Career Capsule: After graduating from Purdue University I headed west to California to start my career in banking. At the age of twenty-four, I helped launched a new bank branch. Three years later I felt God’s call to impact culture through media, so He opened the doors to bring me to Moody Radio. For the past seven years I’ve been working to strategically provide life transforming content to our listeners. In my current role I work with a great team to manage a global network of 1,600 affiliate stations and build a global brand across multiple platforms and channels.
1. Michael, what’s the latest news, etc with you, at Moody Radio?
My team recently finished a market analysis of the Christian radio industry, which will influence what we do this calendar year. Last quarter we launched two features: Today’s Single Christian and Reason Why with Alex McLellan, along with the national live program Equipped with Chris Brooks. It is going to be a fantastic year. Those heading to the NRB convention will be able to meet all three hosts along with others in Nashville.
2. Tell us about Equipped, how did that program come about, how can stations benefit from airing it?
Moody Radio seeks to provide content that richly equips people in God’s Word so they can impact the world for Christ. Equipped with Chris Brooks is a live, one-hour national program that encourages listeners to grow spiritually, think critically, and live compassionately in their community. Pastor Brooks’ humble and pastoral approach, as well as his depth of biblical knowledge and practical advice is serving our listeners well. Talk formats in our industry tend to showcase a program that either features a pastor teaching or an educated person behind the microphone. With Chris you have both. He is also a father of five, a pastor, campus dean of Moody Theological Seminary in Michigan, a board member at The Colson Center, and now a radio host. We are encouraged by the feedback from our listeners. Stations looking to engage their listening audience at deeper levels should pick this up. Come July, stations signed up to carry the program will benefit from shared revenue.
3. What is your typical day in the office like?
I am blessed to lead a dynamic team of highly talented professionals to provide solutions and services to our global network of affiliates so listeners can take the next step in their walk with Christ. Time is invested in developing our brands across multiple platforms by collaborating with a variety of teams and strategic partners to design and execute robust marketing campaigns to bring awareness to over 30 nationally syndicated programs. To make it all happen the day is filled with meetings, phone calls, emails, and analyzing reports. Communication is key and we want to ensure Moody Radio is exceeding the expectations of our affiliate partners.
4. Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
Christian radio has a rather small footprint and we could benefit from its expansion. There are less than 5,000 Christian radio stations in the U.S.A., as compared to the 22,000 other formats. Stations need to focus on doing a better job of understanding how to leverage their points of difference, because in the end the audience will determine whether or not they will engage. From a ministry standpoint, a listener needs to grow spiritually. Some formats work better than others but at the end of a day they help the listener grow. Competition is good.
5. How has marketing Christian radio stations changed in the last 5 years?
Digital marketing and partnerships. Digital marketing is giving us the opportunity to learn more about our listener and connect with them at a growing rate. It’s easier to measure and we are able to get more personal with listeners at a fraction of the cost. Partnerships have also been extremely important for us. With big data coming in, partnerships have helped us analyze it and create growth strategies around it. There are a lot of talented agencies out there and I would encourage stations to take advantage of them. They could be a real catalyst.
6. Live & local or syndication, what’s the benefit of each?
Radio is personal. A live program allows the listener and host to interact with each other in real-time. With the integration of social media, it gives a voice to the listener and access to feel even more like a friend to the host. A listener can participate with a program at a level never experienced before. Syndication works because there are too many hours in a day for one station to produce all their content. They have to rely on other ministries. As for local, stations have to find a way to stay local – local on air but more importantly local in the community. If a radio station can’t find ways to be involved in the community, then I really don’t know how they can compete and get the support they need to stay on the air.
7. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
There is no easy answer because not every station is one and the same. A few challenges I’d say are program innovation and motivation.
Let me start with program innovation. I am grateful that at the start of this year Moody Radio brought on Chris Brooks, a young, dynamic African American pastor addressing biblical issues in a rapidly changing culture. Also, two-years ago we launched a national teaching program, Radical with David Platt. By doing this we feel confident that we are better positioning our organization and affiliates for the future. However, innovation doesn’t just start and end with switching out teachers, hosts, and formats. Take for example the podcast Serial. It’s a big hit and in less than two years is influencing pop culture. Christian radio will need to take more risks at producing programs that connect with listeners. We have the best message to share, so we need to improve in how we are telling it.
As for motivation, it pains me to hear when a radio station closes. In the next 10 years I believe we might see a lot of “For Sale” signs because people lost the motivation over the years to invest in innovation, invest in their communities, and invest in their staff. Christian radio will face significant challenges, especially as the culture becomes ever more secular and people leave the Church. This is a tough industry and it will continue to need people with the humility to bend their knees and roll up their sleeves.
8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? And why?
No heroes. Alistair Begg, Dr. James Dobson, Chip Ingram, Paul McGuire and Michael Savage are a few influencers in my life. When living in California my commute was about 100 miles a day, so music became repetitive and I started listening to talk radio. These hosts challenged me, entertained me, and informed me. By listening to them I realized radio was a viable option for influencing culture. It made me want to be part of it as well.