Smile FM is a media partner of Suidoosterfees.
We chatted 
with Lois O’Brien, the station’s managing director.

How did you end up in radio?
Having spent my entire career working in the creative environment, first in the advertising industry then in publishing. When an opportunity arose for me to join Smile 90.4FM and be fortunate enough to have a third career in the creative industry I grabbed it with both hands. I have definitely found my groove and loved every minute of my career at Smile 90.4FM and in the radio industry.

What does a typical day look like for Lois O’Brien at SmileFM?
Working in a fluid and creative NOW environment there is no such thing as a typical day. I find my day mixed with brainstorming, managing process, managing talent, overseeing strategy, managing finance – all of these probably numerous times during the day. The environment is relaxed and lively … it could be seen as even “mad” to some. Everything is constantly changing and moving – always exciting.

After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, did you provide information on SmileFM to inform listeners on staying safe and healthy? Please tell us more.
We knew that the lockdown was an unprecedented situation and many more people were looking for entertainment, information and general companionship. Smile 90.4FM immediately changed our news bulletins to reflect the virus, rebranding them as Coronavirus Updates – every hour on the hour. It was critical that we delivered credible, accurate information in a manner that did not create panic. We also updated our listeners with daily COVID figures via push notifications on our app. While music was a great source of comfort we knew our presenters also had a very important role to play from engaging, informing, interacting and listening to our audience. We knew every hour of our day was important as listeners habits had dramatically changed and we had to reflect that. The Smile Breakfast show started an hour later to blend in more with the routine of our audience. Throughout the day and night, we ran messaging on how Capetonians could protect themselves and their families. We had some fun too. Giving away a Self-Isolation kit which included everything you needed for being at home, the Smile Secret Sound was cracked during lockdown and we created the ultimate lockdown playlist with the Top 500 songs of all time played over the week.

How did the virus affect your operational activities?
Being an essential service we continued with our on air offering with no interruption. The challenge was having as little staff at the office as possible with the majority of staff working from home, yet continuing to offer a great experience and keep our valuable listeners informed and entertained. Listenership and time spent listening to the radio increased significantly during this time.