents could teach kids simple fractions while drinking wine.
CFOX in Vancouver, Canada produced a clever video — based on BBC nature series including an impeccable impersonation of the one and only Sir David Attenborough — called “Humans Are Emerging.”
ACE Radio Network in Australia created wonderful theater of the mind with an extremely well-written and -produced call of a fictitious horse of race, naturally called “The COVID Cup.”
Songs parodies also provided fun topical ways to cope with life during a pandemic.
Retired morning man and Twisted Tunes genius, Bob Rivers, changed the Beatles classic “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “You Gotta Wash Your Hands.”
FFN radio in Germany changed Camila Cabello’s hit from “Havana” to “Corona.” And in Seattle, the Fitz morning on show on 98.7 The Bull, transformed 90s Hip Hop song “O.P.P.” to “We’ve got no TP” to promote their toilet paper giveaway.
Music at home
COVID 19 closed the curtain on live concerts, so radio created new ways to bring live performances to listeners safely.
NRJ Radio in France held the “NRJ Music Tour at Home” while in Spain Europe FM showcased live performance through its “Home Festival.” And NRG Radio Kenya produced a massive one day fundraiser “We are One Africa Concert.”
Radio 7 in Hannover and the Local Media San Diego cluster produced drive-in concerts, where listeners were treated to live performances from the safety of their cars.
Some stations went to extraordinary lengths to honor our heroes on the frontlines.
Hospital workers in Cyprus were quarantined at hotels between long and grueling shifts at local hospitals. Mix radio threw those heroes a massive rave. iHeartMedia station Power 96.1 Atlanta took their nightly salutes for essential workers to the skies one evening, with skywriters creating a massive heart over downtown Atlanta. Z100 New York and Elvis Duran held nightly light shows set to music on the Empire State Building.
Yet stations didn’t recognize only the frontline heroes; the BBC in the UK staged weekly on-air sing-a-longs across their stations to raise the spirits of an entire nation.
Revenues were decimated due to COVID-19 and radio had to become more resourceful than ever to retain its advertisers.
There were stations offering one week of free ads or “run your schedule now and pay when you can” promotions, while others bundled hundreds of thousands of dollars in free airtime for clients and charities that needed it most.
In Dallas, Texas, iHeartradio called on the help of local billionaire Mark Cuban to provide insights and encouragement in a special five-station simulcast aimed at helping businesses.
Despite all the challenges we faced in 2020, radio found many ways to positively impact their local communities.
The NENT Radio Group in Sweden started “Listener Help,” a program that connected listeners in need with listeners willing to help. Listeners brought food, medicine and a smiling face to those who needed it most.
The Rolling Stones came to the aide of Fabulous 103 in Pattaya, Thailand, where the once-thriving tourist town was devastated by COVID-19, donating the proceeds from the song “Living in a Ghost Town” to feed the impoverished unemployed tourism workers.
Our global response to COVID 19 reaffirms radio is an amazing and remarkable medium with talented and creative content producers all over the world. Radio delivered the laughs and smiles, the essential information and the hope and reassurance we needed when we needed it most.
Get inspired and join the group at www.facebook.com/groups/coronavirusradioideas. View winners from the recent Global Coronavirus Radio Awards at https://p1mediagroup.com and click on Coronavirus Radio Ideas Winners.