This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on September 7, 2021
Lori Bennett is currently Operations Manager for Cumulus/Grand Rapids-Muskegon, and Program Director for WHTS, WKLQ, WTNR. Some of her other responsibilities include Creator/Executor of Content, Ninja Talent Coach; Rock, CHR and Country Air Personality, and Marketing and Sales Warrior. Lori says she now lives and works “a dream job” in one of the best radio markets and most beautiful cities in the U.S.: Grand Rapids, MI. Her former stints include Cumulus/Detroit, iHeartRadio/Detroit, Greater Media (now Beasley/Detroit), CBS (now Audacy/Detroit).
Like most people in the industry, Lori got into radio because of her passion for music. “Music is life, but I can’t sing or play an instrument well. Literature is life, but I can’t write without snark talking. I’m beyond good at math. A dude in college swayed me into working at the local station with the lure: ‘Be on the radio! You’ll never do numbers again.’ Oh, hello: Ratings, Revenue, Budgets, Backtiming, Song Length, Intro Time–All. Math. I will find that guy eventually and cut him.”
In addition to being a seasoned programmer, Lori still gets most excited about the win. “Working with an amazing team to take a radio station legit, from worst to first, having the knowledge that I set out to work with everyone I admired and actually did/am. These are the things that are rewarding,” she says. “And, ok, backstage meet and greet with Sir Paul McCartney was also kind of a big deal. It was a tale of two like-minded left-handed Irish-originated Geminis talking at EXACTLY the same time, so neither of us understood anything the other said. Like he hasn’t heard ‘ohmigodyouremyheroyouwrotemysoulinyourlyricsidontcareifyourmydadsagewhydoesourtimingsuckandwecantcatcheachotherbetweenmarriages’ before?”
Despite Lori’s amazing success, it hasn’t always been easy. “I’ve been told ‘no’ a lot. Some, because of old gender politics, disguised as ‘wrong time, wrong demo, wrong experience, wrong look (before socials),” she says. “I don’t do ‘no.’ I handled the challenges by either finding a way to change some of that dialogue or getting very creative in finding ways to work around it, only ‘IF’ I wanted to. Some wasn’t worth the trouble.” The advice she’d give to her 20-year-old self at this point. “Be patient. LISTEN before you react. Take every moment to learn, even if it sucks or hurts. Take every positive moment to heart and don’t dwell on the negative. Ask for help when you need it.”
As one of the few women in the business who have achieved success as a programmer, I asked Lori why she thought there were still so few of us in the business. “It’s an all-encompassing career choice. It’s less hanging with the Jonas Brothers and more long days/late nights/early mornings of small but not unimportant tasks to work on your craft, she says. “While it’s a LOT to have your literal hands and mind in creation from top to bottom, we’ve not done a good job of marketing to how wonderfully liberating that is,” says Bennett. “I take it to heart every time someone says we helped them see others, be more community oriented, speak their truth, or that we just plain entertained or made them laugh, especially this last year.”
I went even further as to ask Lori how we should motivate more women to take the leap into management and become radio programmers. “Now more than ever, it is absolutely possible and entirely thrilling to be able to own a vision in a station brand plus generate content from top to bottom leading a team. We need to recruit on that. When I see female influencers in different mediums doing this kind of brand management, I know we’re not messaging correctly.’
Lori was one of the few programmers who attended Morning Show Boot Camp in Chicago last month. She’s been to many, so I wanted to get her feedback on it after taking a break from an in-person panel las year because of the pandemic. I also wanted to get her thoughts on it post-pandemic. “We are ALL just getting started with our true ‘voice’ after this pandemic. And as opposed to other conventions, I didn’t run into a single jerk. We are just SO happy to be performing! Also, thank you to everyone who allowed themselves to be vulnerable about it. You know who you are, and I treasure your confidence.”
In her spare time, Lori likes to create and write trashy song lyrics and fiction novels that she throws away. She also creates not trashy but healthy recipes and cooks very good food that she doesn’t throw away. And she’s in the water every chance she gets.
So, what keeps Lori up at night? “The fear I’m not doing enough,” she says. “The motto I loved and appropriated oddly, but yet perfectly, from visiting the House of Blues Chicago/New Orleans ‘Help Always. Hurt Never.’ Am I living up to that?”
What brings balance to her life? “I have fabulous young people in my life who if are not of my blood, are the true children of my heart,” says Bennett. “They love music, art, literature and will NOT tolerate nonsense. They call me out on my crap, then it’s super cool that they then go home to their own parents. I also always need to be near the water, I’m not the strongest swimmer, but lakes/rivers/oceans feed my soul.”
As for what we have to look forward to from Lori, “Continued success with my current radio brands. I’m just getting started creatively, if not in real time. Keep watching this space………”
Follow Lori Bennett LoriBen4 on Twitter and IG.