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Weathering the Storm – A Market Manager’s Perspective

April 23, 2020

Weathering the Storm – A Market Manager’s Perspective

Recently we have shared how sales managers and programmers have adapted to the new reality of COVID-19. Now we talk with two of our industry’s top market managers on how they are guiding their ship through these turbulent waters.

 

Tim McCarthy – Senior Vice President/GM, Audio Play-By-Play NY/LA Radio

“Operating an all-sports radio station in New York has had its unique challenges. While we operated through 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, this is very different. We know, especially since there is no play-by-play, that we need to adjust how we interact with our staff, our listeners, and our advertisers. Our short-term goal is to help everyone get through this crisis, so that we are all here when we come out the other end.

I am proud of our on-air team. People do not listen to us because we are a sports radio station. They listen to us because we are their friend and companion. People want to be close to friends, especially during a crisis. With social distancing, this special relationship our personalities have made with the listeners is more important than ever before. I cannot tell you how many listeners have personally contacted me thanking me to be there for them in these difficult times.

With New York being the epicenter, we need not only comfort, but also inform. We have had the mayor, the governor, and other officials on the air.

The listeners are only one of our two constituents. The other is our advertisers who clearly are suffering. Here, it is all about the future, and helping our existing clients make sure they can open their doors when this over. On-air we have also reached out to local businesses that are looking for help, even those that have no past history with our station.

The final element is our team. We need to keep them inspired. Yes, we are doing the regular sales calls and video chats. However, we have done more. Yes, we need to stay in business, because of what we mean to our communities.

This is a challenge, it is also a chance. A chance to bond with clients and partners and a chance to strategize with other department heads.”

 

Lisa Decker – SVP Market Manager, Alpha Media Portland

“First and foremost, it is about the health and safety of our staff, listeners, and clients. After that everything else is secondary.

On March 13th, we announced that everyone was going to work remotely. We have seven stations and on a normal day there would be 50-60 people working in the office at any given time and now there are no more than 10 and many times there are zero people in our facility.

Thank God for technology. Our staff was already fairly effective in taking advantage of technology and working remotely but we took it to a whole new level within a week. Two years ago the company transitioned to Google Suite away from Microsoft and last year we have converted all our stations to WideOrbit Automation. Most of our staff has company laptops. This makes working remotely very easy. Our on-air team has made a tremendous transition from being in the studio to working remotely. The majority of our talent is doing their shows remotely and all are doing prep remotely. Our news staff is the main people in our facilities at this time and we try to keep it four people per shift. The quality of the programming is just as good as if they are all in the studio. I’m also proud of the way our team is interacting and engaging with each other, our clients, and listeners in new ways. We are working hard to be virtually face-to-face as possible via Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Facetime. It’s a great way to stay connected.

In Portland, we do a tremendous number of events, including in our own live performance studio. We typically do 250 shows annually in our live studio. We are creating audio events from our archives to broadcast and share with our listeners. These great archived concerts keep our listeners entertained and help these artists as well.

We have always made community service a pillar of our existence. This is more crucial than ever before. We have created several unique outlets to support our community in many ways. KXL, our News/Talk station, is providing valuable COVID-19 coverage for our cluster. We have dropped all traffic reports and changed them to COVID-19 updates. These reports run on all of our stations. For our clients, our focus is on keeping them in business and supporting them any way we can. We are highlighting businesses on-air and online in many creative ways to help them get through this crisis. We created a new site called PDX To Go. It’s a free directory for any business that is open for business, whether it’s a curbside pick-up or delivery service, or they have moved their business online. We also encourage listeners to go to our Portland Marketplace where we sell gift cards for clients. We are encouraging listeners to buy two gift cards from their favorite business – keep one and donate one. This community service is what radio does best.

We are also taking this opportunity to sharpen our skill set to be our best for all of those we serve and who count on us. I believe we will be stronger and closer when we get through this crisis. I couldn’t be more proud of our team for their service, sacrifices, courage, and dedication.”

 

This is a learn-as-you-go experience for all of us, but many are drawing on years of experience of coaching their teams and helping their advertisers and communities. We invite you to share your ideas in the comments section below.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner

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