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Wessex FM presents at the recent online Chamber meeting

The online Chamber meeting recently was well attended and members were very keen to discuss the way forward for business in the new environment.

President Craig opened the meeting, welcoming all members. “Welcome everybody I see we have some new faces today which is totally fantastic and extremely important especially in our current predicament and taking into account the effects this global pandemic is having on everyone.
You all look like you are surviving too which is excellent so well done to you all. I would appreciate if you could just listen for 5 minutes as I say a few words that I feel are important. I won’t take offence if you just sit back and sip your tea or coffee. Thank you.
As we look back on this situation The Month of June 2020 could hold great significance within the business community locally what with more and more businesses being allowed to begin trading again fully over the next few weeks subject to them being Covid secure.
It is also a time where we need to be fully aware that the wheels of business in general will begin turning once more. I appreciate that some of you, as I have, may have continued to work through all of this. There is of course great emphasis on the retail side of things this month though and a great many shops will be desperate to get back to normality, as much as they can anyway.
It is specifically in Weymouth and Portland perhaps, more relevant, now than ever to explain the function of the Chamber of Commerce as opposed to The Weymouth BID for instance which I know some of you will also be a part of via Levy Payment.
There is often confusion as to why there are two separate groups who seemingly do the same thing. We have new members here so it might be useful to have a bit of insight.
I will be broad now as I do not want to go into the technical dealings of each organisation but an overview.
The BID or Business Improvement District of any area focuses on generating footfall into a specific marked out geographical space.
Ours roughly encompasses a large area of the central town and South Harbouside but does also stretch out into Bowleaze and up to Seaview Holiday Camp in Preston as well.
The BID looks to make this area more economically viable and prosperous by attracting people to choose to come to the area to spend their money and also to make it a better area for local residents to use and again spend their money. So keeping it in the area rather than it going out. There is a retained COO a handful of staff and a board of Volunteers. As I say they are involved in a lot more but this is the gist.
The Chamber of Commerce covers all business aspects in Weymouth & Portland, so the whole of the BID territory and everything else geographically. It is made up of a volunteer business board apart from our administrator and Membership Coordinator Guy Bridge who of course adds considerable value for his remuneration and we outsource some website help.
The remit of The Chamber of Commerce is effectively to help promote the business community as a whole and enable the local economy to flourish to benefit all and we would hope this would in turn benefit other aspects such as general community, Charities, Education and Training.

We are also affiliated with Dorset Chamber and in turn through to the British Chambers so nationally we have immense lobbying power and the British Chambers have been called on to negotiate international trade deals by the government on many occasions.
Also during this crisis we have all worked closely together to give flow of valuable information both to and from the Government.
You are all part of a very important strong national organisation and many will know that the Weymouth & Portland Chamber of Commerce that you subscribe to has come through all other crises that have happened in the last 100 years and remained in place.
Why am I telling you this? Well first it’s important that you know about the organisation that you have joined especially at this time and also about another organisation Weymouth BID that is likely to be key over the next month and beyond in igniting the engine that is Weymouth & Portland’s business community again.

I appreciate there are also plenty of other groups who are looking to help with this area’s need to become strong once again as well and we look to collaborate with them too.
Secondly whilst there is this opportunity to talk to so many of you I feel it fair to tell you that the Chamber of Commerce would not exist without it’s members and this put’s a great deal of responsibility on to your shoulders again especially at this time.
The bare bones run the chamber but it is the flesh of many businesses that create it’s heart. The Chamber of Commerce is a conduit to business growth. You as businesses join to learn and prosper, very possibly, but those of us who help to run the chamber of commerce are only interested in one thing.
Your success. Your success means that you have gained the ability to fly solo and although you do not need to take help you still continue to learn and improve and you in turn as an extension of the chamber may be able to help others to find the independence that they desire so that their work/life balance can also be harmonious.
This model is eons old and it is essentially the circle of Business Life in it’s most basic form.
The Chamber of Commerce is not a tangible thing. It is every one of you engaging with each other that makes it become whole.
Over the next month we need to remember that in business there will be those who will be doing ok, well even, and also there will be those who are struggling.
Nobody is looking for handouts. When I say handouts I mean from you as businesses rather than govt schemes which 99% of you will have heard of. So you don’t have to worry about getting your wallet out.
We live in a very proud community and people look out for each other here on the whole and that really needs to shine through now more than ever.
Supporting those around you and giving your expert advice where you can could be crucial and I know that many of you are already doing this. That spirit is noticed.

We as a business community all need to be self sustainable and not wait with hands held out hoping that someone will save us. It is for us to rebuild an area that only we really know.
Just as businesses should now be helping each other out to get our whole area back on track regardless of sector, we as an organisation know that we will need to work closely with The BID, The Town Councils , Dorset Council and others to make this recovery happen.
I have been careful not to speak of the disease that has so decimated our area for the past few months because to a certain extent we need to take responsibility for our own actions and think about what is happening right here locally.
We need to be sensible and safe of course but still try to get past the distraction of media over-information that could hinder the rebuilding of our local economy and the magnificent place we love to live and work within.

Not all of this will be easy but I absolutely guarantee that if you all work together and help each other now you have the opportunity to not only get us back to where we were before but make the changes we need at this time to come out of this well ahead.
I am not today telling you what to do. The Chamber of Commerce isn’t an organisation that tells businesses what to do.
They empower businesses to be the best they can be. The ultimate goal of a quality Chamber of Commerce is to see businesses get up, stand on their own and succeed and not only that but stand together and make a positive impact on their own local economy.
When you all succeed. We succeed.
When you all achieve. We achieve.
When you speak as one voice. Everyone listens”

Rick Simmonds, Managing Director of Wessex FM – From 2019 to Covid-19

“Well it’s been an interesting few months! As if the end of 2019 wasn’t eventful enough – with a(nother) General Election and the subsequent direction being set on Brexit – I was hoping that 2020 would at least offer some kind of clear road map into a new decade.

But that wasn’t to be!

As the Coronavirus crisis hit, Wessex FM wasn’t immune (pun intended) from the clear need to shift to homeworking and we joined many businesses in the area by making that transition – finding innovative ways to stay on air, with the same quality and committed programming as before. This meant presenters delivering shows from their bedrooms, journalists presenting news bulletins from their wardrobes, the phone-in lines diverted to staff’s houses – and the sales team working hard with clients to ensure the right message was being broadcast to listeners (or even finding ways of pausing advertising for a short while as advertiser cashflow, in many cases, ground to a halt overnight).

“Welcome to the new normal”, I thought to myself. And then started worrying.

For a century, radio has supposedly been at risk. Whenever something new comes along – television, home video rental, games consoles – the death knell for the medium is sounded. And every time it has survived – even consolidated its position in the media landscape.

But I will confess – this felt different. Lockdown, social distancing and school closures suggested to me that people’s lifestyles were changing beyond recognition. They wouldn’t be getting up for the school-run, they wouldn’t be listening to the car radio on the way back from work, they’d have every distraction available to them in their living room, all day and all night. Were their habits about to change.. and change forever?

Then, a few weeks into the crisis, a surprising development. Commercial operators and the BBC were describing a 15-20% uplift in their online radio listening. Meanwhile, there was data to suggest that music streaming services such as Spotify were down by 8% or so. Hallelujah! When given the choice and many more hours at home, listeners went for live radio over the other options available to them.

For the record, Wessex FM’s online listening had an uptick of around 18% at that time. And our web figures told a similar story – listeners searching for the latest local news and information online delivered 124% more users year-on-year (and 78% more page views).

I’ve made this claim before – and I stand by it. Millions of people in the UK over the last couple of years have bought a new radio without even knowing it! The smart speaker – the Amazon Echo, the Google device. The statistics show that Wessex FM’s smart speaker listening has increased by 464% over the last two years. This is real-time data that was can see within seconds of people tuning in – or out. And the exponential increase looks set to continue.

The radio is dead. Long live radio!

The true repercussions and changing habits for all business, let alone for broadcasters, won’t be clear for some time of course. But the last two months have offered some evidence that, once again, radio is a thriving medium that listeners turn to even more-so in challenging times.”

Wessex FM is currently offering advertising packages at half the rate card price to help business recovery in the area. Email sa***@we******.com or search ‘Advertise On Wessex FM’.

Paul Appleby
Author: Paul Appleby