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Wanted: Radio Therapy


When I hear leadership sniveling about the state of radio today, I have to wonder if they didnt just join the tour-group this morning. Some insist we must commit to making more and better sales calls. Other claim we have to better tell our story.

Small- and medium-market owners have a running mantra: local, local, local. Still others demand quantifiable data just like those Internet guys. These are the radio folks who have already waved the white hanky and abjectly surrendered.

I suggest the evidence supports the following declaration: Much of the radio leadership have up and gone crazy and our futures are being determined by intensely sincere, but stone-cold wack-jobs.

Radio has a simple mission statement. Ill grant its not a statement that enjoys universal agreement, but it is, nevertheless, the correct one. Our mission is to attract and maintain as large a listening audience as we can generate. We can accomplish this by providing a combination of superior entertainment and informational services in order that this audience be exposed to commercial content which has been expertly crafted to be as appealing and influential as possible.

Astute readers may have noted there was no reference to sales in the mission statement.

The mission statement can be called Job 1. The sales portion is Job 2. Let us be clear here. The selling of spots or, as the satirical salesperson says, providing advertising solutions, is still absolutely the primary, driving directive.

Right here is where the delusional craziness staggers up to full height on its scabrous haunches.

At the latest group-grope of the Clan of Radios Accumulated Communications Knowledge (CRACK), did anyone stand up and ask, So guys. How come we have entirely disregarded Job 1 and let our mission go by the boards? And did the chairman respond with, Because Job 2 is actually Job 1!? Were such the case, the chairman couldnt be faulted for telling the truth.

Indeed, there is nobody in radios senior leadership who can claim an ignorance of history or their complicity or aquiescence in the generation of that history. The leadership with full knowledge and understanding collaborated in the gutting of their own business. The primary consideration was personal gain and was weakly camouflaged beside a faade of fiduciary duties. All of this, meanwhile, has been at the expense of everybody else.

Today, the (above) mission statement could be held up as an example of a cruel joke perpetrated by anybody who still has the gall to present it as real or in force. The music radio hierarchy of priorities may not even include the elements of entertainment, information, or commercial production on a list of really important stuff, but rather as afterthoughts or marked in the margins as definite maybes if there is any budget.

Still, the pleading for radio to tell our story goes on. That might be a poor decision. Unfortunately, its a story more likely to appear on CBS 60 Minutes as another example of a colossal scam. Radio seems to have some similar dynamics to any ponzi-scheme in that the last one holding, loses. Audiences and advertisers are definitely among those left holding the bag. Our story, as it stands today, is not worth telling as it is one of delivering shoddy products (commercials) on ever-weaker platforms because of a lack of engaging programming, and irritating, insincere, and unsubstantiated sales presentations.

Even if Job 2 is actually Job 1, radio sales are still about being involved in a grinding-house where the sales staff are no more than grist for the mill. It cant be said, however, the sales departments arent, at least, getting some attention. Motivators, consultants, and sales trainers are being hired or smuggled through customs in mommy-vans and sales staffs are being subjected to any number of real, valid, or fantasized strategies for making more of those appointments and closing more of those deals.

Still, they run up against a brick wall when they realize, if they didnt already know, that radio really doesnt have much to sell anymore other than its own innate, magic, electronic influence. To be a little more candid: There is only so much lemonade that can be made from a matched set of buffed and lacquered bunny-pellets.

I imagine a single-panel cartoon of a pathetic and skinny little street urchin with the word Radio on his ratty, torn cap. He is forlornly standing at the curb in the shivering cold, wearing a sandwich board. Hastily and roughly scrawled in crayon are the words Polished Poop 4 Sale. Or, one could think of it this way: If electronic media were the Corleone family, we (radio) would be Fredo stupid and corrupt.

Radio, we are told, is doomed until or unless we have access to similar data as the Internet marketers can provide. Please. Lets do grow up by getting a story of phenomenal success to tell. Continuous and varied successes will do quite nicely. Can radio not provide those? Does the leadership not believe those are even possible? Are they unwilling to invest in providing the necessary products and services? Could they not get out of the business?

(Read Part II next Wednesday)

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website

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