From the Corner Office: October 2012

October 19, 2012

A Strong Finish?

Here we are. We find ourselves in the fourth quarter of 2012, looking to the year-end finish, and trying to prognosticate how all of the unresolved issues – political, economic, employment, media – will advance or hinder our ability to finish the year with an acceptable financial performance.

I am cautiously optimistic.

I’m optimistic because these days, we’re focused more than ever before on what we can control, and we are not being distracted by those external influences listed above. One radio station, or one group of stations, cannot begin to affect the outcome of the election or its influence on our customers. One radio company cannot determine with any precision how the trend toward digital and online marketing is going to influence budgets in the coming months.

These days, there’s much more that is beyond our control than within it. Those unresolved mega-issues can contribute to uncertainty that can lead to negativism or even paralysis. It is a much more competitive, rapidly evolving media landscape than ever before; yesterday’s innovation becomes today’s standard practice, only to be swept away by the next innovation or new disruptive technology. How’s a businessperson to keep up?

We need to be extraordinary in our efforts to create and maintain the correct focus for our business. We need to clearly understand our assets and our strengths: our unique audience of local listeners and the emotional, first-name relationship we have with many of them. We need to focus on our core advertisers and their needs as never before, those local businesses for whom we have done great work in the past, and have the opportunity to do so in the future. We need to completely understand their business and their challenges in order to respond with useful integrated programs to help them succeed. We aspire to be the preferred solution provider to all of our core advertisers.

If we focus on our core listeners and advertisers and let the goal of super-serving them guide our daily activity, I am convinced that we will finish the year strong. We’ve made great strides as a company in this direction, but I want to go further. We need to stop chasing late-breaking out-of-demo avails; we need to have the confidence to walk away from advertiser demands and deals that we cannot afford to take; we need to keep our attention focused on those listeners and advertisers whom we value and want to be long term users of our stations. We need to stop playing for share, offering bundled deals at discount, and specializing in value added promotions. In short, we need to know and defend our value in our communities. In each location where Greater Media operates, there are hundreds or thousands of local businesses who are not advertising on our stations. How many of them fit the station’s audience profile and could use our help? That’s where our focus needs to be; that’s where we can create our own future.

The competitive environment has changed significantly in the past several years, and as an industry, we are still adjusting to those changes. Large consolidated players can and should take a different approach to their business. Companies like ours must find our success as trusted, local media partners who can reliably produce results for our advertisers without subjecting our listeners to a raft of unnecessary or ill-targeted pitches, promotions or noise.

On the economic front, progress has been maddeningly slow; growth continues, but it is also tenuous. From what we can see right now, nothing is on the horizon that will disrupt this trend. So, we should finish 2012 in positive territory. As the fourth quarter progresses, we will find out together how the election turns out, whether Congress will keep us from the financial cliff, and whether Europe will get its financial house in order. Yes, all of those events will influence the outcome of our year, but the most important and compelling factor that will determine the outcome for our stations and our company is within our control: our focus and our activity. Stay focused and keep moving forward.

On a personal note, I encourage each of you to give thoughtful consideration to your choices in the upcoming election and make sure that you take the opportunity to make your voice heard and your vote count. No matter which candidates you favor, this is a critical election for our country and will set our course for the future. Please be part of it.