Negotiating During The Pandemic

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Consultant Tips” series, written by Charese Fruge on July 28, 2020

Let’s face it, the timing couldn’t be worse if you’re trying to negotiate a new deal in the middle of this coronavirus madness. The pandemic has had a massive financial impact on the radio industry and companies are looking to cut costs, not increase them. We’ve seen major layoffs in the bigger companies that were already struggling financially before the pandemic hit. Positions are being consolidated or eliminated, jobs are few and far between, and talent, both on and off the air are being forced to be jacks of many trades.

There are a lot of out of work radio people with experience right now looking for their next opportunity and that makes the competition for your job fierce, and puts you at the mercy of your company. I’ve talked to a lot of frustrated talent with great track records lately who say that their options are to take on more responsibilities, while either taking a pay cut, or signing a new deal that looks exactly like the last one that had been signed. And sadly the company line is “take it or leave it.” While this might make you feel like you are of no value to your company or brand despite all of your hard work and success, you need to keep in mind that right now, it’s not personal and it’s happening to millions of Americans in all industries across the country.

I’m not suggesting you allow yourself to be de-valued. In fact, I am saying quite the opposite. But first, you need to take emotion out of negotiation. If you can’t do that, then you should definitely find someone to do it for you. And I don’t mean hire some big name agent with too many clients who wants 10% of your salary. There are people out there with experience who will help you or represent you on a more financially responsible level. And second, you need to build a portfolio of what you bring to the table that proves that you are irreplaceable, or the best person for the job.

If you are working on a new deal right now, or in the next six months, there are a few things you can do to get creative if you don’t get the dollar figure you want:

  • As I mentioned, put together a portfolio of everything you do. Include any ratings increase or revenue you helped bring to the table with endorsements and favored clients. What’s your ROI? Include everything you do for your brand outside of your required responsibilities. It should tell the story of why you are irreplaceable.


  • Put together a presentation of ideas and opportunities to help increase brand awareness and help generate revenue. At some point you’ll want to attend a sales meeting or two and sell yourself to the team. Build relationships with your sellers and help them do their jobs. At the end of the day, it’s all about revenue.


  • If you’re being asked to take a pay cut, not getting a raise, or the salary isn’t quite what you expected, try to come up with creative ideas that will help you personally, professionally or financially. Things that you may be able to negotiate that will make you feel better about signing a contract.
      • Can you get more vacation time?
      • Can you get more or a guaranteed number of endorsements and appearances?
      • Can you pursue your own sales leads to make the above happen?
      • Can you negotiate for a shorter time frame while the world tries to figure it out?
      • Can you negotiate a slight raise in year two of the deal?
      • Can you up your bonuses or be given more realistic goals?
      • Can you bonus on ratings points since it helps revenue?
      • What about trade? Or corporate phone account? (One less bill you have to pay)
      • Can you use your personal social media accounts to do your own endorsements to make extra money if it’s not a conflict of interest?

I could go on and on with creative ideas to help in negotiations, but there’s not enough room for it here. My point is, the financial struggle for the industry is real right now, and it will be for at least the next year. So you need to appreciate the fact that you still have a job doing what you love and you need to do everything you can to balance your negotiating so it benefits both you and your company without losing or giving up your job.

That means continuing to prove that you are irreplaceable but not insensitive to what’s going on. It’s going to have to be up to you to come up with ideas because your boss is too busy worrying about keeping everyone’s heads above water, including (and especially) their own. And right now it’s important to remember that if you can, negotiate short term while the pandemic is going on. When and if things get back to normal, then you can look at going full-court press to be compensated for what you’re worth and your additional duties. And if you can’t take emotion out of negotiation, get someone to do it for you.