and-make-it-real-creative-logo-3By Trent Rentsch

It’s been a year since I joined the ranks of the unemployed. As it turns out, I was a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg. Downsizing and crumbling companies have put millions out of work and into the job market this past year. Old news. In fact, the biggest chorus of “Duh” ever heard is probably ringing through RAP’s subscription base right now. We’ve all watched and waited, holding our breath, as the market bounced around, the experts shook their heads, and the pundits suggested anything from a probable depression to Armageddon. It seems like there’s never been a New Year celebration where I’ve heard the phrase, “Here’s to a better year” than this past one. Bleak times? Oh yeah.

 But is it as bleak as it seems? It is, after all, human nature to dwell on the negative... and make it worse. Think about it; a friend who has been heavy for a number of years suddenly drops a lot of weight. Are we immediately happy for them for achieving a goal, or do we immediately worry that they’re losing it in an unhealthy way, or worse, have some horrible disease that is eating them alive?

 Yes, things have been better, but they aren’t horrific. And there is change coming, new government management that seems to be committed to improving the situation. So, where does that put us? Are we all supposed to cross our fingers and duck & cover, hoping that we’re one of the few survivors when and if the dust finally settles? Personally, I think the issues are big enough that it’s going to take a team to make things better. It’s certainly going to require some Creative solutions.

 “Wait a minute! Are you suggesting that one little person making radio commercials can make a difference?” Yes, yes I am. The economy is bad, it needs a kick in the pants. I can think of no better way to spur it on than good advertising, at all levels... from the smallest market radio station to national networks. Yes, good spots are a must... that, and a little bit more.

 One of my radio Brothers recently sent me an email, describing what amounts to an all station battle plan for the current economic situation. Included were marching orders for all staff members; in particular the sales and production team were encouraged to do whatever it takes to increase business and help their clients get the most out of their advertising. A letter was sent to all current and potential clients, explaining why this is a time to increase their advertising budget rather than cut it, how their station believes in the power of advertising to help their business through these times, and what steps were being taken to increase their commitment to the success of their clients. It was a powerful, positive step towards not only keeping revenue coming into the station, but also inspiring confidence in the power of advertising, especially in rough economic times.

 It’s exciting to see a station pull together, and even more exciting to hear that the strategy is working for them. However, for a multitude of reasons, this just might not happen at every station. So if you work for a station that doesn’t band together, you can’t be part of the solution, right? Wrong. In fact, you can make yourself the point person for positive change, even when you’re surrounded by a building of negative energy. It’s going to take a little more work, of course, but the right thing isn’t always the easy thing.

 So what can you do? A good first step is searching out that extra work for yourself. That means communicating with the Sales team. Let me repeat that: that means COMMUNICATING with the Sales team. Let’s be realistic; this doesn’t happen at all stations... not playing the blame game here, it’s simply a fact. If that’s true at your station, you must break down the wall; if good working communication exists, you’ll want to make it even better. Start by talking to the GM and/or Sales Manager. Let them know that YOU know times are tough, and you want to do what you can to help. Ask if they have any suggestions, and make them happen if they do. If they don’t have specific suggestions, offer some. Good specs sell; offer to Create some for clients who are on the fence or for new potential clients. Some clients may feel more confident with a united front, committed to their advertising; offer to join Reps on client calls regarding their commercials. Offer to Create generic commercials for specific client types, which Sales could use as a sales tool. Build a “demo tape” of your best work, including endorsements from happy clients (you do have some saved, right?). Whatever you suggest, keep it positive, focused on the fact that you are part of the team, you’re in the game, and you want to help everyone win.

 From there, reach out to all the Sales Reps. It could be at a Sales meeting, but for my money, a more personal, one-on-one conversation is more effective. Start with the hardest sell (you know who it is). There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is political. If you can break down the wall with that person, the others will follow much easier. The second reason is, well, political too. If you approach the person you have a tough time with first, rather than avoiding them, it will demonstrate your commitment to being part of the solution, “no matter the cost.” Ask them who they’re working with, who they might be having issues with, and ask them what you can do to help... and again, suggest ways you can help. Listen hard, take notes, then dig in and Create what tools you can to help them.

We all have choices, and some people made really bonehead ones, which is part of the reason we’re in the mess we’re in. What we need now are some really smart choices; choices to make positive contributions to better times. It’s less about “What’s in it for me,” and more about, “What’s in it for us?” Here’s to a better 2009, indeed!