Rolling With The RIFs: Would You Be Prepared?


(By Gary Berkowitz) We’ve all seen (and some of us have felt) the recent headlines. 2024 has already been a difficult year for layoffs/job cuts/Reductions-in-Force (or RIFs) in commercial and non-commercial radio.

Losing your job is right up there with major life losses. Your feelings wander from personal failure to disappointment to plain-out worry and panic. In the case of layoffs, radio people’s gift becomes our curse: we love what we do and we love our industry. We probably care “too much” and that’s what makes this so hard.

With so many people losing their positions, please allow me to share some ideas to help you get through this.

If you feel the winds of change coming, can you prevent your own RIF?

In most cases, many of these mass RIFs are not because of programming, bad ratings, or anything you did wrong. It’s all economic/revenue related. With that in mind, a few thoughts:

Do you do anything that is directly tied to revenue? Examples might include:

  • Frequent contact with sales to give them ideas that lead to new business.
  • Offering to carry the account that you have a relationship with. Different than
    usual, yes, but it may help you get across the line with RIF’s.
  • Doing as many endorsements as possible. Make yourself RIF-proof by “representing revenue.”

Unfortunately, even doing all that isn’t enough sometimes. Make sure you keep your airchecks, production, and pertinent files current, fresh, and somewhere you can access the files, like a USB drive or cloud service. Be prepared: should the bad news drop and you’re shown to your desk, the door, then nothing more, you’ll be glad you had your work backed up outside the studio for what comes next.

Take some time to “mourn” the loss. In the Jewish religion, we call this “Sitting Shiva.” When a family member passes, friends and family visit to comfort us in the time of loss. Losing your job is a major loss. Allow your friends and family to comfort you. Just don’t let it go on too long, because you have some work in front of you!

Get all of your personal materials in order:

  • Resume: One page. Never send as a Word file. Always send as a PDF.
  • Audio: MP3s are much better to send than links. If it’s an aircheck, make sure it is tightly scoped. You will sound better. Make sure your name is on every audio file you send. You’d be amazed how many people do not do this.
  • Website: If you have one, make sure its current.
  • References: Current as possible. All should be “professional” references from radio people.

Contact everyone you know. Do not be ashamed that you lost your job. Now you are “available.” Wear it as a badge of honor.

  • Post your availability on all of your personal platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter/X, Instagram, etc.
  • Use a bulletin board like Radio Ink‘s Job Page (which is free for those seeking jobs).
  • Ask your friends and connections to share your availability.
  • Use all available tools to contact radio stations, consultants, and others who are involved with radio.
  • An old-fashioned phone call will work best, so pick up the phone and start calling. The more calls you make, the better your chances are of getting a reply. Set up a goal of making at least 10 calls a day. The late, great sales guru Bill Burton once told me, “Anybody can delete an email, but not too many people will hang up the phone on you.”

Prepare for some personal sacrifices. Chances are you did not receive a lot of severance. Now you will have to prepare for some time living on your savings or other resources. Hopefully you have them. A few ideas here include:

  • Cancel any subscriptions you don’t absolutely need (music, Netflix, etc.) They add up.
  • Eat at home. You’ll be able to go again out soon enough.
  • Prioritize spending. If you have a family, everybody is going to have to work with you, so don’t be ashamed to let your kids know what’s going on (if they are of age).

Here’s the good news (yes, there is good news!): there are a lot of radio stations out there that are not owned by the people who let you go. Many of these stations need people and would love to hear from you, get to know you, and maybe even hire you. So reach out, make a new connection, and maybe find that next great job.

Remember: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” Be tough, breathe deep, and good luck!

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit-based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations: Gary can be reached at (248) 737-3727 or [email protected]. Read Gary’s Radio Ink archives here.


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