Small Market, BIG Quality

By Tim Leaman

Don’t tell me I’m a Production Director in a small market! I am, but don’t tell me I am because I’m not buyin’ it. I mean, I use the same editing software as a lot of big markets, and I have access to the same production music/sfx libraries as the big markets. I even have a major market voice, and my delivery is good enough to stand toe to toe with anybody. Not to mention there’s a real major radio market just 60 miles from here. I may work as a Production Director in a small market, but it sure feels major here to me. And, being the Prod Director for this cluster of stations, I aim to produce the commercials here accordingly. 

But this presents interesting challenges, thinking big market-like in a small market. Here, the equipment I use is great, my production skills are fine and the delivery is fine. To me the challenge is getting the whole team sold on the idea of taking on the identity of a ‘BIG” radio company -- especially as it pertains to producing spots, my main job. Before I start this rant though, let me first state I get the challenges of most small market radio companies, like… more to do than people to do it, not enough money… all that. But there is the option of teaching the people available how they can see themselves as the crew that nobody can beat. Let me use producing a spot to illustrate my point.

Getting a spot to work for a client is tough enough. Listeners are not exactly listening to the radio because they want to hear the commercials. Now throw those commercials into a 6-8 minute spot break. Add to that a commercial with copy that was written by, God forbid, the client. Then not reviewed and checked by the AE before submitting it for production. Also in all this slop, throw in a producer who is over-worked already and has no time to take the time to get back with the AE/Production Director/client to fix what’s wrong and is not going to do it him/herself. So a crappy spot is thrown on the air that has a slim to no chance of hitting the target market it is meant for. Really? In my opinion that is bad for business! And I think that cultivates a collective low self-esteem. So let’s look at this from a different perspective.

In many small markets the AE writes the copy. I know it pains most of them to have to do this. They are there to sell, not be a copywriter. Sorry, but this is what we have to work with in a small market a lot of the time. But, it might not really be all that bad. How about making creative copy the new fashion in the culture for commercials? Cultivating a perception among the AEs, Prod Directors, even producers in some cases, that learning to write creative copy is greatly beneficial for business. How about cultivating the benefits of brainstorming to generate catchy ideas? Just working (or having fun is a better way to put it) with the AEs, Prod Directors, producers, the GM, the sales manager, the receptionist, your funny friend, for a few minutes with the intent of coming up with even just 2 creative ideas for a client’s spot.

Putting a creatively done spot on the air gives the spot the best chance to overcome all the obstacles I mentioned earlier and generate at least some success for your client. Even if it doesn’t, the client’s impressed anyway by the care and time that went into his/her commercial.

Then, ideally, the client renews and the AE applies their time to writing up a new order from an already existing client!  Sure that takes effort and time. But it’s better, and easier, than the alternative, which is....

Don’t put in the creative time and increase the risk of the spot having no chance for any success. The result of that then is a disappointed client who never wants to talk to the AE again. So the AE is back to spending even more time on the streets knocking on doors trying to drum up new business anywhere they can find it. And maybe get an ear full about how radio advertising doesn’t work! That sounds awful to me. If I were an AE, I’d rather have existing clients that WANT me to call on them and who WANT to give me their money. Better yet, the client who calls me first.

 So the point here is, it may be small market where I/you work, but it’s only small really if the perception about it within the company (and self) is small. If it is, it’s worth the time and energy to create a more productive culture. Here’s more motivation. If there is competition in your market and they are acting small market-like, that’s your golden opportunity to reach out and grab success and leadership by the collar. Cultivation of an identity of being bigger than a small radio company, without getting egotistical about it, will be heard on everything done on the air and sensed in every connection off the air. For a radio station, it can’t get much better. 

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