November 26, 2015

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10/29/01 When Opposites Come Together
I've often thought that every GM in Radio should be given a striped shirt and a whistle.

As a young assistant PD in Miami, I used to hear it once a day: “Those sales SOBs are trying to destroy this Radio station. Don’t ever give them an inch, or they'll drive all our listeners away. If it weren’t for us, they wouldn’t have anything to sell.”

It's the age-old battle of every Radio station in America: Is the program director, who builds and maintains an audience, more important than the sales manager, who brings advertisers and revenue? It's the classic “chicken or egg” argument.

The truth is that sales and programming are like the positive and negative terminals on a car battery. One without the other is meaningless. Should either one try to start the car without the other, you’ll go nowhere. And when the two come together without a mutual goal, the resulting shower of sparks is enough to make bystanders place their hands over their hearts and start singing The Star Spangled Banner: “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night… .”

The brightest fireworks happen when both teams are doing their jobs really well. “If we put that horrible sounding spot on the air, it will have a negative impact; and if we air that many promos for such a wimpy prize, we’ll make ourselves sound small.” That PD is right, you know. But so is the sales manager who answers, “Who cares what it sounds like if there's not enough revenue to meet payroll!”

But put an energy-hungry machine between these positive and negative terminals, and those frivolous sparks will disappear.

The most productive time a PD and a SM can spend together is in a one-day, off-site retreat that includes all the sales people and air people. In front of the whole group, the sales manager will explain why bad-sounding spots have lasting impact, why pushing the limits on promotional announcements can backfire, and why "just any prize" won’t do. Then, the program director will explain to sales people why they should each take an announcer on sales calls at least two full days a quarter and let the jocks make the pitches and close the sales.

Great general managers understand that sparks are the result of a weak connection. When sparks are flying, it is time to secure both the positive cable and the negative cable more tightly to the machine they share.

And then you’re off to the races.

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