Even though Summer officially begins this weekend and vacations are in the air this is the time for every manager to take a look ahead at the Fall. A year ago we really hit wall in the Fall with the economic downturn becoming a nose dive and for most any plans or priorities were tossed overboard for survival. Hopefully the 'storm' has passed and while it has left some damage to the products to repair this Fall you should be able to start looking at rebuilding the product and at least setting some priorities besides cutting everything you could.
So where do you start?
While the specific needs of your station or group of stations are no doubt unique there are some common areas that I bet everyone can look at as starting points to rebuilding the products. Here are 5 areas I bet would be on your list:
- Get an Honest Evaluation: What shape is your product in? Have you lost key people that are affecting the quality? How are your ratings holding up? Has the competition made any progress or have YOU made any progress during the last year riding the storm out
- What training and coaching does your product team need as their roles have probably shifted and their time constraints are larger than they were a year ago. Is one of your PDs now handling more stations in the cluster? Are you doing a lot more with fewer staffers and wonder how can they get help to cover all their work and still do a good job?
- Production and Imaging: This is a crucial department to not only the product but also to sales and clients. Getting good messages on the air for clients to move product with is the lifeblood and I bet many of you cut back this department. It's also the place where the messages and images for the stations are built. Rebuilding this department could be the fastest return on your investment in the building.
- Promotions: Another spot where many cluster had to cut back on. Just like production and imaging this is another spot where clients interact and use the product to move goods and services. It's also a place where a lot of the images for the product are built. Getting it back in shape can return on the investment.
- Research: What does the audience think of your product now? How damaging was it to trim out that Mid-day person? Did the promotion cutbacks matter? How about the competition - did they advance? Has their music preferences shifted? Are their feelings about radio as dire as we've been lead to believe? We have lots of questions on the product side and while some of them are not worth answering with a tight budget others are crucial. Many stations have gone years without much perceptual research - it's probably time to get much closer to the audience.
- The Web: The web and new media have advanced. In the last year satellite radio has faded and the Ipod has become rather common place - no longer the newest gadget in the bag. Now it's the cell phone and the smart phone - using apps and streaming stations into these devices is the new hot gadget. We also have new smaller computers (the Net Book) and more and more wifi in the world. Between the smart phones and the more wifi world the audience is getting closer to a fully plugged in and portable communication experience. While terrestrial radio has let much of the past web/new media world pass it by this is our opportunity to jump in. No it won't return on the investment now, but in 2-3 years those who move on the options here can expand their distribution to the new media. Remember all the years AM wished it could become FM? Here there is no tower-transmitter-modulation system to limit the conversion. Get out that and stake your claim and build it.
There are plenty of opportunities as the economy improves and business gets back to growing instead of just surviving. This summer is the time to assess the situation and build your plans to get moving this Fall and into 2010.