Loss of key talent.
By Brad Smart
Small market radio stations often can’t survive the loss of key talent.
Unlike large regional and metropolitan stations where there is usually an infrastructure to provide natural succession when people move on, smaller stations often suffer badly when the key decision makers leave or are pushed.
By saying ‘talent’, I am not necessarily referring to on-air talent, although, of course, they come into the equation.
General managers, sales managers, sales people, programmers, promotional gurus, people in production, financial and traffic staff, and those employed in technical areas, all contribute their ‘talent’ to the successful operation of any radio station or network.
As with on-air talent, the creativity of many of these people in their own specialty is what keeps the business ticking.
Larger operations tend to have more of these people and so they are buffered and better equipped to survive the impact when key people leave the organisation.
Small market stations, and here we are talking about those serving fewer than 50,000 people, have been getting smaller and smaller in staff numbers as the years pass.
Some stations operate on two or three staff these days, particularly when they are part of a network.
When someone leaves, a lot of valuable business knowledge usually goes with them.
Despite what most announcers think, in small markets, the audience loyalty is to the local station and not the on-air talent, so the loss of on-air talent, rarely has much impact.
The major fallout really arises with the departure of key strategic, operational and business people.
A high churn rate amongst local sales staff, for example, inevitably sees an ever-diminishing loss of knowledge of local conditions, local advertisers and how to best meet the advertisers’ needs.
Some remote owners just don’t get it and some don’t understand why there’s often a temporary drop in the continuity of revenue when there are changes in a small sales team.
The loss of a senior manager can also result in well thought out strategies, that have been working successfully for years, being abandoned when the replacement manager arrives from out of town.
Sometimes, change can be beneficial, with new ideas being brought into the mix.
However, more often than not, at a small market level, a new manager will be inexperienced, and changes are often implemented purely on the basis of ego, ignoring local knowledge and what has been proven to work in that town over an extended period of time.
With small staff numbers and little transition time between old and new staff, small market stations can suffer regular post-appointment slumps either in revenues, or audience or client reaction.
Most small market owners are acutely aware of the problems associated with the loss of good talent and experience.
When they lose a good strategist in any significant area of the business, they could be risking a profitable entity ending up as a liability, and in some small stations that slump can occur several times a year. Nobody needs that.
The upshot is that owners should do everything they can to keep good talent in place as long as possible, because nothing is as expensive as churn and constant recruitment.
Most problems arise with good ‘talent’ when their views are constantly ignored or rejected.
About The Author:
Brad SMART has been a journalist, consultant, author, broadcaster, film director and was the former owner of the Smart Radio Network throughout Queensland.
Brad can be contacted at [email protected]