At Wednesday's open to the Radio Show in Dallas, Paul and I were honored to host “You're Not Just In The Radio Business Anymore – Stories From Innovators Who Have Made The Transformation.”
It was a series of Ted Talks-like presentations from many radio leaders you don't always see on the Radio Show's big stage. Each told their stories of transformation, mostly focused on their companies and their radio stations. And our lineup included small market broadcasters Ed Levine and John Zimmer, WTOP's Julia Zieger. the Kidd Kraddick Show's Kellie Rasberry and J-Si Chavez, Townsquare's Bill Wilson, and NPR's Jarl Mohn.
The stories were different, but the takeaways and lessons were at times quite similar. Ed Levine – the Sorcerer of Syracuse – provided his “commandments” – and the big one is that leaders have to take risks. Investment in major event marketing initiatives requires courage and strength of purpose.
John Zimmer says he's a self-described SOB – son of a broadcaster – and reminded Radio Show attendees that other radio stations aren't the threat – its Google, SiriusXM, Spotify, and other players working to capture radio's share of audience and ad revenue.
Julia Ziegler's energetic talk centered on the challenges of analog transformation – addressing the culture of change inside radio stations and the companies that own them. And her selife at the end of her talk was a reminder of the enthusiasm we all need to bring to our work every day.
And the Townsquare takeaway from Bill Wilson revolved around a focus on what differentiates your brand or your company – and then make sure you can dominate that space.
Kellie and J-Si told us what it's like to be deal with “thunderbolts” – those unforeseen events that can change your show, your station, and your company without warning. They test us, often forcing us to transition at a moment's notice. Those are the moments when trust in one's teammates – in the studio or in the company – is essential. And it explains how they all pulled together after the sudden death of their leader, Kidd Kraddick.
And our session was anchored by Jarl Mohn, NPR's outgoing CEO – a guy who has a rich background in radio and cable television. From a Top 40 DJ to a chief executive, Jarl has succeeded at ever turn, in every endeavor. Five years ago, his career took an interesting turn when he became public radio's leader. Jarl talked about his journey, ending his talk with three major takeaways that have nothing to do with content, distribution, Six Sigma, or EBITDA.
His first takeaway is to form your own board of directors – an informal one, of course. Jarl has used this technique for the last 27 years of his career, assembling a group of 5 (or so) people who you know well enough to ask those important questions – about your plan, your strengths, your weaknesses, and everything in between.
Jarl recommends connecting with your group regularly, sharing ideas and plans, provoking your thinking. Obviously, these are people who care very much about you and your success. And they're willing to help.
And his second takeaway focuses on his endless optimism – celebrate the victories – even the small ones. Jarl's staff meetings always start by going around the room, having each of his team members discuss a win from the past week.
Of course, if you don't envision yourself as a winner, you just won't. Winning is contagious.
Finally, Jarl's third big recommendation is to regularly recite these 7 words:
“What can I do to help you?”
He asks that question every week to his key group of leaders. As he reminded Radio Show-goers, people don't ask for crazy or difficult things. And it's incumbent on him to deliver on the promise. As as he concluded, “If you do this, you will transform the way others see you.”
And then he offered a bonus takeaway: “It never hurts to really nice and kind to people.”
I've known Jarl for the better part of 30 years, and I've watched him navigate the business world – and the personal sphere. He is loved, respected, and revered by everyone who's ever had the pleasure to work or hang out with him.
In just a few short days, his five years at NPR will end, and he'll pass the baton to his successor, John Lansing.
Leading NPR through one of the most challenging times in its history – as technology and politics have rocked like never before – I would bet that everyone at NPR and public radio would tell you the same thing about Jarl's inspirational leadership.
When I think about Jarl, and the massive impact he's had on so many, I think of this quote by William James:
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
Paul and I are very appreciative of the RAB and NAB for the opportunity to try something different at this year's Radio Show. We hope our stories were aspirational, inspirational, and attainable. We're very appreciative of this group who worked very hard to put this session together.
One thing we know for sure: It is going to require courage and will to continue to fight it out in this competitive world of media. If these stories of professional transformation resonated for you, then we hit goal.
Good to see so many people at this year's “Reimagined” and re-energized 2019 Radio Show.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.
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