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Radio Interview

 

Mike Miller

GM WFFH/Salem Publishing

VP/Salem Music Network

Nashville

     

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Mike's Career Capsule
Mike has worked in management roles for Salem Communications for the past 14 years.  He is currently general manager of Nashville’s 94FM the Fish, the flagship station for Salem’s “Today’s Christian Music” network and of Solid Gospel 105FM, the flagship station for Salem’s “Solid Gospel” network.  Additionally, he is vice president of Salem Music Network which includes the Today’s Christian Music, Solid Gospel and The Word in Praise radio networks.  He also serves as general manager of Salem Publishing, which includes CCM Magazine, Homecoming Magazine, Singing News Magazine, Youthworker Journal and Preaching magazine. 

Prior to his involvement with these entities, he was with CBN Radio Network which he left 18 years ago to become one of the founding employees of Morningstar Radio Network (now Salem’s “Today’s Christian Music” network).   In his first paying radio job (part-time weekend jock while in college), he worked at KCFO-FM/Tulsa, where he learned afar from a group of employees there that became a “Who’s Who” of Christian media including Bob Lepine, Paul Martin, Tim McDermott, and Roy Williams.  Ironically, that particular station was owned by Stuart Epperson, chairman of the board of Miller’s current employer, Salem Communications. 

1. Personally how do you keep the ministry in the “business”?

First, I think it’s important to understand, as most of us likely do, that we’re in the roles we’re currently in because, for the present time, this is where the Lord wants us to be.  And we’re only in these roles to be a good steward of what He’s entrusted to us.  If you can begin with that foundation and carry it with you daily, I think it forces you to a) be the best business person you can be and b) to look at every situation, whether it’s an interpersonal one with co-workers or clients or a mass contact one through the mouthpiece of your media vehicles, as a touch, that compounded with other touches, will over time draw someone closer to or further from the Lord. 

 

2. Overall, how is Christian radio different today, from 5 years ago?

In some regards, it’s smaller.  A lot of stations and folks made big splashes here and there and then were no more.  From a programming standpoint, music rotations and song-adds are occurring more because listeners like it, than because of who the artist or label behind it is.  From a revenue standpoint, especially on the ad sales side, I think stations are getting better at their craft.

 

3. What do you think are the main characteristics of a Christian radio GM?

If I was hiring a GM, there are a myriad of things I would look for.  You want to hire someone who will do the right thing, no matter the cost and who will try to do things the right way, whether it involves treatment of employees, advertisers, the FCC, ownership or whatever.  At the same time, that someone should be a fighter; someone who will scratch and claw and do whatever it takes – done in the right way – to get to the desired goals.  You don’t want someone who gives things a great shot and then says, “Well, we’ve done all we can do.  I guess we’re going to miss the mark.”  In a sports analogy, I want the guy who’s on the basketball court diving in the stands for loose balls; the guy who’s going all out – pushing, pushing, pushing - right to the final buzzer.  That very-driven, aggressive GM you have also should practice servant leadership.  He or she should be able to take risks and know which risks are smart ones to take.  And he or she obviously should be able to demonstrate consistent success in building financially sound enterprises.  Last but not least, I would want a GM who absolutely knows that this position is his or her calling and who knows how to rely upon, trust and seek the Lord through each day’s challenges.  Maybe some day I’ll grow up to be all that. 

 

4. What ways or methods do you think work best to keep your staff motivated?

Unfortunately, I know a lot of ways to do that, but I don’t always practice them.  But let’s first back up a bit.  I think you first have to make good hires.  If you’re hiring the right people, you’re hiring people that bring their own motivation to their calling.  At that point, a manager’s biggest job is to not mess up that motivation.  Give people the rope and tools to do the job they’re supposed to do and let them do it.  Along the way, know that your staff is made up of individuals and know that what makes each person tick varies from individual to individual.  For some, it’s recognition.  For others, it’s the opportunity to plan new projects.  For some, it’s money.  For others, it’s something else.  Know what that thing is for each person and make sure you pour plenty of that thing into his or her life.

 

5. What kind of promotions work best for Christian radio?

In general, we all want to do promotions that are meaningful to the listener while positively moving the revenue needle.  We do some ongoing promotions that help a lot of people keep more money in their pocket every month. In these days, listeners really appreciate that and they reward you with even more loyalty.   

 

6. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?

A friend of mine likes to point out that there’s a financial equation to everything.  In our world, whether you’re a non-commercial station or a commercial station, growing revenue is always a challenge.  Being a commercial station, and this is applicable to non-coms soliciting grants as well, we grow revenue when we help our advertising clients’ businesses grow.  Even the smallest radio stations in any given market have enough listeners, that if they all started shopping at Client A, would overwhelm Client A’s business.  So as an industry we have to be astute in developing marketing campaigns that will move toward that result for Client A.  Our challenge is to find and hire people who get that, and to train them and keep them trained so that we’re able to differentiate our stations by our ability and knowledge of how to grow a business.  Most Christian stations aren’t going to differentiate themselves by their audience numbers, qualitative data or even relationships.  They’re going to differentiate themselves by their aforementioned ability to drive reasonable results for their on-air clients.  Building a staff and training a staff to consistently do that is always a challenge/obstacle, yet is of paramount significance.  Conquer that and a lot of other obstacles suddenly go away.

 

7. What do you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air personality?

Radio air personalities need to understand who they’re talking to and what motivates those people and what’s important to them.  Personalities then need to be able to talk to those people in a way that makes them feel like the personality walks, most of the time, in the same places they do.  “Relatable” can be an overused word, but relatability is huge.  It’s not often that you positively impact someone’s life without effectively being able to relate to them.

 

8. What (if any) Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today?

There are a lot of sharp people around.  I’m always in awe of the things the Fish-Atlanta accomplishes.  They’ve done a marvelous job at integrating support for important ministries into the fabric of what they do, resulting in gobs of money being raised for those ministries.  And they’ve done a fantastic job of getting on the national media buyers’ radar.  They and KLTY do amazing events as well, especially with their summer festivals.  R.C. Amer at KADI-Springfield, MO is an out-of-the-box thinker who has done a lot of neat, revenue-generating promotions.  And gosh – hopefully without sounding self-serving, I think our networks and stations are doing some incredible things too, especially in terms in terms of creating positive results for advertising clients, in terms of developing new income streams, in terms of rewarding repeat listeners and in terms of connecting listeners to the music. 

 

9. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?

Our message will always be relevant.  People will continue to come for that message when the content through which it’s delivered is compelling.  People will still want what we deliver.  Our delivery options and methods will continue to expand from what they presently are, but if we develop compelling content and learn how to deliver it, we will continue to be an effective, life-changing force.



 

 

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