November 25, 2015

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11/07/05 Who Should Replace Gary Fries?

Radio Advertising Bureau chief Gary Fries has announced his resignation from the organization after many years of service to our industry. Though I often focus on what the RAB could do better, I'd like to publicly thank Gary for all the great accomplishments he has realized for the RAB.

Clearly, Gary raised the RAB to the next level. He increased the organization's professionalism and the quality of its people and offerings, and pushed radio hard to grow and prosper. Unfortunately, Gary has also served as the lightening rod for the industry's shortcomings. After all, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. Nevertheless, Gary is blamed when people in radio don't do their jobs properly. He has done a remarkable job of juggling the needs of the board members and keeping the organization focused. He deserves our applause.

So who should replace him?

First, we need a fellow broadcaster in the pilot's seat — not just a professional manager, but a person who knows this business, who we can look to as a leader. That said, we also need someone who has never been tainted by the radio old school, who is ahead of the curve in ideas and action. Our new leader must take our industry into the future by exposing us to fresh ideas, new research, and innovative initiatives. He or she must have a firm grasp of the modern world of advertising and business, having been in continual contact with local and national clients on a regular basis. The new head of the RAB must be up on the changes in advertising and client needs.

The individual who becomes the face of radio must have the vitality to travel the globe telling the tale of radio. He or she must have the clout to meet face to face with the CEOs of every major corporation in America. (As Bill Burton always says, “Never take no from someone who cannot say yes.”). Because the advertising industry is composed of youth, we require someone who will appeal to this culture, yet have the maturity to relate to corporate CEOs and business owners.

Radio needs a rebel. This person will be in the seat for the next 15 years, and will face more new and unimagined media challenges. We need a leader to challenge the status quo and reinvent our business from the ground up, someone with the courage of their convictions, who is tough enough to sway major group owners to new thinking and savvy enough to convince the troops on the street that we must change. We need someone willing to stand up to the board and the industry in spite of their misgivings.

Radio needs growth. Growth in the industry will not come from tenacity alone; it will come from building a 20-year strategic plan, from developing programs and systems to raise all radio people to an A+ performance level. This will require someone who starts out as an A+ player and knows what to look for in others. We are looking for a chief with a reputation for getting things done at a high level, and the ability to achieve the impossible with stunning success.

Our new leader has an excellent foundation from which to launch, yet he or she must also overcome 50 years of perceptions. This new leader must convince advertisers at all levels that radio is stronger than ever which it is and that we as an industry have one goal: moving product and building brands. We don't need mindless cheerleading; we need action, which drives motivation.

It's a tall order, one that we as an industry should take ample time to fill in order to find the perfect leader. Radio's future will be in this person's hands.

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