December 16, 2016
We’re All In SalesRadio: The Hit Machine
By Fred Jacobs

Fred Jacobs

As my father – a lifelong salesperson – used to remind me, “Everyone’s in sales.”

Of course as a Program Director, I rejected this notion, convinced that I was a product guy whose main responsibility was to create cool radio that attracted a large audience. My goal was to get the ratings, and then it was the sales department’s job to generate the revenue.

But along the way, it turns out that simple notion doesn’t play out anymore in the radio business. Great programmers have the responsibility of helping sales reps make the deal, get the buy, and put together attractive marketing programs.

The challenge facing PDs runs even deeper because in order to accomplish your larger goals, you have to sell your vision to your GM, your owner, or both. Gone are the days when budgets are meant to be spent. Today, it’s about justifying your initiatives, showing how they can be effective, and proving their return on investment.

And that means developing the ability to make the sale in a very challenged environment.
In other words, an elevator pitch.

Often times, a new idea is the most difficult to sell because a concept that falls outside the traditional boundary lines (“We want to create our own morning show-branded craft beer”), making it more challenging to be taken seriously. Too often, programmers simply ask for money for a project that simply hasn’t been researched or fleshed out.

Thinking about this task like a business person is a lot like making a pitch to a venture capital firm to make an investment in your brand new startup. 

In fact, that’s the analogy that has the ring of authenticity, because if you can develop a story the VCs will buy into, you can clearly make the sale to your boss down the hall. How can you share your vision, get buy-in, and more importantly, the money and resources you need to make it a success?

recently ran a story, “The 14 Phrases every VC Wants To Hear In Your Pitch,” written by Mark Rampolla. When I saw the headline, I assumed it was about just including startup buzzwords, but in fact, Rampolla’s reminders are focused on doing the prep and spade work necessary for pulling off a great elevator pitch, whether corporate comes to town or you’re in a department head meeting with other managers.

Not all Rampolla’s tips are relevant to the everyday programming operation of a station, but many are smart pieces of advice for making sure your pitch resonates with the people controlling the purse strings. Here are 10 smart strategies to ensure you get the budget to pay for your station’s next big event, concert, contest, or hire:

  1. You’re respectful of their time. Time is the resource that continues to diminish for all of us. Starting a meeting with a reminder your pitch will be brief and concise sets the tone that you understand just how precious everyone’s time is.
  2. You’re personally invested. This is where you let the boss know the initiative for which you’re seeking money is personally important to you – that you care very deeply about its success. In this way, the investment is as much about you as it is the project itself.
  3. You’ve put in the time. This is about letting the powers that be know this is something that’s been on your plate for a long time and it’s not something you just dreamed up last week. It’s an indicator your plan is well thought out and you’ve considered all the angles.
  4. Don’t BS. If you don’t know the answer to a question (“Where else has it worked?” etc.), don’t try to dance your way out of it. A simple “I don’t know but I’ll find out” is better than building a case on a false foundation. If you test drive the pitch with a smart surrogate, those questions may come up in a practice session, giving you time to figure out the answer.
  5. You’ve done your due diligence. Here’s the point in the pitch where the fact you’ve done your homework and your research needs to be on display. A well-crafted visual or chart can help reinforce your logic, while showing the boss you’ve got data to back up your idea.
  6. You’ve done the research. This is where that new initiative can take flight by demonstrating you’ve actually tested the concept with your audience. Tools like Survey Monkey or Listener Advisory Board groups give any PD the chance to test drive an idea against real listeners. If you can prove the concept has a strong chance of working because of a built-in desire or indicators it will be successful, you’re well on the way to getting funding and support.
  7. You’ve studied the competition. Has the idea been done before, is it something that your brand can own, and what’s the likely impact on your key nemesis? In the rough and tumble world of radio, making the guys across the street part of your focus is another indicator you’re thought everything through.
  8. You’ve bullet-proofed it. This is another sign that you’ve done the due diligence on this concept. And it’s also an opportunity for your boss to help you solve problems that might come up.  When the meeting becomes an exercise in helping make the idea a success, your chances for getting the green light improve.
  9. You can pay for it (and make money on it). Many radio companies already force programmers to think through the process of how a new idea, event, promotion, or contest can make money. If you can come to the boss with some revenue generating strategies, including accounts that would likely support the concept, you’re ahead of the game.
  10. It’s sustainable. The best ideas aren’t just things you can do in Q4 – they’re the concepts you can bring back next year and the year after. When you come up with an event or a promotion that can be repeated again and again, you can make the case it can become an evergreen that’s more successful over time. It’s easier to sell a franchise than a one-off.

Shows like “Shark Tank” inspire us to bring our A game when it’s time to make a pitch. It’s not enough to be a creative programmer. You have to sell your vision, your plan, and your ideas. And you have to prove you know your stuff.

And so a key component in developing great new initiatives for your station starts with a better understanding of your audience. What are they doing when they’re not listening to you? What are their preferred platforms for audio and video? Are they into podcasts? What mobile devices do they use? What social media sites do they spend the most time on?

These are just a few of the questions we cover every year in our Techsurveys. This year, we’ll have new questions that run the gamut from cord cutting to paid music services to podcasting preferences. Techsurvey13 goes into the field in mid-January and every station reading this article in FMQB is invited to join. Participation in Techsurvey13 is a simple way you can truly uncover the opportunities for new ventures, sponsorships, and events. For more information and registration, go to



Nikki Nite,
VP of Prog. & Ops,

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