How We Define Success

How We Define Success - Radio Update

I grew up in Junction, an incredibly small town in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. It’s a beautiful place, nestled in between two rivers and completely surrounded by hills, creating a quiet and peaceful sanctuary. It’s the kind of place that people stumble upon and wonder how the locals have kept it a secret for so long. My family moved away from Junction in 1995 and in the twenty-eight years since the population has actually gone down by 213 people, despite the town being adjacent to I-10. That’s not an accident, it’s by design. A couple of families have owned all of the land by the interstate since it was built in the early 1970s and they don’t want Junction to lose that small town feel. Keeping their beloved hometown small, quaint and essentially frozen in time, is what they consider a success. So, that puts them at odds with any residents and business owners within the city who would benefit from the town’s growth. That misalignment of goals is a microcosm for something I see happening at radio groups across the country where radio companies and managers define success one way, but employee a handful of radio people with a different definition for what success means. Here are a few thoughts on challenges that causes and ways to realign those definitions of success.

Virtually everyone in upper-management, and certainly every owner I know, wants to have the number one station in their market. But, some on-air talent, and sadly even a few Programmers, don’t actually want to be number one. Yes, they ALL say that they do. But, their actions tell the real story. Why would anyone in radio not want to be number one you ask? Two big reasons. One it takes A LOT of work, discipline and strategy to get to number one. Two, once you get to number one, there’s a lot of pressure to stay there and a big target on your back that makes it impossible to fly under the radar. For some radio employees, the pride of being number one is all the motivation they need. On the other end of the spectrum others are too lazy or complacent to be motivated by anything and simply need to find something else to do for a living. Anyone who has said ‘I’ve been doing this for X years’ multiple times recently to push back on any suggestion of a different way to do things, is probably on that list. However, most radio people will respond well to the additional motivation of sharing in the fruits of their labor through financial incentives (either in the form of bonuses or guaranteed raises based on performance), additional benefits and morale building celebrations that get them out of the office and studio (and maybe even the market).

In non-rated markets it’s even more difficult to get everybody on the same page about what constitutes a success story for their station. Without that ratings measuring stick it’s very common for everyone in the building to have a different answer when I sit down with them. Some point to awards they’ve won, others to community services they provide or the comments they hear from ‘everyone’. Some flat out tell you their goal is to be left alone to do their own thing. The solution in a non-rated market is to create a plan for growing the station’s total audience (terrestrial in ways we measure ourselves and digitally in ways that everyone can clearly see) and the station’s revenue (terrestrial and digital). Then, clearly defining what that success means for each individual employee involved. Because, the main way we measure success at any commercial radio station is cash flow, but if some of that cash isn’t flowing to the people who helped make it happen, they won’t stick around long.

But, regardless of whether we’re in a rated or unrated market. Having an open, honest conversation with our staffs about how they define success, how the broader business defines it and the ways in which those intersect, is a great first step for any struggling radio group.

What do you think? Comment below or email me at

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