(By Andy Bloom) Let’s take a journey together. Close your eyes long enough to take a mental tour of the physical layout of every radio station where you’ve worked. Consider the best and the worst stations. Your first and your most recent stations. Can you picture them?
If your stations are like most of the radio stations I’ve been in, they have something in common: No matter how small or how large the space, the sales and programming departments are as far away from one another as possible. The physical layout is symbolic of a division as fundamental as “the separation of church and state.”
My career began on the programming side of the office. When I began consulting, I found myself involved in many C-suite conversations and decisions. I developed an axiom that I continue to share with young programmers and air talent: “Radio stations don’t change format because of ratings, they change format because of revenues.”
Today’s challenging business environment demands an evolution. Sales and programming managers must become partners and learn how to work to achieve both sides’ goals. Returning to day-to-day operations, I learned to create partnerships with sales managers. I’ve had the good fortune to work with some excellent sales management teams, making it easier. At WIP/Philadelphia, the LSM was featured in a recent Radio Ink s tory: “Why Is Vince Gambino One of Radio’s Best Sales Managers?” Vince is deservedly a finalist for a Radio Ink Radio Wayne Award, recognizing excellence in sales leadership.
WIP GSM Suby Ross and I developed a true partnership. We each understood if the other didn’t succeed in reaching his goals, we wouldn’t reach our individual goals. He has respect for the product. I went on sales calls regularly. Programmers tell the station’s narrative differently and with more passion than anybody. Programmers can simplify ratings into digestible bites. When clients have access to and a personal relationship with the PD, they develop a greater emotional investment in the station. As trust builds, it’s easier to ask clients to participate in promotions or events.
As partners, we set out to accomplish a goal: Create the top-billing station in the market. When we achieved that goal, I was as proud as the days our best ratings were released.
The final piece of the puzzle is the airstaff. Great air talent understands that change happens because of revenue more than ratings. Smart air personalities learn early that partnering with sales increases their income and value.
Characteristics of air personalities who partner with sales:
1. They put in the time. As with anything somebody wants to be good at, there’s a time commitment. The most successful have a natural curiosity about things. They make their appearances special. At WIP, Angelo Cataldi meets new clients and digs deep to find out about them, their product, and the pitch. He goes to their businesses and delivers terrific, heartfelt endorsements. Overnighter Big Daddy Graham doesn’t just show up at appearances, he entertains with Quizzo nights.
2. They work it. The best air personalities walk the sales department several times a week. They seek out AEs who need solutions. They don’t wait for AEs to come to them.
3. They aggressively use the medium. Several years ago, Howard Stern talked about his approach to clients on the air. He mentioned bang per buck, being an aggressive medium, and how effectively he gets into prospects’ minds.
4. A little show biz magic. One of the best at wooing clients is Danny Bonaduce — picking just one example is difficult. We’re pitching a major beer client. Danny walks in and challenges whoever is their best to a beer chug-a-lug. If he wins, they will buy the station. Challenge accepted: Danny produces two cold bottles of the brand from his jacket and easily wins. The beer guy has foam on his face and down his shirt. Danny didn’t spill a drop. He shook hands with the guys and dropped the mic (so to speak), leaving it “to the sales types to work out the details,” then left. Later I found out Danny had replaced his beer with iced tea, but the stunt worked.
5. They have sincerity and authenticity. In the movie Anchorman, Will Ferrell’s character, Ron Burgundy, reads anything on the teleprompter, leading to “hysterical” results. During live reads, could you be “Burgundy-ed”? If you’re reading, you aren’t authentic and sincere. If every client is your “good friend” and each product “the best,” then your live reads all sound the same. Tell the story, read the details.
The physical layout of radio stations may not have changed much over the years, but the challenges confronting our industry require the relationship between sales and programming to evolve. It has never been more important for sales and programming to develop true partnerships where accomplishing the goals for both sides is achievable.
Andy Bloom was most recently operations manager for SportsRadio 94WIP and Talk Radio 1210WPHT/ Philadelphia. He has been on Radio Ink’s Best PDs in America list three of the last four years. Contact him at [email protected]