April 1, 2015


Peter Smyth

Speaking generally, radio stations excel at promotion.  We promote station events, many of which have charity associations; we promote our format’s music artists; we are great cheerleaders for our cities and extended communities.

At the same time, we’re not so adept at letting a crucial audience know about our good works and community service.  The members of this audience are the Congressional Representatives for our area and the Senators for our states.  At a time when a number of critical regulatory decisions are swirling around Congress, it is important that members understand and appreciate what local radio does for their constituency and them.

We know that lobbying Washington is a full time job for a virtual army of people, and that includes cable operators, wireless providers, satellite servicers, record labels and songwriters.  Each of these groups’ self-interest is served by painting the radio industry as a monolithic, large, consolidated and antiquated industry that makes too much money for its own good.  That allows them to advocate for changes in both law and regulation that could further challenge our economic well-being and our ability to reflect and participate in the life of the communities we serve.

Everyone in radio knows that repetition is key to retention and understanding, we have all made that argument to our advertising clients.  We need to practice some of that discipline ourselves.  That’s why the NAB has created a playbook for radio and television stations to focus on and communicate, on an ongoing basis, the benefits of our commitment to local media.

It’s called “SpeakUp” and it does not require an extraordinary amount of time to be effective.  Go to<>.  The suggestions range from invitations to congressmen and -women to visit the station for a dialogue on issues of concern to the local community, to social media connections with Congressional delegations to keep them informed.  It focuses on the various impacts broadcasters have in their communities, including lifeline services in emergencies, journalistic contributions by station news staffs, the economic impact of each of our stations and, of course, the charitable work that we do, both as individuals and as station brands.

But these will simply be more good suggestions if you and your local staffs do not act on them.  I urge you and your management teams to sit down, review the playbook and develop a strategy that works for your format, your station brand, your personalities and your staff time.  You may not be able to do everything suggested, but do something.

Members of Congress exert great influence; whether it is positive or negative for our industry is up to us.  For once, we need to stand up and take credit for the good we do.  I can think of no other industry that can claim a record of service that comes close to equaling ours.  We want to be able to continue to do good by doing well. In this era of hyper competiveness, that challenge becomes harder if the government does not understand our business.