Why Can't Sales and Programming Just Get Along?

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Mar 6, 2024 by Sean Luce

Successful radio stations balance on a three-legged stool: sales, programming, and promotions/marketing.
All three legs have to be intact or the chair falls. Programming and production are an integral combination
for getting "rise above the clutter" ads on the air for the client. Here are a few questions to contemplate:

1. How can sales better communicate to programming what the client wants or expects in an ad?

2. How can programmers make sales better understand what they do, and therefore (hopefully) create more effective ads?

It's time to reach across the table and ask programming for their point of view. Steve Hoffman, program director for Anaheim Broadcasting's KCAL-FM in Riverside, CA, says, "Any program director should conduct regular aircheck sessions with sales in order to grow the staff's ability to communicate with their target audience, whether that audience is a client or the listeners we want to drive to the client."

From the sales side, detail rules. The more we know about a client, the better we can focus on their customers when crafting spots. Even if the client is an established one, or a new client in an established product category, the client will have distinguishing characteristics that differentiate them from others in the same category. On-air and production talent are trained to understand radio listeners and speak to them in the ways most likely to be accepted by them.The more we understand  about who we're producing for, the better we can understand their wants and needs, and meet those needs.

As a sidebar - and excuse the pet peeve - complete your paperwork. Before handing off a production order, make sure it's filled out completely. A seller wouldn't dress sloppily for a client meeting for fear of appearing unprofessional and unworthy of the client's time. Similarly, an incomplete or illegible production order causes the producer to think the seller doesn't care about the end product, and that end product will suffer accordingly.

VerStandig Broadcasting's Director of Programming for Pennsylvania and Maryland Randy Fitzsimmons says,
"Programming must realize that the product we make means nothing if it does not generate revenue. Therefore, programming must take the initiative in helping sales with creative ideas, and not just saying no to anything that comes in for their clients.They must think of new ways to look at their proposals and
ideas. Healthy programming should equal healthy sales. If it does not, then our business is out of balance."

So what can you do to foster this link between sales and programming? Some stations now have creative service directors that report to both sales and programming. This is being done in Thessaloniki, Greece, with a great deal of success. The CSD makes sales calls with the reps to gain a better understanding of the client, and also to ensure the ad is compelling and fits the station's format. Have you ever heard a commercial that runs across all stations in the market, yet has that definitive country twang on the country station, or speaks to Baby Boomers on the classical station? Matina Hatzistergiou, CSD for Star-FM in Thessaloniki, says, "The message is vital over the air. It's critical that you're educated about the client's business. If the CSD doesn't understand the client's needs, how can he or she make the listener understand? Feel, touch, experience your client's product or service. Our clients get better results and our programming/on-air staff gets better copy to produce."

In the end, the client wins because sales and programming are on the same page. There's no excuse for sales and programming to conflict.We're all on the same team. If we're not, it's time to examine why sales and programming are not cooperating, and get in the same room and work it out. Isn't that what we do with our clients? As Hoffman puts it, "The bottom line is simple: Just do it. We all talk a good game until tasks start piling up and communication is postponed until a "more convenient" time. The reality is that better communication is as simple as (1) prioritizing sales-programming communication and (2) creating, explaining, understanding, and then meeting expectations."

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