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First Mediaworks


08/04/08 The e-Mail That Never Came


In our recent 40 Most Powerful People in Radio issue I wrote a missive about how radio needs to change. Though I have received countless correspondence about that editorial message, I have not had one response from a member of the 40 list. Here is the e-mail I wish I would receive:

Dear Eric:
I read your letter to those of us on the 40 list, and I want to respond. Im frightened more than I have been during any time in my career. Nothing seems to be working. With all of my years of experience and the expertise of my people, everything we try is failing. The economy is horrible, advertising locally and nationally is horrible, and ad dollars are migrating away from radio. Your letter was the slap in the face I needed. Youre right; were not investing in radio, and were not following the core essentials radio needs in order to succeed.

Though you talk of investing in radio, fat chance. You and I both know this is the fight of our lives, and we cannot possibly spend an additional dime. We are in survival mode.
But here is what I can do without spending a dime:

1. I will start trusting my people and giving them more autonomy. One person cannot have all the answers, so Im going to stop dictating programming from a corporate perspective. Im going to stop telling my managers what to do. Instead, I will offer a resource if they need it, and allow them to do what they want to do with the budget they have.

2. I will quit putting all my eggs in one basket. Im going to stop making all of our stations conform by using one research firm and one programming team.

3. I will lose the beat on people attitude. I know that my pressure rolls downhill. Although the pressure will remain constant, my managers wont be frustrated by pressure without authority to act.

4. No more universal dictates. No more universal sales comp plans, no more dictates for how quickly a seller must perform or risk termination, no more must-play formats, must-play records, must-follow systems. Managers will have full autonomy to make decisions as if they are running a small local business.

5. We will evaluate everything we do, and will eliminate steps, requirements, and paperwork if possible. We will encourage our managers to spend as much time as possible in front of clients.

6. We dont have the money to start promoting again, but we know we need to. I will ask managers to find ways to advertise, and if they find a way that fits within their budget, we wont prevent them.

7. We will close our mouth and open our ears. We want to hear ideas. No idea is a bad one.

8. No more company dictates regarding voice-tracking. We will tell our managers that live, local community involvement is better. If they can find a way to increase this, and still live within the constraints of our financial needs from each station, more power to them. Were asking managers to invest in finding fresh, young talent who want to learn, and put them on late nights and weekends. We need to grow a farm team.

9. We will devote all the dog stations in our chain to experimentation. If what they are doing isnt working, we will encourage local management to find young minds with new ideas to reinvent radio.

Were not bad people were just doing the best we know how. But youre right, we need to allow people to do what they do best, and not try to control every action and it will be a lot easier for us if it works. Lets hope you were right.
Yours truly,
The Radio Group Head

I understand how hard this will be for executives to implement, because we all think we know better. But it makes so much more sense to hire brilliant people and allow them to be brilliant, rather than force them to be drones who implement someone elses plan without passion. And it will likely solves the morale problems, too.
Unfortunately, this e-mail never came, and probably never will.





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