During Monday’s NCAA championship we all watched a college basketball team on the cusp of the first perfect season since 1976 get totally and utterly dominated. After the high of their Saturday night buzzer beater win, Gonzaga came out flat. Baylor, on the other hand, dominated in every aspect of the game, out-shooting, out-rebounding, out-hustling and out-playing the Bulldogs.
Throughout the game the commentators continuously mentioned that if Gonzaga could just cut the lead down to ten points, they’d be ok. Because what they, and any competitor who’s ever played any sport, knew was that when you’re playing a quality opponent you have to keep it within striking distance or you don’t stand a chance.
The same can be said of any radio station that isn’t leading in a market, regardless of its size. Most markets have stations that have dominated for so long its almost a foregone conclusion that they’ll continue to do so. They have higher ratings, higher digital stats and higher engagement. All of which leads to higher rates and revenue which in turn means higher programming, marketing and promotions budgets that just continue the cycle.
But not unlike Gonzaga who was forty minutes away from immortality in the record books, dominant stations can also get complacent. Maybe they stop going that extra mile to connect with listeners or spending time preparing a benchmark or developing an on-air contest. Often they find themselves simply slapping new dates on promotions, proposals and media kits they’ve used for years.
That’s why it’s crucial for runner-up stations to stay within striking distance. Taking calculated and strategic shots instead of launching wild, contested prayers from behind the arc. It won’t happen overnight, but by out-working their opponents, being purposeful and smart with their limited resources and leveraging any partnerships they can, any station with a competitive signal can be number one. But if they fall too far in the hole by cutting their resources and staff to the bone, they’re doomed to stay stagnant and reliant on the lead stations to mess up to have any shot at winning.
Similar to Baylor, all teams that knock of a dominant opponent tend to have great leaders. On the college level that’s a coach who knows how to work with all different personality types, identify his players strengths and put them in positions to succeed. Whether on the court or in an a radio station, a great leader is part mentor, part motivational speaker, part therapist and part disciplinarian. But, most importantly they know how to bring everyone together to work as a team to achieve shared goals. The main difference between stations that are number one in a market and number ten in a market isn’t talent, format or promotions, it’s leadership.