How To Become A Revenue And Ratings Rock Star

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Phil Zachary started his radio career on the air at WAAF in Boston. His 40-year journey in radio included positions as Program Director, Sales Manager, National Sales Manager, and GM/Market Manager. He took over the Entercom New England cluster in October 2013. And, according to one employee we spoke to, Zachary has led the group to become one of the most desired clusters to work for in New England. Ratings are up across the brands, and revenue continues to climb. Phil Zachary will appear on Radio Ink’s Best Manager’s in Radio list set to be released on October 24. Let’s find out how and why Phil Zachary is one of radio’s most successful managers.

Radio Ink: How important is a degree of local autonomy in making a station successful today, both in ratings and revenue?
Phil Zachary: I always preach about “The Four R’s”: Ratings, Revenue, Relevance, and Reputation. You can’t achieve great results in the first two if the last two aren’t rock solid at the market level. Radio’s vitality and very relevance is built on a foundation of local focus, and no one should have a better handle on that than the staff that’s in-market. However, I believe today’s radio model works best when local expertise is augmented by input from a broader perspective. At Entercom that’s where our group executives play a role in expanding the conversation of what’s possible, while sharing best practices from other markets.

Radio Ink: In an increasingly competitive media environment, how do you attract “the brightest and best” to what many millennials may see as a stodgy, traditional medium, even with its shiny new digital-platform offerings?
Phil Zachary: Entercom is offering some terrific new benefits specifically designed to appeal to younger job seekers, one of which is a partial reimbursement program for those with college debt. Another is paid volunteer time every quarter where employees can take a day to work on something meaningful to them inside their communities.

We also position ourselves as a “Full-Service Integrated Marketing Company,” which is true. Besides our great radio brands, Entercom New England has extraordinary Web, video, mobile, and social media assets, as well as our own in-house digital ad agency, SmartReach Digital. Those millennials who truly seek a long-term career in tomorrow’s world of leading-edge marketing could not find a better entry point—with all the compulsory tools and training—than Entercom.

Radio Ink: In today’s technically enabled 24/7 communications environment, how do you manage a healthy balance between work and personal life for yourself — and try to foster the same for your employees?
Phil Zachary: I do a terrible job of that personally, but my role requires a level of organization, prioritization, and communication that doesn’t allow for much down time. Because if I don’t act on today’s urgencies today, tomorrow will be unwieldy. And I would say most of my leadership team operate in the same “always on” fashion. Now, when it comes to the rank-and-file employees, I remind our department heads to stay vigilant for signs of motivational need, discontent, or burn-out. Great coaches want to know when their players are overtaxed or out of rhythm so they can be temporarily sidelined and not impact the team’s overall performance.

Radio Ink: What is the number one challenge you face every day as a manager in 2016, and how are you overcoming it?
Phil Zachary: Finding tomorrow’s radio superstars, and I can’t even think of a close second. David Field preaches—and I firmly believe—there has never been a better time to be in our industry. We’re the least disrupted of all legacy media. We reach more consumers during the hours when most commerce is conducted. We command a disproportionate share of audio usage despite encroachment from scores of upstarts. And radio has, by far, the highest ROI of any traditional medium. All that, plus we’re undervalued in the advertising budget matrix. Best of all, we’re in the entertainment industry, and we have fun! If we can’t attract radio’s next generation with a story that persuasive, we deserve to wither and die.

Radio Ink: Tell us what your biggest/most proud moment at the station or cluster was over the past 12 months.
Phil Zachary: It’s impossible to single out one event. Honestly, I leave here most nights proud and humbled to work with these great brands in a market as prominent as Boston. I’ve been in the radio business over 40 years, and every day I earn my living doing this is a gift.

Radio Ink: What is it going to take to get radio revenue growing at a decent pace every year moving forward?
Phil Zachary: Relentless effort. The low-hanging fruit is long since defoliated. Transactional business—such as it is these days—is a low-dough share play. For better or worse, our cluster isn’t “The Price is Right” and I’m not Bob Barker, so every morning we grab a shovel and start digging. David Field is correct: This is a great time to be in radio. But we have to tell that story again and again and again with a depth of contact that goes well beyond a company’s marketing director or ad team.

Ours is the fourth-ranked cluster in Boston with prime time Adults 25-54, yet we’ve had 21 straight months of outperforming Miller-Kaplan in local and total revenue growth. Despite being a Top-10 market, we draw inspiration from our standalone sales teams in Providence, Worcester, and Springfield. They can’t afford to wait for breaks. They make their own. Call it a “small market” mentality, if you will, but I’m proud of that work ethic.

Reach out to Phil to congratulate him on an illustrious career over 40 years that is still going strong – [email protected]

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