From the Corner Office – January 2010

January 1, 2010

Your First Quarter Checklist for Success

Hello Everyone,

If you have had the occasion to be in the same room with me recently, you’ve heard me repeatedly stress how important I believe this first quarter of 2010 is going to be. In radio, every first quarter is a battle to prime the revenue pump, but this one stands out as the most critical Q1 in years.

Why do I believe that? Because it was a year ago in January that we first saw the seismic shift in business that became the Great Recession. While we seem to be slowly coming out of that swoon, there is still a long way to go, and the next three months will stack up as a bellwether for our success throughout 2010.

The first thing we need to consider is the plus/minus comparison to last year. It would be too easy to see our revenues only in comparison to last January or February and think we’re in safe territory, but we would be mistaken. Any comparison to last year is going to be in positive territory, because we are comparing to a marketplace that was in freefall. So, don’t let anyone take refuge in that percentage growth from last year statistic; it’s not a reliable indicator. In fact, with the gradually increasing confidence of investors and retailers alike, we should be able to strongly outperform last year’s first quarter numbers, and that is our goal.

So, what should we be properly measuring? Here’s a checklist of activities and performance, large and small, that taken together, will contribute to our first quarter success this year. Most of these items should be underway or completed already.

For sales staffs:

• Update your key and target accounts for the coming year, and set a strategy
for each one that will address their most pressing marketing problem.

• Present annual programs to your key retail accounts, offering them the type
of frequency, targeting and visibility with your audience that only your station
can provide when intelligently used on a 52 week basis.

• Isolate and present to those seasonal accounts that you project will be active
in Q1. Presell your station(s) before the dollars are on the table.

• Educate yourself on the integrated marketing solutions we can create for
clients and have an understanding of the component interactive tools we can
create.

• Identify your accounts that have passed the interactive screening process,
and schedule them for your qualifications presell presentation. Reserve time
and have a plan to brainstorm once you get an assignment from these
accounts.

• Review your time management and reallocate your time to focus on new
business development at least 60% of your weeks during first quarter.

• Look at the revenue projections for the industries on your list, and have
conversations with the decision-makers at your accounts so that you can
make reasonable projections for their anticipated spending.

• Present the most recent research from Radio Ad Lab and the Nielsen Audio
Usage study to key accounts.

For product staffs:

• Outline a strategic plan for your station for the first 6 months of the year, and
detail the first quarter portion of the plan.

• Think through all of the component segments of an integrated strategy,
including on-air, on-site, social networking and interactive tools that can help
get the key message points to your most loyal listeners.

• Communicate the strategy both to promotional and on-air staff so they
understand the direction of the station.

• Redefine the job descriptions of your department to include interactive and
digital components, such as blogging and updating web pages, Facebook and
Twitter content. Monitor the work for both quality and timeliness.

• Sit with your sales manager counterpart and discuss potential advertiser tie-
ins and cross-promotions that will benefit both the advertiser and the radio
station.

• Take a day to listen to the station away from the office and evaluate your
staff’s execution of your plan.

• Evaluate your on-air product both to eliminate negatives as well as create
positives for tune-in.

If we have worked together to check off these types of strategic and tactical goals, then we will be in a very good position to achieve our financial goals for first quarter. And if we can turn in a strong performance in January, February and March, then we have dramatically increased the chances of success for the entire year.

But if we have not made these activities a priority, we will continue to experience another year at the mercy of the commodity-driven marketplace. That is not in any of our self-interest, and it certainly will not contribute to a stronger and more dynamic radio industry. In the past year, we have done what was necessary to survive extraordinary tumult and financial stress. In the coming year, we will focus on what we must do to thrive in this “new normal.”

How’s your first quarter going to look?

I always want to know what’s on your mind; you can feel free to pose any questions that you’d like me to respond to at AskPeter@greatermedia.com.

Best regards,

Peter