People come to you for music, not information.
How many times have you heard that from a consultant? People have lots of places to go for information: Facebook, Twitter, web sites, TV news channels…some even still read the newspaper. Your station spends all day saying that it plays the most music and that’s what listeners expect when they flip you on. Right?
First, let’s acknowledge that, regardless of how many times per hour you make the claim, your station does not play the most music. People might say in a focus group that all they want is for you to shut up and play the hits, but if that’s all they really wanted they’d go to Pandora or Spotify. They come to your station because it’s comfortable, familiar, plays a decent amount of songs they like, and has at least one or two “real people” on the air with whom they can feel some connection. If the station also owns the image for something that is important to them, that connection is even stronger.
So what do you do when there’s a storm?
For years Adult Contemporary stations made a point of doing school closings on the air. In some areas they have county school systems, and private schools typically follow the lead of the county, so there might only be ten districts to announce. In New England, however, every town has it’s own school system and each one makes it’s own decisions on cancellations or delays. This usually resulted in a really long list. Then TV stations starting doing an alphabetical crawl, but they’d cut away during commercials and you might have to wait a half-hour to get to the W towns. In the late 90’s station websites came along and you could take an RSS feed from the local Fox weather department and simply direct people to your site. It’s quick, clean, and definitely PPM friendly.
So what’s wrong with that?
Most of the time, nothing is wrong with that. In the last year and a half, however, we’ve had three especially bad storms: Irene, Sandy and Nemo. In some areas people were without power for a week or more. So what do they do? They turn on a portable radio to find out whether school is closed or when power might be restored. Their favorite station, the one that plays the most music, is either saying nothing about the storm or saying, “go to our web site to check the cancellations.” Not very helpful if you don’t have power. If they have a smartphone they could get the info there, but with no power one must conserve battery life. Either way, it’s one more reason for people who want to listen to your station to wind up going elsewhere. Can you afford that?
A better way.
Make sure your station is ready to spring into action in emergency situations. Know where the power is out – it may well be only in certain areas – and give whatever helpful info you can. Do it quickly over song intros so you don’t violate your music promise, but do it regularly so listeners in those areas know that you’re thinking about them. And no teasing! None of this “When will the power be back on? We’ll tell you…coming up in 15 minutes” business. Let them know right away. Otherwise you create another excuse for your fans go somewhere else to get what they want right now.