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First Mediaworks


10/16/06 An Open Letter To RAB President/CEO Jeff Haley

Dear Mr. Haley:

You’re not a radio person, you’re a media person. Though this is good news, I’m sure you know by now that some radio folks are a little nervous about turning over the industry's reins to someone outside of the brotherhood. They’ll get over it. But you will need to understand that radio, unlike many industries, is made up of a lot of passionate people who love the industry. It is not only their vocation, but their avocation as well.

Because of this passion, there is a tendency by some to cling to the good old days, which means you may see some resistance to ideas that, to them, may seem obtuse. You’ll have the pleasure of distilling their resistance, because some of what they tell you will be accurate, and some will just be an effort to cling to the past.

I’m encouraged that the RAB board resisted the “usual suspects” and went outside of the radio industry to find a media-savvy leader to guide us into the future. It’s been difficult for some to understand that radio can no longer follow an “all radio or nothing” kind of strategy. It cannot be anti-newspaper, cable, TV, print, etc., because advertisers think in terms of media mixes, not all-or-nothing media. Advertisers don’t want to be told they are fools for what they are doing; they want someone to show them how to sell more product.

Of course there are also the issues of “new” media — satellite radio, podcasting, Wi-Fi, streaming, cell-casting — not to mention the established “new media” of Internet and its impact on all advertising. Radio has always been under attack from new things that were going to destroy us — TV, 8-Tracks, CB radio, cassettes, CDs, and cell phones, to name a few. Yet our listening did not erode, so we are perhaps overconfident that these new “threats” will be no different. Yet, they are different, because of their impact on society. You’ll be challenged to open our minds and help us understand that it’s not all or nothing. Radio is a part of the bigger picture, and we need to make sure we are included in the minds of users and advertisers in the future.

No pressure.

We all know radio still works great, but you not only have to take this 100-year-old medium and make it hip again, you have to train the entire radio industry to think differently, you have to grow revenues, and you have to juggle the agendas of many bosses.

Redefining the RAB’s mission may be a great place to start. Is RAB a national marketing organization, a training organization, a research provider? And who do you serve well — national, large, medium, and small markets? When your biggest dues payers (the big groups) want to push an agenda, will you follow their path? What about the thousands of members whose agendas differ?

I’m sure you understand you have a difficult job, and you may have many sleepless nights ahead, but your leadership will be imperative. Those pushing their agendas do not have your perspective. I encourage you to remain strong and push radio in the direction your experience leads you. Follow your instincts, not agenda-driven pressures.

Radio’s good-old-boy mentality ends with your appointment as RAB czar. I encourage the industry to support your ideas, and I encourage radical thinking. From what I’ve learned about you, you'll offer radio new hope, and therefore you have my support.


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