Are You Prepared For The Light at the End of The Tunnel?


(By Charlie Sislen) I was never a Boy Scout, but I always appreciated their motto: “Be Prepared.” While that is always important, it may never be more important than the present time.

In mid-March, most people’s lives began to go through a massive disruption. This includes, but is not limited to, every radio sales rep who is reading this commentary. Overnight, billing disappeared. When offices were still open, I remember one Market Manager saying, “I can take cancellations at home as easy as I can in the office.”

While the drop in billing was sudden and deep, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel. As states slowly open up, we believe that demand for radio inventory will also pick up. Clearly, the rebound will be significantly slower than the decline, but remind yourself of the Boy Scouts’ motto.

It is not productive to dwell on the past, but how you treat advertisers during a downturn can impact how you are treated in this slow rebound. Those advertisers that felt that they were treated fairly and with empathy should be more open to considering your proposal. Just remember, other sales reps were likely also treating them with similar professional empathy. You still need to be considerate and flexible, because your competition will be.

As states and your market slowly open up, how you approach this opportunity can determine how successful you are at turning your billing around.

While many advertising sales reps outlined the advantage of marketing during the downside, many advertisers did not, or could not, continue to support their brand. For those, they need to advertise to make sure that they rebuild their brand. Have them consider it like a “GRAND REOPENING.” They need to build the fanfare and excitement, without the crowds. This may take more than your street team showing up and giving away swag – if you still have swag.

Finally, the message is key. In the recent seminar that Gordon Borrell just offered, he gave three important messages that advertisers should offer to their potential customers. They include:

  • Open for business
  • COVID-19 compliant
  • Offering deep discounts

These three messages are valuable once the brand has been reestablished. Only then can an offer be made that can drive revenue.

Charlie Sislen is a partner at Research Director, Inc. He can be reached at 410-956-0363 or by e-mail at [email protected]. This essay is part of a series titled “Growing the Radio Pie.” To view past articles, visit The Ratings Experts at Research Director, Inc. online here.



  1. Actually some radio stations could take advantage of this Corona situation in another way. If your ratings have been bad, if your format really sucks, if your salespeople couldn’t give spots away because no potential advertiser believed that anyone was listening then maybe it’s time for a format change. And maybe it’s also time to hire some local air personalities. You know, give your station the “human touch” as well as provide local people with jobs. Finally, when it comes to format ideas why not turn to your own staff for suggestions? Why not come up with something different? Yes, yes you can play it safe and adopt the old cookie cutter formats. But when you do, make sure you have an alarm in the hallway that periodically goes off. You know, to keep the staff awake. Come to think of it better connect that alarm to the board and keep the pot raised. This way the listeners can stay awake too.


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