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Marc Morgan

Radio's Odd Couple Tackles The New World


This is not a new subject. Ive touched on it in previous writings. But, as the discussion of radios future ramps up, it needs further exposure: The working relationship between the sales manager and the program director must change from a perennial workaround to an important ingredient for radios success in the future.

The things Ive seen over the years could fill dozens of psychologists notebooks. When I was a sales manager, I worked for a GM who actually forbade me to talk to the program director because he was afraid I might talk him into doing something that was wrong for the station. The inference was that I had no regard for the quality of the station content and the program director didnt have the interpersonal skills to discuss things and simply say no to me. (Frankly, both inferences were probably closer to the truth than Id have liked to admit.)

In the past, the agendas of the sales manager and the program director were allowed to be mutually exclusive. My point is this: That separation of church and state doesnt work anymore. If you dont collaborate effectively in todays radio environment, you will not succeed. (Ive got a ton of other anecdotes, by the way. Like when a program director threw a stapler at me but Ill save that for my column on violence in the workplace.)

Here are some thoughts that can help you navigate these tricky waters:

The Circle of Life is taking on a new meaning. Radios content must improve in the face of the plethora of content available on other platforms. Its not just about beating your competitor across the street anymore. Radios competition now is anything that steals from its usage. To compete now requires innovation and trying new things, which, in turn, requires taking risks and spending money. In order to support the drive for more competitive content, radio has to monetize everything in its sales arsenal, including the experiments. So sales and programming not only support each other, they depend on each other more than ever before. What should have always been hand-in-hand is now joined at the hip.

Conceptual selling is more in the mix. New ideas and unique content might not generate numbers in the traditional sense. In order to monetize the new content, sales managers will have to devise strategies to sell without the usual metrics and analytics. They will also have to hire sellers who have the optimum talent mix to thrive in a world that might not have as much of a ratings security blanket as theyre used to. Having a sales culture that relies on solution-based, customer-driven revenue will be more and more essential as time goes on.

Sales empathy is the PDs quid pro quo. As the sales team works to monetize the new content, the program director needs to work with sales to help enable their efforts. This isnt about adding units and a couple of billboards on the afternoon traffic reports. This is about finding new ways to create commercially friendly and effective environments for sales to add to their product suite, and its an area thats been left underdeveloped by those who are used to a predetermined commercial load/clock structure. However, as digital media broadens its commercial offerings beyond banner ads into mobile and social, radio needs to speed it up in order to stay relevant. The program director of today must be a part of those solutions.

A role redefinition is in order. As program directors and sales managers embrace these new demands, the way their job descriptions look needs to change as well. Giving everyone their due, the best of these folks already do much of what were talking about. The best program directors already aggressively direct the creative efforts of the content team and serve as audio brand managers in addition to their day-to-day activities. The best sales managers have already taken on the role of team leaders for marketing solutions and the development of unique and new revenue streams. What has to happen is that the exceptional level of performance exhibited by the best today becomes the norm tomorrow.

For GMs: Good And Bad News

And the good and bad news are the same: You are accountable for making this happen. Coaching, persuading, explaining, and teaching, the fun part of your job, will be essential for this to happen. Conversely, it might be necessary to let the people in the program directors and sales managers chairs grow and wake up to the new reality.

There are a couple of caveats that I will leave you with. First, this is all much easier said (or written about) than done. This is uncharted territory, and the programmers and sellers of tomorrow will be the pioneers of radios future. That said, apologizing for asking for drastic measures to ensure the future is getting real old, at least for me. Second, none of this can occur without the support of your top management and ownership. If theyre not on board with this, perhaps you should consider not being on board with them.

Good luck and watch out for flying staplers.

Marc Morgan is the former SVP and chief revenue officer for Cox Media Group; he retired in 2011. He can be reached at