Russ Withers has been a station owner for a long time and while he’s facing the same challenges as other broadcasters at his radio and television stations, he’s not worried that the sky is falling. When RBR/TVBR spoke with him at the NAB Radio Show in Austin, Withers said he was keeping a positive attitude. After all, how can you lead if the people who are supposed to follow you think that you’ve given up?
“There are sales people that aren’t successful because they sit there and say nobody’s buying anything. I’ve always felt that if we have 6% unemployment, 94% of the people are employed and are still customers,” Withers said. He’d rather focus on helping his advertisers stay in business and make money.
“We have car dealers on the air who believe in what we do and what they are doing – because they have the same problems and the same crisis that we all have – and they’re being very successful because they haven’t cut back any of the media, that’s television and radio both,” said the owner of Withers Broadcasting.
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The veteran broadcaster noted that one dealer who is a good friend (“all of my clients become good friends”) announced proudly after five years of prodding by Withers that he had cancelled his newspaper ad buying. “Five weeks had gone by and he’d noticed no diminution in sales. Sales were just like they were before he cancelled, so he realized that the $15,000 a month that he had peed away on newspaper was exactly that.” So, did Withers come up with an additional $15,000 broadcast schedule? Nope. He told the advertiser to stick that money in his pocket to help get through this tight time. The dealer was already running the right broadcast advertising schedule to drive business.
To be sure, Withers Broadcasting is not in any major metropolitan markets, unless you want to count Metropolis, IL. His stations are deeply involved in their communities and deal primarily in direct, retail ad sales.
“It’s all attitudinal. The small and medium-sized markets will and can do better because they are not as dependent upon the national buys,” Withers said, adding that they also don’t have to wait for a decision by a young kid who’s a time buyer – “who has no life experience and doesn’t understand that this is a cycle and we bicycle through them.”
RBR/TVBR observation: Even if you are in a large market, the lesson is the same. You can’t change what national advertisers do. Maybe your rep can. Maybe your corporate CEO can. But you can’t. So focus on what you can do. Find creative ways to drive business to local advertisers with your broadcast signal, Internet site and whatever other tools you have. If you’re a GM or GSM, get out of your corner office and go talk to advertisers. Have air talent go along on sales calls to brainstorm on how to make an advertiser’s message stand out and deliver customers. Find needs and fill them. Cast a wider net to find new clients who don’t think they can afford broadcast advertising. After all, they’ve heard that Super Bowl spots cost millions of dollars. It’s all about getting back to basics and investing in shoe leather.