In a conversation with a programmer a few days ago, we were making recommendations for an on-air promotion. Admittedly the suggestions were a bit out of the box, but I have to admit I was a little sad when the PD reminded us he still wanted to do “good radio.”
That comment made me ask myself a couple of questions: What is good radio? And what is good radio right now?
Radio has largely been beaten into submission by consultants over the last few years. We’ve been told that we need to be predictable. We’ve been told we need to be safe. And for the most part, this has been wise advice. A listener wants to know what she can count on when she turns on our station. It totally get that.
But one of the beautiful traits that attracted me to radio has always been the ability to quickly react to changing situations. Television needs a big crew, scriptwriters, directors, and dozens of people to produce a show. The beauty of radio is one DJ in a room, talking to people. No set design. No editing. Just turn on the mic and talk.
And in a time like this, what the world needs is someone to talk to them with honesty, empathy, and vulnerability.
So what is good radio right now? It’s whatever our listeners need to hear. It’s interesting, engaging, and relevant.
The good news is that I’ve seen many stations and programmers respond to what our listeners need right now. It’s been amazing to see stations kick down the walls and let listeners into their homes as they broadcast remotely. It’s been remarkable to see how many have suspended regular benchmarks in favor of content that connects more deeply.
Now is not the time for “safe.” Now is the time to dig deep. Now is the time to evaluate everything we’re doing on the air and run it through the lens of the listener’s current reality.
They need to smile at the absurdities of our new normal. They need to pray for the strength to endure. They need to be encouraged to trust God and overcome fear.
And when you think about it, isn’t that what they always need? Not just in the middle of a pandemic, but every day. Last year, today, and long after Coronavirus is a bad memory, our listeners will still be facing heartbreak, loneliness, fear, and stress.
Maybe a time like this helps us step back and remember why we exist. Why did God call us into Christian radio? Why do we do what we do?
This is not a criticism of consultants. It’s not a criticism of the amazing radio folks I’ve had the pleasure of working with for more than 40 years. It’s just a reminder of what radio is all about.
Now is the perfect time for good radio.
Dave Kirby is Chief Creative Officer at Vidare Creative. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.