This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Consultant Tips” series, written by Charese Fruge on January 26, 2021 

I recently read an article by Fred Jacobs called “How Radio Can Build A Community.” It’s one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time. It’s such an important topic for the industry right now, especially since there is so much consolidation and voice tracking going on and almost every station that’s owned by a big company sounds exactly like all the others no matter what market you’re in. There is no sense of community left, there are very few local personalities left and very little local content. Hell, sometimes you don’t even hear the station name because someone is piping in tracks from another market that could be halfway across the country.

That’s extremely concerning, considering the sole purpose of radio use to be entertaining and serving the community. Nowadays, if you have the advantage of being live and local, you are unique and have the opportunity to separate your brand from the rest. You are one of the few with the opportunity to win, and to continue to grow your brand. Everything you do on your station, morning show, shift and digital assets should focus on the community. And the most important topic for every community right now is the Pandemic and Vaccinations. So, if it’s not one of your priorities now, you need to make it one.

For music stations, it’s always been an unwritten rule that topics as serious as this were not something to be focused on. On-air personalities did everything they could to avoid addressing serious news. But right now, the center of everyone’s universe revolves around getting the vaccine. Especially if you cater to an audience with children. Vaccine distribution and “when can the kids go back to school safely?” is top of mind for all parents.

The first thing you need to do, if you haven’t already, is set up a webpage with all the information provided by local health and government agencies about the vaccine and instructions on when and how to get it. Each county in America is different and operates through phases so someone needs to be assigned to update the website as often as necessary. Also, this is where you can interview health experts or authorities on vaccine distribution instead of doing it live on the air.

You (local talent) should also be giving quick regular updates on-air, so your audience comes to you and trusts you for information. And I don’t mean reporting the doom and gloom and giving the death toll etc. I mean a simple update, just like a school closure because of snow or flooding. For example, “Clark County is now vaccinating all first responders, essential workers and residents over the age of 70. The three main locations for vaccinations are (list locations here). For more info go to our website at (insert address here).” Follow this up with a social media post. Add any additional tips if you can. And if you can, get the vaccine live on air or Facebook Live etc. You can even turn it into a bit if you take the right angle. So many people are scared to death of needles and have passed out while donating blood or getting stitches. There could be some funny stories in there.

You don’t have to get political or preach. Your only goal is to provide a public service with information and updated phases of the vaccine distribution in a way that the average radio listener can consume. This will build and strengthen your bond with the community and your listeners and separate you from the rest. It doesn’t have to be long, and all you have to do is send your listeners to an extension of your brand where they can get additional information. You want to be their trusted source for this valuable information. You want to be their authority and you want to be a part of their lifestyle. This is the kind of loyalty that develops long term P1’s, and that’s a public service for your ratings and your brand.