Category Archives: Education

It Ain’t Over, Till It’s Over

Yogi Berra“It ain’t over, till it’s over,” one of the many phrases made popular by Yogi Berra kept popping into my mind as I sat in on several webinars these past few weeks. COVID19 is not over, so why are people acting like it is? We can expect that we will be living with this virus through all of this year and through most of 2021.

Just because we’re tired of it, doesn’t mean we can let our guard down.

“If the underlying problem is that people are afraid of interacting in close proximity, and they’re afraid to go shopping in certain ways, then the only way to get things back to normal is going to be to solve the public health problem.”

-John Friedman, Brown University economist

Nobody Has the Answers

Whether by reading the broadcast trade publications or watching webinars, it’s become abundantly clear that no one has the answers. Sadly, the radio world seems determined to turn back the clock to the way things were. Whether it be in programming or sales, you simply can’t take the way things were done and put them online. The online world is different and needs to be utilized differently.

The Medium is the Message

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan realized how important the medium carrying a message was to the process of communication. Each medium, be it print, visual, audio, musical etc., will determine how the message is perceived by the person receiving it.

You can’t take a price/item full page newspaper ad and simply print that ad on a billboard.

Every advertising person knows that a billboard message needs to be short, succinct and instantly communicated. For a driver passing by at 65 miles per hour, that means a message of about seven words.

Yet, broadcasters forget the wisdom of McLuhan when they take their over-the-air radio broadcasts and simply stream them on the internet.

The internet is a different medium, and people’s expectations for what they watch, listen to or read on the internet are likewise.

It’s Like Déjá Vu All Over Again

Yogi Berra sure knew how to turn a phrase and expose our follies.

When FM radio was born, the type of radio being done on AM was easily transferred over to this new commercial FM radio band. Why? Because both the AM and FM commercial radio bands came through the same type of receiver, a radio tuner. In other words, they utilized the same medium, the radio set.

But when listening to audio programming over the internet, the listener could be using a computer, a tablet, a smart speaker, a cellphone or any of a multitude of internet connected devices.

Different mediums entirely than AM/FM radio sets and each with different user expectations.

You Can Observe a Lot by Just Watching

Once again, Yogi points the way with his unique turn of a phrase.

As I watched the latest round of weekly webinars, one of the things that became clear was how people were moving to steaming when accessing media in their homes.

ComScore said that WiFi connected homes accounted for 68% of video consumption, with the big five streamers being Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney. These five account for 82.5% of the streaming video that’s being consumed.

Likewise, Edison Research’s Larry Rosin points out that radio listening is very much car dependent (mainly due to most cars having an AM/FM radio in the dashboard) and that when people are home, streaming is taking over.

“Radio is mainly an over-the-air product

and not a streaming one.”

-Larry Rosin, Edison Research

Think about that statement for a moment. Edison Research has found that AM/FM radios are vanishing from American homes, with 32% of households no longer owning a single radio set.

So, if people mainly use radio programming only on radio receivers, and those receivers are dwindling in homes, offices and dashboards, the radio industry’s challenge is a daunting one. Listening to audio programming will continue to grow via streaming on non-radio set devices. Radio, as we knew it, is moving in the direction of malls and movie theaters, built for a past generation.

During the stay-at-home months of April and May 2020, audio listening at home rose from a pre-COVID19 49% to 70%. This didn’t mean more OTA radio per se.Share of Ear May 2020

If the way people accessed their audio content was via streaming, they did more of that, and if they still owned a radio set, then they listened to more OTA radio.

If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going, You’ll End Up Someplace Else

And that Yogi Berra saying pretty much sums up the world right now during this pandemic. No one knows where we are going. No one has the answers. This is a period of global disruption.

What history shows us during periods of disruption is, the old ways get destroyed before the new ones get built to take over. However, COVID19 appears to be speeding up the process.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

-Yogi Berra

 

 

 

12 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio

Efficiency vs. Resilience

Rick SklarOn November 9, 1965, around 5:21pm in the afternoon, WABC listeners heard something unusual coming through the speakers on their battery powered transistor radios. WABC was playing Jonathan King’s “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon,” but it sounded different. It sounded like it needed a shot of Geritol, as the recording turned slower and slower. Even WABC’s famous chime was off key, and popular afternoon personality Dan Ingram tried to make fun of what was happening. You can hear that moment by clicking HERE.

The 1965 Northeast Blackout

As it was happening what no one knew, was that the power grid was collapsing. Inside Dan Ingram’s studio, the lights were flickering, the music cartridges were playing at slower and slower speeds and the journalists in the WABC newsroom were beginning to see the wire services report that city after city along the Eastern seaboard were going dark.dan ingram 1965

From Maine to New Jersey, America was experiencing a regional power grid failure. Many radio stations without emergency generators were silenced, but WABC was still on the air due to the station’s transmitter facility being located in Lodi, New Jersey. New Jersey was on a different power grid than New York City.

WABC would rush Dan Ingram to Lodi with a stack of records and have him continue his show from there.

Rick Sklar & Building Resilience

Rocking AmericaRick Sklar wrote in his book “Rocking America” that the blackout helped him to focus his attention on technical reliability. “A station can have the best mix of music and the top jingles, but if the tapes break, the cartridges jam, or the music fidelity is off, the ratings (aka audience) begin to evaporate,” Sklar wrote.

Early in his tenure as the program director at WABC, Sklar would be frustrated by the technical obstacles that got in the way of his building Music Radio 77 into the #1 radio station in The Big Apple.

Lessons Learned at NASA

When America was ready to put a man on the moon, Sklar decided he wanted to be there for that significant moment in history.

He was fascinated by the confidence of NASA that they would land men on the moon and bring them back home safely. He was envious of their certainty and of their equipment and systems to get the job done. He wanted to attain that same kind of certainty for WABC when he returned home to New York.

In drilling down mission control’s engineering confidence, he learned that NASA used triple measurement and triple backup on everything. Sklar would learn from Walter Häusermann, the man who designed the guidance systems for the V-2 rockets, and those of the Apollo command module, “If two of the three readings on any measurement agree, we assume that it is the third meter and not our readout that is at fault.”

WABC Builds Resilience

When Rick Sklar got back home, he began to implement what he had learned at NASA, in the operations at WABC. He built two identical main control rooms and made sure a production studio could act as an air studio if needed. He built the studios with eight cart machines, instead of the previous five, three being ready in case of a failure of any of the primary five machines. He had every one of the two thousand-odd cartridges that made up the WABC sound, duplicated for each studio. The studio to transmitter broadcast land lines were broken into a northern and southern route from the main studios to the transmitter site in Lodi, with a microwave link as the third method for delivering programming to the transmitter.

George Michael WABC in NASA inspired studio

George Michael at WABC in NASA inspired air studio (photo by Frank D’Elia)

Rick Sklar had thoroughly reviewed every element of the operation and implemented ample redundancy to insure a consistent and reliable delivery system for his programming.

Resiliency in People

There’s only so much repetition in equipment that can protect you from disruptions, in order to truly have a “fail-safe” operation, you must have good backup people.

And there’s the real rub in today’s radio world. Where are the people?

As I wrote in last week’s blog, Good Money After Bad, the need to build efficiency in my Sussex, New Jersey radio property saw the elimination of not only full-time employees but the backup people so critical in providing the over-the-air and online services so necessary during times of winter storms.

Global Pandemic

COVID19 is revealing the tradeoffs between building operating systems for efficiency, versus resiliency. These tradeoffs have been occurring in all areas of corporate America, not just broadcasting. This pandemic presents us all with opportunities to rethink of how prepared we are to handle a Black Swan Event. It also has shown us ,simply doing things the way they’ve always been done, isn’t necessarily how they can be done or should be done going forward.

Resiliency and efficiency are polar opposites and every business needs to mind its bottom line and deliver a profit to stay in business. The leaders will learn to invest in resilience efficiently.

Look for that to be the in demand skill in all companies as we digest the lessons of this global event.

 

12 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio

Good Money After Bad

Air Canada (2)Would you invest more money in a company that takes your money and won’t refund it during a global pandemic, instead preferring to hide behind policies designed for the way things used to be before COVID19?

I think not.

The Travel Industry

Let me share with you two stories that happened to me recently involving our 2020 travel plans.

These stories involve an airline and a cruise line. While we realize that both of these industries are being dramatically challenged, the way they handle the short-term will most surely impact their long-term survival.

Royal Caribbean International Cruise Lines

My wife and I planned to visit the only state in the United States neither of us had ever been too before, Alaska. We made plans to cruise to Alaska from Vancouver, BC.

Before our cruise, we would fly to Nevada for my oldest son’s wedding, then drive up to Montana to visit my wife’s daughter and family, to be followed with a drive to Washington state to visit another daughter and family.

On the 4th of July we planned to Amtrak from Washington state to Vancouver, BC and board our cruise ship for a weeklong trip to Alaska. We made plans for off-shore excursions during the cruise and paid for everything in advance.

We planned to fly from Vancouver, BC to Washington, DC to get back home.

Then COVID19 hit and we had to cancel everything.

Amtrak refunded our money, the off-shore excursions company refunded our money, the hotels along the way all accepted our cancellations with no fees, but Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines wouldn’t refund our $500 deposit.

How do you think we feel when they send us new offers to take a cruise with them?

Air Canada

Air Canada was the airline we had selected to fly back home from Vancouver, BC when our cruise returned to port. We paid for business class tickets to get seats with a little extra room. Total cost for two tickets, paid-in-advance on February 5, 2020, $1,185.38.

We booked directly with the airline on their website.

Then on March 10, 2020 we receive notice from Medicare saying that the “CDC is advising older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney diseases, are at a higher risk of serious illness if they contract the COVID19 virus.” That “means that most people with Medicare are at a higher risk,” they wrote.

“Your health, safety, and welfare is our highest priority,” wrote the Medicare email.

It went out to spell out activities that we should not engage in:

  • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces with limited air circulation.
  • Defer all cruise ship travel worldwide, particularly if you also have underlying health issues.
  • Avoid situations that put you at increased risk, including non-essential travel such as long plane trips.

But Air Canada doesn’t recognize any of this as a valid reason that I would then go to their website and cancel our two plane tickets on March 23, 2020. Instead of offering a refund, they said we could have a travel voucher to use good through March 30, 2021.

How do you think we feel when they send us new offers to fly with Air Canada?

How do you think this makes us feel about even wanting to visit our neighbors to the north?

COVID19 Closed Border

Currently the border between America and Canada is closed. We couldn’t even get to the Royal Caribbean cruise ship if we wanted, nor could we board an Air Canada plane in Vancouver.

That’s something I don’t remember ever happening in my lifetime.

Would it be fair to say these are extenuating circumstances that call for forbearance of rules regarding customer refunds created before the COVID19 global pandemic?

How Much Is a Customer Worth?

What companies often forget is the lifetime value of a customer when they make decisions in the short-term. Repeat business is the way you build a business.

Sadly, the above mentioned companies won’t be seeing us beating a path to their door.

But worse, they’ve now made ALL cruise lines and ALL airlines suspect about their business practices.

Guilt by Association

I learned this lesson from one of my clients, an AAMCO Transmission repair shop. He told me that a lot of people considered transmission repair places to be underhanded. Stories about putting saw dust in the transmission to temporarily solve a problem and make a quick buck instead of doing the actual work of repairing it.

He said when any transmission shop cheated a customer in anyway, it reflected badly on all transmission repair businesses.

I never forgot that lesson when I became a radio station manager.

Storm Center

When I managed a cluster of radio stations for Clear Channel Radio in Sussex, New Jersey we sold an annual package to our clients that gave them immediate access to our airwaves and website to inform their customers of their reduced or changed hours of operation, due to a snow/ice storm, or if they would be closed completely. It was a solid revenue source for my radio stations and appeared as a line item in my budget.

It took a lot of extra manpower to staff our storm center handling calls from listeners and businesses and getting everything broadcast on our four radio stations and their individual websites.

Then the Clear Channel RIFs came along. (RIF = Reduction In Force) I was told by my regional manager that the company’s new automated online system would replace the need for all those people and not to worry.

When the first storm hit, the system crashed. It happened again during the second storm of the season too. I gave our IT people in New York City a tongue lashing, which got me an angry call from my regional manager telling me to stop calling the people in New York and bothering them with my problem.

I never called New York again.

Instead I walked down the hall to my business manager and told her to refund every dollar our clients had paid us to be a part of our storm center and composed a letter to go with the refund checks saying that due to unforeseen circumstances, we could not deliver on what we had promised. Our company’s new automated system had bugs that were being addressed but that I had no idea when they would be fixed. However, we would still do our best with our limited staff to air their cancellation notices and then post them on our websites at no charge.

I didn’t lose a single advertiser, and proceeded to take this lemon of a situation and turn it into lemonade.

Customer Service

People don’t care what you say your customer service policy is. All the flowery language in the world will never camouflage the actions you take in response to a customer’s problem.

Everyone knows what the right thing to do is, in any given situation.

Best management advice I can share with you is, just do the right thing.

P.S.

When it came time to review my quarterly results against my budget, my regional manager asked why I had gone from $30,000 to zero in storm center revenue. When I told him what I had done, you can imagine he was none too happy about it.

However, our revenues and bottom line for that year both exceeded our budget, proving to me you can never go wrong when you do the right thing.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

Where Will You Be in Five Years

50th ReunionIn August 2015, the high school classes of PHS, THS and SJHS held their 45th class reunion. The weather was spectacular and members of all three high schools traveled back to The Berkshires to laugh, reminisce and enjoy good times together. We parted knowing that our next reunion, would be the milestone golden reunion.

I’m sure if anyone had done a poll asking alumni where they would be in five years, they would have responded with something like, I hope to be alive and back home in Pittsfield for the 50th. No one would have answered, stuck at home, avoiding a novel coronavirus, wondering if we’d run out of toilet paper, watching our nation’s cities with protests, reminiscent of the 1960s, seeing unemployment inching its way towards that of The Great Depression and wondering if our retirement savings wouldn’t vanish with another economic collapse. No, none of us were thinking those things.

50 Years Later

Here we are, 50 years later, Sunday June 7th 2020 is the same day of the week it was when we all graduated in 1970, except this time nothing will be like it was 50 years ago. In 1970, the high temperature of the day was 73 degrees, visibility was over 24 miles, winds were blowing at a gentle 5 to 6 miles per hour and the sun was shining brightly.

The 70s

1970 was the year the U.S. Military invaded Cambodia and Laos, George Wallace led a major backlash against racial integration, the Environmental Protection Agency was created under Republican President Richard M. Nixon, an explosion aboard Apollo 13 forced the space craft to make an emergency return to Earth, the first Earth Day to stop pollution was celebrated, Bobby Orr scores an Over Time Win leading the Boston Bruins to a 4-0 sweep of the Stanley Cup over the St. Louis Blues, Casey Kasem debuted “American Top 40” on the radio, you could buy a gallon of gas for 36 cents and life expectancy was 70.8.

We’re Getting Older

That last statistic, life expectancy, weighs heavy on the Class of 1970 for most of us are turning 68 this year and due to COVID19, our 50th Class Reunion in October has been cancelled. The class leaders are hoping it can be held in either the summer or fall of 2021, but for now, everything is up-in-the-air.

50 Years Earlier

All of this is quite a change from June of 1970 when the number one song playing on radios everywhere was “Everything Is Beautiful” by Ray Stevens. 50 years later, things simply don’t appear all that beautiful at the moment.

Speaking of radio, I would begin my radio career in the 10th grade of high school when Dick Taylor WBECthrough a new Junior Achievement program, I would take my first steps into a commercial radio station. I would pass my FCC broadcast license exam six months later, landing a position as a commercial broadcaster.

53 years later, I still am broadcasting on the radio, from my home in Virginia over 105.9 WMEX-FM in New Hampshire and streaming over the internet on TuneIn radio.

I started this media mentorship blog six years ago, writing and publishing articles about broadcasting every Sunday morning.

2020 Graduates

The Class of 2020 finds their graduations being held online, or as a drive-up, like getting a takeout order from a fast food restaurant. The most positive spin on these aborted high school graduations being a lawn sign that read, “They closed the world for us. Congratulations Class of 2020.”

The Clock is Ticking

The Class of 1970 has waited 600 months, 2,609 weeks, 18,265 days, 438,360 hours to celebrate its Golden Reunion, but who’s counting.

Sadly, we have been counting the classmates we’ve lost over these 50 years, 111 for all three high schools, from a three high school graduating class of 891, including the first graduating class for Taconic High School.

We’re Baby Boomers. A generation that was so big that Pittsfield needed three high schools to accommodate us.

We may have been separate back then and even competitive, but today we are one.

Stay Safe Everyone and we’ll see you in 2021.

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio

I Want It Now

I want it nowGrowing up telling mom or dad that I wanted something now, got the usual response of “you will have to work for it” or “you’ll get it when it’s ready.” Learning that good things come to those who wait was part of my maturing process.

But not any longer.

Google

I remember when I wanted to know about something, I either had to spend some time going through our family’s World Book Encyclopedia or take a trip to the library. But not any longer, I just Google it.

Alexa

I’ve been able to stream radio around the world for years, but it never became easier than when Alexa entered my world. Now, anything I want to know or hear, I simply ask Alexa, and that little genie in my Echo serves it up. My wish is Alexa’s command.

FOX TV

Remember when we used to have television seasons? Every fall, I couldn’t wait for TV Guide to arrive to plan out my TV viewing strategy.  ABC, NBC and CBS would introduce lots of new shows every fall and it was a big deal.

Then FOX changed things up while working to become America’s fourth television network. FOX began introducing new shows during the summer, and winter break, while ABC, NBC and CBS were showing re-runs.

Now new television programs are a year-round affair. Gone are pilots, re-runs and the fall season being the only time networks introduce brand new shows.

Netflix

But the most dramatic change to the introduction of a new television series happened five years ago when Netflix started releasing an entire season’s worth of shows, all at the same time. Netflix now gave viewers a choice in how you could watch a new season. You could watch on a weekly basis, watch a new episode every night, or binge watch the entire season.

Binge watching became the preferred method.

Disney+

Which is why I was surprised to hear Disney+ announce that it would be releasing its new shows an episode a week. History has shown with many different products and services, that you can’t go back to the way things used to be. I wish the mouse house good luck.

Knowing Your Audience

Netflix spends a lot of time trying to understanding what their subscribers want and like. They’re adamant that releasing an entire season all at once won’t ever change. They cite two reasons for this:

  • TV viewers have moved away from appointment viewing in droves, preferring to watch shows ON DEMAND, often by binge watching, and
  • 2) Netflix has found that people tend to watch only one show at a time. In other words, once a Netflix viewer finds a television series they like, they will watch all the episodes of that program before moving on to another show.

Netflix knows a happy customer remains a paying customer.

Reflecting on my own Netflix viewing habits, I would have to agree that I’m hooked on the concept of ON DEMAND television viewing and when I start a Netflix TV series, I watch the entire series, usually several episodes a night, until I’ve finished it. I’ve watched Downtown Abbey that way twice now.

Radio vs Podcasting

GoldsteinIs there a lesson for radio broadcasters from what I just shared about television viewing habits? I think there is. Programmer Steve Goldstein puts it this way, “Traditional radio – by design – is a lean-back business. Podcasting is a lean-in business.” That perfectly describes the difference between Netflix (lean-in) and broadcast (lean-back) commercial television.

These changing media habits are not just a temporary thing.

These changes in how people want to access and use media are the future, and we can’t wish the past back, no matter how much we might want to.

Goldstein says a podcast needs to be “thumb stopping.” By that he means the listener doesn’t exit the program and move on to something else with a press of their thumb.

Because of push button pre-sets, radio stations know all too well how easy it is for car radio listeners to change stations when something they don’t want or like comes on. Today, it’s in the car where most broadcast radio listening takes place.

Sadly, radio operators aren’t acknowledging this reality in the digital world.

Mad Men

Matt Weiner, the creator of the Mad Men television series that played on A & E, said that if he ever approached Netflix to run one of his shows, he would try to convince them to release the episodes on a weekly basis.matt weiner

It’s the same kind of thinking old timers in radio might suggest when they talk about how to make radio great again.

What would Netflix tell Mr. Weiner if he pitched his idea of releasing his programs a week at a time?

“He would lose,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s content chief.

Radio should think of this reality as its “canary in the coal shaft” moment.

 

8 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

Thank You Jason Jennings

jennings

Photo by Barbara Ries

In 1979, two major life-changing events occurred around the same time. One, I got married and two, I left the programming, operations, and on-air side of the radio business to enter radio sales. Both would change my life forever.

Before I ever set one foot on the street to sell a radio ad, my new company’s owner would send me to sales training. The trainer was Jason Jennings, and when I finished the day with him, I could not wait to get out on the street to begin selling radio advertising.

Jason William Jennings

Jason was born on May 31, 1952 in Ishpeming, Michigan. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Detroit. His politics back then were listed as Republican and his religion Lutheran.

I didn’t realize that when I first met Jason to undergo radio sales training, we were the same age, 27. He was so self-assured, confident and in total command of the room. He told everyone to take off their wrist watches and be prepared to take notes. I remember filling up my note book with what he was telling us.

What most amazed me was he taught for an entire day and everything he shared was stored in his mind. Not a single note did he ever refer too.

Only recently have I learned that while Jason and I started off as Republicans, we both were now progressives in our political views, we are both of the Lutheran faith and both aged 67.

Music was also a part of our lives, Jason played the viola and I the trombone.

AVI Communications, Inc

I met Pat “Spark” Shaughnessy at a radio conference back in the 90s. We were sitting next to one another and he introduced himself. That led to hanging out during the meetings and forming a friendship by the time the conference ended. Pat invited me to review a new radio sales training video program he had just finished with Jason Jennings. He sent me the entire program and I would watch every second of it and read the workbook materials. I then sent Pat a multi-page document with my thoughts.

Years later, when I was working on an advanced radio sales course for my university’s School of Broadcasting and Journalism, I contacted Pat to see if I could purchase two copies of the Quantum Sales Training Broadcast System for my students.

The program by now had been bought for thousands of dollars by over 600 TV stations, 2,000 radio stations and several hundred cable systems. Today, one copy of the series sits in the WKU main library and the other copy in the school of broadcasting.

The basics of the program, written and hosted by Jason, are timeless. I’ve used the DVD on Negotiation in sales training at all of the radio stations I’ve managed and in my introductory sales classes at the university.

LinkedIN & Facebook

I believe it was through LinkedIN that Jason first reached out to me to reconnect. More recently, Jason asked to be friends on Facebook. I’m embarrassed I didn’t ask him first. I believe it was because I so looked up to him as a mentor and felt asking would be a bother. Jason obviously didn’t feel that way.

Over time, I learned we were in concert on so many things, like what’s important in sales, management, politics and life.

A Better Tomorrow

Jason really cared about people. Somehow this man who was named among the twenty-five best speakers in America by the Nationwide Speakers Bureau, a bestselling author and media consultant always found the time to drop me a note and wish me well. I’m sure I was not the only one Jason did this to.

During his keynote addresses, it was normal for Jason to ask the audience “How many of you want your tomorrows to be better than today for you and your family?” He knew how to tap into our universal human desires in a real and genuine way.

“Ensure your heart is in the right place with a genuine desire to help highly principled people reach their full potential,” was how Jason’s podcasting co-host, Dale Dixon, defined Jason Jennings’s purpose in life.

Selling is Like Doctoring

In life, there are some phrases you come in contact with that become a part of you. When seeking to know what an advertising client was expecting from his radio campaign, Roy H. Williams taught me to always ask, “How will you measure success?” From Zig Ziglar I learned, “You can get anything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

From Jason Jennings I learned, “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” In other words, before you can begin to advise any client what he needs to do to improve his business you first need to learn, where it hurts, what’s going wrong, what’s the breakdown that’s causing business to languish.

For me, Jason’s phrase spoke to my unending curiosity. I loved asking clients lots and lots of questions; about their life, their families, their business, then using what I learned to create unique, one-of-a-kind advertising programs to increase their business.

Are Radio Groups Mis-Training Sellers?

Back in October of 2012, my radio friend Barry Cohen wrote an article for Radio Ink taking the radio industry to task for the lack of radio sales training. Barry wrote, “When I started selling radio advertising, the first thing my sales manager did was hand me one of Jason Jennings’ books, which I promptly ‘devoured.’ As I moved to each station, my managers continued to give me the good stuff, exposing me to the likes of Chris Lytle (who just turned 70 this month), Irwin Pollack, Pam Lontos and, of course, RAB sales training materials.”

For many of us, Jason Jennings was one of a handful of training professionals that radio people held in very high esteem.

Don’t Let Radio End Up Like Yahoo!

In August of 2016, I wrote a blog article based on one of Jason’s “Game Changers” podcasts. I applied the lessons Jason learned from his analysis of why Yahoo! disintegrated to the radio industry. “Don’t Let Radio End Up Like Yahoo!” was the fourth most read article on my blog in 2016.

In reviewing that article’s advice, it strikes me that this is how Jason Jennings lived his own life.

  • Know what you’re all about
  • Have a set of guiding principles
  • Don’t use a business like a personal piggy bank
  • Don’t try to be all things to all people
  • Don’t copy the competition

Jason Jennings was an original who pursued perfection and achieved excellence.

I will always be grateful to Jason Jennings for giving me a solid foundation upon which I was able to build a successful radio and teaching career.

A global community of sales and management professionals are saddened by Jason’s sudden and unexpected death this month from a ruptured aorta aneurysm.

We will always be grateful for all he taught us.

 

 

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

What Is Normal?

What Is NormalA reader of this blog recently asked me if things would one day return to “normal.” They said that over the past ten years, they’ve moved beyond wondering “why” there have been so many massive changes and disruptions in our lives, pondering now if things will ever settle down.

Will we ever get back to “normal,” or is this our “new normal?”

Is it possible, “never normal,” is where we are headed?

Normal

If you look up “normal” in the dictionary, you will see that as a noun “normal” is defined as “the usual, average or typical state or condition.”

What do you consider “normal” temperature for where you live? What do you consider average as the amount of time you interact with other people? What is the typical state or condition of your car?

When we think about “normal” in this way, we quickly realize that temperatures are constantly changing; by the hour, the day, the week, the month, the year, and so on. When we apply that to personal interactions with others, again you’re probably thinking to yourself things like, are we talking about a weekday, weekend, holiday, vacation etc. And when it comes to your car, its condition changes with every mile you put on the odometer.

In other words, “normal” means things are constantly changing.

When Were Things Ever Normal?

When you really start to think about the concept of “normal,” you quickly realize this thing called normal never existed.

What we have are periods in our lives when things are going well (and we like to think this is “normal”) and other periods where things are completely FUBAR*(we call these times “not normal”).

The truth is, normal life is constant change.

History’s Lessons

History doesn’t repeat, but often rhymes.

Do you think the village blacksmith wondered as cars drove down the streets past his shop, when this “fad” would end and people would return to riding horses or in carriages pulled by horses? I’m sure he did.

In April 1860, pony express moved mail across the country faster than ever before, but for only 18-months before it was then replaced by the wired telegraph.

As wireless telegraphy was born, the wired telegraph would see its challenges.

Morse Code, with the dots & dashes communication method of the telegraph, saw its demise with the transmission of voice and music through the ether.

Television would add pictures to radio’s sound, leading many to predict the end of radio. But radio didn’t end, it changed with the times and was reborn for a new generation of youth who listened to it for hours on transistor radios.

Then the biggest disruption of all arrived, the iPhone. Now this singular device has replaced your cellphone, typewriter, camera, video camera, radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, computer, tablet, flashlight, credit cards, keys, tape recorder, note pad, iPod, GPS, blood pressure monitor and more that I’m sure I’m forgetting about.

Having an iPhone or similar Android device many would call the “new normal.” It’s almost hard to consider a world where, it too, has been replaced by something even better and more essential to our lives.

You Can’t Go Back

I first heard this advice when I was taking a film making course in college. My instructor told the class, be sure you get every shot you need when you’re out filming your movie, because you can’t ever go back and shoot something you missed at a future date. Things change, and nothing will be like it was, the first time you were there.

My film was about glass blowing. The day I was to film the making of a glass vase, the glass blower welcomed me. He was sporting long hair and a beard. The molten glass he was working with that day was green and produced a lovely green glass vase.

I filmed every part of the process of making a vase, from the liquid molten glass in the furnace to the rolling, blowing, shaping, cutting and cooling of the glass into a finished product.

I was so grateful to the glassblower for allowing me to come to his shop and film him that I bought that green glass vase.

Back when I was in school, filming was really shooting on film, 16mm film. That meant shipping the undeveloped film off to Kodak for processing and then waiting for the film to return so I could view it and begin the process of editing the footage into a final 15-minute film.

It wasn’t until I was viewing the rough footage that I discovered some of my shots were out-of-focus. There was simply no way to complete my film without some key parts of the process included.

So, I called up the glass blower and made an appointment to come back to his shop and film those sections I needed.

When I arrived, he had shaved off his beard, gotten a crew cut, and was now working with purple glass.

My instructor, unbeknownst to me, would buy that second purple glass vase to give to me for Christmas that year and to bring home the point that I indeed, “could not go back.” Things always change.

Change

If you’re really honest with yourself, you want change in your life. You want to learn new things, see new movies and TV shows, hear new music, visit new places, watch your children grow up and so much more.

We want change that makes us happy, we don’t want change that doesn’t.

I seriously doubt anyone would want to give up their smartphone that’s connected to the internet, no matter how much we may pine for simpler times.

Change in our lives, is like normal in our lives, it’s individually defined. Others may look at our life and call it abnormal.

Normal is change from sunrise to sunset. Normal is changes in weather and seasons. Normal is also pandemics, being a cycle that can span decades or a century.

What Does This Have to Do with Radio/TV?

OK, this is a blog where I write about radio/TV and you may wonder what any of what I wrote so far has to do with broadcasting, well here it comes.

Jeffrey Katzenberg put it this way, “One thing that’s happened to me in 45-years of being in Hollywood, and in this industry is, I’ve never seen an instance where real quality entertainment hasn’t found an audience.”

While some say “Radio is dead,” or more specifically “AM Radio is dead,” this past April we saw that AM Radio (WOR) was #1 on Long Island, AM Radio (KFI) was #1 in Los Angeles, AM Radio (WBBM) was #1 in Chicago, AM Radio (KCBS) was #1 in San Francisco, AM Radio (WSB) was #1 in Atlanta, and AM Radio (WWJ) was tied for #1 in Detroit. I’m sure there are others, but I think you get my point.

Mr. Katzenberg has it right, when you provide content that people want, they will find you, even if it’s on the AM Radio Dial.

Change is normal and wanting to hold on to the past that has been romanticized in our memories, is normal.

But what never changes is people are born, they age, and they die.

Success belongs to those who can touch the most hearts with their product or service, and make a difference in their lives.

The only way RADIO or TV will lose, is if they do it to themselves.

Broadcasting holds the keys to its success in its own hands.

Will they use them to unlock all they are capable of?

—————————————————————————————

*FUBAR is a military term that means out of working order; seriously, perhaps irreparably, damaged. For a more literal definition of this acronym, Google FUBAR.

 

10 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

Reflecting on Life’s Lessons

Tom Hanks as Mr RogersThe other evening, I re-watched the excellent Tom Hanks movie about Fred Rogers, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Be sure to have a box of tissues next you too.

During the movie, a character who’s dying, says to his son, “It’s not fair, you know? I think I’m just now starting to figure out how to live my life.”

That line stuck with me because, I’ve had those same feelings at different points in my life. They come when one phase of your life is ending, and you feel like you finally got good at it, but now it’s over. Like raising your children, it’s not until they leave the house to venture out on their own you feel like you finally have parenting figured out, and now that part of your life is over. When I finally left radio, to teach broadcasting at the university, I thought I’d finally figured out radio management, only now to try and teach what I knew, to my students. And when I retired from teaching, I thought how I had finally figured out that profession, only to now be seeing it too, come to an end.

Blogging

I started this mentoring blog over five years ago for the purpose of sharing with my students and my graduates, things that I had learned that might be beneficial to them on their life’s journey.

In today’s blog, I’m going to try and reflect on life’s lessons.

There’s More to Life Than…

Once upon a time, kids used to dream about what they wanted to be when they grew up. When Art Linkletter’s TV show “Kids Say the Darndest Things” asked kids this question, the answers were things like a postman, a policeman, an actor, a doctor, a teacher, but when kids today are asked that same question, the answer is “rich.”

Why do you think that the pursuit of making vast sums of money became the focus of today’s youth? Has our media, movies/TV/radio, been the driver of this change? Our parents?

The Great Recession was a real lesson in how no occupation is safe, and how what makes you happy, is what’s really important in life, not how much money one makes. Your family, your friends, learning and growing in responsibilities, and helping others are life’s greatest rewards.

Do What You Love

Early in my life, I wanted to be a disc jockey on the radio. DJs weren’t the richest folks in town, but they sure were the people creating good times, doing exciting things in their communities and making an impact on people’s lives.

The other career I wanted to pursue was teaching. I thought about teaching in the halls of ivy for most of my professional radio career. Just as I had envisioned, the final chapter of my working life was teaching broadcasting, sales and management, at a university.

Be Grateful for the Good in Your Life

It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself or thinking everything bad happens to you. We all have challenges in our life. No one has a “Disney Fast Pass” that allows us to bypass the speed bumps life puts in our way. What makes the difference is how you deal with those hard times and what you choose to focus on. Make time each day to be grateful for the good things in your life. Notice what’s going right and be grateful.

It can be as simple as being grateful that you have a bed to sleep in, enough food to eat or a hot shower to start your day.

Balancing Your Life

We all have the same number of hours in a day. How you decide to allocate your time, energy and talent will ultimately impact the life you will lead.

Life is filled with uncertainty, but if you have a strategy for how you will live your life every day, and keep your goals in front of you, you will be amazed at what you can achieve.

The relationship you have with your family is your most enduring source of happiness, but often when we’re starting our careers, we let our work dominate our focus. We over invest in our career causing us to under invest in our family. We let immediate gratification disrupt what’s really important in our lives.Trouble with trouble

Creating a Culture

Glassdoor just released their 2020 “Best Companies to Work” list. Companies that embrace a culture-first ethos made the top of the list. Culture defines how you prioritize the different types of problems you confront. Culture is what drives people’s engagement and creates a place they enjoy being in.

Culture, both at work and at home, can create an environment that causes employees and family members to instinctively do the right thing.

The choice you have is whether to consciously build a positive, nurturing, respectful culture or let one evolve inadvertently. Both ways, take time, only one builds a foundation for strong self-esteem and confidence that will prove invaluable over time.

Everyone You Meet Can Teach You Something

No matter how far in life you’ve gone, or how many degrees, or medals, or trophies you’ve earned, stay humble. Every person you meet carries knowledge about life that you can benefit from. Stay curious and be willing to soak up the wisdom from everyone that you come in contact with.

Having Enough

There’s an old saying that says, “He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”

Sadly, we live in times where everyone wants more and more and more. Maybe it’s to keep up with “The Jones” next door, or the people we see on TV, or the people we work with or people we grew up with.

The irony in life is too much of anything becomes toxic.

You already have everything in life to make you happy, the secret is embracing what you have and being grateful for it.

Your Only Possession No One Can Take from You

Life is full of uncertainties. So much of what we have, our jobs, our possessions, and our health, can be taken away from us in a moment’s notice. But there is one thing that no one can take away from us, and that is our values.

Your values were instilled in you from your parents, your school, your civic engagements, your church and others who were your mentors, or in other words, from the culture you were raised in.

The only one who can take your values away from you, is you.

You never will go wrong by doing the right thing.

Savor Every Moment

One of the things I would say at employee gatherings of radio stations I’ve managed was, “Look around the room, soak in this moment. I know I am. I’m grateful for each and every one of you. What a wonderful opportunity it is to spend every day with people who love what they do, are good at what they do, and work hard to be the best they can be. Thank You for being a part of this wonderful family.”

I used to say something similar at every family gathering, with the additional caveat that one day, we won’t all be here, as God calls us home. My oldest son used to say, “Dad, you always say that!” To which I would say, “And sadly, one day I will be right.”

As members of our family have passed on, he has learned how true those words are.

Difficult times teach us how to be strong. Good times let us enjoy life’s sunshine.

Both go by so fast.

Slow down and enjoy the things that really matter.

happy mother's day

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

Wave Goodbye to the Handshake

don't handshakeCOVID-19 will change our world in so many ways. Dr. Anthony Fauci said he hopes the world will end the custom of handshakes going forward. It’s a custom that dates back to the 5th century B.C. in Greece. It was a symbol of peace and a way to demonstrate that neither person was carrying a weapon.

What wasn’t known was that handshaking can transmit germs, bacteria, and viruses (like the common cold and flu) as well as the current pandemic causing COVID-19. Now that we know this, why would we continue this ancient tradition?

Common Cup

The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19 was raging in America when in Winchester, Virginia, Austin A. Kelly would begin his ministry at the church my wife and I are members of, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. Because of this global pandemic the chalice, or common cup, at the administration of the Lord’s Supper was to be abolished in favor of the individual glasses.

The first communion services conducted by Pastor Kelly during the Easter services of 1919 gave communicants the option of either drinking from the common cup or receiving their wine via individual cups. Virtually all communicants preferred the new innovation, and from that point until the present day, individual cups have been the way wine has been received at Grace Church.

YouTube Easter Service

I learned about all of this as my wife and I attended the 2020 Easter Service at our church via YouTube.

In January of 1942, Grace Church began the radio broadcasting of church services over WINC-1400AM. Those radio broadcasts ended long before our arrival in Winchester, Virginia.

COVID-19 would see Grace Church forced to innovate again by broadcasting its services on its newly created YouTube channel.

Will some members of the church prefer to attend church via a YouTube channel or Facebook page versus attending services wearing a mask and protective gloves going forward? Only time will tell.

What we do know is that global events, like world wars, depressions and pandemics bring about lasting changes and a new normal.

What We Can Learn from the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919

Much like with COVID-19, there were no vaccines or treatments for the Spanish flu when the outbreak spread. The only ways to mitigate it’s spread was to have people isolate themselves from one another via self-quarantine.

What history has shown is that cities that took the Spanish flu seriously did better than those that didn’t.

By the way, how the name “Spanish flu” came about has its own interesting story. The 1918 pandemic began near the end of World War I. Countries engaged in the war limited journalist to reporting only positive or encouraging news, and so reporting anything about this flu bug was forbidden, but Spain was a neutral country during this war and so its newspapers reported on the flu outbreak popularizing the term “Spanish Influenza.”

It should also be noted that influenza pandemics have been regularly occurring every thirty to forty years since the 16th century. So, the COVID-19 pandemic shouldn’t really have caught the world by surprise.

One study of the 1918-1919 flu pandemic that I found interesting was the impact it made on the cities of Philadelphia and St. Louis. When the first cases of the Spanish flu showed up in St. Louis, it took the city only two days to close schools, libraries, courthouses, churches, theaters, playgrounds as well as other venues where numbers of people usually congregate. Philadelphia didn’t take similar actions until two weeks after their first cases of the flu were diagnosed.

St. Louis city’s quick action saw its death rate one-eighth of what Philadelphia experienced from the pandemic. However, when things looked better and social distancing measures were rolled back, a second wave of the flu struck and deaths went up again. In fact, the second wave of the flu (October 1918) proved to be deadlier than the first (March 1918), and by the time it was over in 1920, 675,000 Americans would have lost their lives.

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us

Each society produces its own specific vulnerabilities. In 1918, it was American soldiers returning from World War I that would bring home the Spanish flu.

Yale historian Frank Snowden has studied the impact infectious diseases have made over the centuries and notes that they have “altered outcomes of wars, inspired political reform, demolished revolutions, transformed entire societies’, relationships with God and fundamentally changed the course of human history.”

For positive change to take place, it will take leadership from the top and a realization from all citizens on how important the role of government is in creating a national plan for their health and well-being. It’s our current health and economic crisis that brings home the results you get when government abdicates its role.

Free Market Thoughts

Capitalism thrives on infinite growth, but we live on a planet with finite resources.

For most of my broadcasting career, every year brought double digit revenue growth at my radio stations, until America’s Great Recession of 2008. Revenue growth never returned to that level in the decade since, yet the number of radio signals in America has continued to grow. The radio industry has created an infinite number of advertising avails in a world with a finite number of advertising dollars.

It’s a myth to think that we can grow everything infinitely without facing the consequences.

A Big Re-Think

No one has the answer to all the world’s current problems. Any plan that has a chance of succeeding needs to take a collective, collaborative effort to devise a global society that lives in harmony with its climate, its resources, its economies and the lives of its people.

I’m hopeful that COVID-19 is the wake-up call that begins real meaningful change in every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

 

10 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

Nobody Wins Until We All Do

COVID19 ImageThe current pandemic is not a sporting event. We are either all winners or we are all losers. Unlike anything in our lifetime, we are all in this together, at the same time, on every continent.

I believe COVID-19 is the worldwide wake-up call, that we all needed. That we need to embrace the rule that nobody wins until we all do.

Today’s Heroes

The real heroes of this pandemic are the healthcare workers, the truck drivers, the delivery people, the grocery store workers, garbage collectors, the scientists working on a cure, the journalists keeping us informed, the people who keep our infrastructure of water, sewer, electrical and other power grids operating and our internet working.

The real heroes are those people we took for granted, the people we never cared about or understood the vital role they play, we just assumed they would always be there.

COVID-19 is teaching the world the true meaning of what it means to be an “essential worker.”

An Interconnected World

In a world so interconnected, we’ve never been more dependent on others. The world before COVID-19 rewarded the few with untold riches, while the many lived paycheck-to-paycheck.

It’s time for the world to embrace what all of the world’s great religions have taught.

In the Gospel of Luke, we read that Jesus’ last words as he hung on the cross were “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Jesus understood that nobody wins until we all do.

Stay home, stay safe.

4 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor