I haven’t done this in a few years, but I’ve packed up my air mattress, sleeping bag, peanut butter, and Evangeline Maid bread and set up a temporary home at the radio station. I’ve been doing this since 1985. Radio broadcasters have been doing it since the first transmitter signed on the air.
Along the Gulf Coast, countless men and women have suspended their lives to inform their community in times of tropical trouble. My first experience being on-air during a storm was Danny. Then there was Juan a little later that Summer, bouncing all over the Gulf. I was interviewed by CNN because I happened to answer the office phone. I was 18 and incredibly nervous. Other years I spent time with Andrew, Lili, Rita and a whole bunch of wannabes. More often than not, we prepare for the worst and end up relatively unscathed.
In this era of technology and instant information, people are inundated with information. We use our websites and social media to share info that used to only be available on TV or the radio. But, if the power goes out and people are stranded in the dark, the little speaker on your radio will provide you with vital information. Our team will be at the station, working together to get information and share it as soon as possible.
After 34 years, why do I still do this? Because I can. We have a very powerful resource for our community: a 100,000-watt transmitter that reaches hundreds of thousands of neighbors. As a child in 1973, I remember being in New Iberia, listening to Ken Romero, Charlie Young and Art Suberbille on our local station while sitting in the dark. I haven’t forgotten the importance of that voice of calm and reason.
Back in 2008, unbeknownst to me, a blog was written by Mike Russo about what I meant to him during Gustav. I did not know Mike at the time. Several years later, we ended up together at Lafayette Little League with our sons on the same team. One day, after knowing each other a bit, he shared his blog with me. It meant more to me than I can say. This is why, at almost 53, I’m honored to help our team cover “Barry“. Maybe this storm won’t turn into anything much for Acadiana. But if it does, we will do everything to inform our listeners. After all, we are neighbors, always ready to help each other.
Mike’s Blog from 2008:
RIDING OUT THE STORM
For those of you who anxiously await the arrival of our latest blog posts, we apologize for the delay. Unfortunately, Mr. Gutav and Mr. Ike decided to stop by for an unexpected visit, and things got a little messy here on the Gulf Coast Highway. So, in honor of recent events I thought it would be a good idea to take a break from our normally scheduled program of brand insight to talk about our recent adventures.
Fortunately, and I mean very, fortunately, our immediate area of Lafayette was spared from annihilation from Gustav. (Side note: Was it just me, or did the guys on the Weather Channel seem disappointed, if not completely annoyed that the storm wasn’t bigger?) Other areas further south though did not fare as well and are still in the process of recovering. Ike was kind enough to only pass through on its way to Texas, but the havoc it left there will be felt for many years to come.
The good news during these events was that our Government seemed to have learned from mistakes of the past, managing to evacuate all those in harm’s way.
It has been two weeks since Gustav hit, and other than the stacks of fallen debris from the trees that line our streets, everything, for the most part, is back to normal. Kids are back in school, businesses are re-opened, and life has regained its step. I hope Texas finds the same normalcy in the days to come.
While this article has little to do with branding, there is one particular note of interest that warrants mentioning. It has to do with a local DJ here that I feel embodies the very best of branding. His on-air name is Fast Eddie, and he normally works the morning shift at KQIS here in Lafayette –but during the hurricane, Fast was transformed into a lifeline for thousands of people who were either displaced or hunkered down as they rode out the storm. I say transformed because he went from a fun morning jock to a calm and reassuring voice of information – delivering updates for what seemed like days on end with no break. He didn’t deliver this information as a professional newsman, but moreover, as a trusted friend – who understood the fear, anxiety, and frustrations of his listeners. It was honest, real and refreshing, and while it was obviously not his intended goal – I feel he did more for his brand and brand of the station that and Arbitron rating ever will.
This is not to say that all “regional” media coverage wasn’t on the spot, they were. But for a locally owned station that promises to be a community partner – this was an ideal example of how they showed up when it mattered most. You can tell that during these vents it was no longer just a job for Fast – it was something more.
As a proud son of Louisiana, this was unfortunately not my first dance with a hurricane, and I am certain it will not be my last. It is an undeniable truth that we must contend with here on the Gulf Coast, just as on the West Coast they deal with earthquakes and fires, and in the Mid West, random snowstorms and tornadoes that seem to drop from the sky.