One of my favorite authors is Simon Sinek. In his 2009 book “Start With Why” he wrote that “any organization can explain what it does; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why” they do what they do.
Sinek found that all inspiring leaders and companies “think, act and communicate exactly alike.”
“They can be found in both the public and private sectors. They all have a disproportionate amount if influence in their industries. They have the most loyal customers and the most loyal employees. They tend to be more profitable than others in their industry. They are more innovative, and most importantly, they are able to sustain all these things over the long term. Many of them change industries. Some of them even change the world.”
And they think, act and communicate completely opposite of everyone else.
Has Radio Lost Its Why?
When commercial radio was born in the 1920s, radio’s why was thought to be a technology that could provide nationwide communications that would be a unifier for cultural and social systems. Radio’s regulatory guiding principle was to “operate in the public interest, convenience and/or necessity.”
When people were still trying to wrap their minds around what exactly radio would be, there was one common reoccurring theme about what radio broadcasting could do, and that was to unify a nation and create an American identity.
It could accomplish this in several areas:
- Physical Unity: the ability to unite America from coast-to-coast, border to border, with instantaneous wireless communication.
- Cultural Unity: through entertainment, news and the spoken word (English); radio could create a kind of national homogeneity.
- Institutional Unity: corporations and the federal government would come together on a mandate that this new powerful form of communications needed centralized control.
- Economic Unity: through advertising, radio could now offer national, regional and local opportunities for businesses to expose their products and services and grow our nation’s economy.
Radio vs. The Internet
Just about every business has found its original business model challenged by a population connected to the internet. Think about the original radio why areas and you can easily see how each of them has been overtaken, embellished – and depending on your point of view – improved upon by the world wide web.
The internet, it turns out, is a better innovation for addressing those original foundational tenets of radio’s purpose than radio itself. So now what?
Radio first needs to know its “WHY.” Then it needs to communicate it, clearly and simply or suffer the consequences. Bud Walters of The Cromwell Group loves to say, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Until the radio industry figures this out, getting new people to listen (or former listeners to return) will be a challenge.
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Tommy Kramer’s Two Questions
To help you get started on defining radio’s WHY for the 21st Century, I’d like to share two questions that GOODRATINGS Strategic Services consultant Tommy Kramer recently asked his readers:
- What do you have that I can’t get everywhere else?
- What do you have that I can’t get ANYWHERE else?
Tommy says that coming up with the answers to these two questions will decide your future.
I would add that working through these two questions might just uncover your new WHY for the radio industry in the 21st Century.
Simon Sinek says “When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you, but when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you.” When you develop your WHY you do what you do, it will give you the strength to keep going and a desire to keep improving with each passing day.
My Question for YOU
What do you think radio’s WHY should be in today’s world?
Please post your thoughts in the comments section on today’s blog. If we can get enough people to think about our industry’s WHY, the what and how of doing it will naturally fall into place.
If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.