Radio station struggling? Don't hand your licence back!
The Radio People provide rescue, recovery and reorganisation for radio stations that are struggling or in trouble. Here's an overview of our 8-stage structured approach.
1. Ignore the business plan.
If there is a business plan (often there isn't) then it's of very little use at this stage. Instead focus all your attention on the current situation: revenues, expenses, operations and cash flow.
2. Focus on people.
If a once-successful station is struggling, it's almost always a people-related issue: not financing, not capital. It's usually the staff, management, or the directors. Somewhere along the way something broke and now there's a disconnect between the original vision and what management, employees, freelancers and volunteers are doing with that vision. That's why we always start with people, because it's always about people.
3. Assess the brand - programming and listener engagement.
Problems manifest themselves in one of two places: either at the front end with the brand and poor audience figures, or at the back end with operations and low advertising/sponsorship sales. Either way, it is important to discover when the problem occurred, and what was the reason? The good news is that, if the brand once had value with the listeners and advertisers, it can recover that value, and use that to reestablish itself and grow.
4. Assess operations – advertising/sponsorship/digital sales and costs
Even if there is a problem with the brand, their may still be issues with operations. No brand is better than its delivery. Stations get very excited when their programming yields strong audience figures, but if their back end sales operations can't deliver against those figures then the business is doomed. That's why it's important to develop operations that can support a strong brand.
5. Go back to people...
Many directors & managers find it difficult to talk about what the real problem is. It's not that they don't know what is going on in the business but their pride and ego take over. The challenge is to overcome personal agendas, defensiveness, and embarrassment at all levels in the organization.
6. Don't create and fill binders with reports.
No binder has ever made a profit. Roll up your sleeves and participate in the station's structured rescue and recovery. Be open. Talk to people. Share the pain. Show them you care. And don't immediately clean house. Sometimes you have to let some people go, but try not to. It's extremely important to maintain the talent that originally created the concept or brand; people are the company and they deserve a fair chance. Give them the opportunity to not only save their jobs but to regain their pride in their station and their work.
7. Look for quick hits...
Find ways to expand or identify new sources of revenue. Then streamline the back end and ensure the station is capable of delivering. Speak to suppliers. Good suppliers will support the station through financing and credit so you can feed a recovery. Be open with them.
8. Go back to people.
Here's the best part of a turnaround: It's exciting and can be incredibly fulfilling. It's great when it works. It's rewarding to see a station that was left for dead returned to full health. Saving jobs is the ultimate pleasure. When you get to see people realize the future is secure, and see them get excited again about the station they're a part of, it's an incredible feeling.
That's why, in any business, it's always about people.