Monday, January 17, 2011

Serving Two Masters: the Radio Station and the Radio Advertising Client

Radio advertising salespeople serve two masters: their radio stations and their advertising clients. A salesperson's paycheck is written on the radio station's bank account. But the station's account depends entirely on the dollars that come from its advertising clients.

Who, ultimately, is the salesperson's "boss?"

I’ve pondered this relationship for many, many years—the interlocking, occasionally conflicting relationship between “making goal” (putting the station’s needs first) and “serving the customer” (putting the client’s needs first).

It's too simplistic to say that these are (or should be) one-and-the-same. They’re not.

How should the salesperson serve his two masters, station and client? Each has his own priorities and objectives, his own self-interests.

We can bring the two objectives into closer alignment (though never perfectly) by investing in our salespeople, e.g., offering training in the arts of advertising, copywriting, and related marketing skills—and not just sales training, important as it may be—and then by empowering and encouraging them to evaluate, objectively, whether a particular schedule, campaign, or package is truly in the client’s best interest.

Short-term, budget-driven thinking tends in too many cases to see the client only as a means to an end. (There is the flip-side, of course, where a client sees the radio station as just another vendor, and his radio ads as a commodity, nothing more.)

Taking the longer view—and this has been my experience, especially in the second half of a career spanning nearly forty years—giving the client the benefit of the doubt and choosing his interests over the station’s when there’s a conflict, is a surer way to cultivate durable, longstanding relationships built on trust, respect, and honesty—a foundation far more likely in the long run to benefit the station as well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ted Williams, Take Two

When Ted Williams first burst into the national conversation a couple of weeks ago, everybody-and-his-brother in media were trying to get a piece of him. Many viewed his discovery as his salvation, seemingly the end of his hard life.

But some of us saw him as jumping from the frying pan into the fire and said his biggest test was yet to come.

A guy used to drinking himself to sleep under a bridge isn't suddenly going to do a 180 simply because he's been discovered and come into some money.

Fame and fortune might enable him to buy a better brand of booze and sleep in a more comfortable place, for awhile anyway, but they're not going to make him a better person or prolong his life. Just ask Jimi, Janis, John Belushi, and myriad others who've faced and failed the prosperity test.

His media handlers can clean him up for the cameras, but that's just for show. Ted's daily testing begins when the cameras and microphones are turned off.

His recent meltdown in a Los Angeles hotel and subsequent arrest, his daughter's revelation that he's been downing a fifth of vodka nightly, and most recently his own admission on Dr. Phil's show that he hasn't been able to handle the pressure confirm it.

What Ted Williams truly, desperately needs is a good soul-scrubbing.

Dr. Phil put it this way:
"If Ted is ever going to get better, he's got to be honest with himself and admit he's addicted to drugs and alcohol. Everyone is pulling for Ted, but his 15 minutes are going to be over and then he'll be left to manage a life filled with temptation."

Ted Williams is facing a difficult, some would even say impossible situation. But there is One for whom nothing is impossible. Ted would do well to yield to Him, and I hope that God will intervene to provide the beneficial influences—both human and circumstantial—that will help Ted Williams change his thinking, change his behavior, and over time—years, not days, weeks, or months—eventually undergo the change in his character, that will give him the inner resources to resist the temptations he will continue to face and keep him from squandering the opportunity he's been handed.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:15-16)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

VOTV: a Brand New Opportunity for Voiceover Talent

Bob Souer, a voice actor held in high esteem by his peers in the business, calls it "either good news or bad news, depending on your point of view."

The news in question concerns plans by competing production companies to put not one but two new "reality" TV shows on the air, intended to give aspiring voice talents their shot at stardom.

VoiceOverXtra's John Florian writes:

Two television programs - Behind The Mic - The VoiceOver Talent Search, and America's Next Voice - are being developed by well-known voice over professionals, in which voice over talents will vie for a shot of fame on camera.
Behind the Mic co-producers are show creator and voice over talent agent Erik Sheppard - of Voice Talent Productions - and popular voice talent / trainer Marc Cashman.
America's Next Voice is being developed by Los Angeles voice over celebrities Joe Cipriano, known especially for TV promos and movie trailers, and Randy Thomas, the frequent voice of major award shows.

Reading between the lines of Mr. Florian's interviews with the producers, a nascent rivalry has already emerged between the two shows, although at least one voice actor has urged his colleagues not to take sides: "These (people) are huge in the VO world. I hope nobody has to take sides here. There could be room for both."

Many in the voiceover community are thrilled that their profession is about to be thrust into the national limelight. More than a few anticipate auditioning for their fifteen minutes of fame and, possibly, the opportunity to take their careers to a new level.

Others are concerned about what effect a slew of new and aspiring voice talents might have upon an already crowded and competitive field, not known for its job security except for those top-tier talents whose paychecks, perks, and popularity are not likely to be threatened by newcomers.

The most successful voiceover talents have learned how to market themselves, through a combination of advertising, networking, and personal sales. They've hired coaches to help them hone their talents, and agents to sniff out opportunities to advance their careers. Of necessity, they've had to develop their entrepreneurial skills in order to make a living.

I'm betting that more than a few forward-thinking folks in the business will soon attempt to leverage their experience and expertise, opening a brand new (to them) revenue stream as trainers, coaches, and mentors.

It makes perfect sense. Established voiceover educators already have plenty of students to occupy their time. Their capacity to handle a huge influx of additional business—while a nice problem to have—will prove a limiting factor when this thing catches on.


There is the possibility that some of these trainers will follow the example of Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads, whose best-selling trilogy of advertising books catapulted him into fame and fortune. Recognizing early on that he and his marketing company were poised for explosive growth in a relatively short time, Roy offered Wizard of Ads franchise opportunities to advertising professionals worldwide, resulting in the addition of some thirty "branch offices," operated under his auspices.

I have no idea, of course, whether Pat Fraley, Nancy Wolfson, Susan Berkley, and other well-established voice acting trainers have an interest in taking their businesses in this direction.

But this much is certain: these two VO-TV shows are going to be game changers. As the Wizard might exhort those who see an opportunity for growth: get ready to pull the trigger and ride the bullet.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

"Golden Voice" Ted Williams' Biggest Test Is Still to Come

Unless you've been in a coma or completely insulated from media this week, you're familiar with the story of Ted Williams, the one-time radio announcer, gifted with a "bottomless" golden voice, whose submission to alcohol, cocaine, crack and the wrong crowd led him to abandon his family and career for a "life" on the streets of Columbus, Ohio.

On a Sunday a few weeks ago, a man and his family on their way to church stopped at the intersection where Williams was panhandling and pressed a $20 bill into his hand. That got Ted's attention in a big way, just as his astonishing "pipes" got theirs. The man who stopped happens to work for the Columbia Dispatch, and he was curious to learn more about the man with the big voice. So he asked for and received Ted's permission to record video and sound of him soliciting donations at the exit ramp.

The video went viral. When I saw it on Facebook, thanks to a couple of friends in voiceover and radio, it had had a few hundred views. A day or two later, over five million others had seen it.

Suddenly, Ted Williams is an international celebrity. Appearances on GMA, Today, Fallon, Leno. A station in Hawaii wants to fly him there, all expenses paid, to do a few drop-ins. The Cleveland Cavaliers want him to be their stadium announcer. Job offers are coming out of the woodwork.

And therein lies Ted Williams' biggest challenge, and it's a monster.

How will he handle the pressures of fame and fortune being thrust upon him after having spent years on the streets, not by chance but by choice.

Yes, it's a hard thing to say: "choice." But, like all of us, Ted Williams has volition. Free will. He was free to choose and made bad choices, destructive choices. His children and mother say they tried to help, but he refused it.

I'm not condemning him. Nor am I claiming to understand his situation. I've not walked in his shoes, nor have I slept where he's slept, nor have I shared a meal with him. Like you, I only know what I've seen and heard in the media.

But it's hardly a stretch to say that Ted Williams' downward spiral into substance abuse, family abandonment, and homelessness was largely of his own making.

The Bible informs us that a tendency toward sin and evil is a common characteristic of the human race (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23, 6:23), no exceptions save One.

And yet, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are a functioning conscience and the personal freedom to respond to its dictates, no man is forced to act contrary to his own best interests.

I believe God has given Ted Williams another chance. By his own admission and the statements of others close to him, his redemption from life on the streets is the result of divine intervention and an answer to many prayers.

But as enviable as his new-found fortune may seem, it's fraught with dangers. Men inclined to self-destructive behavior find it so much easier to indulge themselves under prosperity than under adversity.

Williams himself has likened his good fortune to hitting the lottery. Ironically, in the same week, two people who live within 150 miles of me split a Mega Millions jackpot worth nearly $400 million. One hopes they have the capacity to handle the tsunami of green, having read the stories of lottery winners coming into tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, squandering their lives and fortune through dissipation.

In fact, our history is full of stories of millionaires, moguls and movie stars who've come to tragic ends and premature deaths, solely because they couldn't handle extreme prosperity, power, or popularity.

I believe that what Ted Williams is going to need most of all is prayer and the love of family and friends who aren't attracted to his money or fame, but who simply want to see him become the man God wants him to be.

I wish him well.

Monday, January 03, 2011

"The High Price of Saying Yes to Everything"

That headline jumped off the page yesterday morning, as though it had been placed there just for me.

I have been learning that "Saying Yes to Everything" almost always creates as many difficulties as it tries to solve.

Reflecting on how this tendency had gained ascendancy my own life, last spring I wrote:
The fact is, I've lost a great deal of time in the pursuit of an illusory productivity. I've become a victim of the myth of multi-tasking.
For instance, I carry two cell phones -- one provided by the radio station and my own personal/business phone -- a tangible manifestation of the dilemma I face, having more professional interests than the time to pursue them, more irons in the fire than I can effectively handle, too many conflicting deadlines and obligations.

Yes, I have only myself to blame. I've always found it easier to say "Yes" to people, when I should be saying "No, I can't. Sorry." Whether it boils down to a lack of self-discipline or a fertile imagination, take your pick. Both apply.
The progress I've made in the intervening nine months can be measured only in baby steps, but I'm pretty sure that "Yes" does not come out of my mouth as freely or automatically these days as it once did.

So, when I read today's "Yoder & Sons"—a bi-weekly column written by the San Francisco Bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, Steve Yoder, and his two sons, Isaac (19) and Levi (15)—I was more than a little interested in how they deal with this same challenge in their own lives.

College sophomore Isaac writes about coming to grips with overextension and conflicting commitments:
"In the end, we inevitably have no choice but to practice triage with our obligations—breaking promises, producing work below our abilities and letting our personal health suffer. We skim the readings for class, put off studying for fast-approaching exams, forget to buy more toothpaste and neglect to return Mom's voicemail..."
He resolves to pare down his schedule, dropping extracurricular commitments in favor of devoting himself more fully to his academic work, and concludes:
"This may end up being one of the greatest lessons I've learned from college: Take on few enough things to finish what you start, be on time, keep promises and produce the highest-quality work you can."
Admitting that he has been a "role model...for overextension," Steve responds that he will take Isaac's lead and "resolve to cut back on overcommitment this year. Just like last year. And the year before that."

The parents worry about the downside of saying yes to everything, but at the same time don't want to pass up valuable opportunities. Steve specifically cites his decision in 2008 to write the new column with his sons. His plate was already full, and this was "the kind of additional commitment I'd vowed to avoid. But it's been one of the most gratifying commitments I've made."

In the end, it's really a balancing act, isn't it?

I'm again reminded of the words of Steve Massey, a Hayden, Idaho pastor: "...we can choose to say no. Most of the decisions we make that lead to busyness don’t involve a choice between right and wrong. They’re usually choices between good things... Let’s exercise the freedom to say 'no' to good things; save 'yes' for the best things."

Read the full Yoder & Sons column ("The High Price of Saying Yes to Everything") here.

Read the full Steve Massey column ("Life Too Busy? Christ Offers a Cure for That") here.