Radio: Next, It’s Repeater Sales

Clear Channel’s encore to Repeater Radio (local radio dressed up as national or syndicated programming) appears likely to be Repeater Sales.

They fired 1,300 sales people within the past 18 months and vowed to hire 40 so-called regional yield managers although no one can seem to figure out who these 40 people are.

You notice how Clear Channel hasn’t done 40 follow-up announcements after revealing the strategy.

In theory these Yield Managers are going to bypass local salespeople and become a clearinghouse for spot radio. They are not going to do a lot of relationship selling or cross-platform sales. Forget prospecting. Who is left to do that?

Repeater Radio is the term I coined to describe the slight of hand trick Clear Channel President John Slogan Hogan tried to pull a year ago when he talked "local" but meant "corporate".

Anyway, you’ve got to wonder if Hogan is really in charge of this process.

Insiders say Charlie Rahilly is parent company Lee and Bain’s man. He was the guy who took Kraig Kitchen’s place at Premiere – a move that was designed to help along the nationalization of programming. No matter who is in charge or who isn't, the die may be cast – Lee and Bain are investment banks and they are cutting costs.

Next – Repeater Sales.

This has ugly repercussions beyond Clear Channel because underachievers like Cumulus CEO Lew "Tricky" Dickey and Desperate House Cleaner Fagreed Suleman of Citadel look for Clear Channel cover on cost cutting.

Translation: if Clear Channel does it, why not us?

Remember I mentioned a few weeks ago that 2010 would be open season on radio sales. That’s because there’s no one left at home in programming thanks to Repeater Radio.

You can see how Clear Channel is working this.

It takes Tampa’s Director of Sales Chris Soechtig and promotes him to Senior Vice President of Sales Operations reporting to none other than Hogan.

Then Hogan created Clear Channel’s so-called “Sales Operations Center” which will focus on all facets of sales strategy, communication, training, sales material, technology – I’m reading here from the Clear Channel press release.

Wonder why no one is connecting the dots?

Soechtig oversees sales in 150 markets and supervises everything – that’s real local, isn’t it? Same footprint as Repeater Radio.

The reason these guys never learn is because they don’t have to. They just have to cut costs and there are not enough programming cuts to make to deliver the economies of scale that the investment bank owners are demanding.

As one of my readers put it:

“So now they have (a) guy whose sole purpose in life is stealing ideas from one market and making sure every other market does the same exact thing. Here's how (one market) did their One Day Fire Sale and it generated X dollars. Please let me know when you plan on doing the same thing...If you don't plan on doing it let me know and I'll post your job."

“This sounds like a "Gary Pizzati" lite. Someone who will cherry pick ideas/packages/categories etc and then inflict them on the rest of the group, demand implementation, then write the success story for Hogan to publicize”..

Radio could grow sales by hiring people like Jim Taszarek, Gerry Tabio or Steve Marx and Jim Hopes. They are a threat to Hogan because their approach is local because Lee and Bain just want cost cuts – don’t get all warm and fuzzy on them.

But there’s more … at lightning speed:

The Chicago Tribune reported recently that Clear Channel intended to unify three stations there under one single urban banner to be known as the Urban Network. This is a cross-platform, single approach to reaching the African American market by targeting different parts of the group.

Or as I call it, trying to force advertisers to buy three for the price of one.

In Los Angeles, Clear Channel is morphing to Repeater Sales as well.

Combining sales operations for their spoke word formats under one staff a few months ago. This is a predictor of the future. After all, what makes sense in LA must work in Chicago, right?


Nonetheless you’ll see fewer sellers.

In the Midwest region recently, a Clear Channel manager told a staff meeting that he was going to hold a positive meeting – no bloodletting.

The attendees were dubious.

They were reportedly told that Clear Channel is not going bankrupt (amazing what market managers know, isn’t it?) and that Clear Channel had a billion dollars in cash on hand.

Pay not attention to the press or bloggers – Clear Channel is in great shape -- they were told.

Then he made the mistake of telling those attending that their success was due to great programming and a great sales department. In other words, you have done a fantastic job.

So during the Q&A that followed, this former cluster manager was asked if he was going to free up any of that money for promotion?


He said the company is willing to spend money if the local cluster can show how it will make money!


How about this exchange: “What if an advertiser told you his business was great and didn't need to advertise?”

"That's different. Promotions is different than Advertising."

Or, the inevitable question to a blowhard that is bragging about a one billion dollar booty.

Well how about raises?

They were reportedly told that while we have done exceptionally well as a company and a cluster, there is still a long way to go.

We have to recognize our priorities.

Meeting adjourned.

When privately questioned about how discouraging it is to hear that Clear Channel is getting so rich while employees make less and don’t have the resources to adequately compete, one person was reportedly told:

“They'll just have to get used to it or go do something else. That's the way the business is now. They should be thankful they have a job. If they leave, we'll get someone better for less."

Less. Less. Less.

The company of Less is More really means it so if you’re wondering what chance Clear Channel has with a wholesale reduction of account execs under a national model akin to Repeater Radio, don’t take the over.

Take the under.

It’s baaack!

From the people who failed with Repeater Radio, Repeater Sales at a market near you.

In the near future I am going to tell you about the new model consolidators will be installing at their stations for 2010 with details about programming, sales and management and a separate piece on a Cumulus tactic that enables them to hurt employees financially to make them quit and avoid having to fire them and thus subject Cumulus to unemployment tax increases.

For those of you who would prefer to get Jerry's daily posts by email for FREE, please click here. Then look for a verifying email from FeedBurner to start service.
Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends and linking to your websites and boards.