Covid-19 and reading the room

Serving your audience at a time of crisis

When it comes to content creation, it’s not enough to know your audience. You have to care about them too. Especially when global disaster strikes.

It’s a distinction that comes more easily to some media organisations than others.

Take BBC Radio 1 – who nailed it straight away. The station’s target audience is 15-29 year olds. As such, high numbers have been cut adrift from school or university, others are key workers, manual workers, minimum wage-earners – all unlikely to be living their best lockdown. Thanks to Covid-19, they’ve seen their education curtailed and their employment prospects shrivel, they’re worried about their gran, they miss their friends and their anxiety levels are through the roof – unsurprisingly, Childline has reported a huge spike in calls from young people struggling to deal with the impact of the pandemic on their lives.

The nation’s premium supplier of happy bangers understands that gloom and doom won’t help in this situation. Because this situation has been so extreme, so unsettling, that literally the only thing that will get a gutted 21-year-old through it is Armand van Helden’s My My My.

“Let the music do the heavy lifting,” the station’s DJs have soothed. “Just because we’re by ourselves, doesn’t mean we’re on our own.” They have been a 24-hour reminder that, yes, one day there will be parties again and you’d better have remembered how to dance.

We don’t all serve pop music to teenagers, of course. But for everyone working in the media, from international news behemoths, to glossy consumer magazines to B2B specialists – like us, here at Wildfire – BBC Radio 1’s intimate knowledge of its tribe should stand as a gold standard.

What is your target reader’s biggest fear? Their hope? What are the top three things on their to-do list today? And next month? What do they talk to their colleagues and friends about? What do they only confess to their closest confidante? Range Rover, mountain bike, or both? Try and guess the colour of their couch and what they’d order in an Indian restaurant. Approach, listen, watch. Then empathise. Then give them what they need.

There will be many people to thank when this is over. On that list will be those media outlets who have met their audience’s needs in the most extraordinary moment for the country since World War Two.

And now here’s Dua Lipa.