The following landed in my inbox last week in an email titled “NAB SmartBrief:” “Radio’s ‘challenge’ isn’t to retain its audience or remake its programming, but to convince marketers that the medium is still viable, according to Jeff Smulyan, Emmis chairman-CEO. ‘The challenge is the perception,’ Smulyan said during a conference call with analysts. Really? I heard something similar from the CEO of General Motors a few months back. In essence he blamed his company’s fall on the uninformed, and misinformed, marketplace: “It’s the consumers, stupid!” Or maybe, it’s the stupid consumers. In any event, and with all due respect, if you believe that you need to “convince” your ignorant audience of the value of your offering, you simply don’t offer anything uniquely valuable. In this day and age, if you did, and people were interested, they’d figure it out.
So what’s the solution? How do you stand out and move your organization forward in a hypercompetitive and rapidly changing marketplace? Simple (but not easy): You change with it! …It takes awareness and acceptance. And, I’d add, a laser-like focus on the outside world of your audience. But first, you must deal with your grief: the inevitable pain that comes with relevance lost, which is a predictable outcome of allowing your organization to fall out of step with the external environment.
Now I know that what broadcasters tell Wall Street and the media is often at odds with their real feelings and actions. In many cases the “What, me worry?” game face masks a very real sense of urgency to transform radio with the times.
In many – but not nearly all – cases. And many not even most. And that needs to change.
There are still broadcasters out there – high level ones – who think that our problems can be solved by doing more of what we’ve always done – but harder or faster. There are still those who view the iPod as a souped up Walkman. There are still those who view Slacker and Pandora as flashes in the pan. Many still believe that Facebook and Myspace have no relevance to radio’s future. And so on and so on.
Our problem is not one of public relations, folks. It’s one of acceptance. And, as Tom points out, getting well beyond acceptance and into action.