Radio's Fatal Disconnect

It's one thing to trash the radio industry, fire its employees and offer the audience less is more, but apparently the people doing the firing either think the rest of us are "stoopid" (as we say in Philly) or they are.

The trades reported the comments of Judy Ellis, corporate "wife" of Citadel CEO Fagreed Suleman at the Country Radio Seminar.

This is the same Citadel that has been screwing up their good stations through the fine art of mismanagement.

You'd better sit down.

“It´s important to acknowledge what´s happening, instead of beating [employees] up every day. It´s important for them to know we´re on a team, and we´re doing this together.”

Okay, maybe it's me.

Maybe I think that Judy Ellis is spitting in the face of the remaining Citadel employees by intimating that she and Fagreed are not beating up their employees with firings, pay cuts and general terrorism over their future employment.

On the same team -- hell!

The names Judy Ellis and Fagreed do not belong in the same sentence with Citadel employees. Their loyal and talented staff is working to try and do good radio with idiotic interference by people who don't know what they are doing. The team "Judy Judy Judy" is talking about must be the executioners who are walking their coworkers to their demise to save their own jobs.

I don't think that's what Citadel employees are doing.

Instead they are putting up with fools who don't want to do great radio and now they have to listen to this insult.

But, wait -- there's more...

“Expectations have to be reasonable."

What's that supposed to mean?

Shareholders should expect Citadel stock will go to ten cents some day -- that's reasonable. Or, employees can't expect they will keep their jobs if management keeps making the wrong decisions.

"...everybody´s terrified about their jobs.” and “You really need to communicate to people that they´re winners.”

Stop this! Now!

You cut their salaries. Tie up their managers. Slash their budgets. Interfere with local radio decisions and you call that reassurance? No, winners are people who do their jobs exceptionally well when they are working for leaders who do not.

Tom Taylor reported that he was sitting next to a Citadel PD who heard all of this and who he quoted as saying, “she´s tough, but she´s good.”


What a trait in today's business world.


Well, I'll leave that up to my readers to assess Ellis fairly. They work for her. I don't.

Here's a direct quote from Tom's Radio-Info piece about a Cumulus executive playing Tony Robbins at the gathering:

Cumulus exec Bill Jones agrees with the need to “celebrate the wins” – whether it´s an account executive reeling in a stubborn prospect or a bookkeeper hitting a target percentage of receivables. So how do you face the stress inside the organization? Be honest. Build trust. Communicate reasonable expectations and hold people accountable for them. And do some tangible things that let people know their contributions matter.

Now that's great advice --for consolidated radio CEOs and their henchmen.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

If Fagreed Suleman was honest with his employees about his company's intentions and plans relating to them, they wouldn't be as angry.

If Cumulus CEO Lew Tricky Dickey would reduce his salary to $1 a year and give back the $8 million signing bonus he bagged last year, he'd have credibility.

Be honest with them about not activating the $8 million Dickey bonus -- that would go a long way. These aren't kids you're talking to. How would you like to give your managers a $100,000 bonus for signing new employment contracts and allow them to activate it later so you wouldn't have to call it compensation -- today?

That's what Tricky Dickey is doing.

The part that sticks in my craw is:

"Communicate reasonable expectations and hold people accountable for them. And do some tangible things that let people know their contributions matter".


Why don't you?

Are these out of touch consolidators pointing a finger at their beleaguered employees while they have three pointing back at themselves?

This implosion of radio -- man-made, by the way -- is now entering a new phase.

Blame the employees -- that's their strategy.

There is a big disconnect in radio today.

Let's just say it like it is:

• Radio could have survived the recession even if it had losses -- 35% declines are on the CEOs not the employees.

• Tough economic times would mandate some salary cuts and cutbacks. Start at the top as they do in other sectors.

• Radio's failure to heed the warning to look to the next generation -- an audience they lost -- is why they are not mitigating their losses through increased Internet and new media revenue (that is healthier than traditional media even in the recession).

• Radio CEOs could have handled whatever "layoffs", as they call them, better by paying more benefits, severance and helping the fired find new employment.

• Double-talk belongs at shareholder meetings where the suckers who bought consolidated radio stock seem to roll over and play dead. They deserve what they bought -- stock that tanked. But radio employees deserve better.

• The new multiple for pricing a radio station -- assuming you could find a buyer and financing -- is now under six times streaming cash flow and falling.

• Social networking is exploding and radio is imploding -- doesn't that say a lot?

• Lying to employees about firings, further firings, corporate plans, executive over compensation and the like actually hurts the "leaders" survive hard times.

• Radio will not likely regain its former status as a growth business because the "misleaders" at the top didn't take generational media seriously. Radio will have to be more than towers and transmitters to be relevant in the digital age. It isn't. Radio consolidation will be blamed for the demise of radio.

• The only growth industry for radio is redeploying its excellent people -- the ones it castigates, lies to and "lays off" -- to build the digital future in new media. That's the Internet, podcasting, mobile content and social networking.

Radio CEOs blame everybody but themselves for the mess they've gotten this fine industry into.

And, it happened again, as I just mentioned, at the Country Radio gathering.

You can blame your employees, the economy, the banking crisis, the Internet, the blogosphere and anyone else you can name.

But, the truth is -- the tactic that People Temple's founder Jim Jones who killed 900 of his flock in Guyana in 1978 by getting them to drink poison-laced Kool-Aid won't work in radio.

We're not drinking it.

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