September 29, 2020

Tu Conexión: How a Latin Pop Station Became a Community Lifeline during the Pandemic

By Idil Cakim, SVP Research & Insights, Audacy

Honoring our Hispanic citizens’ heritage takes on a whole new meaning in a time when our nation is facing enormous challenges that surface our need to stand for diversity and inclusion. Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate a rich culture and acknowledge Hispanic citizens’ significant contributions to society. It is also a time to shine light on the community’s connectedness to its members, friends and neighbors.

In the wake of COVID-19 crisis, WLZL El Zol 107.9, Audacy’s Latin Pop station in the DC market, made a decision to serve the needs of its community first and foremost. In a matter of days the station, with its wildly popular morning-drive programming, switched from being a music-based companion to Spanish speakers to a community lifeline that told its listeners where to get tested, how to find food and how to access resources necessary to stay safe.

Brand Manager, Candy Cintron, reached out to Montgomery and Prince George county officials and lined up interviews that informed audiences on a daily basis. The station rotated the top three interviews of the day to keep the widest possible audience informed. In addition, local non-profits who wanted to provide relief asked our station for help with announcements so they could connect with people in need. El Zol’s listeners cherished these updates, as they could get trusted and new information starting 6AM in the morning from their favorite station and did not have to wait until evening news from Spanish TV broadcasters.

Today, while we adjust to a new normal, El Zol continues its community support by sharing locally relevant information. The hosts understand their listeners and are not afraid to address issues head on: How can parents who need to work outside of home help their children with remote learning? How can we assure our Hispanic listeners that it is not only safe, but vital that they participate in the Census so that their communities get the resources they need? What immigration options do legal temporary workers have, if they lost their jobs? Where and how can audiences register to vote? These conversations have pushed the music station listenership to new heights, on the air and across its digital channels. The station’s morning show has been in the number 1 spot among Hispanic audiences every month since COVID hit.[1] The rush to El Zol’s content is a testament not only to the power of Audio content, but also to the trust the hosts have secured with their listeners over time.

Brand Conversations with Hispanic Communities

Advertisers who wanted to leverage El Zol’s voice and connect with Hispanic audiences had to be authentic, culturally relevant and articulate how they have served the community. La Fé’s campaign was a perfect example of this. The brand participated in El Zol’s morning show, giving practical tips on home cooking and telling listeners where to find these products.  But it was listeners’ trust in local hosts that made them walk into stores and ask for these products. As Cintron aptly puts “It’s like a vouching system. The hosts vouch for the brands, saying they’re a friend of mine – and therefore a friend of yours. These brands then become a friend of the community.”

Audacy’s Diversity and Inclusion Study[2] shows that to win the hearts and minds of Hispanic audiences, brands have to communicate their commitment to social justice and diversity. Compared to average US adults, Hispanic audiences are significantly more likely to buy from brands who advocate for diversity and take a public stand on social issues (70% vs. 59%). And to do it right, brands and media channels alike, need to embrace communities they serve.

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[1] Nielsen Audio via ActOne, Metro, March-Aug ’20 Mon-Fri 6a-10a, Rankings Based on Cume
[2] S. Radoff Associates, Diversity and Inclusion Study, August 2020.

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