Elizabeth Hamma started her radio career as a promotions director in Syracuse, NY. When she realized the salespeople were making good money on her ideas, she quickly moved into sales at WSYR. She says NewCity Communications was a wonderful company that provided invaluable training in sales and sales management.
After a dozen years with NewCity, she was ready for a bigger market and jumped at an opportunity to join AMFM in Detroit. Then it was on to Louisville, and then to West Palm Beach. Hamma started there with WRMF, which was independent at the time. Dean Goodman wound up purchasing WRMF and clustering it with his purchase of the CBS Radio stations. That seven-station group is now owned by Larry Wilson’s Alpha Media and run by Hamma.
RI: Why do you think you’ve been able to be so successful?
Hamma: Nobody comes up alone. I’ve worked with and for some really wonderful people. But being successful in anything takes some self-sacrifice. This doesn’t mean you can’t have work-home balance, but it does mean that sometimes work trumps personal time. For me, our seven stations and team of a hundred people is my passion. I’ve always said being in radio isn’t a job, it’s a way of life — and I love that!
I’ve always had tremendous support from my family. Picking up your kids and moving them around the country isn’t easy, but when your family asks “when,” not “why,” you know you have support. Couple that with excellent role models and great training, you can hardly not be successful!
RI: What are some innovative ideas you are incorporating in West Palm to drive revenue?
Hamma: Events is the new black these days. Our events division is more than a decade in the making, and it’s very profitable. We run it as a separate events company and never include spots in our event proposals. Would an event company throw in a radio schedule to be nice? I doubt it. And neither do we. We promote our stations as equal media sponsors to any other media sponsor we bring to the table, be it TV, print, or even other radio groups. This has given us access to media that helps promote the event, and it also gives us additional assets to include in our sponsorship packages. We’ll produce 22 events this year, including our newest, the KVJ 5K. Kid, pet, and beer events are recessionproof, and our specialties. Our team has reached the expert level when it comes to beer.
Speaking of beer, we are launching a new on-air, on-site, and online program focused on our incredibly talented Kevin, Virginia & Jason morning show on WRMF. We teamed up with a local craft beer brewer who is customizing beers based on the tastes of the morning show. We’ll promote it on the air, and through digital, podcasts, and weekly events. Proceeds and merchandise sales will benefit a local not-for-profit. We have already generated a healthy amount of on-air and digital revenue and expect more to come in the next few months.
RI: Who did you learn from along the way to management, and what did they teach you?
Hamma: I have always been surrounded by great coaches. Joel Delmonico, Dick Ferguson, and the NewCity team were foundational for me. I didn’t know the blessing I had at the time, but starting my sales career with outstanding sales and management training was truly pivotal. I still reference what I learned from Steve Marx and Gerry Tabio to this day. While each taught different lessons, there was always one theme in common: Talent trumps all, so recruit and retain your superstars.
RI: What is it about you that made you a successful manager?
Hamma: What has made me successful is the team I am privileged to lead. When you surround yourself with good hard-working people who know how to get the job done, the rest is easy. I like to think I’m intuitive about people and I care. I love to overachieve goals, but making a difference in someone’s life by helping their career grow gives me tremendous satisfaction. I learned early on that a relationship begins when you do something for your people that is in their best interest, not yours. This means putting the spreadsheets aside to be available to your team.
RI: What do you do to keep yourself on the cutting edge?
Hamma: I read a lot, listen to my wisest friends, and ask a lot of questions. We recently set up a panel of millennials from within our stations. Our management team conducted a session to get to know and understand our millennial team members. It was fascinating, and we definitely learned a lot. Who knew to get their news from Vice?
RI: When do you know you have an excellent manager working for you?
Hamma: I’d say when I see a manager who is growing people, I have a winner.
RI: Tell us the best way for managers and sellers to overcome all the competition they face today.
Hamma: I live by this motto: “The only behavior you can control is your own.” We can’t control the competition, but we can control our own behavior. If we continue to understand our clients’ needs and develop customized on-air, online, and on-site solutions, we will be fine. We believe strongly in live and local, so working our relationships and being part of the community will continue to separate us from the competition. As our top-of-the-hour ID says, “We live here too.”
RI: What’s the best way to get radio sellers to believe in our product?
Hamma: Radio is an extremely relevant advertising medium today. We still reach 93 percent of all Americans every week. We have new success stories every day, where radio delivers results for our advertisers. These stories demonstrate the viability of radio today. We start nearly every sales meeting with good news and have our team share these stories. When you hear it enough, you get that radio works. I guess frequency really does work!
RI: How do you keep your managers focused on the goals?
Hamma: If I have to keep a manager focused on their goals, I probably have the wrong managers! Our environment is very team-oriented and transparent. Everyone knows where we are and where we are going. I believe a fun, collaborative, empowered environment is the secret sauce to success.
RI: Who are a few managers you admire?
Hamma: I admire the Alpha Media Palm Beach team for their grit, get-it-done attitude, creativity, and the way they attack every obstacle with a fierce attitude. Joel Delmonico was a great mentor and friend, Mike Cutchall demonstrated tenacity and a passion for talented people, Gerry Tabio taught me life skills to solve problems, Chuck Togias taught me that my competitive advantage will always be me, Dean Goodman was the smartest guy I ever worked for, and now I get to experience the incredible managers at Alpha Media. Bill McElveen, Bob Profitt, and Larry Wilson value people more than any company out there; they know how to have fun, and they both a difference in someone’s life by helping their career grow gives me tremendous satisfaction. I learned early on that a relationship begins when you do something for your people that is in their best interest, not yours. This means putting the spreadsheets aside to be available to your team.