Good Enough


(By Mike McVay) Good enough is never really good enough. It should be acknowledged that lots of “good enough” stations, and shows, do well in the ratings … until a better option becomes available.

There are those that have a mindset of acceptance. “You only have to be good enough to soundly beat the competition.” Many managers accept that approach versus the approach which should be that you’re always striving to do better. Not just when your performance in the ratings is poor. When you think that you’re performing at peak performance, turn it up a notch, because the best never accepts good enough.

When taking the aforementioned approach, it’s imperative that you do not move beyond your brands purpose or benefit without careful thought, as you may move beyond the logical point of conclusion. What I mean by that is best explained using an restaurant analogy. If you’re the number one fast-food chain in America, you don’t grow by changing the benefit of your restaurant by adding waiters, waitresses and a host requiring reservations. That’s not why people eat at a fast-food restaurant. The same goes for radio/audio. What’s the benefit of listening?

What’s your purpose? What’s the benefit to your audience? What’s made your station Top-rated? How do you stay ahead of the competition? What does your audience want and expect from your station? Are you satisfying them? What do they think of your competition? The answers to these questions require research. Anecdotal information is simply that. Research gauges reality. Not perception.

Being up year over year means nothing if you’re not ranked high enough to be a “Must Buy.” Being down means little if you’re still highly ranked … and consistently highly ranked month to month. That’s where sales skills come into play. I’ve seen stations celebrate an up-rating sweep, when they’re still out of the “Must Buy” position. If it’s a step in the right direction, great. But it requires more steps before you can celebrate victory.

Conversely, I’ve seen stations that remain highly ranked make significant changes when they see a year-over-year decrease, despite that they remain in the same dominant rank position as before. Regardless of what the rating company may say, there are wobbles, and ratings are an inaccurate science. Work to be the best you can be, but remember that any move that changes a brand can bring months and even years, of failure.

Accepting your position doesn’t mean that you’re accepting good enough. One of my most disappointing moments was a few years ago when my prediction of impending failure became reality. My client had risen from way down in rank to #3 Adults 25-54 over the course of 12-months. We held that position sweep after sweep for several years after reaching Top-3. We couldn’t get to #1 in the target demo. The market make-up was such that Top-3 was it for us. It was frustrating for all of us, but we also knew that the sales department was generating significantly more revenue than in the past, due to the ratings growth we’d experienced.

The Market Manager said “What good is #3 if we can’t get to #1?” Dramatic changes were discussed. None of which I would endorse. I remember my words … “#3 doesn’t look good … unless you’re one of the 15 stations behind us in the ratings.”

What that former client should have done is focus on how to continue to the growth of their audience, in cume and time spent listening, without changing their brand or interrupting the benefit that they were providing to the market. Shortsightedness is always a problem. Allowing frustration to drive you, which is easy to let happen, clouds your vision. Mistakes are made.

Remember this; it is not your birthright to be highly rated. You have to put in the work and make the investment in human and financial resources to gain success and to retain success. Good enough is never good enough. Not for long-term success.

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. The concept of “must-buy” is an anachronism in an era where 3 cume points from the top-3 (or 6 points from the top-10) is the norm. Concentrate on discussions of cost efficiency, uniqueness of audience or commercial load to differentiate from competing stations. No one cares about your top ranking.

  2. The big mistake is working with people who are worried about beating 1 or 2 radio stations. That’s a rigged race. The competitive arena in audio really has nothing to do with “beating” other stations, it’s grabbing all of the available cash that advertisers have earmarked for audio content.


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