Disruption, conflict, crisis, loss of revenue, combatting or conforming to digital media, apathy, and band-aid solutions are some of the most significant concerns for broadcast operations to date. It is not surprising that bad attitudes in the radio business are common.

Back when radio was known as a fun industry, the competition was the “guys across the street.” That isn’t the case anymore; now the competition includes the elusive digital space. Admittedly, I was an early adopter of digital, seeing its benefits way back in the mid-90s. But it wasn’t deemed a threat then, as radio was consolidating into bigger conglomerates.

At the time, I was working as an account executive in Sacramento, after having spent 16 years building and operating stations with my family. We’d been undermined in the consolidation craze, and I set out to explore my horizons in a bigger market, in a corporate setting. Honestly, I was a fish out of water, as my hands-on experience of wearing all the hats of a station operation was no longer relevant. I may have had years of experience to my advantage, but I was “just a sales person” – selling time to local tattoo parlors or mixing it up with beer distributors for the local rock station. My hands on experience conflicted with my new role, and my attitude needed adjusting.

I remember feeling discouraged when my director of sales informed me, “You’re going to have to forget everything you ever knew about radio.” He may have believed it was necessary advice, but I was insulted. I felt that radio was meant to be a local medium and not so cold and corporate. So in 2000 I left corporate radio sales behind and created a new niche business model with my dad; we worked with stations to comply with the FCC regulations. It was not a very “sexy” job; in fact, I often describe our services as that of a mortician. Nobody wants to do it, but it must be done.

FCC compliance is where the playing field is leveled. It doesn’t matter what market size, revenue share, format, who owns it, or who has the most powerful signal ‒ the rules are the same for every broadcast station. But there is definitely something I love about the work we do; we are always meeting people with various levels of experience. Whether our contact is the general manager, the owner, the engineer, or the sales manager; it’s fun to engage and learn about their broadcasting history. Sometimes they’ve been in the business for generations; others have just entered radio and are learning, and then, of course, there is every level of experience in between. Every day you work with people on your staff who have different levels of experience.

It can be lonely at the top.

No matter how long you’ve been in the industry, you care about your people, but you can’t be everything to everyone. You have a company to run. There’s not enough time in a day to do everything that needs to be done. You’re stressed out with too many distractions. You already work long hours and feel guilty that you’re not enjoying much time with your family. You don’t have any personal time. And you simply don’t have time to stop and communicate with your people. Your stress level impacts their attitudes. How in the world can you help them improve their job satisfaction and performance?

We all have worries and fears that can disempower us and keep us stuck. Owners and general managers have no outlet to talk about their stress levels. They have to present themselves as “captain of the ship” and are quite possibly faking it every step of the way. What’s more, as stations downsize and eliminate jobs, the remaining staff struggles with added responsibilities. It’s a vicious cycle; when they feel overwhelmed and fear they are underqualified, it adds to your stress.

You are in a high pressure position, and somehow, some way, somewhere — the stress of the job will take a toll on your health. Stress hormones result in weight gain, heart attack, memory loss, and other health crises.

Is there something you can do to change all this?

Yes. The first step is imperative; you must take care of yourself. You need to manage a work/life balance. You might hear yourself use the standard excuse, “I don’t have time to take care of myself,” or “when the dust settles, I’ll take a vacation or something.” Let me be very clear – the dust will never settle, unless YOU do something to settle it. When you realize you are in over your head and your quality of life is suffering significantly – only then will you begin to seek ways to overcome it.

 

Be aware of your surroundings and circumstances If you’re tired of apathy, poor attitudes, and people not doing their job, you aren’t alone. This happens in every industry. Radio does not have an exclusive on economic struggles, feeling obsolete, and trying to just hang in there until somebody else comes up with a solution. I’ve coached many other high-level professionals (doctors, attorneys, veterinarians, etc.) who have identified “culture issues” in their businesses. Take a breath. Acknowledge that your station staff is made up of human beings, who may also be struggling the added responsibilities that come with downsizing. Like you, they have lives outside of the station walls.

 

Negative thinking and talk aren’t the solution; they’re the problem. Some companies implement positive psychology practices in their operations and culture, and studies show this has a tremendous impact on their success!

 

Take the lead.

It will take less time than you might think for you and your staff to modify thoughts and behaviors, which in turn will create a culture of growth. But, you need to take the lead. If you aren’t working to find a solution, then you’re just as much a part of the problem as anyone else. There are no instant fixes, but there are stress management skills that I teach clients to help them learn not only to cope, but also find solutions

Let’s start by addressing a common attitude that I’ve noticed among radio professionals ‒ uncertainty about the future. FEAR. I’ve been inside many radio stations and can feel the negative energy coming from a fearful staff. My training in sales and psychology has taught me to be mindful of the mood, energy and body language of the environment I’m in. A militant style of management doesn’t work in today’s workplace, however when you ask people questions, they will talk about their problems and together you can open the door to solutions. What is working in radio is transparent communication, authenticity, purpose, passion, and conscious leadership!

Identify and own what is driving your fear of failure.

What are the biggest concerns in your company today? What is keeping your group from being as successful as you want it to be? Is it insecurity, safety, morale issues, culture change, negativity? Factors like these may be far more reaching than you realize. They impact creativity and productivity. Therefore, they directly impact your revenue.

 

What do you believe about the radio business today?

Beliefs are powerful. Think of your pattern of behaviors, thoughts and feelings as a “format.” Fear of failure contributes to that format. Does the fear of failure guide the decisions you make? You have the power to flip the format on fear! Your thoughts are a reflection of your feelings. There is a great need for empathy and optimism, mindfulness and a winning mindset.

What are radio’s strengths and opportunities?

We’ve all done the SWOT analysis, but today I encourage you to consider only radio’s strengths. Allow yourself to make a list of the top eight positive things about radio. Not your radio station, or your company — just RADIO. Consider this on the “human level,” not the data or statistics that we follow. What does radio offer that no other medium can? How is radio in a class by itself? Share these observations with your staff. Start having discussions that are fun! And send me your list; I’d love to compile the thoughts and share them.

 

No more just talking about the problems; we need to solve them.

A positive culture is essential for business success, but to cope with the disruption in today’s radio business, we also need more emphasis on education, training, and wellness.

Step by step, attitude changes along with small, incremental improvements are what it will take to grow and succeed. To see results in a positive direction radio stations need real solutions, healthy teams, and happy leadership.

 

*Kelly Orchard is a professional speaker, author and trainer. In addition to more than 30 years in the business of broadcasting, she has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership. Kelly specializes in working with radio industry executives in times of trouble, turmoil and transition, to help them stress-proof their leadership. She is a 2008 graduate of the NABEF Broadcast Leadership Training Program, among others. She is also an FCC Compliance Specialist and licensed psychotherapist. Reach her at kelly@orchardmediaservices.com.

Kelly Orchard (Badass Certifier)

I've actually worked in organizations as an owner, manager, employee. I did it backwards but learned all I needed to know - at the time. Organizational Leadership training alerted me to methods. Psychology education taught me how individuals think and behave. Social Science taught me how people behave in groups. Bankruptcy, financial failures, divorce, single parenthood, health crisis, deaths in family. Public tragedies and crises. Fully exposed. I was not permitted to hide through it. Thank God it was only Victorville. I've overcome and rebuilt after multiple business and personal crises. I know what it takes to get up and grow through crisis, tragedy and discomfort.... I have an uncanny ability to cut through the layers of agendas and motives and get to the real issues. I can take a complex situation and find simple solutions.

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