The Family of Radio


(By Mike McVay) There’s always been a certain familial aspect to being a part of the business and craft of Radio. My literal family is also a radio family with five of us working with or in some form of media.

I know many second and third-generation broadcasters who followed their family into the business. Others have no bloodline to someone in media, but that doesn’t lessen the spirit and feeling of family within Radio. It is that bond that often pushes the level of tolerance, acceptance, and commitment to an industry that doesn’t reward success equally. The Family of Radio is one of the attributes that makes being in this business attractive.

The Radio Family has evolved over the last few years. Talent don’t move around the nation or globe for work at the same level they once did. That was how many of us advanced our careers. You moved, often dragging along a family for a little more money, and what you hoped would be a lot more opportunity. Sometimes it panned out and occasionally it didn’t.

The situation of being new to a community is what created a bond within your station team, and occasionally with individuals from other radio stations in your market, as the commonality was being without family. That created bonds where families grew together as friendships were formed. 

The McVay Family, 1995
The McVay Family, 1995

Not wanting to move again was one of the factors that led to the start of McVay Media in 1984. Our first child was 5 and had started school. My wife was pregnant with our second and last child. We were done moving. We wanted them to go to the same school system throughout their educational years. We were three hours driving to one set of grandparents to the southeast and the other set three hours to the southcentral. It was perfect for us to stay put where we live and the best way for us to do that was if we controlled our own destiny. Thus McVay Media was born. Today that choice is centered more on whether an employee can work remotely or not.

The pandemic was life-altering for many. There was absolutely nothing good about the pandemic. Some of us lost loved ones. Some lost jobs, were furloughed, and took pay cuts. It became difficult to go anywhere. Tough times. It changed where and how we live. That accelerated Work From Home and introduced a world where people didn’t have to move to work together in-person at the same location. Conversely, it did enable many in broadcasting to have lives that are more like those of the audience they’re talking to while on-air. It enabled less-than-desirable markets to attract stellar talent by allowing them to work remotely. WFH has improved the efficiency of many who work in radio. That’s inarguable.

What has been lost since the pandemic is the familial mood and spirit that existed before it. It has become more difficult to create the feeling of “team” because of the distance between talent, the difficulty of meeting in-person, and the use of multitasking making it difficult to schedule group meetings.

Culture has taken a backseat in many cases as we live in a world where executing tasks has become bigger than building and encouraging a team. We don’t have to give up on the radio family because of distance, but it takes a concerted effort and work to keep the spirit alive.

Leadership should start by acknowledging and rewarding success. They should have team meetings at a regular cadence, whatever it is so that the group is pulled together as a team. Be the attendees remote or in-person, being together is important, as that’s how you start to build a family.

It is in these meetings that you share information, provide direction to the team, acknowledge performance, and recognize accomplishment.  It is an opportunity to create a team with one goal and destination in mind. When I served as an EVP/Content & Programming for a major group, we began each Monday morning corporate programming meeting by acknowledging the company objectives and what we desired to accomplish that week. The purpose of those meetings was to share information and to feed the team the feeling of Team.

Familial Culture is important. Feeling as if you’re part of a team is important to those who work with and for you. Belonging is critical regardless of one’s origin as to where they execute their craft. Bringing together those in-house as well as those Working From Home falls to the leadership of a company and within each department.

People have a greater impact on success than anything else a radio station does in order to win. The way people move forward as a team is due to culture. There has to be one – and it has to be good.

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]. Read Mike’s Radio Ink archives here.


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