During a terrible time in radio where it seems that everything we read about is stations laying off even more employees, here's a story that reverses that trend.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, morning host Martin Bandyke was fired by Cumulus' Ann Arbor's 107.1 earlier this month. Stated reason? Budget cuts, of course. But the story didn't end there because Bandyke was rehired by the station late last week.
Well, there were loads of angry listener emails (many of which were organized by a local designer, Colleen Crawley, who loves his show). And I'm sure the phones were ringing off the hook. But that's rarely enough to cause a stay of execution.
The real reason why Cumulus reversed its decision was an outcry from advertisers. Bandyke successfully cultivated bona fide loyalty from a number of local clients, including Nicola's Books and the Bank of Ann Arbor. Nicola Rooney threatened to pull her advertising, while Bank of Ann Arbor President, Tim Marshall, picked up the phone and personally called Lew Dickey. Interestingly, Marshall cited Bandyke's community contributions as his rationale for going to bat for the morning guy.
Money talks, especially in the most depressed metro area in the U.S., and so Bandyke is back on the radio at Ann Arbor's 107.1. In the process, this bizarre incident says a lot about the value of air personalities - and radio - in 2009.
It's not about your voice or how long you've been around or even your time spent listening. Creating connections to advertisers and the community provides incredible leverage for air personalities. With the types of contacts and relationships he's generated, Bandyke should have steady work in the area for years to come. But he's sadly an exception to the rule.
How many other jocks can make that claim? For several years now, we have been showing a presentation called "DJs" to airstaffs all over the country. Its main theme is urging radio personalities to take control of their personal brands, and make themselves indispensable to their stations.
How? By immersing themselves in their towns, making sales calls and engendering advertiser relationships, and learning how to pull off great public appearances. I don't care how good your ratings are - if you're not working with sales, and representing the station in the community, you're vulnerable in the next round of cuts. It's about being an ambassador - not being an announcer.
As Colleen Crawley pointed out in the Detroit Free Press about Bandyke, "I listen to him every day without fail. He is not just the voice. He makes you feel connected to Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. He is the station's best asset and I'm extremely happy about his return."
Bandyke's story is a great object lesson to broadcast owners, managers, and air personalities about value and how it is derived - especially now. Slacker is not creating community good will. iTunes isn't generating more revenue among local advertisers. Facebook connects people, but doeesn't raise any money for your local area hospital. Radio's assets are its people, and this Martin Bandyke story should cause owners, managers, programmers, salespeople, and jocks to stop and think about radio's true value and benefit.