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Monday Memo: Own the Vaccine

| January 11, 2021

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, R.I. — Hopefully, COVID-19 is the story of our lifetime. Meaning let’s hope nothing worse happens.

Coronavirus has already killed more Americans than World War II. The virus claims a life – or two — every minute.

  • Ill-advised Christmas travel is spiking infections as-predictably as ill-advised Thanksgiving travel did, and that super-contagious UK mutant strain is now making its way across the USA.
  • Remember when hysterical voices warned of “death panels?” LA County ambulance crews have been told not to transport Coronavirus sufferers with little chance for survival. There’s just no room at hospitals, where parking lots have become makeshift Intensive Care Units.
  • Healthcare workers’ exhaustion has bid-up the price of nurses willing to travel to $10K per week.

Can we broadcasters be as great as The Greatest Generation?

This pandemic tests the selflessness of our society, and tests the relevance of radio.

Science – and the snail’s-pace inoculation launch – foretell a crisis as long as the 3-plus years my dad was overseas during The War. So get used to the mask.

As the Biden Inauguration approaches, a host I coach bemoaned – straight-faced – that “President Trump will never get the credit he deserves for rolling-out this vaccine in record time!” As though The Donald personally whipped-it-up in chemistry set test tubes right there in his golf cart. As though we hadn’t heard him tell Bob Woodward that the virus had gone-airborne AS he was telling the American people “One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear,” by April, he assured us. Remember April? Dr. Fauci warns that coming weeks could be even more dire.

Yes, talk radio has become The Argument Channel, seemingly for keeps, so soreheads won’t be dissuaded. But many will get sick, and die, needlessly…unless radio rises to the occasion.

Earn the reputation for knowing where the shots are.

Choose a sounder. Something akin to what you’ll hear five seconds after you say “Alexa, set the timer for five seconds.” Not an air raid sounder, nothing melodramatic, and for God’s sake not the caricature “Star Wars” whizzer that haunts radio imaging 40-plus years later. Pick a sober signal that can be heard at low volume.

Here’s what I’m recommending to client stations:

  • If you do your own newscast on-hour, incorporate the sounder in your on-hour ID, and revise newscast intro language to tease where-the-shots-are-and-who-can-get-one TODAY within the newscast. When circumstances warrant, lead with it. “When” will be obvious.
  • If you take a network on-hour, revise your Legal ID to incorporate that sounder and tease vaccine information in the local newscast which follows.

If you think I’ve inflated the appeal of this information, I hope you’re right. But one painful lesson learned during this crisis is better-safe-than-sorry. And because news/talk listeners skew older-than-younger, this information is in the format wheelhouse.

Music stations: You too.

This local information is something listeners won’t get from SiriusXM, or Pandora, or robotic FM competitors ravaged by corporate cost cuts.

PS: It’s a two-fer. Own this more than any other station, and listeners will – pardon the expression — stick with you. The vaccine requires a second shot later on.

Holland Cooke is the author of the E-book “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books (click the banner on this page). He is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet.  And HC hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice