Gordon Smith’s 9 Points of Light


During his farewell speech to broadcasters, retiring NAB CEO Gordon Smith went big on Wednesday, quoting three United States Presidents (Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Woodrow Wilson). He then shared 9 lessons he learned over the 12 years he served as the CEO of the NAB.

Smith will be presented the Lifetime Leadership Award at Radio Ink’s Forecast next week in New York City. Check out our full agenda HERE and there’s still time to register HERE.

Here are 9 of Smith’s lessons from his time at the top of the NAB…

1. Never be afraid to negotiate.
Negotiating is important — it’s engagement. If you’re going to lose something, get something. This has been our winning strategy behind the performance tax issue. Our engagement on the Hill is to talk, negotiate and deal to be in the game — stopping legislation that we deem harmful to our listeners and viewers, and shaping other legislation to advance and protect the interests of broadcasters.

2. NAB should never register Republican or Democrat, but as human, local and American.
We uphold and defend American values, such as factual journalism and the First Amendment. Neither party satisfies 100% of our issues. We need friends on both sides of the aisle.

3. Spend money on the possible – prioritize our issues.
Focus on likely outcomes. When I first came here, I was handed a book of legislative issues that was about 50 pages long. I was asked what I thought about the book. I said I thought it was all very interesting, but you’re not telling me what’s important and what isn’t. There were probably only three main issues. My point is to prioritize – be a rifle, not a shotgun.

4. Invest to thrive, not just to survive.
Invest in our future. Investing in new technologies, such as Next Gen TV and hybrid radio, not only provides audiences with more choices and a better viewing and listening experience, it also underpins the values we hold so dearly as broadcasters — keeping our citizens connected and informed with the news they can trust – anywhere they are, and always for free.

5. No matter how many conflicting interests we have (cable, satellite, terrestrial vs. streaming) NAB must always speak for free over-the-air, local broadcasting. If NAB doesn’t, nobody else will.

6. Our PAC and grassroots are vital advocacy tools that we should continually tap into. We have many other tools in our toolbox. Broadcasters’ nuclear bomb is our airwaves, but it must be used judiciously as should our other tools.

7. Hire the best, not the most.
Good people equal good policy, which equals winning in politics. Treat others well. This is a key ingredient to strong advocacy. If you’re likable, a good person and have strong policy arguments, you’re going to win. Good business equals good policy on Capitol Hill.

8. Reflect the values that underpin an FCC license – civic engagement, relief, rescue, community decency, local focus, fair, diverse, journalism.

9. Before you take a punch, anticipate the counterpunch.
This will tell you whether it’s worth it. Some things have to ripen, and you want to calibrate your punch when it’s most impactful.

Smith finished by saying Curtis Legeyt, the incoming NAB President and CEO is “the right person, at the right time, for the job.”

You can subscribe to Radio Ink HERE and read our cover story with the incoming NAB CEO


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