We All Have A Radio Wayne


(By Radio Ink Publisher Deborah Parenti) Last week, I had the honor of presenting the 24th Radio Wayne Awards at the Radio Show in Nashville. It was both an inspiring and humbling opportunity and a role I recently assumed as part of my duties as Radio Ink’s publisher.

I knew that Eric Rhoads, who established the awards in honor of Wayne Cornils, was going to be a hard act to follow. Eric is larger than life. His inspirational blogs and commentaries have become like a Bible to many readers, his words a visionary force to a sometimes reluctant, headstrong industry. The man truly knows how to shake things up!

And get things done.

Somewhere along the way, over the years of nudging radio to be its best, Eric conceived the idea of the Radio Wayne Awards. It was sparked by his admiration for Wayne Cornils, a man whose passion and devotion to the radio industry he thought more should emulate. Wayne’s career spanned decades across many facets of the industry, most especially sales, marketing, and management.

When Wayne was diagnosed with cancer, Eric wanted to make sure his legacy of professionalism would live on in others. And because Wayne

Radio Ink Publisher Deborah Parenti with Emmis Chairman/CEO Jeff Smulyan, the 2016 Radio Wayne winner for America's Best Broadcaster
Radio Ink Publisher Deborah Parenti with Emmis Chairman/CEO Jeff Smulyan, the 2016 Radio Wayne winner for America’s Best Broadcaster

came from the sales and marketing side of the industry, Eric also felt this was a fitting opportunity to recognize the other side of the radio station. It’s the one that does not usually bring home the coveted prizes, but can be just as creative as programming. It’s the side that keeps not only stations, but retail and other storefronts, brick-and-mortar and online, in business day after day with innovative, well-crafted marketing partnerships. Why not create recognition that celebrates the sellers, the managers, and the marketers in radio with an award named for one of the best, Wayne Cornils? So the Radio Ink Radio Wayne Awards were born.

Of course, as I looked at the audience during last week’s presentation, it dawned on me that, 24 years later, some in the room might not be familiar with THE Wayne Cornils. Still, it would be easy to make the connection, because everyone present had been touched by A Wayne Cornils: that mentor whose professionalism had inspired, encouraged, and challenged them to become their best selves in this business.

I urged everyone to take a moment at some point soon to thank those people. It was deeply gratifying when that evening, one of the Radio Wayne finalists approached me holding a pair of envelopes. “Thank you for the inspiring words this morning. You made all of us feel so important and proud. And what a wonderful suggestion!”  Waving the envelopes, she smiled. “These are my thank you notes. I am going to hand them to two wonderful mentors and tell them to read them on the plane home.”

There’s also a personal side to these awards. Nineteen years ago, I was a finalist. I didn’t win then, but I finally made it to the stage this year — and my prize was presenting the Radio Wayne Awards. It meant a lot to hear from so many finalists from this year, and years past, how much that resonated with them. You don’t have to win to be a winner. You don’t have to get the trophy to excel at what you love. The prize is in the pride you feel with every chance you get to help a client achieve more success by driving new customers and more business to their doors, and every time a manager watches a salesperson they have coached stretch and take it to the next level.

Because make no mistake, sales reps, managers, and marketing professionals make a difference in the radio industry. Their dedicated efforts contribute not only to their stations’ bottom line, they are part of the engine that drives the wheels of commerce, helping businesses from the smallest retailers to national chains attract and engage customers. That translates into more than making profits. It delivers jobs, goods, and services across the country. That is the power of radio sellers and managers. That is their impact, and that is what we honor and put on display with Radio Wayne.

Next year will mark the 25th Radio Wayne Awards. Mark your calendars now. Start thinking about who on your staff should receive this recognition. Make sure to make your nominations when they open next July, and then plan to attend the Radio Show. No matter who takes the trophy, you belong at this celebration because, like me, you 2016radiowaynewinnersresize-300x225don’t have to walk away with the award to feel like you have grabbed the brass ring. And you’ll also be exposed to some of the best and most inspiring minds in the business at the Radio Show. It’s a terrific conference and a great chance to learn, share, and explore new ideas — every one designed to grow the industry.
Let’s plan to meet in Austin next year at the Radio Show and the Radio Ink Radio Wayne Awards presentation!


  1. I am so happy you all continue to honor Wayne Cornils this way. He was one of my favorite people on the planet and hands down the best boss ever at the Radio Advertising Bureau. Whether we were practicing fly fishing in his office or working 24/7 at the MSC Conventions he was pure joy and kindness. Thank you for keeping his memory alive.

  2. Deborah, what a great article! I am so glad you wrote this. I did not know the background and am thrilled you shared it. I certainly have had the pleasure of working with many a “Radio Wayne” both in the past and currently, with my amazing staff. Thank you!

  3. Deborah… Loved the piece you penned about the Radio Wayne awards. I am one of the lucky folks who witnessed first-hand his passion and the amazing impact he had on the industry for so many years. I am also so proud of my Radio Wayne Broadcaster of the Year award that I won in 1998. The “radio tube” trophy is displayed on my desk and I see it every day! So happy that you took the time to remind people of him and instituting a “thanks” across the board to those who personify the best of the business.
    Feels like Eric passed the baton to a wonderful new host of the Radio Wayne NAB extravaganza… BRAVO!


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