Out came the laptop, on went the kettle and BBC News Channel / Sky News... and communications were established with the radio station I had just left. As I was hearing about the story on the TMZ website, which were the first to report Michael Jackson was dead, I started planning for the morning ahead.
I even managed to capture a screen grab of both TMZ and The LA Times as I went along ... a kind of strange ‘breaking news’ collector’s item of a momentous culturally significant event.
The timing was quite convenient (if these things are ever convenient, particularly to the person dying!) because it meant that most listeners in Europe switching on the radio in the morning would be hearing the news first from their favourite radio station, that Michael Jackson had died.
Therefore, there was a great opportunity to plan a ‘content packed’ show throughout the night and be ready for 6am... which is exactly what I did!
As consultant Programme Director for Radio 100FM in Denmark, I took charge of providing direction for that particular station in areas such as tone of voice, music, production etc... but I was backed up by a fantastic team who all came in early to ensure listeners got the best possible product. For good measure, all client stations received a bespoke 2am ‘advice’ email! :-)
What were the key ingredients?
Information – people needed to hear the facts about what had happened
Reaction – getting reaction from both listeners and celebrities on the breaking news
Mood Music – reflect the passing of a musical icon by playing lots of his songs
Tone of Voice – ensuring we found the right voice to demonstrate a genuine sadness at someone’s passing without being overly sentimental or mawkish
Production – capture the feeling and significance of the event with production the caused an emotional reaction
After 90 minutes sleep and a hastily arranged 4:30am conference call, we were up and running. The team on the ground put together a really excellent show and listeners were provided with some first class radio, balancing all the key ingredients.
I thought I’d share with you the some imaging that we had on air this morning, (produced by Imaging Director Bjarke Rasmussen) which has cuts of the station’s newsreader, a famous Danish TV host commenting on MJ’s death, clips of the press conference and of Michael himself, and a simple yet effective script. This was followed by an appropriate emotive Michael Jackson song and played at the top and bottom of each hour all day.
A sad day, but a great opportunity for radio to do what it does best.... react quickly to changing events, deliver information and capture the public mood. I hope your station took that opportunity.