Regular readers of this blog – as well as Jacobs Media clients – know a recurring theme is the connection between the worlds of radio and politics. And we’re not talking about radio as an effective (and often overlooked) advertising medium for campaigns.
In fact, there are many parallels between how winning radio stations and victorious politcal office seekers strategize and operate.
Both are popular voting contests, especially the hundreds of markets still measured by diaries. Not dissimilar from paper ballots (minus the hanging chads), the idea of supporting a favorite candidate or issue is in many ways analogous to voting for a radio station or a personality.
And the “retail” aspect of both politics and radio is a well-known truth. The more a candidate – or a DJ – connects with the public with personal eye contact at events and on the street often determines her success. And in public radio, the analogy carries over to fundraising. Like fiscally responsible and ambitious politicians, non-commercial radio relies on “campaign contributions” – or as they say, “support from listeners like you” – to sustain their missions and to keep the lights on.
So, when it was reported that former Houston radio icon, Dayna Steele, was throwing her hat in the political ring – making a run for a seat in the United States Congress in Texas’ 36th district, the connection wasn’t lost on me.
Dayna is one of those lucky broadcasters who spent her entire career in her familiar geography – the Lone Star State – working for legendary stations like KRBE and long-time rocker, KLOL. The latter stop was when she popped up on my radar screen, eventually earning the moniker “First Lady of Rock n’ Roll.” That should have been our tipoff that she might one day seek office – but not as anyone’s #2 but as a strong, visionary political leader.
Dayna was inducted in the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2010, but left radio in the mid-’90s to start a successful retail business, The Space Store, located near the Johnson Space Center. She gleaned social media expertise along the way, and parlayed her experience into motivational speaking and writing. Her first book, “101 Ways To Rock Your World: Everyday Activities For Success Every Day,” was based on her time spent over the years with rock stars. Many more followed.
And then she pivoted – moving into the political arena. She announced her candidacy for Congress nearly one year ago. And in the recently held Democratic primary race, she garnered a resounding 72% of the vote, and will now face incumbent Republican Brian Babin in November.
I caught up with her last week, and had the chance to ask her about her new political venture, and how radio helped shape her career foundation.
Jacobs Media: What did you learn from working in radio that’s been helpful to your new political career?
Dayna Steele: Always answer the request line and always speak directly to the people one at a time, as if you are speaking to your best friend. Listen to the customers and make a connection.
JM: What have you already learned in the political arena that would’ve helped make you a better broadcaster?
DS: I think I learned it first in business and it is just underscored in politics – you have to find what it is people want, what they need, and fill that need or at least help. It is not about you, your product or service – it’s about what people want and need for themselves.
JM: Why politics and why now?
DS: Our family started giving away laptops to high school students trapped in poverty about three years ago – we have given away just about 300 so far.
I learned we were letting the best drop through the cracks, we are creating generational poverty and sickness – and no one was doing anything about it.
Then the Women’s March showed me just how many people were ready to step up and make a difference, I had to do more. Last and most important, my husband/best friend and sons said, “You can do this and you should.”
JM: You won your primary with over 72% of the vote. How does it look for you in November?
DS: It will be a very HARD race to win but no one even tried last time. I have a strong team – a combination of traditional political experience and a wealth of grassroots efforts!
JM: What are the themes of your stump speech – your core values if elected Congresswoman?
DS: Healthcare + Education = Jobs. Healthy, educated people work, give back, shop, pay taxes, and create opportunities for others.
JM: In radio you can come in second or third, and still consider it a win. Politics is a zero sum game. You either win in November and go to Washington or you’re back in Houston watching from the sidelines. How do you prepare for this?
DS: I am focused on the win and making a difference. If I lose, I go back to a good life but others don’t. I have to win for them.
JM: You got the radio bug back in college. How did it happen?
DS: On a dare from a DJ on a the hit top 40 station in a college town. I did it so he would be impressed and ask me out – he never asked me out but I found my calling!
When I put on the headphones at my first radio audition, I knew I had found home. Since then I have succeeded at many things – e-commerce, aerospace, writing, speaking, consulting and more. Though I enjoyed it all, none of it fit like a glove like radio.
Until now. I have never in my life felt so much like I am doing the right thing at the right time for the right people for the right reasons.
JM: Your first book – “Rock To The Top: What I Learned About Success From The World’s Greatest Rock Stars” – was all about advice from famous rockers you’ve met and interviewed. Of them all, which one stands out as most insightful?
DS: Sammy Hagar, one of the best business people I’ve ever worked with and the one with the biggest heart as well.
JM: Rock continues to be the backbone of much of your writing and speaking career. What is it about this music that’s so resilient and inspirational to you – and to your audiences?
DS: It was the music of my life, and those who made it were my friends, co-workers, and family.
JM: What’s on your turntable (CD player, mp3 player) right now?
DS: Whatever my husband or sons is playing. I have turned into a news junkie.
JM: Are you still listening to the radio? What’s your “take” on the state of the industry in 2018?
DS: I tend to stream ABC or CBS News all day when in the car, and watch CBSN in my office. When home, I read. I read a lot – news, research papers, and info from my staff, etc.
This weekend is the last two days of my primary vacation, and I made myself sit down and binge “Stranger Things.” There, that’s done. Now back to work!
JM: Good luck, Dayna, and rock the vote!
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 1,000 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.