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John Frost
Goodratings

The Three Stages Of Success

 

 

 

                                

As I approach my 40th anniversary in radio I’ve been privileged to work with dozens and dozens of people much smarter and talented who have generously poured themselves into me.  This week’s programming tip is a result of taking those influences to discern the decision making dynamics at dozens of Contemporary Christian radio stations over the last decade.  I’ve worked with radio stations that have become award winning in the industry, and I’ve worked with stations that have been a short blip on the screen.  (Anyone remember Shine 97.7 in Albuquerque?  I didn’t think so).  This week’s tip isn’t about the music you play, the disc jockeys you hire, or how much marketing and research a station has. This tip is about how trust is developed, and its impact on a station’s progress.

The three stages of success is ultimately about relationships and trust.  This is true between an outside resource (like me) and station management, between an air talent and the PD, or between a PD and a GM.  I’ll change the names to protect the innocent and use the PD/GM relationship since most reading this tip have those positions.   
 
Stage #1: You know something we don’t know. You’re hired!
 
It’s a no brainer.  You have value or you wouldn’t have been hired.  That value can be expertise, experience, track record, or on-air skills.
 
Stage #2:   Tell us what we already understand or agree with and we’ll do it.  We promise!   
 
When a PD makes recommendations to the GM and the GM says, “That’s a good idea,” it’s likely to be a rather effortless process.  While that may seem simple, there is a problem with that dance rhythm.  Since we can assume that the PD has programming expertise and experience that the GM doesn’t (or the PD wouldn’t have been hired in the first place) that station isn’t benefitting from the gap between the PD and the GM’s programming expertise.  When we do only that with which we already agree or understand we fail to go beyond our own knowledge.   Former National Christian Radio Association president Joe Battaglia says, “It is impossible to learn what is outside ourselves from inside ourselves.”  Golfer Tom Watson puts it this way, “Everything I know I learned from someone else.”  

I’ll reiterate that this tip isn’t about the music you play, the disc jockeys you hire, or how much marketing and research a station has.   The three stages of success is ultimately about relationships and trust which holds true just as much for an outside resource and station management, between an air talent and the PD, or between a chief engineer and a GM.
 
Stage #1: You know something we don’t know. You’re hired!
 
You add value or you wouldn’t have been hired.  That value can be expertise, experience, track record, on-air skills, or that you’re the cousin of the owner.   
 
Stage #2:   Recommend something, and if we agree with you we’ll do it.  
 
If we only do that with which we already know or agree with, we don’t take full advantage of a perspective and expertise beyond our own.  That’s true in engineering, programming, sales, or on the operating table.   

Imagine that you’re lying in a hospital bed and the surgeon enters your room and says, “I’ve thoroughly reviewed the x-rays and I need to remove your
hippocampus.”  Because of the knowledge gap between you and the surgeon it is unlikely that you’d respond with, “I disagree”, or “I’ve never had that done before, so I elect not to!”.  It’s even more unlikely that you would respond with, “I think you should take out my Greater Saphenous instead.”  

This week’s programming tip introduces stage #3 success, the stage that can transform ordinary radio stations to market leaders:  

Be willing to do what you don’t understand (yet) or even that with which you disagree (up until now).  

My friend August Turak puts it this way, “Success in life, and by extension business, often relies on an appreciation for the counter-intuitive truths that stud reality. For example, the belief that the sun circles the earth was so intuitive, obvious, and common sensical that it took thousands of years and some very deep thinking to discover that the earth in fact circles the sun.

Similarly, in business it may seem like the “obvious” way to boost sales is by cutting prices, but my own company’s sales only took off when we became the price leader. It takes a bit of deep thinking to realize that GM and Chrysler were only cheapening their brands through incessant discounting on their way to bankruptcy. Meanwhile sales at companies like BMW were exploding, at least partially, because they were counter-intuitively raising prices instead. Bottled water is now a billion dollar industry because some counter-intuitive, deep thinking genius decided to put a hefty price tag on a commodity that was, and still is, practically free from the tap.”  

Stage #3 is about listening to those with expertise and experience, whether that be in programming, marketing, sales, engineering, human resources, or management.  It’s natural to feel an uneasiness at stage #3 simply because you’ve not been there before.  But like a good work out at the gym that uneasiness is an indication that you’re exercising new muscles and new accomplishments are ahead.  

It is impossible to learn what is outside ourselves from inside ourselves.  



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John is a partner in Goodratings Strategic Services, and has been a successful major market disc jockey and program director for such companies as CBS, Cap Cities, Westinghouse, Sandusky, Gannett, and Alliance during his 38 year broadcast career.  John joined Goodratings’ partner Alan Mason in 1999.