We've talked about the difficulty of finding new talent for radio, whether in sales, programming, or on the air. Like it or not, we have to come to grips with a new reality - younger people aren't dying to work in radio, because many no longer love the medium. While many still use the radio - in between listening to their iPods, texting, playing videogames, and using Facebook - our stations are often last resorts rather than primary choices.
Given those "givens," radio management would be wise to re-think how new talent is recruited. We work with companies that have succinct goals about the number of sales reps each station should have. In these cases, there's a Sales Manager or HR person doing little else but recruiting, reference checking, interviewing, hiring, and firing. It's an enormous challenge. In sales, the turnover is mind-boggling, and the frustration high. How many GMs and GSMs are unhappy with the level of passion they see in sales meetings? What are the costs of continually recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, and...firing? On the programming side, how many PDs are dismayed about the lack of quality jocks, production people, and other programming personnel? Most keep recycling the same people, and as a result, fresh blood is elusive.
More and more, I see GMs searching in odd places for new hires, whether it's advertising in Craig's List, chatting with energetic Starbucks baristas, or even buttonholing an enthusiastic waitperson at a local restaurant who enjoys the station. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but perhaps stations are looking for new staffers in the wrong places, and doing so inefficiently.
I was reminded of this by an email I received from Major League Baseball. I am a member of their database, and they regularly bombard me with offers to buy merchandise and team logo ware. But last week, I received a missive from them that was very different. It notified me that there are some great jobs available in baseball, and they are using their database of loyal fans as a recruitment tool.
What a clever idea - tapping into the passion of their fan base to find the next Stats Stringer or Pitch f/x Operator. On the site, you can select the team you're interested in working for, and peruse their job openings. If you see something you like, you can apply directly online. (Even if it's a gimmick, it's a very cool concept for a baseball fan, creating better connections between fans and teams.)
Radio has this same reservoir of passion in the form of station databases. Many of our clients have wisely made it a goal to grow their email lists, but perhaps they're not using them to their best advantage. Instead of sending out weekly programming advisories, client sales come-ons, and contest promos, why not tap into the passion of listeners who would die to work for their favorite stations?
Like CGM campaigns, the misses will outnumber the hits. Most of those who apply for local sales jobs or morning show producer positions aren't going to be qualified. But it doesn't take many solid candidates to truly make a difference for stations that are having so much trouble attracting positive, upbeat people. There are passionate people in your communities who would love the chance to represent your call letters. Maybe they are better prospects than the guy who has worked for three stations in the past five years, and who never seems to hit goal.
At Summit 11, Jason Calacanis wisely reminded us that the audience is your "farm team." He may have been talking about creative programming creators, but his prophetic words apply to sales staffs and other positions at stations. How many database members are trapped in go-nowhere sales jobs? How many would drive into walls in order to sell clients on the benefits of advertising on your station? How many of them know more about your programming and your audience than the people occupying your cubicles?
What's more difficult - convincing jaded salespeople about the value of the stations they're trying to sell OR teaching highly excited, passionate station fans about who to call on and how to write up an order?
It's an idea that stations should seriously consider. Stations aren't formats. Formats don't sell. In the final analysis, stations are only as good as the quality and passion of the people who work for them.