My 3 Step Plan for radio to cover arrival of Syrian refugees

kowchmedia coach Steve Kowch tips on media coverage of Syrian Refugees to CanadaFrom where I sit On The Kowch, radio will play an important role in how Canadians react to the 25,000 Syrian refugees arriving in Canada over the next 90 days. Time for politics is over. Now is the time for Canadians to do what we do best: Extend a helping hand to welcome men, women and children who have experienced hell on earth. I have no doubt that radio will help Canadians rise to the occasion.

Here is my Three Step Plan on how radio can play a role in all of this:

Step One: Getting ready for the Syrian refugees to arrive

Radio needs to set the stage on what is being done in their community expecting Syrian refugees. Talk to the people helping in the settling of the refugees. Church groups, charities, local Syrian community leaders, municipal leaders, government officials and volunteers. Tell their stories to generate pride in the community.

Find out what is needed and take action to make it happen. Organize a food drive. Fill up a truck with winter clothing the refugees can use to make it through our winter. Collect furniture, kitchen supplies and toys for the children. Radio is great at doing these kind of promotions to help their community.

Talk radio is great at sharing stories. There will be a lot of stories to tell on the radio about what is being done and what is needed for the refugees when they arrive. Take ownership of these stories and in the process your radio station will be the one to listen to by all those taking part in the process of helping the Syrian refugees.

Step Two: Their flight to Canada and arriving in your community

This is the main event. The BIG story. We’ve been talking about the need to help Syrian refugees since the September photos of that little boy’s body lying face-down on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum.

This becomes your local story when the group of refugees heading to your community board the plane for their flight to Canada. Interview Canadian officials stationed where the refugees are leaving from and have them explain what happens when they arrive in Canada and when they’re expected to start arriving in your community.

Get reaction from the community on their arrival. Cover their arrival and talk to people on hand welcoming them and if it happens, the people demonstrating against their arrival.

Talk to the organizers about what happens to the refugees when they arrive. Hunt out human interest stories like talking to volunteers who will be providing them food, clothing and other items they need to start their new life in Canada. Try to talk to any of the refugees who speak English for their reaction to arriving in Canada. This is an emotional story. Make sure that emotion comes across on the radio through the voices of the refugees, the volunteers and people living in the community.

Step Three: They’ve arrived, now what?

This is the angle that probably has a short shelf life. Even the biggest stories wear thin after awhile with the audience. The next few days after they arrive the story is about the refugees trying to settle in to their new home. This is where their human interest stories are important. How are they coping. How do they like it here in Canada and in their adoptive community. How are the schools handling the new students. How are the students dealing with their new classmates. This is not about white washing the story. This is like one big reality show being played out in your community as the refugees and their neighbours cope with each other.  Good or bad, the story needs to be told.

From where I sit On The Kowch, I think it would sound great on the radio to air promos or PSAs welcoming your new neighbours to the community. Maybe even throw in a sentence or two in Syrian to make the refugees feel welcome.

And here is another reason for radio in Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver to talk about the Syrian refugees arriving in your community. The PPM Winter Ratings have started and continue until February 28th. The Syrian Refugee arrivals in Canada makes for great ratings because of the high interest of your listeners in this story. With the arrival process expected to last until the end of February,  this means at some point during the Winter PPM ratings, Syrian refugees will be arriving in your community.

Steve Kowch ran two of Canada’s largest newstalk radio stations in Montreal and Toronto for more than 14 years. He was National Director of NewsTalk Radio Programming for Astral Media. He was a professor at two of Toronto’s leading broadcast schools and is the author of   99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Making It BIG In Media   Today Steve is Canada’s leading media coach at kowchmedia helping emerging radio talent chase their dream to become great broadcasters.

Contact Steve at 647-521-6397 or email