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Greater Media Boss Says Radio is Emerging From Recession But Some Are Holding us Back.

by Ed Ryan

February 7, 2011 - Like many these days Greater Media CEO Peter Smyth has taken to blogging to get his thoughts out about his company, the economy and the industry he works in. He calls it the "Corner Office" and in his most recent column Smyth writes about how he sees Radio "slowly emerging from the Great Recession". It's a cautiously optimistic tone you hear from a lot of people, including Mark Mays, Jeff Smulyan and others. It's when you read between the lines that you see, perhaps, that Smyth is calling out his brothers-in-arms and brothers on the streets to have a little more pride in what they do.

"Unfortunately, many in our business continue to keep digging at that hole they find themselves in. They look only at the short term agency avails shrinking,  buyers demanding better and better costs per point, and PPM measurement showing declines in station TSL.  Whats a manager to do to make his or her monthly revenue budget? It surely must be first quarter when many radio managers are dropping rates, reworking packages, throwing in nocharge spots, and running a sales contest. Does anyone really think that will get us out of the hole? Or will it simply devalue our unique and wonderful medium"?

We all know Smyth is right. However, is he being realistic? If you've been in and around Radio a long time like I have, please call me and tell me if you've gone a year without an end-of-the-month blowout sale on spots. You need to make a month, your sales manager needs to make a month and you know the GM just wants to sign the orders. Here he comes with that grid and here we go again, dialing for dollars. Who's going to win the (traded) dinner for two this month?

Smythe goes on..."I am not talking about the cold calls that come from the newbies checking the newspapers or yellow pages; those days are long gone. Each station needs to have a strategic plan for its selling effort, a plan to make time for developmental selling on an organized and ongoing basis. We must believe enough in our medium to have regular business conversations with prospects. Will this strategy put business on the books for next week? Maybe not, but every salesperson can agree that a well-qualified and well-educated prospect can develop into a very fruitful long-term client. It takes time, attention, commitment and salesmanship".

"We can no longer think only in terms of the month and the quarter; it really is killing us. Nor can we be held hostage to ratings estimates in a world that is moving quickly to real time measurement of engagement and results. That means that we must focus on the results that we know radio can and does deliver.   We need to lay out concrete plans to our sales managers and account executives that show we are willing and able to deliver measurable results for advertisers".

"We need to reframe how we talk about our stations and their audiences. We need to stop digging by using outdated terms that set us apart from the growing digital world.  Let us embrace and compete in the new marketing reality. What would happen if we stopped talking about cumes (a radio word if there ever was one), and started talking about the 500,000 unique visitors to our stations in a month? Radio has scale; we are big and we move listeners to respond.  We can and do move product each and every day. Why do we continue to focus our competitive energy in beating the daylights out of other radio stations and sellers? Were just digging deeper. Lets stop".

Likewise, sales managers who shuffle lists of tried and true clients among sellers, hoping for a different result, need to stop digging. We rely on sales managers to recruit the right mix of talent, make the assignments, and attack the marketplace on our behalf. If a sales manager today does not have a well-thought-out strategy for new business development, they are doing their staffs and their stations a true disservice.

Can I get an Amen for Peter anyone?

Ed Ryan
Radio Ink

(2/8/2011 2:58:56 PM)
I love what Peter says. It's a call to arms.

However, the enemy is complacency.

Radio uses a seriously flawed, statistically disgraced (it's not accredited) measurement system with PPM. And almost every broadcaster says, 'it is what it is and we just have to live with it'.

Come on gang. Would anyone say that if their paycheck varied by 25% month to month on a random basis?

- john parikhal
(2/8/2011 11:48:44 AM)
Yea Peter! He's talking the talk that so many industry leaders have been sleeping on for years. It was important to do these things 20 years ago. It was imperative to do them 10 years ago. Today, it's do or die. I always say that when someone is doing something that hurts them, when the pain becomes intense enough, they will change up or die.

- Larry Jennings
(2/8/2011 9:52:25 AM)
Amen brother! It's time for the market leaders to act like market leaders and not bottom feeders.

- Tom Wall

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