Updated: Feb 7
It’s easy for those of us who’ve been in media for a longtime to forget the feeling of excitement we once had to work in Radio. The thrill of walking into a station. Seeing the receptionist. Noticing the posters on the walls. The music playing in a hallway. The camaraderie of sitting with others who share the same job category as you and swapping stories. The feeling that you’re not working. You’re being paid to have fun. The “bennies” that go with the job. Concert tickets, sporting events, the free meals and unclaimed prizes in the prize closet.
The pandemic accelerated changes that were already on the horizon for the business. Prompting a reason to feel anything but excitement. A number of radio stations no longer have receptionists. No one comes to the radio station to pick-up a prize and it’s rare when an advertiser shows up to see how their commercial is written, recorded and scheduled for on-air. Phone systems, direct communication via Mobile Phones, E-mails, technology that allows for prize fulfillment and direct delivery from the source has pretty much eliminated the need for a front desk person.
There are fewer on-air people in many stations due to voice-tracking, syndicated/network programming, and some stations with dayparts that are delivered as music & sweepers without any form of personality. Production and Imaging is largely outsourced. Many stations have moved their Traffic departments to a hub. Engineers cover multiple markets.
If you think that where I am going is to exclaim “ain’t it awful” … you would be wrong. It’s not awful. It’s just different. If done the right way, in a committed-to-excellence fashion, it can be stellar. What it is … I repeat … is different. For many it is still exciting. Especially the young whose expectations are still being formed.
The excitement of media was present, more than anywhere I’d seen lately, at Morning Show Bootcamp and Podcast Movement. MSBC was held in Chicago the week before last. Podcast Movement just wrapped in Dallas this past Friday. The feeling of excitement may have been heightened because for many it was the first big in-person event for them post-covid, but for whatever reason, the coming together of on-air talent, program directors and managers, podcasters and content creators was vibrant.
Imagine this … young personalities sitting in a meeting room, packed, watching seasoned and successful on-air personalities share their stories, their secrets, their obstacles and offering advice as they pay-it-forward. Attendees lining up to ask questions of people that they’d likely never have the chance to otherwise meet, or having the courage to approach. Waiting at the stairs to the mainstage as speakers came off the dais. Asking for selfies. Swapping contact info. These were people excited to be in the business of entertaining and informing using audio.
Podcast Movement, started in 2014 by co-founders Dan Franks and Jared Easley, is as much an exhibit show as it is a learning conference. The large crowd of attendees, and their excitement combined with the events around the conference, brings back my early memories of going to the Radio & Records conventions. The now defunct music and radio magazine fired up the media community annually with a three-day convention that featured parties, rock stars, hospitality suites and lots of high-profile speakers. Not necessarily in that order.
Podcast Movement brings forth the same type of enthusiasm for today. The hallways were packed with youthful innovators. The main stage was packed with superstar-types who had lessons of life to share. There was even a bus for attendees to attend a party underwritten by a large media company. There were varying levels of podcasters on-site. A large number of radio people attended as did executives of their companies who position themselves as an “Audio” company. Audio is hot. There is real true excitement for Audio. I could argue that while different, podcasting and social media has stoked the fires of Radio. At least those that see podcasting as something more than a place to repurpose their radio shows.
If you want to see even more excitement about radio and podcasting, visit a college and talk to the students in the radio department. Listen to the excitement as they share their stories of being heard on the radio by friends & family. Notice the enthusiasm as radio becomes a big part of their social circle. Hear them brag about a podcast that they’ve created. There’s passion there for all things audio. It’s about the performance and the creative process. That’s what I saw at Morning Show Bootcamp and Podcast Movement.
You can expect that a similar excitement and energy will be evident at the Radio Masters Sales Summit to be presented by Radio Ink and The Center for Sales Strategy. That takes place in late September in Miami. Sales people, the really good ones, always bring a high level of energy, excitement and engagement to everything they do, which is why they’re so good at their job. You cannot “phone in” the sales job. You’re either selling or you’re not. If you’re not, you don’t stick around very long.
These conferences are a part of on-going education. On-going education and training protocol are important for media sales, including Radio and Podcasting, in this highly competitive world. Radio presenters are looking to attract an audience in a noisy world. Sellers are looking to generate more revenue by repping big audiences. Podcasters are looking to increase their number of downloads and get more money for them. Podcast platforms are looking to find and sign the rising stars that will deliver revenue to them. I know that not everyone can afford it, but if you can and you care about the future of your business, why would you not invest in on-going education for your team?
There is a lot of excitement to be found in our industry. It doesn’t require a scavenger hunt to find it. Open your eyes and ears. Stop the whining. If you want to create an exciting atmosphere in your business take these five steps.
1. Remember that this is Show Business. We got into this business to put on a show. Be a part of the show. We want to be in or around the spotlight.
2. Make the workplace look and feel like it’s a part of the entertainment industry. Too many radio facilities look like an insurance agency. (No offense intended to the insurance industry).
3. It’s a Show. It isn’t a shift. Create a positive atmosphere where your talent can perform. It’s not work. It’s play. Don’t make them “punch the timeclock.” Encourage them to put on a show.
4. Share the wealth. Meaning the tickets, the events, the meals, the fun and the unclaimed prizes. It does no one any good when expired tickets are found in someone’s desk drawer.
5. Respect and reward your on-air talent, your best sellers, the production team, the admin team members that go beyond the call of duty … including the traffic department, the engineer or IT worker who keeps the business up and running, and the promotion team.
Your place of business will prosper if you create the type of excitement that I’ve witnessed in the last two weeks. We’re in the FUN business. Don’t forget it. Have fun.