November 30, 2015

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First Mediaworks

02/19/07 Donít Pile On

It was three oíclock in the afternoon, and I was driving with our new general manager to a weekend-long promotion that had started earlier in the day. As an ambulance zoomed by in the opposite direction, a colleague joked that someone had probably been killed at our promotion. Everyone had a good chuckle. Until we realized thatís exactly what had happened.

Our worst nightmare had been realized: A woman at the event had been seriously injured. She later died.

Unless you have had to manage such a crisis, you cannot imagine the horror. In this case, the woman who died was an employee of the radio station. Though she died in an auto accident ó she ran a red light ó the collision took place in front of the promotion venue. The staff was mortified, and we all felt helpless. One of our own had fallen, but we nonetheless had to soldier on with this three-day promotion as if nothing had happened. We also needed to make our airwaves sound as if everything was OK. But everything was not OK.

How could this happen, I asked myself. Despite all of our preparations, this accident was not something we could have anticipated or planned for. As radio promotions go, it was an all-time nightmare.

When I heard about the recent tragic incident at Entercom's KDND-Sacramento, I flashed back to the horrible memory of our own experience. I also flashed back to memories of my competitors ďpiling onĒ by trying to make us look irresponsible or incompetent in an effort to gain competitive advantage.

The hard reality is this could happen at any radio station. And if KDNDís competitors are taking advantage of this tragedy, they should stop. All is fair in most competitive battles, but not in this one. Though I have not heard of any competitors taking advantage of the situation, I will be the first to decry anyone trying to fuel the Entercom situation ó and that includes the attorney whoís asked the FCC to rescind the stationís license.

Only those involved know the whole story, and though I am horrified at the outcome, I know it could have happened at my stations, too. If Entercomís people were negligent, the courts will decide. This may become a landmark case, and the outcome could impact every station in America and result in changes no one in broadcasting wants to see. Any negative response from competitors in the market will only exacerbate the situation. This is a time when the radio brotherhood needs to put competitive issues aside and stand in unity.

It should also serve as a wake-up call: We all have a responsibility to think through every possible outcome when putting on promotions, and consider the implications. Because this could happen to any of us.

What would you do if this happened to a competitor in your market? What would you do if it happened at your station? How would you respond? How could you prevent it? How should you respond if it does happen?

Everyone in radio should let this tragedy serve as a learning experience. Don't let this tragic loss of life pass without taking away a lesson about how station promotions can sometimes go horribly wrong.

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