Anyone who’s done it knows that hiring, managing and coaching radio people has never been an easy task. We’re a different breed. Most of us tend to march to the beat of our own drum, we’re often better talkers than listeners and we’re generally comprised of a delicate balance of confidence and insecurities. But now, with our industry at a crossroads trying to determine how to stay viable in a world dominated by digital content creators, the job of hiring, managing and coaching radio personnel has never been harder or more critical for the health of our industry. That being said, here are a few of my thoughts on what being a radio leader should look like in 2024 and beyond.
Leaders have to start by identifying our goals and working backwards. Look at where we want our groups to be in 2025 and create a strategic plan for getting there that’s bold but realistic. Determine where our revenue should be terrestrially, digitally, through our events as well as any non-traditional revenue. Then, invest in the tools and make the structural changes needed to get there based on a combination of how we’d structure our groups if we started from scratch today and a historical understanding of what’s traditionally worked for us.
Set rules and requirements and pair that with a system of rewards that everyone participates in. The days of opting out of things are gone. We’re all understaffed. It’s time for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach where we identify everyone’s strengths so we can play to them, but find a way for everyone on our payrolls to contribute and drive listenership, clicks and revenue. However, asking everyone to contribute more for the same money, or less, is never a good strategy. That’s why we encourage our clients to set realistic but ambitious revenue, listenership and engagement goals and then create a bonus pool that kicks in if those goals are met that’s shared with all employees based on performance reviews.
But, leaders also have to understand that a one-size fits all approach won’t work. While minimum requirements are necessary across the board now, that doesn’t mean that we manage everyone exactly the same. Radio staffs are made up of a wide variety of personality types that are motivated by vastly different things. Some you can shoot straight and not mince words, others need 90% praise and 10% constructive criticism (most on-air performers). Plus, every group tends to have one or two that are only going to get on board if they’re shown it’s in their own best interest to do so. Every employee we pay to do work on our behalf in this industry is critically important to our mission now because they represent limited dollars that could be spent elsewhere. So, being a leader in 2024 requires a willingness to adapt our coaching styles to fit personnel and unique situations while also making the hard decisions to move on in a few limited cases.
Leaders also have to question everything. We should evaluate everything we’re doing in all departments, be open to creative ways to structure job titles and descriptions and willing to try things differently which might include marrying some old school ideas with new technology. Unfortunately, we also have to cut any unnecessary fat so we can afford to spend strategically. If it’s not driving listenership, clicks or revenue, and we don’t have a short-term plan to make it do so, it has to go to make way for other things that potentially will.
Finally, 2024 leaders have to lead by example. One of the keys to effectively running lean is getting everyone to contribute across the board and that starts from the top down. If the people at the top of the pyramid are contributing more, learning new ways to do their own jobs and showing a willingness to embrace new technology, then it’s much more likely that the people who work for them will do the same.
What do you think? What should being a leader in radio look like in 2024? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.
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