January 2015 – Let the Fresh Air In

January 9, 2015

The coming of the New Year is always a good time to examine what we are doing with our time and resources and ask how we can do better. How this normally works is that we look around and remind ourselves of the items that were on our collective to-do list and for some reason are still sitting there.

Peter SmythWe then take a deep breath and sternly tell ourselves that we’re going to make a resolution for the next twelve months to “spend more time with family”, or “hit the gym regularly.” When it comes to business, we earnestly resolve “to get my pending in on time”, to “do airchecks regularly with the jocks;” or “get my expense report in more frequently.”

While there’s seemingly nothing wrong with those resolutions, I would challenge you to think critically about what will change if you keep each and every one of those resolutions. I predict: very little.

It’s not that little resolutions are bad; it’s that they don’t lead to the kind of innovation and big ideas that can take us outside the box labeled “radio”. And today, more than ever we need to open the box wide and let fresh air – new approaches – in. We cannot continue to simply do airshifts, sell spots and hope for something miraculous to happen. We are the only ones who can effectively change the course of our stations and our business. There are no wise men that we can hire with easy answers.

We need to stand back at the beginning of this new year, and ask what can we do beginning right now to provide value to advertisers, both current and prospective, who are looking for help with their goods or services. If we are sitting down with those businesspeople and telling them the story of how great our station is, we have completely missed the larger opportunity. We have to listen first, to hear what the client’s need is. What’s keeping them awake nights and holding back their business? Then and only then can we begin to create a program – not just spots, but a complete 360 program – to help them. Selling them a 2 week schedule is not an answer. We need to take upon ourselves the burden of guiding the client away from ineffective or bad ideas, and bring our knowledge to bear in solving their problem.

That’s value that the client will appreciate and pay for. That’s selling.

We have to look beyond the Miller Kaplan rankings and the monitors of other radio advertisers and look at the entire advertising opportunity. We need to call on advertisers who are deep into digital media and find out just how satisfied they are. We know that digital works effectively for those who use it intelligently, but how many of our clients are doing digital just because it’s the current vogue? Can we help them define and clarify their needs and goals? Of course we can, and there may be a place for radio in their overall plan. Let’s look for new opportunities in categories like car dealers. We are certain to continue to lose revenue share if we allow more of their budgets to drift to digital without challenging those investments. Healthcare is a huge business with a long list of challenges; how many hidden opportunities can we find in that category?

When we listen to our on-air brands, do we hear the local, live humans who reach out to be companions and friends? If not, what are we doing to foster and encourage that connection? We know it is a huge differentiating advantage for broadcast radio vs. online music services. But are we leveraging it to our advantage, or are we afraid of making a mistake that Nielsen may punish? Now is not the time to be timid.

The on-air personality has been redefined. We now communicate with the audience on a variety of platforms and we have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with our fans and make them even more passionate friends. Do we know the proper usage of these platforms and their strengths and weaknesses? Have we done the hard work of sharing more of ourselves than just introducing songs and pushing buttons? What truly makes an on-air announcer a “personality”? Being interesting and interested in our audiences is only a first step. Storytelling and connecting is hard work and requires both thought and learning.

Too often, I overhear conversations that sound like we are playing not to lose. What happened to our commitment to excellence; the will to play to win? Let us individually and collectively set a course for excellence in 2015. Question everything. How are we organized? Is there a leaner and more effective way to do our routine work? How much time can we free up for new initiatives?

Do we have the skills needed to compete in 2015? Are we able to talk with clients about new marketing approaches like retargeting and audience extension? Have we made the individual investment in our careers to learn about the digital marketing universe and its strengths and weaknesses?

No one has to tell me that the business is more complex and competitive than ever before. I don’t need to be reminded that our financial model is under stress and attack. No one surprises me by telling me there are no easy answers or instant solutions. I understand all too well. But if we are expending time and energy looking backward to how things were, we have less time and mental energy to focus on how to change our collective present and future.

What are we waiting for? The opportunities are more plentiful than ever before, and the stakes are a high as they’ve ever been. If you cannot or will not play at a higher level for your advertisers and your listeners, you are behind the curve.

And this media company, for one, is not going to lag behind the curve.

A Time For Gratitude

December 2, 2014


Peter Smyth

Peter Smyth

The natural instinct for busy people is to rank the most important and most urgent items highest on their to-do list.  We then rush through our day, trying likeblazes to get everything crossed off the list before we run out of time.  Then, it’s time to fight rush hour to make it home in time for a teacher conference, civic meeting, or to shuffle kids to their extra-curricular activity.  Then, a little must-see TV and it’s off to bed.

The next day is much like the one described above.

What gets compressed out of a daily schedule like this one is the time for reflection and appreciation for the people around us – our coworkers, our staff members, our clients and our listeners.  Gratitude is in short supply in this world, and it is an essential part of business.  Yes, business runs better with gratitude.  I am sure you’ve seen the research about Millennials and their somewhat mysterious attitude toward work.  They want to be involved, contribute and do something significant with their work hours.  It is pretty clear – they want to be appreciated by their organizations.  They would like a bit of gratitude.

We are now officially in the feel-good time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas and there is no better time to renew our commitment to gratitude.

I’m grateful for an outstanding group of men and women who give their hearts and minds to their radio stations and therefore to the strength of Greater Media as a company. It is their work, creativity and dedication that powers our company.  When every company has the same transmitters, research and music, the only differentiating factor is the quality of our people.  They are what really makes Greater Media Greater.  To each of these individuals, whether a manager or a part-time employee; whether in sales, support, promotion or programming:  you have my gratitude for all of your contributions to our company, but most especially for the contributions you have made that  have not been formally recognized and the ones that no one knows about.

I am equally grateful to our advertisers who entrust us to contribute to the success of their businesses.   Through the ups and down of the recent business cycle, we have loyal advertisers who know the value of our stations to their marketing and sales efforts.   We are working with them in a new and more integrated fashion to comprehensively help them get their message to the right consumer at the right time.   There is nothing more rewarding than calling a client and finding out that their weekend sale, which was heavily promoted by your station, was gangbusters.  We are grateful for those moments and we rejoice in our clients’ success.

Our listeners, our audience, our community – all of these terms apply to the individuals who believe what we do on the radio and online is worth a place in their daily lives.  We know how powerful radio is to raise your mood or make your day a bit more fun or keep you up to date, but it is each one of you who chooses to come back to us, time and again.   We are grateful for your loyalty and participation in our station brands.  Without you, our effort and creativity would be far less rewarding than it is.

Even in this age of digital transformation, radio has maintained its relationship with listeners because we are good, local companionship for listener segments in each of our markets.  We believe this is because we listen to and respond to our listening audiences with sincerity and an open mind to new innovations.  We are a human presence in a world of algorithms.

And last but not least, each one of us who works in this wonderful medium of radio has good reason to be grateful to our family. They are the ones who support us through the up and downs, the good times and the not-so-good times.  And, yes, we all experience both.  Our families tolerate the extra hours for location promotions, the late night phone calls, the weekends shot for a big station event, the last minute travel.  It all adds up; they understand, as we do, that this is no 9 to 5 job.  They deserve our gratitude for their patience and tolerance because radio cannot take a day off.

As we make time for friends and family during the holiday season, let us be certain that we take a moment to express our gratitude to all of those who enable us to pursue our passion.

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