It’s not easy being Jay Leno these days.
First, you know about the story where he took that salary reduction, along with the loss of many staffers.
Next, other big name talk show hosts are taking shots at him. Howard Stern has had a field day ridiculing Leno and his pay cut. Calling him a “spineless maggot” and a “scumbag,” NBC magnified the mess by apparently threatening Stern, warning him not to talk about Leno. You’d think NBC, of all networks, would know these tactics only makes it worse.
Then Jimmy Kimmel – who will now be going head to head with Leno – jumped in with his own reaction about the late night icon – “F**k him.” It should be a fun late night fight.
It’s interesting that the guy that Jay shoved out of late night, Conan, hasn’t weighed in yet.
Aside from the fact that it’s probably fun for these guys to bash Leno, the source of all the brickbats was the announcement that he took a salary haircut, along with slashing the Tonight Show staff by 20 people. According to the Los Angeles Times, Leno will now have to make do with only $20 million annually, so I’m not imagining that most of you have a lot of sympathy for him.
But the larger issue is about awareness. If Leno didn’t realize that the economics of broadcasting had changed before, he sure understands them now.
And that’s why when I run into radio personalities who still haven’t come to grips with the changing realities of the business and the diminishing compensation model, I don’t get it.
In most media markets, the advertising “pie” for radio looks like the sales chart for BlackBerry. It really doesn’t matter whether your ratings have held up in PPM. What counts is your sales team’s ability (or inability) to generate revenue.
That’s something that may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true. The storied model – if you get the ratings, sales will follow – has been shaken by the weakened economy and the competitive conditions in the media business.
For DJs, shows, and teams, it should be a signal that retaining your job and some degree of financial stability has gotten more challenging. If these precarious conditions are impacting Jay Leno, you can be sure that jocks in Pittsburgh, Pensacola, and Phoenix are all feeling some degree of pain.
This is coming at a time when the radio business – whether it realizes it or not – needs its personalities now more than ever. As the music experience is duplicated, customized, and commoditized by any number of new players, the local personality has the ability to make a difference.
But not by doing the old “four and out the door” routine.
We have addressed these new keys to success multiple times in this blog, but the Leno situation should be a wake-up call to everyone on the air. If Jay got a haircut, you know that DJs, anchormen, and other on-air talent will be making a trip to the barber shop.
So in the spirit of self-determination, here are 10 actions to consider that are designed to help talent navigate through these challenging waters:
- Be indispensable – Become that person at the station that everyone counts on. Anyone can do this if you work hard enough.
- Be versatile – Learn how to do new things – voicetracking, production, sales calls, stand-up comedy. The more skills you have in your professional utility belt, the more you can accomplish #1.
- Be in sales – The salespeople need your help now more than ever (whether they realize it or not). If you have a big name in town, your presence at agencies and with clients can be a difference maker.
- Be in the community – High school speeches, advertiser breakfasts, and charitable activities all add up to great exposure and stronger personal brands. Plus, it will make you feel good to mix it up with real people outside the station.
- Be there – Show up, volunteer for appearances, become synonymous with your call letters.
- Be networking – Introduce yourself to anyone and everyone in your town – politicians, TV anchors, concert promoters, local team execs – the hot shots of your communities. These contacts will provide you access and exposure – and chances are good they all know each other.
- Be current – Look out the windshield, not back at the rear view mirror. Think forward, and stop reminiscing about the “good old days.” Plus, the whining and grousing with other radio vets will just make you bitter. Think positive and look for ways to energize your brand.
- Be social – Learn how to use and master the new tools. That’s where your new listeners (and your current ones) now reside. It’s your new marketing budget.
- Be in touch – Graciously acknowledge everyone on Facebook, answer the phones, return calls and emails, retweet/favorite/follow on Twitter. Yes, you’re going after thousands of cumers, but positive impressions can be made one at a time.
- Be realistic – Leno may have been surprised when NBC came to him looking for a multi-million dollar haircut. You shouldn’t be. Have your Plan B responses and options mapped out. Make sure you understand the numbers – ratings and revenue – in order to have an intelligent conversation about your future. If you have an agent, make sure he/she understands the realities of the situation so you don’t end up with a worse deal – or out of a job altogether.
Management may have the upper hand and the purse strings, but never has personality been more important to radio brands. Play your cards right, help the company, and help yourself.
Oh, and don’t be a spineless maggot.