GM’s: How Important is Local to You?

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Local, local, local. We hear that a lot when asking managers about making a radio station successful. We also hear that as long as the radio content is entertaining, it doesn’t really matter where that content comes from. So which is it? We turned to a panel of managers who were on Radio Ink’s 2016 Best Managers list for the answer to this question: How important is local autonomy in making a station successful today, both in ratings and revenue? Here’s what they had to say…
Jeffrey Wilson
Jeffrey Wilson

“Do you remember what everybody did on September 12, 2001 (pause, ponder…)? Answer: They went to a house of worship. Many hadn’t been before, and many haven’t been since, but people went to church (or synagogue, etc.). The point is, while the digital economy evolves at light speed, we all still have the inescapable need for human community. The view is better on TV, but I will still freeze with strangers in the Cleveland Browns’ stadium because of our inescapable need for human community. And that’s what we do with our local brands: nurture the local need for human community. Therefore, some local autonomy in bringing these brands together with our local communities is critical. It’s our unique position moving forward. And while our brands may be extensions of major corporations, they can still connect at the most interpersonal of levels, locally.”

Jeff Wilson
Sr. Regional VP/GM
Radio One
Washington, DC

Eddie Harell
Eddie Harell

“The degree of local autonomy makes all the difference in the world with respect to our ability to create compelling opportunities for our local communities to touch, feel, smell, and taste what we do every day. When we have the capacity to lead in the event of a local crisis, the communities in which we serve ultimately benefit. Having local talent that is completely connected to our brand users affords us the opportunity to create solutions to the key marketing challenges of our clients. At the end of the day, when we solve their marketing challenges, revenue increases.”

Eddie Harrell, Jr.
Regional VP/GM
Radio One
Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati

Keith Lawless
Keith Lawless

“There has to be some local autonomy to succeed in both ratings and revenue. It should be the local market’s responsibility to have their ear to the street. It is the local leadership’s duty to identify local trends or opportunities, and have the confidence and empowerment from their corporate or senior leadership to make those adjustments. Being nimble is important in today’s competitive markets, and no market is identical to any other. Complete centralized control disarms your ability to be nimble and ultimately to compete and win in your market.

With that said, there are many benefits to having corporate or senior leadership involvement. I could never afford to have some of the amazing resources in just one market that I have as part of a corporation — like research. In addition, local leaders should be open to inspection. If they ultimately want to win, then an outside perspective can be very helpful. Sometimes you can be too close to something to see where you can improve. A balance is best.”
Keith Lawless
VP/Market Manager
Cox Media Group
Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater
Brian Purdy
Brian Purdy

“It’s critically important that local management has the ability to make key business decisions that are relevant specifically to the formats they program and the communities they serve. However, there is also great value in having access to the resources, ideas, and expertise of colleagues, both around the country and our corporate management leaders. We are fortunate here at CBS Radio Dallas to have the best of both worlds.”

 

Brian Purdy
SVP/Market Manager
CBS Radio
Dallas-Fort Worth

Susan Larkin
Susan Larkin

“Local autonomy is very important. However, it’s equally important that we do not operate in a vacuum. It’s very easy to get too close to the market and not see opportunities. We should always challenge the status quo. That gives us the ability to evolve to a higher level. Typically, having a team outside of the market to collaborate with and share ideas and strategy is helpful. At the same time, there are market nuances that must factor into decisions. I also think if employees in the field believe they have a voice and a leader that champions that voice, they will bring new ideas and innovate. We still have to achieve company goals, and so that relationship with corporate senior leaders should be collaborative.”
Susan Larkin
Regional VP
Cox Media Group
Orlando and Jacksonville

Donna Baker
Donna Baker

“Extremely important, however, one point of difference: local collaboration vs. local autonomy. Talented local sales and programming leaders have unique perspective from our core customers, local listeners and local advertisers. Consistent collaboration with markets, combined with expert resources available through our leadership teams, allows us to continually refine the best local strategy and make adjustments to best compete and win on both ratings and revenue fronts.”

Donna Baker
Cumulus Media
RVP Midwest Region
Kansas City Market Manager

Brian Maloney
Brian Maloney

“Locality has always been what makes radio stand out, and it’s more important than ever. Successful stations can have a mix of national and local programming. What you do with your local programming and time will ultimately dictate the success of the station. At some point, national programs will be distributed in other ways than terrestrial radio. There’s not much time left to formulate your local plan if you don’t have one. Whether you program a music, sports talk, or news station, the way in which you differentiate your station from the broad-base offerings of the Web has now become essential. Be local. The revenue will come. Don’t get hung up on the ratings. Ever. Get hung up on results — this is why sports has become such a successful format for clients.”
Brian Maloney
General Manager
Capitol Broadcasting Co.

Jay Richardson
Jay Richardson

“Over the course of the last 11 years, local autonomy has been one of the keys to our success. In sales, this autonomy has allowed us to be another decisionmaker in the room when working with direct clients, giving us the ability to work through objections, to create buy-in, and to sign off on business — removing a lot of back and forth management. All of our negotiations begin with the best interest of our clients, assuring they run great schedules with plenty of spots that contain the right messages for effectiveness. Our programming team is able to be free and creative thinkers. We work closely together to identify issues and arrive at solutions — bouncing ideas off one another in order to more quickly reach solid, strong decisions. It only makes sense to have a local team, passionate for radio, which is in touch with the audience. The ability to make changes that work for the local market and local situation is another big key to our ratings successes.”

Jay Richardson
SVP/Market Manager
Alpha Media
Lubbock, TX
Ann McManus
Ann McManus

“It’s most important to have a good degree of autonomy in making radio stations successful in both revenue and ratings. Every local programmer, sales manager, and all team members must have skin in the game. With empowerment comes responsibility! Our local Cumulus Media teams know that we are in it to win it! We also have the tremendous benefit of having great guidance from our Cumulus Media corporate leaders upon request.”

Ann McManus
Regional Vice President
Cumulus Media Northeast

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