Earlier this week EMF announced it was acquiring six new stations from Cumulus in new markets for $103.5 million. Educational Media Foundation will purchase WPLJ/New York (95.5) WYAY/Atlanta (106.7) WRQX/Washington, D.C-Baltimore. (107.3) KFFG,/San Jose (97.7), WZAT/Savannah, GA (102.1); and WXTL/Syracuse, NY (105.9).
How does a local Christian radio ministry react to this? What will be the impact and what should your next move be?
Positive Alternative Radio (PAR) Executive Vice President Brian Sanders wrote this article for any stations facing ‘competition’ within the industry.
Dear Christian Radio,
So…it’s been a quiet week in our industry, eh?
EMF released a statement announcing station purchases in major markets in which they paid $103.5 million.
Many of you may be asking, what’s my next move? How does ministry react to this?
Some of you will be tempted to do nothing. You simply want to ignore it.
That’s a mistake.
Burying our heads in the sand doesn’t change the fact that the landscape has changed. It does show an unwillingness to face the future.
This blog is going to be full of candor. It’s a core value at Positive Alternative Radio. We practice it every single day. So, here goes…
If you haven’t prepared for a day when competition does show up, then you’re probably already behind the curve. But it doesn’t mean your ministry can’t thrive.
Embrace the fact that there is competition. You chose to do “para-church” business in a capitalist society. Competition is the price to the show. You’re both appealing for audience and donors. Let’s be honest, the pie is only so big. You must fight for your piece of it.
Compete fairly. Don’t spread rumors or try to malign the organization that is competing against you. Produce a better product.
Some of you will say, “But I’m afraid. My team is afraid.” Dear Leader, you don’t have time to be afraid. You must walk the halls with confidence allowing your team to see you believing in them and in your organization’s mission and vision. Acknowledge there is a new player in town or that it’s just a matter of time before they show up in your back yard. Paint a picture for the team of what that world looks like and how they will win in that scenario.
Before you even say it, just stop. What was it you were going to say? “I can’t afford to compete.” Yes, you can. You have donors. Cast a vision for donors where the ministry is hiring talented people, reaching more listeners on air, marketing more online, and having a bigger impact on the community. Donors will give to that vision. It may mean that you will need to raise money for more than 3-4 days. If it takes you 8 days to reach the goal to achieve a dream, then by all means, raise money for 8 days.
Be better than your competition.
Drucker once famously quipped, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Here’s the Sanders version, “The passion your team has for your organization’s mission and vision will be evident by the ability to triumph over the competition.” That’s how culture eats strategy for breakfast. If your team believes and is passionate, they’ll storm the gates of hell to win. Build the culture. Build it out of belief in your team, not out of fear of the competition.
Invest in talent. We’re not looking for people who can tell the time and temp. Recruit and coach people who are willing to be vulnerable with their own lives and reflect the listener’s life back to them. If you don’t know what that means or how to do it, then hire a coach. This industry is full of great on-air coaches.
Build relationships. You have an advantage over competition that is national. You have the ability to build friendships. When a national competitor shows up, all they can do is create awareness. But your station can be in that community shaking hands, hugging necks and listening to their stories. Take those stories and air them. Be sure that when you do, include the person’s name and town where they’re from. Why? It’ll help you sound like a local community without you ever having to say you’re local.
Get your music right. Let’s be honest, K-Love probably has the most tested music list in this industry. If your first reaction is, “We’ll pepper in some songs that will distinguish us from them…” then you’ve made your first mistake.
Outback and Ruth’s Chris both serve steaks. It’s the experience that surrounds that steak that distinguishes the two.
Invest in marketing. Raise the funds to do some billboards and ads on social media. Yes, you’ll have to set your goal higher. You’ll have to visit some donors and ask for major gifts.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for advice. At PAR, we face competition in several of our markets. Competition from universities and from national brands. And yet, we’re winning. That isn’t a braggadocios statement. Not at all. It’s a testament to the team of PAR, their belief in our mission and vision, their willingness to raise the funds, take risks and fail and build those relationships.
PAR is here for you.
We’ll answer questions.
This team would love to chat with you about any and all of these areas.
And to show our belief in local Christian radio, we won’t charge you a dime to help you.
We do have a PAR Services department that helps stations and organizations.
But for such a time as this, we’ll come along side of you for 90 days simply because we believe in you and want to help you. Call me. Email me. My info is at the end of this blog. I’m serious.
This will be hard work.
Raising the funds, investing in the team, coaching talent, fundraisers, marketing and so on.
But the work is fun. Pursuing a grand vision is invigorating.
Embrace the challenge.
Create the future you want.
It won’t be easy…
But then again…easy never changed the world
Executive Vice President, PAR
Positive Alternative Radio