November 27, 2015

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04/23/07 The Short And The Long Of It

We all know that radio needs to grab a higher percentage of the advertising dollar, but a Canadian broadcaster recently put it best when he told me, “American radio sales people are more aggressive. Canadian sales people are less aggressive, but more effective.” He went on to say that, because Canadians are not as pressured to meet short-term goals, they focus on true client problem-solving and long-term business.

In America, radio is still focused on getting the order, even if it’s a short-term order that won’t work and will turn the advertiser off to radio forever. We’re making our bed with short-term business that ultimately leads to dissatisfied advertisers who were sold a “me” schedule instead of a “you” schedule: “It’s about me, me, me. I need to meet my budget” — instead of “It’s about >you. Let’s solve your problem the right way.” But the right way does not support this cycle of short-term thinking.

The reality is that Wall Street-driven companies will continue to push for short-term results. Due to the pressure from analysts and investors, these companies will find it difficult to change. But ultimately, long-term thinking is the only way radio will grow and command a bigger share.

Can it be done? Can we adopt long-term strategies while keeping Wall Street happy?
Ten years ago the theory was that consolidation would allow an increase in overall top-line revenues because it would allow companies to cluster radio properties in markets and aggressively compete with newspaper circulation. That theory has not been fully realized. For the most part, industry gains have come from cutbacks.

While some would argue that we have more formats and more diversity today, the reality is that — other than consolidating ownership — our industry is about the same as it was 10 years ago. Some might even argue that creatively, radio is in worse shape. But the fact is there is no dramatic difference in the way we do business.

Perhaps it’s time to adopt a dual strategy with the goal of ultimately transforming all of our business to long-term. Rather than pushing the industry to abandon its short-term thinking, perhaps we can start thinking both short- and long-term. Stay focused on meeting short-term goals, but think more about how what you're doing today will affect tomorrow. And take our Canadian friend's advice; worry less about just making budget today, and more about how creating the right plan for your client will lead to more business down the road.

I know it’s not ideal, but perhaps this realignment in how radio views its sales goals is the only hope for a strategy that will finally break this vicious habit of focusing too much on short-term results.

Making this shift will require retraining, rethinking, and new ways of managing — for everyone on the business side of the building. So let's get going. Our industry’s future depends on it.

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