Embarrassing Radio Pep Talks

National Association of Broadcasters CEO David Rehr insulted the hard working people who put up with the indecision makers holding them hostage every day by saying "Radio needs people who believe".

To me this sounds a lot like Jim Jones asking the faithful to step up and drink the very Kool-Aid that will immediately kill them.

Rehr, apparently forgetting that when he points one finger at the program directors, general managers and sales people in today's radio industry, he also has three fingers pointing back squarely at himself.

Rehr added, "I'm talking about the negativity that's pervading the radio business and threatens to paralyze us". Rehr thinks that this negativity is causing stagnation and devaluing the business.

Rehr is happy to point out that radio attracts 235 million listeners a week.

Bla Bla Bla. We know that!

What radio needs to do is find a way to morph into a business that can survive without the next generation because radio consolidators blew the one chance they had to keep these young folks listening to radio content. Either that, or make content for the next generation and send it to their new devices.

It's been a bad week for radio -- not to mention the economy. Radio has huge problems and they are not going to go away with pep talks that are frankly, embarrassing to the people who give them and the poor people who have to put up with listening to them.

Rehr gets up on his radio bully pulpit at the NAB Radio Show in Austin and insinuates that the people who run the nation's radio stations are the problem. Rehr, like his buddies -- the CEOs of radio companies, are looking the other way.

In the same week, John Hogan, the Clear Channel radio boss, reportedly embarrassed himself and some of his employees with a locker room pep talk that was at worst inappropriate and at best a clumsy way of trying to wake up his troops.

Let's start with the NAB.

Here are the talking points Rehr should have used -- in my opinion. I know, I know -- he works for the handful of CEOs I'm always complaining about. I get it. But Rehr deserves a good swift kick in the pants for his act at the NAB. Blaming negativism on radio people is the pot calling the kettle black.

The talking points, Mr. Rehr:

• Radio still reaches 235 million listeners a week, but they are older and getting older by the moment. We have the talent and wherewithal to create separate content for the next generation and deliver it to wherever they live (Internet, mobile devices, podcasting) and can also service the remaining available terrestrial radio listeners.

• I congratulate the rank and file employees of the radio industry who have endured budget cutbacks, technological challenges, new media competitors and lousy management. (Sorry, couldn't help myself on that last one).

• Radio adapted when television was invented and it can adapt again in the digital age if its leaders can think beyond towers and transmitters.

• You can be sure that your NAB will continue to lead the fight against the record industry in their attempt to get Congress to remove the performance tax exemption from radio (NAB has done a fairly good job so far in this area winning over 226 House members to support their position but these political issues are very tenuous and deserve watchful waiting).

• You need management that will believe in you (I know, I'm fantasizing again -- leave me alone -- it sounds real good). Management that will trust you enough to allow you to operate your stations locally and give you the budget, guidance and resources to succeed. You deserve better than to be harassed by micro managers at this critical time. (Rehr doesn't have the balls to say this or he'd be back in the beer business again -- maybe this time at the ball park selling it not as head of the beer industry's lobby group).

• Support the People Meter. It will give your stations credit for the under-reporting the Arbitron diary has caused for decades.

• This one is directed to radio group CEOs -- stop your public food fight with Arbitron no matter how right or sincere you are. It hurts radio's position with media buyers and advertisers at the worst possible time.

Okay, you're right. This isn't going to work. Let's just go back to the b.s. that Rehr is dishing out at the NAB because it goes to show that we as an industry have lost our self-respect. How dare he address radio people who are working under the most trying circumstances the way he did?

Still, I like my talking points. They're honest. He could probably say all that I suggested -- more diplomatically, don't you think?

Now the second pep talk.

When Clear Channel's John Hogan, according to reporting from Tom Taylor, ended his national sales meeting, he left his people with the directive (as Tom calls it) to "Absolutely F-ing Do It" . Tom says that he was told that some managers had that written down for them to communicate the urgency of the message about revenues. (Hogan may have been borrowing a Lee Abrams phrase -- so he may not have been original).

There's nothing wrong with Hogan wanting his market managers to put up or shut up. But, what a sophomoric way to go about it.

I'm fully aware that John Hogan is no Tony Robbins and that his main job is not to be a motivational speaker. Apparently the AFDI directive went over like a lead balloon with some of his managers.

One Clear Channel manager told me that Hogan's locker room talk is so deflating.

It's hard to F-ing do it when it has already been done for you. Ryan Seacrest putting another mid-day jock out of work will really get those competitive fires burning in local radio. Having your superior slap you on the wrist the way Mother Superior might have done in years gone by to parochial school students who get out of line is so childish.

How can you ask your managers to deliver when you've bound them, gagged then, water boarded them (alright, maybe not that) -- and attempted to brainwash them into thinking they actually have control of what they're doing. It's insane.

So, let me help my friend John Hogan with this little problem:

• Absolutely do it because we're going to fire your ass if you don't (sorry, I couldn't resist. Skip down to the next one -- I'll be serious, I promise).

• Clear Channel is going to ask you to do three things for us in your job -- I will be sending you a personal email with those three things so you can tell me whether they are within your capabilities to deliver (see, talk nice -- with respect).

• I will make sure you have three tools to do your job and they will be outlined in the email. (I know -- I'm dreaming again). One of them will be to give you local decision making power. I realize that when I relinquish some control to my managers, I really gain control. I love Jerry Del Colliano for suggesting this (forget that).

There you have it. Great Pep Talks That Radio Never Needed -- now available in a boxed set so you can throw them in the trash all at once.

I kind of like what Emmis is doing.

CEO Jeff Smulyan is taking $1 for salary. I like that even though he still gets other compensation. He's also making his 64 most highly compensated employees swallow the poison with him. Their salaries will be cut to $15,000 but they will be compensated for most of the rest of it every quarter. This allows for Emmis to report less money paid for salary and more to the bottom line (you've gotta love Wall Street radio). Emmis is making the designated 64 whole in the end albeit it with Emmis stock (which is now trading at under $2).

So, I've vented. I've joked. Now I'm going to be dead serious.

The radio business is over if it insists on running itself like it has no competition from new media.

The next generation is gone, lost -- that means -- no potential for growth ahead.

New media is chewing into ad dollars (above and beyond radio's problems with the current economy), and radio companies need to redeploy their troops into new media.

New media does not mean taking repurposed radio shows and using them online or in podcasts New media is the most exciting thing since -- tradtional media. Get in on it.

My tolerance for radio b.s. at this serious point in our history is very low. You may feel the same way. The future is digital.

How about a radio "leader" giving a pep talk to their employees.

One that shows they know what they are doing and where they are going.

Does anyone want to be first?

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