Creating A Virtual Radio Station In A Week

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reaching out to managers of public radio stations around the country to get a sense of the challenges that they have faced because of ‘stay-at-home’ orders during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Besides the staffing and technology challenges, I’m hearing that internal communication structures have needed to adjust. Mike Crane, director of Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) tells us his story:

Mike Crane

It’s been remarkable. We transformed WPR to almost entirely virtual in a week, including much of the broadcast staff. Only a few years ago much of this would have been incredibly daunting, but we’ve been updating our systems and had, thankfully, already tested or were using some of the practices we needed. This includes active use of Slack by our journalists and some others, using Comrex units to easily host shows remotely and more.

There have been several organizational challenges from my perspective:

We’re developing whole new ways of working together, and like everybody else that causes hiccups, including things like awkward teleconference talking over each other, and glitches in the software.  We’ve also, because of the speed, I think, found ourselves using multiple different communications tools: Slack and Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Zoom and Skype, and so on: there’s a desire to standardize, but each team like the tool it’s chosen too!

We’re coping well, but lots of people have noted how much we were used to (if in the same building) just stopping by to ask a quick question.  That’s all happening via email/Slack, etc. now, but it’s resulting in an avalanche of email.  There’s so much to communicate, and it’s easier than ever to miss something.

So we’re innovating:

We are using Google Docs to share common files (although even that is getting to be a very large pile of stuff).

We are doing more check ins, both individually and groups

We’re trying new software for communicating (such as Slack and WebEx, both of which were in much more limited use before the crisis)It has been a remarkable two weeks since we decided to go virtual.  Wow. I am so proud of my team. So impressed with the way they have figured out so many, many things!

Thanks, Mike! Do you have a similar situation as Mike’s, or are you faced with a different issue? Share YOUR challenges and workarounds in the comments section. We can all learn from each other.

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