Face it – I’m a sucker for sports analogies and metaphors because much of what happens on the field apes many of the strategies and tactics we practice in radio. I’m especially susceptible to a great coaching lesson because the men and women who motivate athletes – especially jaded professional superstars – are a special breed. They have to be a combination of strategist and psychologist to succeed on the field, the court, or the ice.
In many ways, those are the same qualities that define great PDs. But they also apply to sales managers and market managers, too – tasked with teaching, motivating, and outsmarting everyone in a game that never really ends. Radio is a 24/7-365 medium, and even the best books or most profitable quarters are quickly followed by the next challenge.
When famed Lakers coach Pat Riley wrote “The Winner Within,” I was all over it. While not a Riley fan and certainly not a Lakers devotee, this slick coach was tasked with charming, managing, and juggling those “Showtime” teams of talented multi-millionaires. And he did it with style and class.
One of his rivals, Pistons Coach Chuck Daly (known as “Daddy Rich”) was similar in many respects. But despite his expensive wardrobe, Daly called on televangelists for inspiration, watching sermons and motivational speeches in hotels on those late nights in order to come up with the next angle to fire up his well paid legion of athletes here in the Motor City.
That’s why during this weekend’s NFL playoff games, I was watching the guys on the sidelines wearing headsets as much as the 44 behemoths running around on the field. And so were the network cameras and their analysts. In fact, while on-field performances are what we repetitively see the next day on highlight reels, it’s the moves and machinations from the coaches that most often win and lose games.
And so there are happy and miserable fans today, either wondering “what’s next” or “what if,” depending on the weekend’s outcomes. For the losing teams and their followers, it’s especially painful to see the long season come to an end in early January. One of the coaches whose season ended over the weekend is Ron Rivera of the talented Carolina Panthers.
Rivera is one smart cookie, licking his wounds this morning. But he can perhaps sleep at night knowing that everyone from QB Cam Newton to the special team fourth stringers literally left it all on the field yesterday in The Big Easy.
Similar to Riley and Daly, every coach has his own system, formula, and “isms.” And in Rivera’s case, much of what he’s learned about football is what he’s drawn from spending time with professionals in the military.
In fact, he grew up in a military family, and supports the troops, especially the USO in North Carolina. After talking with umpteen members of all branches of the armed forces, Rivera has boiled it down to this for his players and his staff:
Control your APE
And by that, Rivera means attitude, preparation, and effort.
Those are variables that players – DJs, sales reps, and managers – can control. Conditions, like diary and meter placement, weather emergencies, marketing budgets, and what the competition is up to are out of everyone’s control.
You may be smart and talented, but we all know gifted people who never really succeeded or never lived up to their potential. It’s about the APE – that relentless will to harness and hone your approach, your regimen, and how much you put into your show, a sales call, or a presentation to corporate is all within everyone’s grasp that separates the best from the also-rans.
Rivera points out that all the trick plays, motivational gimmicks, and even star players mean nothing if team members aren’t controlling their inner APE. Coaching will only get you so far. Then it comes down to managing these variables.
And that is so true of what we all go through in radio – and life – every day.
With attitude, it is always a matter of outlook. Some radio professionals spend so much time bitching and moaning about the industry or their companies that the game gets away from them. Radio may not be the go-go industry it was back in the ’70s and ’80s. But so what? Working in this business is still heads above what so many of your friends and family endure in the workforce. And attitude can move mountains – on a football field or in a radio station.
As for preparation, everyone intuitively knows how important it is to success – in the air studio or the sales cubicles. But somehow, many think radio is a spontaneous, seat of the pants industry where you can adlib your way through your show or pitch.
For the best and most successful, it doesn’t work that way. Make it a point to get to work one hour before you have to – whether you’re on the air, in the traffic department, or work in programming and promotions.
Long ago, consultant Alan Burns gave me his coaching formula:
TSP = TSL
Yup, it’s simple. Time spent prepping directly translates to more listening and engagement with the audience. True then, true now.
And then finally, the effort piece. It is what separates the boys and girls from the true players and professionals you want on your bench or next to you in the fox hole. As Rivera reinforces, “If you want something in life, go get it, because they are not going to send the limo for you.”
That’s a powerful message to young men who dream of becoming pro football players, as well as fledgling broadcasters who aspire to be the next Larry Lujack, Dave Ramsey, Tom Joyner, or Booby Bones.
There’s always a bit of luck involved in becoming a Super Bowl or a Marconi winner. But as Ron Rivera will tell you, controlling that APE on your bench – or in your studio – is central to how you get to the big game or a major market in the first place.
Going APE in the new year may just be the smartest thing you do for your station – and yourself.
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.