Radio is a medium that can quickly pivot to fit the needs of the community and clients. The amount of pivoting at stations across the country during the pandemic is enough to give an observer whiplash. But in times of need and necessity, that’s when radio shines and often creates new touchpoints for listeners and advertisers alike.
Black Information Network
While it had been in development for a year, the launch of the Black Information Network, like everything else, was placed on pause at the end of March.
The idea was hatched in the fall of 2019, BIN President Tony Coles told attendees of the “What Business Are You In?” session during the virtual Radio Show. After the holidays a plan was mapped out for the network that included research and the hiring of staff. By the middle of March, the company realized the grip the pandemic was beginning to have on the nation. “We decided to push the launch of our network back to Memorial Day weekend,” Coles continued. Within a week after that decision, the launch date was put on hold indefinitely. Then, on May 25, George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Coles said the best coverage he heard the week following Floyd’s death was by iHeartMedia sports “K-Fan” KFXN Minneapolis. That’s when he stressed the importance of launching the network to CEO Bob Pittman, who, with the approval of the Board, gave the green light to go live.
Engineering was tasked with not only launching the network on the iHeartRadio streaming platform but on 15 radio stations across the country. The engineering crew worked around the clock, while the programming team was assembled under the leadership of Director of News Operations Tanita Myers. BIN officially launched June 30. “One of the facts that stands out as unique is that we launched this network with a staff that had never met one another,” Coles pointed out. “We did it all virtually.”
Neuhoff Media’s NowDecatur.com
The Neuhoff Decatur properties are housed under the company’s NowDecatur.com umbrella, which gives the company “the freedom to think beyond just being a radio station,” explained Brian Byers, Vice President of Development at Neuhoff Media.
When the world changed in March, so did the team’s approach to NowDecatur.com. “We needed to create a clearinghouse where people could find all of the help that they needed,” he continued. Partnerships were made and resources were loaded to the website.
When schools closed, Neuhoff Media Decatur stepped up with “Radio DPS,” working with the Decatur Public School system. For eight weeks on weekdays, “we turned over two hours of live radio over to our teachers and to our educators,” Byers said. Tune-in to the programs was strong, and the on-demand access continued the life of the segments. During the eight-week period, the podcasts were the fourth-highest ranked in the entire company.
The site also hosted a take-out guide for local restaurants that were unable to provide dine-in options for customers. Another campaign, “Building Support for our Local Businesses,” was sponsored by a local construction company and featured interviews with small-business owners, which Byers noted was very successful.
After Floyd’s death, the company created “Speak Up, Speak Out,” led by hip-hop/R&B “Hot 105.5” WCZQ Bloomington midday host Tat. The ten-week campaign held conversations about race and inequities to start the dialogue and “have tough, honest conversations about what we need to improve as people,” Byers explained.
‘Dana Cortez Show Live’
Dana Cortez, along with husband and co-host/Executive Producer DJ Automatic and Digital Coordinator/third mic Anthony A, discussed the syndicated morning show’s social media extensions and how those changes continue as permanent features.
The idea was to create a digital job fair for listeners of the show. The trio understood that to pull off what they had in mind would mean more work. Along with the work came self-education. “Using social media to connect with your audience during a pandemic is a lot easier said than done,” Anthony observed. “We opted to bank on YouTube and Facebook.”
The digital job fair has been successful in connecting listeners with jobs. “What started out as a job fair is now an extension of the show. ‘Dana Cortez Show Live’ is now a permanent extension of the show,” said Cortez.
The digital extension also benefits affiliates of the program. “Their pages are also benefitting from this,” she added. “That means sales. It has been sold across the country.” On-demand views of “Dana Cortez Show Live” are also up, further extending the show’s reach and sales opportunities.