Radio is a powerful community voice in uncertain times

As we’ve collectively ridden the rollercoaster of current events over the past couple of years, it has become clearer than ever that radio has a unique, and highly valued role in people’s lives.

The familiarity and consistency has been a comforting constant companion for many people through pandemic lockdowns, and a period of ongoing global uncertainty.

MediaWorks Commercial Director Liz Fraser says as New Zealand moves into a new phase of pandemic recovery and growing optimism, there is a huge opportunity for radio to build on those strong community relationships to support businesses through pandemic recovery and growth.

The listener landscape

MediaWorks recently completed an audience Opinionation survey, which has resulted in a snapshot of how Kiwis are feeling in the first quarter of 2022. The survey was completed after the onset of war in Ukraine but before the Government announced changes to its Red traffic light setting.

46 percent of those surveyed were feeling “pretty good” about how the country was doing at that stage of the pandemic and confident that a return to normal life was not too far away.

Two-thirds of respondents felt we would still have further disruptions from further Covid outbreaks, but half felt New Zealand was well set up to live with the virus.

“Whilst there is an obvious level of fatigue, and a general feeling of being ‘over it’ from people, we found there was a strong sense of optimism building.

“Given the recent changes to vaccine mandates and passes, and talk of a possible shift to the Orange setting, I would think that has continued to build, since we completed the survey,” Fraser says.

The other information to come out of that survey was just how important MediaWorks’ radio announcers are to its audience. 53 percent of those surveyed believed the announcers were just as important as the content on their radio stations; 60 percent of respondents said they liked how MediaWorks’ radio announcers distract them from the bad stuff.

Mediaworks’ has 36 local radio shows broadcasting across its network for 24 regional stations. The network’s terrestrial radio cumes have increased by three percent on pre-Covid times, though an increasing number of listeners are also tuning in online. During 2021 Level 4 lockdown in Auckland engagement via the Rova platform grew significantly with time spent listening to MediaWorks radio content up by 22 percent and listening to audio live streams up 19 percent.

“As people have had to adapt to isolation and lockdowns, radio has been a constant companion. People have taken comfort in the familiar voices from their local communities they hear on the radio,” Fraser says. “They are part of the daily routine for our listeners wanting to be kept informed, but who are also looking for some much needed escapism!”

MediaWorks announcers have taken that need for some light relief on board with stations like The Edge having one topical voice break per show with the rest focused on more personal content that resonates with the lives of their listeners.

The desire for positivity and optimism has been built into the DNA of MediaWorks recently launched news and talk brand Today FM.

“It’s been built for New Zealanders looking for a positive approach and who are passionate about finding real solutions,” Fraser says.

The power of community

Fraser believes radio is unique in its ability to advocate for and support communities for several key reasons. It’s live and local, it’s personal, targeted and “you can’t close your ears”.

Radio happens in real time and, through our local content breakfast and day shows on stations like The Breeze and More FM, listeners can tune in to what is happening in their backyard, as well as around the country, Fraser says.

“It becomes personal because our listeners develop that unique rapport with the local announcers. They look to them as trusted friends and advisers who they regularly check in with via text, social media, or calling in, as well as attending events and entering competitions.”

That sharing of information and engagement creates a sense of community. Businesses and local operators who use those local radio stations as a platform to connect and advertise their services can become part of that community.

Fraser says many potential radio customers may not realise how targeted radio advertising can be within different communities.

It’s not just about geographic area, but ads can be targeted to specific audience types and demographic groups. Geo-targeted digital ad insertion is also now available to online listeners via Rova. “That really opens up a whole new range of opportunities to target specific advertising to specific radio listeners, just as you might do if you were advertising on a social platform.”

But one of radio’s biggest strengths, Fraser says, is that “you can’t close your ears”.

What she means by that is listeners don’t tend to wander off or change channels during ad breaks as they may do on other mediums.

 “Audio advertising has a low level of ad avoidance,” she says. “It also has affordable production costs that mean you can be pretty immediate and reactive with your ad content, adapting it as you need to.”

MediaWorks is also about to launch its new in-house creative studio, Passionfruit to further facilitate those wanting help with ad creation.

Be where the audience is

With the country opening up again and people moving back into offices and on to public transport, MediaWorks believes there is a lot of opportunity for advertisers to leverage their radio audience and extend into other platforms such as digital advertising and Out Of Home (OOH).

“Radio will continue to be an important media platform to help businesses spread the word and grow in the wake of a couple of tumultuous years,” Fraser says. “As those businesses look to bounce back, the connected parts of the MediaWorks portfolio work really well together to boost reach.”

But it’s about more than reach. Multi-layered campaigns across multiple platforms can deliver the right message to the right audience with the right context, she says.

“By building campaigns across different mediums you can tailor your messaging based on what consumers are doing, thinking and feeling, at key moments in the day.

“Radio provides the brand voice to the brand image displayed on a billboard, and digital backs that message up by finding your audience where they hang out online.”

When done in harmony, campaigns that capitalise on context can drive up to 70 percent stronger engagement, and 40 percent stronger ad memorability, according to a 2019 study by Radio Centre UK and Neuro-Insight. That’s backed up locally by 2021 research from OOHMAA that found campaigns that use radio, digital and OOH can drive 19 percent greater ROI on average.

“We know from Australia’s experience that the advertising market will bounce back strongly as we come out of Covid restrictions.

“Radio, backed by other highly visible platforms will be the key platforms for advertisers to be on to connect with rejuvenated communities.”

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Kerri Jackson is a freelance writer, content strategist, PR consultant, communications specialist.

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