A Mission Statement For Radio


(By Spike Santee) The new year is almost upon us and so is the annual ritual of budget setting and strategy sessions. Before you get started on the next year, look back at the current year’s plans. How did they go?

Here is a suggestion for going forward in a fresh new approach — a suggestion for a new mission statement for radio advertising.

In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek tells us that most companies fail to articulate their mission statement in a meaningful way that emotionally engages customers and employees alike. Sinek says most companies can describe WHAT and HOW they do what they do, but very few companies can explain WHY they do what they do. Sinek contends that every organization operates on three levels: what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. In other words, why did you get out of bed this morning and why would anyone care.

A traditional mission statement for radio advertising might read like this:

WHAT do we do in radio? We’re in the business of bringing buyers and sellers together.

HOW do we do that? We create entertaining and engaging radio stations with content that attracts a large loyal audience of consumers and then we tell compelling stories about our advertisers with creative commercials.

WHY do we do what we do in radio? It’s my belief that if you’re reading this, you love the radio business. I know I do. We love the smile on a winner’s face when they pick up their prizes. We love to see our advertisers grow and prosper. We love to get a paycheck for doing so.

While we are swimming in a sea of positive listener research and amazing ROI results, radio advertising revenue growth is flat to low single digits. It seems that type of mission statement is missing the mark.

Advertising buyers don’t think people listen to radio anymore. They think that digital advertising represents the Holy Grail of advertising accountability. Despite the almost daily deluge of bad news for digital advertising platforms, digital advertising growth and the associated CPMs are predicted to grow at a significant pace.

Here is rough idea for a new revised mission statement for radio advertising that addresses our biggest challenge for growth, relevance, and return on investment.

WHAT: As an industry, we are working to improve the relevance and the profitability of radio advertising for the advertiser, the advertising salesperson, and the radio station, in that order.

HOW: We do that by making a commitment to be better trained and better prepared than the salespeople from other competitive advertising platforms.

We will devote regularly scheduled time for sales training that will develop our skills to enable us to reach and connect with key decision-makers and help them understand the value of radio’s reach and time-spent-listening as a benefit to their overall marketing efforts.

We will learn how to research a potential prospect’s business so that we show up fully prepared to speak the prospect’s language about the prospect’s issues, so the prospect will see us as a genuine resource and not just “spot” sellers looking to make a commission.

We will make it a regular weekly activity to review the latest listening data and ROI studies, so our sales talk is relevant and consequential.

WHY: We love being at the heart of the free enterprise system in the greatest economy in the world. We love to help you make your business dreams come true. And we make a nice paycheck while we’re at it.

This proposed mission statement focuses on what we need to do as radio advertising salespeople. We have a great product that produces strong returns at a remarkably effective price. Advertising buyers just don’t know our story. We don’t appear to be relevant to their marketing plans. They perceive digital advertising driving a better ROI. They have products to sell and we have a story to tell.

You, as an individual, can have your own mission statement. You can make it your own mission to improve the relevance and profitability of radio advertising for your customers. You’ll see an immediate improvement in your paycheck.

But the real WHY of what we do in radio advertising sales is much more than just a labor of love. It’s more than just a paycheck. The future of our industry is at stake if we keep on doing what we’ve always been doing because we’re going to keep on getting what we already have.

Remember, you are only one decision away from becoming the person you deserve to be.

Talk to you soon.

Spike Santee is the author of The Four Keys to Advertising Success and the president of SpikeSantee.com. Contact Spike at (785) 230-5350.


  1. Spike is one of the last people with whom I want to have an argument. He’s a pro and a good guy.
    The good intentions of smaller market stations or even less-than-titanic corporate outfits are, to be candid, not nearly enough to move radio into a position of greater credibility and prosperity – exceptions understood.
    The processes of communicating to audiences and for advertisers have been crushed to the lowest, possible functions.
    Given that ROI can be demonstrated to be reasonable and “reach” are still valuable factors, I argue that Radio’s overall ROI is not nearly enough to be convincing to so many wary or cynical advertisers.

    I base this on the premise that “Perception is reality” is an almost wholly-accepted but entirely false principle. The more accurate position is: “Perception drives behaviour.”
    It is, therefore, critical and incumbent on radio to change perceptions by changing our OWN behaviours.

  2. Dear Ron,

    There are 11,347 commercial Radio stations in the US. The big groups, iHeart, Cumulus, Entercom, Alpha, Beasley et al, have approximately 1,819 Radio stations or about 16% of all Radio stations.

    There are thousands of small local broadcasters pursuing the ideal of being a quality, community oriented Radio station.

    They devote time and resources to their infrastructure and training so they can improve their products and their skills, including script writing.

    Even though the big groups find themselves in difficult circumstances, I don’t believe for minute than anyone in Radio, big or small, is purposely trying to create a poor product and abuse listeners or advertisers.

    Best wishes always.

  3. Yes, I know, Amy.
    Reality can sometimes suck, and affirmations along with a “positive mental attitude” can obfuscate the vipers in the grass – right up until the fangs sink in.
    I have always contended that, with the rarest of exceptions, radio has been running a magnificent, but still shameful scam since Oral Roberts was an obedient choir boy.
    The industry has yet to make any improvements in on-air deliveries or the creation of more influential commercial content for decades.

    If Spike, Bob McCurdy and others can motivate for useful changes in the sales departments, a pending, perhaps ultimate demise of a once-exciting and useful medium may yet be thwarted.
    A wide-eyed and foolish repetition of sanguine affirmations has yet to demonstrate much in the way of generating utility and prosperity in the industry.

    Meanwhile, Amy, I am intrigued about reading your personal definition of what, specifically, constitutes “Good Radio”.

  4. Ouch, Ronald T! You’ve obviously been burned.
    There ARE still many many Radio Stations that are caring, thriving and doing Good Radio on a daily basis. How else could Radio be as strong as it’s been in years – highest reach, ROI and ever-evolving.
    You’ll always see what you are looking for – good or bad. Open your eyes. Look for the Good. Find the Good – then Multiply it!
    Hoping your healing begins soon.

  5. Given that most of radio’s current, demonstrated (unadvertised) Mission Statement is:
    “As an industry, we will endeavour to invest as little of our financial resources, talent, and efforts as possible in order to provide ridiculously low quantities and qualities of services as we can manage – so long as we can get away with it. We shall abuse our audiences, suppress entertainment content along with informational content, and we shall continue to cheat our advertisers of the quality of advertising material that we, otherwise, might still be able to provide, if only we still knew how.”
    Any other alternatives, while unlikely, would still be most welcome.


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