What’s The Plan?

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Consultant Tips” series, written by Charese Fruge on April 28, 20202

What’s the plan? That seems to be the million dollar question right now. Americans are asking federal, state and city governments what’s the plan for returning to whatever the new normal is when the time is right. It’s an enormously controversial question across the country because some leaders are better prepared than others, and some are acting much quicker than anticipated whether they have an actual plan or not. There are federal guidelines in place that call for reopening the economy in phases, but certain requirements must be met first in order to ensure safety and no fall backs. As with the reopening of the economy (whenever that happens) we’ll be re-opening our businesses, and for those of us in the broadcast industry, we’ll be re-opening of our offices, studios and eventually our events.

Do you have a plan? Whether you’re a Mornings Show, Program Director, Sales Manager or Market Manager, it doesn’t matter what department you work in, if you are a leader, you need to have a plan in place to approach the new normal. While we as American’s sit in disarray waiting for our scientists and our government to tell us what to do, take this time to understand the importance of the phrase “It starts at the top.” That’s why it’s important to start thinking about what your plan is today, and putting together a playbook. Whether it’s a plan for you as individual talent, you as a programmer, or you as a market or sales manager, you need to be prepared so you can hit the ground running when you get the green light.

The most important question you have to ask yourself when putting together your plan is: “What did we learn from this experience?” Identify the good, the bad and the ugly. That way you can set goals and determine the steps needed to take to achieve them moving forward. And no, we don’t have all the answers, and don’t necessarily understand how and why everything happened the way it did, but again, if you go back to the lessons learned, you can put together a solid plan for the future. It’s also important to consider the question: “If I knew what I know now, what would I have done differently?” This will not only help you put your plan for moving forward together, but it will also help you have a plan in place if in fact we do fall back on the infectious pandemic again, or if in fact it does return in the fall as predicted by some scientists.

For talent and morning shows, here’s what you should consider when putting together your plan: How do you reunite the team safely in the studio and engage the audience while doing so? What listening habits and social habits did you create with the audience during the lockdown and how do you continue to incorporate them in the show? How do you turn those opportunities into potential ratings and revenue? Your sales team will be looking for ways to bounce back fast. It’s also important to keep it real. The economy will still be in bad shape and unemployment and lay-offs will continue to be an issue. So while the focus used to be how do we “wow” the audience with “out of the box” promotions and giveaways, now it needs to be how do we relate to them and how can we help them? A recent NuVoodoo survey just revealed the only thing the audience is looking for right now is commercial free music, quick updates and help with the rent, or bills, or groceries (cash). Understand what’s important to your audience and give it to them. Don’t worry about anything else.

For programmers, it’s a no brainer. In addition to the research on music sweeps and cash, early indications of stations whose ratings are maintaining, or increasing during the work from home phase are the comfort stations, predominately AC and Hot AC. The stations playing the hits while incorporating live and local talent who’ve adjusted their time slots to the new current prime time, extending morning shows until late morning and making sure to stay up to date with continued local coverage throughout the early afternoon. These listening patterns will need to be monitored closely as more and more people go back to work. It’s also a critical time for the program director to be the link between all departments right now. Making sure talent and the sales team communicate well, identifying what works for both sides and how and what can be monitored. You’ll also need to communicate what can realistically be done with the production teams and digital teams operating with skeleton crews. Be a part of the plan building process for everything that affects your brand or extension of the brand, after all you are “The Brand Manager.”

As for Market Manager’s, your plan is the most important. You are the team leader. You’ll want to identify who the A players were when it all went to hell. Who stepped up without drama? Who helped solve the problems, who had great solutions, who didn’t? Were there people on the team who were capable of multi-tasking while providing results? It’s not something any of us want to think about, but if we’re forced to make any further cuts, it will make things black and white. It’s important for you to lay out your plan for your team with basic phases of returning to the new normal. Make it a point to be a part of all of your department’s plans as a show of support and concern at a very uncertain time. There is nothing worse than no communication from the top. It makes people think and do crazy things. Nothing can be worse for the business from a revenue standpoint than where we are at this very moment, so you may have been busy before the pandemic hit, but right now it won’t hurt any further to take a few minutes to show you care. It’s the only path to success in an ego based business.

Remember, “It all starts at the top.”