The Mother of All Disasters
August 30, 2011
"It's not just on, it's alive and in the moment!" It's a quote I use over and over again when talking with people and companies about making a social impact today.
It's also a phrase that rang true again this past week as the East Coast experienced an earthquake and a hurricane that generated a lot of anxious, topical and conversational moments that presented so many opportunities for people to connect on a mass scale.
The funny part about the "alive" phrase is that it was something I started formulating about 15 years ago, but at that time, it was related entirely to radio and what I believed to be one of its unique advantages at that time.
Now, we all know that the world has evolved, and today the "on and alive" advantage is no more because a person armed with a smart phone, a laptop and/or a tablet has the same potential to "broadcast" their story, audio, images, video and more to a few hundred, or several million at any given moment.
In fact, social media is becoming an integral part of disaster response.
An article by HealthcareIT on August 25TH titled, "Social Media Response To East Coast Earthquake Part Of Growing Trend," said, "The U.S. Department of Homeland Security used Twitter to warn people to avoid clogging the phone lines and instead 'tell friends/family you are OK via text, e-mail and social media' during the earthquake."
It went on to point out The American Red Cross surveys, one by telephone of the general population and a second online survey, that validate the need for response organizations to adjust their procedures to use social media more to engage with people in times of disaster and to include information from social networks in their response efforts.
However, radio still offers the ability to expose a large audience to a message that connects quickly through a personality sharing that content in their unique way, while also generating awareness by giving it enough frequency to make it become familiar enough to stand out from the other noise. Combine that with our websites, social pages/accounts, texting, and street efforts and the impact has the potential to reach thousands, if not millions.
It's why radio has been, and always will be, a value-added player.
So, why is it that as I read blogs, Facebook posts, tweets and more from many well-respected consultants, publishers, personalities and so on, I see a message about how radio should point out its ability to be a lifeline in disasters to agencies, or how this station did more of this vs. that station who did more of that?
We have to evolve and tear down this type of thinking ... and stop trying to hang on to yesterday, especially now.
The opportunity that radio has during big moments, like we just experienced, is to add value for each community it serves and connect people on a mass scale to make a difference and save lives. It may not be our personality breaking the story, or our station getting the scoop, but it's still relevant and worth sharing with everyone because it's important.
We should have been working together as one industry, as one voice, to assist the Red Cross in distributing battery-operated radios before Irene, sharing the voices of our listeners on-air, online and through social sites, who were live at places where the earthquake made an impact, or going where a need was unfolding during these sometimes tense moments.
Yes, many stations did just that and you did make a difference. Thank you!
But, the mother of all disasters was that many only used these big events as a chance to make an impact with a PPM meter, or turn it into a moment of chest pounding, or even holding it over people's heads to try and justify some fact that is no longer relevant.
Yes, ratings and revenue are important.
But, our industry's lesson should be that even though we can be alive and in the moment during a disaster; sometimes the biggest ratings may just come from listening to what is happening around us and amplifying those moments. Because when we do and act upon it, others start to trust we are listening to them and that we care about the cause more than the brand.