Dear Dickey Do, Fagreed and Slogan Hogan

Remember what we used to do when a radio station started losing its audience?

That's right -- The New 92.

The same old thing packaged like we've fixed everything listeners came to dislike about the station.

I think of this sometimes when I think of Cumulus CEO Lew "Don't Call Me Tricky" Dickey, Citadel CEO Farid "Fagreed" Suleman and Clear Channel Radio President John "Slogan" Hogan.

These three blind mice haven't come up with one good idea in 13 years!

I dare you, name one.


None of them is dumb -- in fact, they all well educated and bright. True, they may have sold their souls and their birthright in this industry but dumb -- they are not.

However, their policies are misguided by all measures -- nothing has worked -- except the huge compensation they have drained from their corporate coffers in over a decade.

Their stock was declining before the recession. Their stations were threadbare in advance of their massive layoffs and their cash flow was taken for granted as never ending even before their debt load was unmanageable.

So, I'd like to offer some constructive criticism so that arguably the three most important people to the future of radio, will put their thinking caps on and change their ways.

Look, I know they won't, but this exercise is about what could have been if they would.

Let's start with Dickey Do...

1. Read a good book on human relations.

2. Fire your brothers or ask them to fire you -- something isn't right about the chemistry in your company. And while you're at it, there are a couple of guys who are sucking up big time and acting like asses to your employees. Fire them and be a hero to the people who really matter -- your employees.

3. Pull those spy-in-the-sky cameras out of your station conference rooms and have a party where you encourage your salespeople to stomp all over them until they are broken into pieces. Catharsis is needed.

4. Let your local sales managers lead the team. Give each station manager one year to make the numbers you need and they agree to -- if they don't, then you can let them go. If they do, then you can reward them with more money and another year. Promise them you'll stay out of their stations.

5. Make each station local -- don't force national programming down their throats. They can get you more than adequate local jocks for not a lot of money and win more audience.

6. Don't raise rates until you do something that matters for your clients. Stop talking about going after "elephants" -- Cumulus is the big elephant in the room and that's part of the problem.

7. Stop making life so stressful for your employees. They are human. They may not have your lineage and guarantee of perpetual employment but they are good people.

8. Fight your demons and give your employees a good reputation to live up to not one to live down.

On to Fagreed Suleman...

1. Judy Ellis can be toxic -- many of your employees don't like her. She may be qualified but they think she is too harsh and not caring. Get her aside and have a talk with her. Hard nose tactics may work in the short run but don't last for the long term. She was a pretty good exec in her prior days according to some industry people -- how about backing her off the bare knuckle tactics? Times are tough enough and so help your employees help you.

2. Don't like that suggestion? Promote one of your ABC managers to Judy's job.

3. Work for $1 a year like a lot of other CEOs during hard times. That $1 is worth more than one single share of your stock -- if you need another reason. You've had $10 million years, $17 million years and benefits like crazy. Don't be a pig.

4. Your ABC stations have enough good talent in it alone to bail you out of your mess. Try to keep out of running their business. You bought it for $1 billion so show some respect and let the people who made it worth that much do their thing. Citadel is not a good business model for ABC. Better yet, adopt the former ABC business model for Citadel and you'll turn it around.

5. National programming will kill off whatever you can't by micromanaging your stations. Let the local managers come up with local programming. It's not that expensive. And it will be more popular. Keep Don Imus on in New York if you like, but what are you thinking -- he's not that popular. Oh, I get it -- you're thinking like a bean counter. You're already paying Imus' salary so why not get your money's worth and spread out the costs of his salary.

Now, John Slogan Hogan...

1. It's okay not to be Randy Michaels. Randy was a bigger than life figure who in many ways knew what he was doing. Maybe he was a bully but he was a smart bully. You are also a bully and not that -- well, you know.

2. Raising rates after 13 years of consolidation when it was your company that has helped keep radio ad rates low during good times calls for an apology.

3. Everything doesn't have to be a slogan. "Less Is More" was -- face it -- an abortion. How about something that is a statement of good intention that is not a slogan like "Thank you Clear Channel employees for being so professional". It may not rhyme but it has a pleasant ring to it.

4. Stop with the national Repeater Radio, already. You know it won't work. Let local managers hire local people. They can do it within a budget if you stick to the budget. Nothing against Ryan Seacrest but really! As the largest radio group the more you embrace network and syndicated programming or voice tracking, the more you personally lead the radio industry into oblivion.

5. You've got so much talent at Clear Channel -- ask and you shall receive help.

6. No more firings, please. When you fire people, Fagreed and Dickey Do imitate you.

One of my readers, a radio professional, sent me the perfect ending for this piece.

It's about negative reinforcement -- the type all three of these gentlemen apparently practice.

It works in the short term -- as it does for coaches who clamp down on their teams. But it fails in the long run which is why so many of these tough coaches eventually get fired.

Here is his advice as he applied it to one of the three serial employee abusers, Cumulus -- but it applies to the others:

"In one study, a rat is put into a cage and the bottom of the cage is electrified.

The rat will run and jump around looking for an escape. He's very motivated to run and jump...but if the electric shock continues the rat realizes that there is no behavior it can engage in to end the shock.

Eventually in these studies you see the rat just hunker down or lie down in surrender. They just give up because ANYTHING they do is futile.

Therefore, Cumulus management get as mean as they want, but they'll never achieve long term motivation and performance at Cumulus. The opposite, "positive reinforcement" far outperforms "negative reinforcement".

Now as impressive as the results of that study are, here's what impresses me.

It was articulated by a radio professional, not a CEO proving once again that the people who actually know and can run radio should be, well -- running it. Or at the very least, the executives who rose to the top, should be listening to their people for guidance.

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