Are We Inspiring The Next Generation?

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(By Deborah Parenti) One of the challenges we hear a lot about today — and have heard about for several decades — is getting the next generation interested in and inspired to make radio their career.

And again, while nothing new,making radio “sexy” to Gens X and Z is definitely far more difficult than in years gone by. There are so many more options available to those looking to a career in media than even 10 years ago.

We’ve probably all seen the video clip that went viral last year about the young millennial being interviewed by a company official. The interviewer’s questions to the young lady are the basis for a somewhat exaggerated and amusing exchange between the two. That they are “not on the same page” in semantics or core values is readily apparent.

From major group heads to smaller operators, the difficulty of finding young people to join the industry continues to be high on the list of challenges they face in terms of strengthening and growing their companies in the years to come. “Find me that 30-year-old manager,” as one put it.

Of course, before the industry can tap a 30-year-old into management, it needs a 20-something-year-old swimming in the radioactive lane of the broadcast pool. And while managers come from all areas of the business, it continues to hold true that a good majority of future managers come from
sales and marketing.

Let’s face it: those aren’t always perceived to be the most fun or ego-gratifying side of the business. No one comes to a station remote to see the sales rep — except perhaps the client. And today, when labels are likely to kill interest and reputations as well as ratchet down desirability, the word “sales” itself can be off-putting to prospective employees.

“Sales” doesn’t sound like fun. “Sales” doesn’t conjure up images of creative engagement in problem-solving or helping others grow their business and their livelihood, one that puts food on their table, a roof over their head, and helps buy future educations for their children. Even though that’s the goal.

“Sales” sounds mercenary, dry, and even robotically inclined. It sounds aggressive, non-altruistic, and dull. And “account executive” doesn’t make it more appealing. At most, it suggests someone who needs to handle rejection from all sides as well as balance the needs and demands of station versus client. And “versus” is often spot on. The sales manager has budgets to meet; the client has marketing objectives. The two are not always mutually aligned. Sounds like fun — if you like to juggle but can’t run away and join the circus.

So here’s a thought. Let’s start with positioning. Let’s understand that attracting new blood is a marketing campaign. Let’s begin by thinking how to “position” job openings, making them more appealing to 20-somethings — and then deliver great copy that describes an exciting, fulfilling opportunity.

We could take a page from titles being used today by agencies or those invented by digital and podcast brands. These are descriptions that make you smile when you read them — and arouse curiosity about the company. In radio, it’s called “theater of the mind.” Why not use that concept in job postings?

Better job descriptions and titles that sound creative, meaningful, and 21st-century (and radio can still be all of that) might be one step toward attracting the kind of new blood needed to fill the pipeline of future leaders. Titles like “strategist,” “creative problem solver,” “multi-media manager,” “multi-platform adviser” — titles that also imply a work environment that cultivates and grows gratifying partnerships with clients aimed at bringing success and satisfaction to all involved.

Of course, it doesn’t have to stop with sales. While we’re reinventing the wheel, there may be other positions in the organization with titles that could be better positioned in today’s new world order. Titles that could help lessen the divide and miscommunication between the future generation who will run our industry and its current slate of executives. Because at the end of the day, tomorrow’s industry will only be as strong as those who join us today.

Of course, once attracted to the industry, these future leaders need to be paid a living wage in order to hang in and make their way up the ladder. But that’s another topic for another day.

If you have some thoughts on this — or a “title” to suggest, e-mail me at the address below. You might start something.

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at [email protected]

1 COMMENT

  1. One of the stations for which I was pulling an afternoon drive shift, attempted to reframe “Account Executives” to, with a chant and a hypnotic gesture, “Solution Providers”. Nothing else changed, except that, within the following week, all the other stations in the market also trotted out their “Solution Providers”. That was real comedy for advertisers and an embarrassment to the sales people.

    If radio wants to attract high quality and motivated associates, it will be required to demonstrate the culture of the outfit. Then, they will have to introduce all the other sales people who are enjoying wonderful success. Just those alone will eliminate a creepy re-positioning of the job and squelch any perceived need for baffling the folks with weasel-words.

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