Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr. and Jon Quick
Jon Quick worked at WCCO in Minneapolis when I first met him. He spent a decade as program director of the Indianapolis radio station where my radio career began, WIBC. He is today a respected radio consultant and wrote a piece to broadcasters after the horrible tragedy in Moore, OK on May 20th. Here are his words...Quick and to-the-point.
The General Manager from one of my client radio stations asked a very timely and important question of me today. Should we have a disaster plan? The answer is absolutely! An EF-5 tornado in a densely populated area makes you rethink things.
So, in light of the latest tragedy in Oklahoma City, it is again another example of where radio is providing a lifeline to the victims for critical information. But, if you're not on the air, obviously you cannot perform this potentially life-saving public service.
The FCC has a ready made set of guidelines for radio preparedness. See the links below. The first is more general; the second a guide specific to radio stations, and very comprehensive. One thing for sure, be prepared first and foremost with an alternate broadcast location that is working. They recommend running test drills with your staff switching to and broadcasting from that location. The listener doesn't even need to know. I know that stations I was involved with after 9-11 took this seriously and made plans. But it's been a long time and it's one of those things we sometimes neglect to think of -- until the next tragedy strikes. It's time for a refresher course.
You'll need maybe one turntable, a microphone, a way to air the commercials (when appropriate), and connection to news networks. Maybe even food and water. I know many stations have it rigged so you just pull a switch and everything switches over to the "new studio." Let's hope none of us ever need it but we'll thank God that it's there if we do.
I would also recommend running promos encouraging people to add the "Tune-In Radio" app to their smart phones so they can hear you anywhere (if you don't have your own app). If you have an iPhone, try the "Streams hi fi" app. One day soon FM chips will be in the phones too, thanks to the dedication of Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan and the FCC. A no-brainer. Many times if people have to flee, they don't think to grab a radio, but will have their smart phones. Fifty percent of your listeners have smart phones these days. I wish I could remember who said it recently, but the smart phone has become the "remote control" of our lives.
Mr. Quick nailed it! Just a couple of days prior to the destruction in Moore, OK, Jon responded to my column about what is happening to the radio industry in here the 21st century:
Broadcasters must realize that they need to become a brand, with their radio content being available in a choice of ways. Not just on-air, but online, and on smart phones. I believe it's still all about content. If it's great and unique they will find you. This also points to the importance of the personality. I can get the music anywhere. But, I can't get a John Landecker or a Joey Reynolds. I work with several Midwest stations that are big with farm and agri-business news. Today the farmer gets the markets instantaneously on their ... yes, smart phones.
The brands that are making it, offer additional commentary and grass roots connections with the farmer (who are more sophisticated than many give them credit for). So maybe listening ON-AIR will go down ... but if your content and branding is great and compelling.... they will still EXPERIENCE you ... but on different platforms. Let's not disregard the recent survey saying the vast majority of people, including the younger ones still want a radio in their cars.
Final thoughts from Art Vuolo
Really well put, and probably one of the reasons Jon Quick is such a respected radio executive. It's just so sad that as I monitored Oklahoma City's primary news-talk station, KTOK-AM, owned by mega-owner Clear Channel, budget and staff cuts deprive the listeners, of the type of coverage they deserve. KTOK, like so many stations in cities outside of the top ten, runs syndicated network programming after 6 pm, so all they could do was provide the audio track of NBC affiliate KFOR-TV. I hope that would not happen in Detroit.
This is the peak severe weather season for southeast Michigan. The 2012 Dexter tornado was strangely in the winter, on March 15, six days before the official start of spring. March 20, 1976 was when a twister took aim at the intersection of Maple and Orchard Lake Road. God forbid if that was to be repeated today. However, tornadoes in Flint hit on June 8, 1953, in Novi on June 21, 1987, also June 21 in 1996 hit Frankenmuth and just beyond June on July 2, 1997 there were multiple hits in the metro Detroit area and radio here responded in a big way. We are blessed to have two well-staffed AM news-talk and information stations in WJR-AM 760 and WWJ-AM 950. As we head into a critical time for tornadoes in our part of the country you can rest assured that these stations will not simply plug into TV audio to serve our community. Have a safe summer!
Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Jon Quick via e-mail at email@example.com