Open Letter To Radio, Andrew Curran, President DMR Interactive
Radio stations play a vital role in the fabric of the communities they serve, especially during this pandemic that most people thought was finally under control until a few short weeks ago.
The threads that make up this local fabric aren’t figurative pieces of cloth, but rather the individuals who live, work and play in the community.
With stations and personalities connecting audiences and advertisers, radio has a unique leadership role that can be seen in countless ways throughout the year including radiothon fundraisers.
When it comes to COVID-19 and working moms in key W18-49 and W25-54 demos, where is the tangible evidence that their favorite station has had their back in the same way radio celebrated health care heroes early on?
In the midst of this current Delta variant, there are unresolved issues such as childcare and mental health, which severely impact both employers and employees.
Have stations organized roundtables with business leaders and other experts to address the demands of childcare and related issues that continue to fall primarily on the shoulders of women, causing them to drop out or pull back from the workforce at disproportionate levels?
If we want their listening, we have to work even harder when their radio is off.
To borrow a phrase, “foreplay starts outside of the bedroom.” Therapists describe it as “being the person your spouse deserves” and ensuring they feel loved and supported throughout the day. In a similar way for radio, winning the next occasion starts with the radio off – typically as your audience is running out the door to start their commute.
Your best listeners and panelists spend 95% of their lives with the radio turned off. Stations that dominate the ratings have a strong brand image and consistently generate top of mind awareness off-air, which helps ensure they get the next tune-in.
As the audio landscape continues to fragment, the off-air strategies stations leverage to maintain and grow mindshare with their heavy listeners are critically important. As you know, these heavy listeners are employed and they commute, which drives daily cume.
When working moms are overwhelmed by the stress of trying to “do it all,” they aren’t looking to turn on your station using a new smart speaker skill. In fact, irrelevant messages in their daily lives don’t break through the clutter. This is demonstrated in the latest Infinite Dial data with station streams delivering a modest 12% of all AM/FM listening – two decades after Edison Research began crunching the numbers.
According to other consumer research, “about one-third of all mothers in the workforce have scaled back or left their jobs, or plan to do so, according to a survey by Seramount, a consulting firm that focuses on workplace inclusion. That’s roughly 8 million workers.”
What is it like to be a working mom during a pandemic? “It’s a bit like my brain is burning and so is my entire house and someone just stole the fire extinguisher.” Or, “You know, if I’m being honest, it feels like I’m juggling seven chainsaws, and oops, now they’re all on fire and I’ve been doing it for 18 months.”
When it comes to a gap analysis, you can drive a semi-truck through the hole that exists between a working mom “juggling seven chainsaws” and radio positioning statements such as “The Best Variety of the 80’s, 90’s and Today.”
Employed commuters are radio’s bread and butter. The pandemic has caused 8 million women to pull back at work, which impacts their available listening occasions along with millions more at their breaking point as COVID rolls on.
This crisis isn’t as obvious as power outages or flooding after a hurricane, but it’s there just below the surface as evidenced by this perspective – “To know that this many months later, with a vaccine, we’re still roiling in anxiety over another bleak autumn is heartbreaking. I’m frustrated, I’m angry, I’m so very tired.”
Serving in the “public interest, convenience and necessity” has taken on many forms since the early days of Marconi. As we start our second century, this is a moment to stand with our listeners by providing empathy and leadership on a set of issues that matter deeply to the communities we serve.
Just like radio’s reach, the ongoing mental health strain of COVID touches everyone. There’s an opportunity for your stations to dedicate meaningful promotional inventory to topics that are important to the audience and provide ongoing reminders that their favorite station always has their back.
It’s also a great opportunity to tie in advertising partners to promote mental health. For example, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens are rapidly expanding access to mental health services at their pharmacies and clinics.
As we know from natural disasters, radio is at its best when the audience needs us the most. COVID-19 will continue to be no exception.
This open letter is the 6th installment in an annual series that began in 2016 to coincide with Labor Day, radio’s unofficial holiday. Earlier editions are available here: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.
President and COO