Lockdown highlights the emotional power of sound

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If there’s one good thing to come out of the current situation it’s how radio has again stepped up to a challenge. Broadcasters around the world are playing their part to help tackle the coronavirus by providing information, entertainment and community connection when it’s most needed.

Who could fail to be moved by the Italians serenading each other from their balconies or the noise of applause ringing out around the suburbs of the UK on a sunny Thursday evening. This is the emotional power of sound.

Trusted voices, familiar melodies and reassuring sounds all play their part. Capturing the mood of your audience and reflecting it through the on air branding is crucial.

As a jingle and imaging production company we’re huge believers in the power of sound and I wanted to share some specific examples of things we’re doing to arm producers with tools and tips to help navigate through the current period. These are all ideas you might be able to put your own spin on.

Early in the outbreak we hosted a #StayAtHome video meeting for producers around Europe thrown into working from home for the first time. It was uplifting to see the sharing of energy and ideas, from Iceland to Greece and everywhere else in between.

Here’s four key themes from our team…

Creative twists

When washing your hands was a key message early in the outbreak we created a short 20 second ‘song’ to help stations creatively communicate that message in a memorable way using music and melody. It ended up being played thousands of times in every continent, re-sung in various languages, and even had listener dance moves made up for it in the UK and US. 

The point here is how can you package the current key messages in a creative way that rises up above the noise and impacts your listeners in a unique and memorable way? Music and melody are proven ways to create emotional connections so use them where you can.

Something as simple as spacing out (as in ‘social distancing’) the different parts of your station name or even the music you’re playing can be a memorable way to make a point and raise a smile.

Community

Never has there been a better time to reinforce that sense of community amongst your audience. Show them you’re with them. Reflecting what they’re thinking and saying will not only make them feel good, it’ll make them feel good about the choice of listening they’ve made.

It could be something as small as a sweeper that ‘thanks the front line workers’ to using applause actuality in a promo. I’d suggest now is not the time to get too hung up on the music position. Quality actuality is great but we’re all working with constraints at the moment so as long as it’s great / topical / relevant audio don’t get too hung up on the technical quality (or find a great plug in to clean it up!). Champion someone in your target area who is doing something amazing. 

Something our producers have been doing a lot of is finding ways to feature more voices in their pieces than ever before. Could you feature your listeners alongside the big artists you play in promos as everyone’s got an equal role to play right now?

And I know of one major group that’s setting up a dedicated radio station just for its staff working from home. Now that’s community spirit.

Mood

Empathy is key here. Reflect the mood, yes. But lift it if you can. Humour can be a contentious one as it’s often so subjective but, if you really know your audience, then there’s huge value in lightening the moment. New research from Radio Centre in the UK shows that 77% of people who are listening more to the radio in recent weeks are doing so to help them ‘feel happy’ and so providing a distraction from the outside world remains an important role.

Authenticity is also crucial. Finding ways to highlight the day to day challenges we all are adapting to is a great way to help your audience escape the challenges of their own day (and reflect the ‘community’ aspect). You could be creating a series of sweepers that celebrate homeschooling fails. Or a well written promo of things NOT to do on a video call with your colleagues. If you write a great script and make it relatable, you’ll raise a smile.

Relevance

COVID-19 has created constant change since last month so my final suggestion would be to review your station branding at least weekly. What might have been absolutely the right stance to take last week could be out of touch today. 

Radio stations that truly understand the audience they’re engaged with, and remain true to their brand identity and values during these strange times, will be the ones that emerge stronger.

Finally I also wanted to mention ReelWorld are involved in supporting the Audio and Radio Emergency Fund in the UK. You might want to consider similar initiatives for the industry in your territory. We’re all in this together.

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Continue to #MakeGreatRadio

Anthony Gay
reelworld.com
anthony.gay@reelworld.com

ReelWorld have helped shape the on air identities of hundreds of European radio stations including Heart UK, Radio 2 Belgium, BBC Radio 1 Breakfast, NRK P1, the BBC Local Radio Network, kronehit, BBC Radio 1Xtra and Bayern 3. Their Production Vault and RED Hits imaging services are the most used radio branding tools on the planet.

 

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