Hurricane 6

With Hurricane Florence expected to cause widespread power outages across the Carolinas, radio’s over-the-air signal will be the primary way residents receive essential information once the immensely powerful storm makes impact. But broadcasters are also harnessing social and digital assets to keep essential info flowing, and for listeners to share their experiences with what’s being called the “storm of a lifetime.”

“Social media will become the call-in after and during the storm – assuming folks have power and internet,” says Brian Maloney, VP of Radio at Capitol Broadcasting, which owns nine radio stations and three TV outlets in North Carolina. “We will encourage people to share pictures, videos and stories all in the vein of ‘where you can go to be safe and where not to go.’ Social media, coupled with radio can be very powerful, especially in times like this.”

But even ahead of the storm making land, broadcasters have been pushing out information to audiences through digital assets and social platforms. “Our goal is to get as much real-time information to listeners as possible, using all of our assets including social media, e-blasts and push notifications,” says iHeartMedia region president Dave Carwile, who oversees Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Greenville, Asheville and Norfolk. “We’ll track the storm, relay information from authorities and be there for the community.”

Like other broadcasters in the region, Capitol Broadcasting has been using the web and social media to dispense info on how listeners should prepare, and it plans to provide updates as the storm progresses. But there’s no substitute for opening up the phone lines for listeners to share first-person accounts from hard-hit areas. “We’ll be fielding calls from listeners and responders throughout the duration to provide invaluable live and local updates,” Capitol Broadcasting GM Valerie Brooks says.

At Cumulus Media’s five-station Charleston, SC cluster, VP/market manager Sherry Dollar sees two different – but equally important – audiences to communicate with: those in their vehicles evacuating and those that chose to hunker down and ride it out. “Streaming is a critical part of the plan,” she says. “We need to use on-air, online, social media – all of our assets to get current information out in a timely manner.” Cumulus plans to locate marketing/digital manager Leah Downs off-site to handle website updates and assist with listener engagement.

For listeners in areas where evacuations aren’t mandatory, or for those who choose to tough it out, station social pages provide another way for sharing storm experiences and for accessing recovery content after the storm passes. “We will push as much information to our audiences online and through our station’s social media,” says Trip Savery, president & COO of Curtis Media Group, which has about 50 signals, including translators, covering North Carolina. “But with power and internet outages predicted, our first priority will be on-air.”