Earlier this month, after three years with Beasley Media and many years with Greater Media before that, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation Buzz Knight announced he was launching his own consultancy. We sat down with Knight to get his thoughts on programming, podcasting, radio’s place in the car and much more.
Radio Ink: Why did you decide to start your own company when you have the stability of a paycheck with a company whose been around for many years?
Buzz: I thought about it three years ago not knowing where things would take us. In thinking about the present, and what I feel I have to offer, I felt like it was the right time. The time for me to step out and grow and learn in other ways. In my heart there’s an entrepreneurial spirit that I feel I can apply from all the fortunate experiences I’ve had. I was able to get the blessing of Caroline, Bruce, and Brian Beasley, which is special. I am able to do some work on their behalf and go out and do this on my own.
Radio Ink: What will you offer?
Buzz: I believe I can offer the strategic guidance to help organizations grow their reach and brands and help them attain their revenue goals. To help them, in terms of the talent piece, so they can maximize their opportunity in a very challenging marketplace. I believe I can offer it in the traditional sense of where audio brands are and where radio brands live. I also believe, with the things I have been passionate about — like new technology and platforms — to be part of bringing those forward. When I think of the importance of leadership qualities within organizations, I think I could bring some of that guidance and prioritization along the way. I have been fortunate to be in the trenches and I can bring a diverse set of skills to potential clients.
Radio Ink: Do you think there are enough companies that care enough about talent to be successful on that side of your business?
Buzz: I do. We all know, in many regards, because of the challenging times, things are being sacrificed — often talent is part of that. I’m aware of it. But I do believe at the end of the day, when companies think what talent means to this equation, there are enough people who care in a meaningful way. An outside voice that I could provide would hold high the prioritization of what’s important for brands to succeed, and talent is certainly one of those differentiators we could never forget about. My job for any client is to give a strong opinion which they can choose to follow or not. I believe there are enough people out there, when they pause and think about it, that care.
Radio Ink: You come from the programming side: why do radio executives continue to kid themselves that they’re not playing too many commercials?
Buzz: I believe it’s one of these self-fulfilling prophecies, deep down everybody knows this is a challenge. On one hand, there’s a group of people who know it and want to try to reorganize their business and unite around that problem. There is also a group of people that want to know the truth and set the bar high to achieve it. I think more need to realize it and put ice in their veins and challenge their organizations to address this. In the coming months, I think it will be more of a conversation that will be raised to a greater priority, and it should be.
Radio Ink: What is the right number of commercials per hour that a listener can sit through?
Buzz: I don’t know the answer. At the very least a 20% decrease is a good starting conversation. We have tried to address this from research, and I would like to know the real answer. In my heart I think the conversation has to start progressively with a 15-20% decrease, and probably some more creative ways to integrate what’s good for the advertisers and gor for programming. In talking to a friend of mine, who is one of the top European consultants, programmers over there are more in sync with the notion of integration. In some cases, he tells me some of the program directors are called integration directors in terms of how they take what a client needs and find creative promotions that wins for the client and integrates into station programming. That’s one of the things I look forward to: collaborating with people to bring some of that into this marketplace and tackle these problems.
Radio Ink: Is radio’s place in the car safe?
Buzz: We have to look at the way the car evolves, as it’s under greater assault than ever. Every trip out to CES we see what’s going on in the dash; it further reminds us that we should take nothing as safe. That’s why I love going, we need to get that fear of what’s around the corner, that, no, we aren’t safe there. We have to produce better content, make sure we are technically superior, and make sure we are aware of all the threats around us. High quality is the best way to compete. If we lower our quality we are under assault from everywhere, including the car.
Radio Ink: You dabble in podcasting a bit. What will you advise clients in how that fits into their entire system at the radio station?
Buzz: My primary advice on that comes down to first optimize the content you have — meaning your time-shifted content. I think we sometimes throw that away as being less important. We want and aspire to find that original hit which is the needle in the haystack. Maximizing every asset you have for your brands in general is important. I believe strongly that maximizing the fundamental assets you have in the best possible way is a key beginning strategy. As that space continues to evolve, grow, and shift, keep up with it and track the performance to understand metrics. Taking that beginner’s mindset gives us a fresher perspective on how to maximize performance.
Radio Ink: What is radio’s strength and biggest challenge?
Buzz: Our biggest strength is we create non-duplicatable unique content. At a time when there’s an audio renaissance, radio’s core belief around content is the greatest strength. Radio’s greatest weakness becomes its own inferiority complex. It’s very easy to crumble under the dynamics of the world today and think less about high standards for user experience. We have to acknowledge some things, like the commercial load or the assault on talent that at times is going on. We need to find, grow and nurture new talent. I believe if we properly address the inferiority complex and think about our high standards we will be able to prosper.
Contaact Buzz Knight by e-mail at [email protected]