Creating Radio With Purpose

Themes from Radiodays Europe

Greetings from Lisbon. I’ve had a lovely few days at Radiodays Europe. The pandemic had somewhat got in the way of the event’s usual planning, but they put on a great event with four simultaneous streams of sessions over two days. They also streamed the streams to people who wanted to attend, but not in person.

Unsurprisingly, Coronavirus was mentioned a few times. Yes, there were mentions of how it caused teams to work in different ways, but I think it had a more fundamental effect on how many practitioners thought about their audio medium.

I hosted a session - the Radio Summit - which brought together some top leaders - Pedro Leal, Head of Production for Renascença, Patricia Schlesinger, Director General of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, Marc Vossen, CEO of NGroup and Anne-Marie Dohm, CEO of Radio 4 in Denmark.

What was fascinating is how much the idea of purpose came up. The pandemic meant that many stations changed their output to react to the changing situation and the responses generated re-enforced that connection that listeners have with their favourite stations. Many broadcasters around the world also added new output as podcasts, social media or web content. The combination of trust, skill and audience alongside the sector’s ability to be fleet of foot, allowed it to really prosper in challenging times.

In a world where there’s usually a focus on ratings and revenue, stations perhaps rediscovered the core thing that makes their medium special.

NGroup’s story was particularly interesting. They operate the licensed brands NRJ, Cherie and Nostalgie in French-speaking Belgium - traditionally stations that do well at banging out the hits, but the CEO outlined how ‘making the world a better place’ has been ingrained in their DNA. As well as the company being carbon neutral since 2014, each of their main brands integrates a progressive tenet into their programming output. It sounded like it had become an authentic value of their stations rather then just an attempt at green-washing a brand - something staff and listeners could get behind.

For any media brand, having clear aims and objectives has long been an essential part of creating success, but perhaps thinking about what a station (or podcast or business) is trying to engender through its work is something worth spending more time looking at.

Hearing from Petra Piipari at HitMix in Finland, she talked about the combination of Finland being both the happiest place in the world, but also an area that over-indexes in suicide, particularly for one of the station’s core demographics - young men. The station builds mental wellbeing into its programming mix - to acknowledge the problem, but also provide solutions for listeners.

Of course ‘purpose’ doesn’t have to be a lofty goal, it can be anything that works to have an impact on audiences, but in an era where new social media platforms are key challenges for radio’s consumers and revenue, should radio lean into the fact that it’s a very trusted medium, and work to differentiate itself - with purpose (in between banging out the hits of course).

Photography: Radiodays Europe/Hedda Elisabet