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Radio in the age of Coronavirus

The subject on the minds of every citizen of the world this week is the Coronavirus – how does it affect me, what should I do about it, what will happen next? The questions just pile up.

The real-time feedback loops of digital social media channels are already feeding a fear loop of misinformation and mistrust. Political actors climb into these discussions to achieve their own agendas, further dividing us – for example, right-wing politicians in the United States are now referring to it as the “Wuhan Flu”, a very deliberate “othering” that will create issues of social cohesion and effective crisis management that will affect all humans, not just those of a particular class or political stripe.

To deal with this crisis, we will be falling back on our communities and our ability to support and sustain our community members through this disruption.

While there is a lot of focus on the role of social media on the response to the first global crisis rooted in our common humanity to take place in the digital era, there are elements of this crisis that elevate a very traditional medium to centre stage at a time like this.

Not because of the technology but because of the human dynamics.

As a human-centred medium, radio has been a high trust, high community medium ever since inception. Time and again, in times of crisis, radio has risen as the preferred, trusted and resilient medium of information distribution to citizens.

During the coming hunger for trusted information and community support and resilience, because of its real-time, human and curated nature, radio will find a new relevance against the digital platforms.

I would bet that citizens are going to turn to their radio communities with a far greater immersion and trust than their digital communities.

Radio needs to think carefully on how it can meet these expectations when people are depending on it for their lives.

As a modern digital station powered by Fabrik, you have a unique ability to amplify the trust and information dissemination on behalf of various stakeholders – government, community and faith organisations, residents and private sector – in a real-time, choreography that is simply impossible for your competitors to replicate without such a platform.

We suggest you adopt a best practice methodology to service your audience hunger for information AND engagement around this crisis.

  1. Create a “Coronavirus Updates” channel that is curated by the news and content teams. Add ‘Trusted Members’ from the Metro and Provincial Departments of Health so as to be able to publish direct information from their stakeholders.

  2. Negotiate a private feedback loop to Health or Social Welfare authorities or the regional Coronavirus “war room” to have citizens engage and log needs, updates, status and information directly with the authorities. This Cloud Contact Centre is already functional in your environment and your listeners have already registered with you – so it allows authorities to rapidly listen to your audience on a private loop around emerging conditions in their areas.

  3. Create a cross-station, interdepartmental co-ordination team for blending on-air, social, direct digital, events and on-demand content and engagement together that builds your status as a high trust, reliable and consistent information partner.

And when it all blows over, just switch the channel off again. It’s that simple.

But what you want to do, is be the credible source of information, not for posting memes or fostering half-truths, but to be a trusted information channel that builds a deeper relationship with its audience.


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