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#CoronavirusOutbreak: How brands are using radio during Covid-19 crisis

Radio has always been a medium to reach masses. How are brands and government agencies using it for communication in current times? BestMediaInfo.com speaks to FM channels to understand

On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the country's top radio jockeys (RJs) via video conferencing.

The Prime Minister told them as mass communicators, radio plays a proactive role in informing their listeners about the announcements, along with educating them about social distancing and the importance of self-quarantine.

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Given the spread of the Coronavirus, both the government and brands are utilising the power of radio channels to communicate with the public in equal measure.

The radio channels, on their part, are not only coming up with innovative awareness campaigns, but also offering brands with additional creative services. And all of this despite the bandwidth issue, with almost 90% staff working from home.

Abraham Thomas

Abraham Thomas, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network, said Big FM is using its reach to make purpose-driven campaigns. “We are using our reach and our talent to create more purpose-driven campaigns. We are currently running a ‘Stay at Home’ campaign where we are inviting our listeners to create uplifting and entertaining ‘Public Service Radio Spots’. We will air these spots on radio free of charge,” he said.

“As one of the leading radio stations in the country, which has time and again led from the front, especially in critical situations, we have taken up the responsibility to keep listeners informed and entertained, with the help of brands. We are working with numerous brands to develop social messaging and they are in different stages of campaign development. Our sales teams have been well-equipped and supported to drive business by implementing creative solutions and service client requirements by successfully working from multiple remote locations/their residences,” Thomas added.

Brands have also changed their communication strategy on radio and are now focusing more on messaging that talk about hygiene and social distancing.

Rahul Namjoshi

Rahul Namjoshi, COO of My FM, said brands are acting consciously today. “Brands are now focusing their communication on awareness around hygiene and social distancing. It has been a joint effort with our creative team wherein brands are suggesting to tie-up with our social awareness campaigns and any kind of initiatives that we are taking. It is honestly a relationship-based model. Brands are acting cautiously and consciously,” he said.

Ashit Kukian

Ashit Kukian, CEO, Radio City, said, “Radio City has announced a 50% fee waiver in all communication around the coronavirus for brands. Considering the situation that Covid-19 has put us in, it is important to create awareness in the most positive manner. It is our duty as a radio network to spread information that is current, credible, and relevant to avoid any fake news being spread among the listeners. Keeping the business performance in mind, there will surely be an effect on the revenue for a quarter from now. Therefore, to augment the awareness on Covid-19, Radio City has announced a 50% fee waiver in all communication around the coronavirus for brands. We believe categories such as healthcare, OTT, online education, FMCG products like sanitisers, etc., will look at advertising on radio. We also believe that whether it’s silencing rumours or voicing awareness, Radio City is proud to be the voice for the message that brands would like to convey amidst the Covid-19 outbreak.”

He also said  Radio City has launched a noble initiative called ‘Radio City ka Salaam, Corona fighters ke Naam’ across 39 cities, to laud the frontline warriors like doctors, nurses, soldiers, etc., who are ensuring our safety by putting themselves at risk.

He also said to motivate people working from home, they have initiated Concert from Home, where various singers, performers, music composers come on board to perform a concert from their home for the listeners.

Nisha Narayanan

Nisha Narayanan, Director and COO, Red FM and Magic FM, said brands are looking for ways to be relevant in the current scenario. “We are offering our creative services in production and packaging. For any sort of social messaging or empathy that brands want to communicate, we are more than happy to participate and contribute to it,” she added.

Talking about the response of brands to radio as a platform in the current situation, Narayanan said even the categories that are not advertising are looking for newer ways to communicate in the situation.

“All kinds of brands are trying to see how they can innovatively look at conscious-driven campaigns and everybody is making efforts to be relevant in this time—utilising a powerful and low-cost medium like radio far more extensively. Categories that are not advertising are in the process of thinking of newer ways and campaign thoughts and they will come with campaigns sooner or later,” she said.

“Given the socio-economic situation and the state of affairs right now, it is extremely important for brands to show empathy and their communication should show empathy to the situation that we are in. They must show empathy towards their consumers or listeners. As long as they are sensitive towards the situation that people are facing at this time, it is good for the brand as well,” she added.

Thomas said brands across categories such as healthcare, pharma and entertainment are eager to communicate during this time. He said their sales team has been interacting with more than 500 clients on a daily basis.

Namjoshi said Central and State Government campaigns on building awareness about the disease have also gone up.

“Online brands had shown some traction; but now, with a complete lockdown announced, things might change again. I think it’s just a matter of a couple of days before more and more private brands start using their CSR budgets. Things will smooth out gradually, but slowly,” he added.

Advertising on radio affected due to coronavirus

The Covid-19 outbreak has affected nearly all sectors and the radio industry is also facing the heat. Most brands have pulled back advertising budgets due to the crisis and dealing with uncertainty in communication plans.

It was earlier reported that the Association of Radio Operations For India (AROI) has written to the Central Government seeking a bailout package as Government ad spends have declined. The industry is also facing a decline in private ad spends.

Narayanan said, "Advertising overall has been impacted definitely, there have been a few cancellations also and we do think AROI as a body needs to come together. We must talk to the clients where their reactions are temporary and the better way to do it is to get into more socially driven campaigns."

According to industry estimates, radio ad spend was likely be a little less than Rs 3,000 crore in 2020, which is now likely to be revised downwards.

"We have also asked for more Government ads to be utilised on radio. Exemptions and relaxations are need of the hour. It is extremely important for the industry to be bind because while we are relevant and we are reaching out to the audience, there has been an overall impact on the industry. Even if you don’t have revenues, you have to pay one-fourth of the licence fee, which I think is a big concern because if these things are not looked at, a lot of radio stations will shut down and they won’t be able to continue businesses even if they wish to. We are only asking for temporary relaxations and also a regulatory change later which allows radio to be on a level playing field with television, digital and such mediums," she added.

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