By Holland Cooke
- Dr. Fauci and the Biden transition team’s pandemic advisers and state governors are pleading with us to skip Thanksgiving this year. It doesn’t take a rally. Contact tracing pinpoints “small social gatherings” as significant spreader events. We’re begged to Zoom instead of hugging those we only get to hug once a year.
- Predictably, we won’t. United Airlines alone added 1,400 flights. Then do the math. Figure 2-3 weeks, like after Easter/Passover, then after The Fourth, then after Justice Coney Barrett’s Rose Garden introduction. Hug grandparents on Thanksgiving and you might not be able to on Christmas.
- Consensus forecasts: At present rates, another hundred thousand Americans will die before the Inauguration; and January will be worse than April was.
“If we knew then what we know now…”
“…what would we do differently?” It’s the conversation I’m having with station owners I work for, and you need to brainstorm this too, ASAP.
- My governor is among others who reckon that – if life had a rewind button – she would have shut things down two weeks earlier than we did last spring. Data is data.
- Radio advertising for things-we-WANT tanked instantly. Canny local businesses we helped describe how they have what listeners suddenly NEED became ongoing advertisers. “Essential,” not “discretionary.” Emulate national TV spots. Tested creative. They’re a clinic in speaking to consumers’ reality. Craft messages for our advertisers similarly.
- If your programming sounds normal, you’re making a mistake. Ditto your website. As life gets dire, seem oblivious at your own risk. Own this story now, and you pre-sell your usefulness as things get worse.
Life Support for AM Stations
Most broadcast hours now automated/syndicated, hub-N-spoke/plug-N-play. So not every station has the means to rise to the occasion. Still, the neediest among us do have options.
- If you have the horses to pull-it-off, you’re already conspicuous to-the-ear vs. competitors that mail-it-in. Now, crank it. Be inspired – not intimidated – by what this committed, gritty, longtime client did during the spring shutdown: https://www.talkers.com/2020/10/07/2020-radio-show-what-business-are-you-in-now/
- If you’re among the have-nots — the cluster stepchild garden-variety Rush/Sean/FOX News AM — sharpen your imaging. Google Search “Million MAGA March;” then click “video” and “images” to know those people who mobbed DC streets weekend-before-last. It’s not a positive vibe, but sound like their safe space and you’ll earn Occasions of Listening. As Natalie Merchant sang, “Give ‘em what they want.” If you’re an affiliate, rip-off this on-hour ID: “You can get FAKE news anywhere. You get FOX News here!”
- Plan A and Plan B are not mutually exclusive, if you have the horses. And get creative about HR. Can you deputize-and-mobilize young people idled by college and school shutdowns?
And I’m not just talking to talk stations. The best-executed music FMs have already proven that you can be an oasis AND aware-enough to be habit forming. Applause for Hubbard’s 97.1 The Drive, “Chicago’s Classic Rock.”
Science tells us there’s rough sledding ahead. Expect “steady” from the new president, a tone akin to FDR’s. If he uses broadcasting in a routine fashion, set the expectation that you’ll take him live.
And please, stay safe.
Holland Cooke is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the E-book “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books (click the banner on this page). And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America. Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke