We've seen a lot of unforgettable images from the world of politics over the past couple years, but none as powerful as that confrontation between those two women and Senator Jeff Flake in the elevator last Friday. More importantly, an intensely uncomfortable interlude for Flake symbolized a turn of events in the controversial quest to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the nation's highest court.
And it was a reminder to everyone at the highest levels of business and government that a single person can be a difference maker in this disrupted, polarized world of ours – even someone without an ounce of power or authority. No matter how the Kavanaugh controversy turns out, there's a likelihood this moment will be remembered as a turning point.
When you think about it, these moments aren't isolated. An individual – even a lone wolf – can influence the events and circumstances of nations and brands. Programmers frequently tell me about an email or interlude with a listener at a station event that moved them – or even shook them to their core, making them question their entire strategy or beliefs. You can make the argument that it's just one person. But that negates the ability of a passionate person to make an important point and change the course for thousands – or millions.
In radio, we've learned over the last decade how just a single meter can affect the outcome of a ratings period, as dismaying and incongruous as that may be.
We live in a world of “Big Data,” and the D-word was oft-mentioned at last week's Radio Show. But despite all the research, metrics, analytics, and AI tools we now have at our disposal, a strong argument posited by a committed member of the audience deserves to be heard and taken seriously. Programmers often share those passionate emails or social media posts with me, making the point that a listener cared enough to articulate their thoughts about the station. I don't just brush them off, because they are often meaningful.
When a personality exits the station, I typically ask PDs how many emails and calls came pouring in. Oftentimes, I hear something like, “Surprisingly, just a handful. It was no big deal.” But you have to figure that each of these little protests could be a multiple of 100x or even 1,000x. Those emotional protesters with Flake in the elevator were not the only women who feel that way.
One of the downsides of being an entrepreneur is that there's no one I report to, regularly critiquing my work. On the one hand, of course, it's liberating. I'm free to pursue my own agenda when and how I like.
But of course, the drawback is that boss or supervisor who gets in your face, and challenges your beliefs, tactics or even your authority can be beneficial, even providing that necessary wake-up call. I don't have that, but I am fortunate to have a handful of members of my informal “kitchen cabinet” – my unofficial advisers – who have the ability to call B.S. on whatever harebrained stunt or poorly thought out plan I spawn. And believe me, I've had my share of lame ideas, bad schemes, and just plain miscalculations – just like all of you.
One of the main guys in my orbit who was the very best at “calling B.S.” on me was the late Nick Michaels. As painful as that “elevator moment” may have been for Jeff Flake, Nick had a way of sucking you into his philosophical web – and not letting go.
A conversation that would innocently start about radio or music would always seem to end up in a critique, a diatribe, and a shake-down of Classic Rock radio. And believe me, I took it to heart. Because like those women in the elevator, Nick was persuasive, eloquent, emotional – and he was usually right.
Of course, I didn't always want to hear it, but as the phrase “taking your medicine” implies, Nick dished it out well. It was never self-serving – he was making the case for radio – its listeners and the artists and music that have stood the test of time.
Interestingly, Jeff Bezos is a chief executive who advises having people just like Nick sitting around the conference room table. A recent BroBible story by Connor Toole reports that Bezos is hell-bent against having yes-men in Amazon's inner circle. It's that roguish person who is smart, incisive, and fearless who can become a game-changer in any organization.
In the interview, Bezos talks about the rare person who stirs it up:
“Maybe they're also a little bit annoying because they might be a little bit radical or rebellious. They're not always the easiest people to get along with but you want them in your organization. They may be mavericks.”
Or they may simply be smart, against-the-grain people who are not afraid to speak “truth to power.”
Entercom CEO David Field often said the same thing about me:
“I like you because you're not afraid to call my baby ugly” was his explanation.
As it turned out, David has nurtured and grown some pretty attractive offspring over the decades, but his assessment was never lost on me. And I have always attempted to be an honest broker with him – and the other corporate chieftains we serve.
As consultants, we are paid to be that outside agitator, the truth-sayer, the Devil's advocate, and even agent provocateur from time to time – especially with programmers, managers, owners, and CEOs who – like Bezos – welcome that painful but necessary input.
People who are not afraid to call B.S.
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.
Latest posts by Fred Jacobs (see all)
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