Industry News

How Is Christian Radio Handling Coronavirus

HisAir asked Christian Radio how they are handling coronavirus at their station:

Keith Stevens PD KTIS/Minneapolis “This morning (3/14), with the sun reflecting off the buildings of both beautiful skylines of Minneapolis and St Paul, our listeners wove together a tapestry of prayers for our nation and the people of our cities as we prepare for the coronavirus.  What a meaningful way to let the listeners express their prayers while uplifting them with songs of hope. The coronavirus in some ways has given us an amazing opportunity to do something meaningful. Something only CCM radio can do. 

As I have addressed our airstaff  this week on doing a break on the coronavirus,  I encouraged our personalities to run our breaks through the filter of being relevant, factual, and to find something hopeful. And to always be on the lookout for a story of someone in our community who has made a positive difference in the middle of the crisis.  We have distinctly positioned KTIS to be a respite from the news. This is done by purposefully giving a few worship moments throughout the day, and by offering up a prayer for our community. It is amazing how a little can go a long way, without ever veering away from the format. 

I see the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to provide the reassurance,  peace, and hope that is needed at this time. And as a chance to honor God.

When it comes to fundraising, What an opportune time to share the gospel and raise support! “For such a time as this”!  So, we are moving ahead with our fundraiser next week, however , with more listeners working from home, we’re maximizing the use of our online platforms and social media to raise support. Also realizing that with less people commuting, more of our audience will be listening at home via alexa, streaming on computers, listening on smart speakers, Iphones ,etc.  We have to be ready to meet our listeners where they are on whatever platform they are utilizing.  

Garrett Michaels Network PD The Family/Appleton “The Family’s Spring Fundraiser is always held the first week of May, so we are staying the course right now and will start running spots and ramping up chatter like always about three weeks our (pending where things are of course with COVID-19). We just wrapped up one of our largest outreaches of the year yesterday (Help for the Homeless Hygiene Drive), so any major events are on hold for the next 2-3 weeks. All concerts we were part of have been cancelled or postponed, so our staff is not going to be out and about in public for the next few weeks. We already have a pretty good infrastructure for staff to work at home. I have a home studio and can actually function fully there if I need to, and several others can remote track. We can run remotely if need be. We are currently assessing that and are encouraging team members to stay home if they are sick and we are working on a case by case basis right now. Our staff is continuing to adjust to the “new normal” just like other stations. Wisconsin’s governor closed all schools starting this Wednesday, so we are working with child-care, jobs, finding toilet paper and soup just like our listeners. We are being real, but also doing what we always do on air at the Family, sharing the Hope, Strength and Encouragement found in Jesus. Even word we say and every song we play is meant to keep doing that, and right now with the “cray-cray” developing, our message on CCM stations is needed more than ever. I really feel this is christian radio’s time to shine more than ever. We also still run a couple of programs like Focus on the Family and Family Life, and are able to bring some other elements into the programming to encourage and inform our listeners too.”

“We are also updating our imaging and jock chatter to more “at home” listening as Jenn’s listening habits will be completely different for the next few weeks.” 

Brian McIntyre GM Shine.FM/Chicago “I’m currently in the northern section of the Amazon of Peru teaching at a communications conference. I’ve been working from here on how we are adapting and focusing. Here’s what we are doing: 1. Freezing our spending. Only mission critical purchases. 2. Suspending all listener engagement events until it’s deemed safe. 3. We are postponing our concerts and conference until fall. 4. Our University is moving all our classes online, so many of our on-air students will be voicetracking from their homes. We are providing remote equipment. 5. Our fundraiser scheduled for the end of March is postponed until June. We intend to tactfully encourage giving via direct mail, email and video. 6. Our on-air focus is on two things: Jesus is our hope and God is in control. We are utilizing some of our University’s science/medical professors to lead discussions about safety, etc.

“I will be quarantining myself and working from my home office/studio to make sure I am clear and protect my staff from exposure (at least from me).”

Penny Galloway Operations Manager WCIF/Melbourne, FL (Hope 106.3)  “It hasn’t really effected our fundraising at this point. We thankfully finished our annual Sharathon March 5th. The biggest event the station has going right now is Space Coast City Fest at the end of March featuring Andrew Palau, The Newsboys, Mandisa, Danny Gokey, and many others. Of course, no one knows what tomorrow will bring, but as of now, City Fest is still on and we are planning accordingly. As far as staff anxiety goes…there is none. Psalm 91 is mentioned often. We remind our listeners numerous times throughout the day that God isn’t pacing back and forth, wringing His hands….He’s still on His throne and we’re gonna trust Him.  At this time, the only thing we are planning is City Fest. Still looking toward to it being a great event and all this mess being over by then. We are currently not planning anything new until this starts to die down a bit. Again, we share often with our family of listeners at Hope 106.3 that this has not taken God by surprise; it’s going to be okay.

“If we don’t share HOPE at this time, what are here for?”

Dave Margalotti Director of Radio Operations Family Life/Bath, NY  “At Family Life, our performing arts department has a run of dinner theater shows that begin this weekend. We have implemented several new safeguards that were made in consultation with local and county health officials to ensure the safety of our guests. Our monthly seniors luncheon for April has been cancelled because the elderly are at the most risk from this virus. We are working with our management team, events department, and promotional partners to evaluate upcoming public events and if need be, we will cancel those events if developments warrant such action. Our news team continues to provide the latest information to our listeners while our on-air team has gone to great lengths to communicate with listeners in a way that is calming and reassuring. We are also rolling out a series of imaging liners with our on-air team that give listeners some simple tips on how to prepare for COVID-19 and keep themselves safe from the virus without pushing them further into full blown panic mode. Our spring sharathon runs Wed April 1st to Saturday April 4th. A lot of events for the public are scheduled for that Saturday but we are carefully considering what’s in the best interest of the public and if need be, those events will also be cancelled. While we find ourselves facing a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, we are doing everything we can to remind our staff and listeners that God does not want us to have a spirit of fear and that He is so much bigger than anything that’s happening right now.

“It is our prayer that in these trying times, even more people will turn to Jesus for His hope, peace, comfort and protection.” 

Taylor Hohulin PD KNWI/Des Moines (Life 107.1) “Here are a few thoughts I sent our airstaff earlier this week: I want us to be a voice that doesn’t amplify fear or hysteria. Let’s be a voice of peace. Talking about hope and peace is built into our DNA, so I’m hoping this shouldn’t be too hard. 😉 That said, don’t shy away from talking about the things that affect our listeners’ lives – schools or businesses closing, events postponed, etc. As you do that, don’t be a critical voice regarding people closing those things down, people not closing things down, etc. There are enough folks out there tearing others down. Instead, let’s look for opportunities to build people up. If you find stories of people serving others well through circumstances created by the virus (isolation, stuck overseas, etc) that is GOLD. Praise people for loving people. Just like people are extra sensitive to topics like family, generosity, and togetherness around Thanksgiving and Christmas, I have a feeling people will be extra sensitive to topics like fear and peace. Again…the good news is topics like this are already baked into our DNA, and we have several songs in rotation that address those emotions. You can talk about peace without even having to say coronavirus, and it’ll speak to a felt need. And, as always, as you share information…CHECK YOUR SOURCES.

“Here’s the cool thing: We don’t have to change a whole bunch to meet these felt needs. We are a format built to be what people want and need in times like this. This is a great opportunity to love our community.

Dave Wonders PD WZFJ/Pequot Lakes (104.3 The Pulse) “While our station isn’t located in a coronavirus “hot zone” (yet) we’ve definitely begun to feel the pressure in our community. Every year we participate in a St Patrick’s day parade with 15,000 folks attending from our community, but it has been cancelled. Next week, we were planning on broadcasting from our big community expo, but the writing is on the wall that that event will be cancelled too. We’ve always prided ourselves on our local visibility and presence at local events, but our challenge now is to determine how to serve the community as everything starts to shut down and people withdraw to the safety of their own homes. We’ve got to start thinking outside the box when it comes to our promotions and there’s a lot more risk/reward assessment in play as we’re trying to keep our staff and families healthy. Our general manager Ric McClary sent our a memo to our staff a few days ago as things began to heat up, and I really appreciated his perspective: “It is our job as broadcasters to share good, sound, usable, practical and reliable information with our listeners… We need to remind our listeners that there is Good News that the world cannot give in times like this. Share the hope and confidence from Scripture that this world is not our ultimate home.

“Though some may ask where God is in all of this is, we know where He is and He desires people to draw closer to Him.”

Mike Harper Vice President of Communications KVNE/Tyler “Our leadership team met and developed a plan for dealing with the ever-changing Corona Virus situation. First, we are committed to providing a message of hope, both on and off-air, in the midst of excessive bad news. We want to be the one place people can go to be encouraged despite the storms. We have One who is bigger than all of this! Like many stations, we have a number of events planned, including fundraisers and concerts. As of today, we continue all as planned, with the careful emphasis being placed on taking all proper precautions per the CDC. There are additional unplanned opportunities to be in the community we may otherwise have taken, but given the current status, we have opted to postpone. As for our in house practices, we are making efforts to make sure sanitizers and cleansing materials are available, and posting ample reminders to take all extra precautions, as instructed by the CDC. Our on-air message continues to be one of glorifying God, encouragement, connecting our community, and pointing people to Jesus. We don’t totally avoid the subject, as we know it is so prevalent in our listeners’ minds. But we counter other media outlets’ messaging with a positive take on how we as believers can shine a light brighter than ever! We do it through inspiring stories of generosity, joy, faith, and hope. As each day’s news stories change, we will adjust accordingly.

“We know God will ultimately prevail, and embrace this as an honor to represent him and share his love for people who may need it more now than ever.” 

Brian Sanders Exec VP Positive Alternative Radio “Fundraising: We’ve delayed the on air fundraising season until Monday, April 13th. We want to offer hope and the gospel during this time. Station Appearances: We’ve cancelled all station appearances. Promoters and event planners are cancelling their plans as well. Our goal is to keep our team as safe as possible. Internal: PAR leaders met for two days this past week via zoom. We have deployed a two phase plan which includes additional paid leave, work from home, continuation of providing content that encourages and inspires as well as preventative measures the team can take. We had a PAR wide all team zoom today and walked all team members through decisions and plans. On Air programming: We are NOT becoming a news station but remain true to who we are. Offering encouragement, hope and reminders that He is a God of peace. We aren’t ignoring the virus but simply placing it within a context that allows to encourage the listener. In moments like these, our mission shines. Future planning: The situation is very fluid. So we’ll stay up to date with the news and take appropriate measures. Thanks to technology we can do shows from home and so on. Any other topic? Yes. Lead your team. Lead with clarity. * How will you keep them safe? * What’s your plan to give them hope when maybe they can’t work? * What’s your vision after this is over? * Have you met with your financial team to see how many months you can operate without an on-air fundraiser? * Have you discussed how to minister to listeners? * Does your on air talent have guidelines? *

“Have you told your team they’re valued and loved? They probably need to hear it. Don’t assume your team knows how to navigate these days. Communicate clearly and often.”

Chad Bradley PD WNFR/Sandusky, MI (90.7 Hope FM) & WNFA/Port Huron (Power 883) “Hope FM and Power 883 are taking two very different approaches over the coming weeks. Hope FM is leaning into its name. We are going to do as much as we can to share hope in the chaos. We want to be a calm voice in the storm and shine a light where the world is not looking. Power 883, our HotCHR, will still be pointing towards hope in the darkness, but leaning heavily into being entertaining and light. Our fundraiser is on the books for the end of April and our Station Director, Brian Smith, has shared his desire with our team to keep it there. We are going to pay attention to the climate over the coming weeks and the dates could change a little. But at this moment, it’s still on. We have had several promotions that are going to be rescheduled, but it was awesome to see our team jump into service mode this morning. Searching for different ways to serve the community, especially in the area of lunches for underprivileged families that rely on nutrition from school lunches. This is all basically the SuperBowl for Christian radio. It’s what we have been training for. It’s our time to perform at our highest level. Because we have what the world needs. Hope. We are leaning into our strengths. I have been overwhelmed by the support of the Christian Labels who have come together to gather content for our shows and social media all with an eagerness to serve. They have been a dream to work with. At the end of the day, It has has been amazing to see God work through this mess already.”

“He is only getting started. It is humbling to be a part of.”

Bill Sammons President WKNZ/Mildford (The Bridge) “Our fundraiser is still on for first week of April but reviewing next week. We’re still open and operating as normal however will be canceling public events in our building (bible studies, tours, etc). We spent entire morning show today talking about promises in the Bible that are our favorites to speak to peace and hope. Phones were steady with people calling in to share theirs. If you want to talk about toilet paper, that’s the other station.” 😊

Steve Swanson PD WAFJ/Augusta “Like everyone else we are adapting to the ever changing “normal”… -fundraising- We are VERY fortunate to have had our successful Spring fundraiser last week…. -station appearances (conducting, cancellations)- Our Mercy Me./ Jeremy Camp concert was cancelled for this weekend. WinterJam is out – as well as our signature sold out Love and Laughter event. which was to be held in a week. The Masters golf tournament is postponed which is HUGE for our community. Impact unknown.,  We are evaluating where we’re at literally hour by hour as things continue to change…Staff is doing great- faith filled- leaning in to God’s plan for this whole thing. -on air programming (how is your station addressing covid19 on the air) We are encouraging calm, pointing listeners to God’s word and prayer- and encouraging folks to consider how they might serve others. We are re-scheduling events as previously mentioned- NOT panicking in any way….but knowing we will have to be VERY flexible in the days and weeks to come… We are hoping one of the by-products of all of this might be a re-set of personal and family priorities and a deeper dependence on God and faith.”

“We’re here to serve and encourage our communities to the best of our ability.”

Mike Prendergast PD KLTY/Dallas “We’ve cancelled all station events and concerts for the next couple of weeks for now. We’ll take it as a week by week basis. We had a meeting today to discuss the logistics of staff working from home and having a skeleton crew of just the essential staff at the station (jocks, traffic, production). If needed we can limit the amount of staff at the station by about 90%. Absolute worse case scenario where we couldn’t have folks in the building, we would record tracks from home and do everything remotely. Here’s where our format can really shine. Everything on TV and secular radio is so negative and doom & gloom. We have been sharing the hope and security we have in Jesus with our listeners to help them get through this time. We are providing information updates on what is happening locally and nationally if affects our residents directly, but we’re staying positive on the air and serving the need in the community for hope.”

“And we’re washing our hands for 30 seconds!” 🙂

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