Sheila Kirby on RAB 2009


Sheila Kirby, RAB Chairperson for the Planning Committee, Morris & Abraham CEO and former Interep President of Strategic Sales Development, tells RBR what to expect differently at RAB 2009 in Orlando. The focus is on digital and the event will use new technology to the fullest (yes, there is a big pool party too).

We’re going to be talking about RAB 2009 in Orlando today and what’s going to be going on.  You’re the Chairperson for the Planning Committee, right?

You also were the Interep President of Strategic Sales Development. What are you doing now?
Interviewing and took some time off over the holidays.  I am about to announce something in the next week or so.   Also, I actually also bought my old company back which was called Morrison & Abraham.  I’m the CEO of that company but I’m not the operator.  Susan Novicki runs the company. I’m just a very quiet proud investor.
Morrison  & Abraham is the lead consultant for business development so new categories of revenue going direct to the advertiser, working Sales & Marketing sides of companies versus the ad line.  I owned that company for many years and sold it to Interep and then when Interep unfortunately went away I bought the company back.

Tell us about RAB 2009 and some of what you’ve got planned.
First of all thank you again for your time and also RBR is such a great fan to our industry and also to this conference.  This will I think mark my 25th year of attending the conference.  I’m kind of a lifer in it from the standpoint of being a salesperson who spent their own money to go all the way through to being one of the consultants who actually spoke for years at the RAB, then most recently the last two years as the chairman of the conference.  I’m also a board member so I’m obviously a true advocate of the radio industry.  In taking this on two years ago I agreed to do it with the idea and the commitment from the board as well as from the RAB that they would make some substantive changes in this conference.  I had felt over the years although, I attended in recent as the President of Sales for Interep but always as a speaker, we always gave back.  In other words, when Morrison and Abraham presented we handed out the full presentation so that any attendee could really take that session information, let’s call it Automotive Industry (Last Year), and provided trends of the industry, company landscapes, success stories, and how you call on the category and what are best practices)     I started to feel that the RAB conference had lost its way.   So fortunately Jeff Haley and the RAB team as well as the board made a real commitment to me that we could create real change in this conference and we did that last year.  We really changed up who the members were on the planning committee and the overall content.

The committee got far more involved and far more active in planning the  agenda making sure the best practices were applied.  We created last year a track called CDMC, that’s Certified Digital Marketing Consultant Training.  We actually ran that concurrently during RAB’s ’08 Conference.  The challenge with that was,  if you signed up for CDMC and although you got the best possible information on what does digital really mean and what does your station site mean and what does online radio mean, you missed some of the sessions.  So we changed that this year and that actually begins on Sunday afternoon.  Attendees can sign up, they’ll come in Sunday.  They’ll go through a very intensive Sunday afternoon into Monday at noon and really hear from the best of the best in the digital new media space, how they apply it, what it all means, how they make money from it.  Then they’ll lead into that conference Monday afternoon through Wednesday at 2 o’clock.  I think key on this is that the committee in ’09 has changed even more.    We added another layer in depth if you will.  We have over 50 committee members that range everything from the smallest markets to the largest markets, some from sales to management to owner/operators of radio stations.  We also invited for the first time, advertisers and agencies to be on our committee.  We have educator’s international members etc…  We have people who have won awards for being the best in their fields.  So we really looked at, are we really encompassing what the radio industry is all about today.  So we changed the fabric of the committee to support that.

What can stations do to help themselves monetize their audio stream content, because I think that is where a lot of revenue is going.  You see it happening more and more on the Internet where these Internet-only broadcasters are getting all these advertisers in.  The radio stations can do the same thing and they have this local audience that they can hype that up to with their main signal and their HD signals.  How do you balance that because any station can have as many streams as they want?
Exactly, in addition to obviously the CDMC which is really I get it, I have it, I know, I’m supposed to sell it or manage it what does it really mean?  So that’s what CDMC is about is to be certified so that when you are out in the advertising community be that it a local advertiser all the way up to a digital agency that you really know what you’re talking about first and foremost.  We than have ten sessions through the course of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday that really focus on questions like you just asked.  We’ve brought in people like Andy Lipset and Deb Esayian, and Mike Aronow   and people who are really what I consider the best of the best in this space and asked them to be on our digital sub-committee which is lead by Marijane Milton who is with Entercom.  Entercom is a company not unlike CBS and Clear Channel, many others who have made a big financial commitment to this space.  That sub-committee is comprised of those operators/doers/sellers and there are going to be over ten sessions actually they’re going to focus really on.  What does this all mean? How do you monetize it? How do you make money?; your radio station with everything from mobile to streaming to pre-roll  to banners etc.  You’re also going to hear from the advertisers themselves, those who are spending money in online radio.  Why they are spending money for online assets, what are they looking for?  What do they need?  How do you package it?  How do you sell it?  So not just from the station perspective which is important or the manager’s perspective or the consultant’s perspective but really what are the advertiser and the agency asking for, demanding and need and how do you respond as a salesperson, sales manager, group head etc?   This level of planning will transcend all sessions of the conference beyond just the digital tracks…

So everything throughout the conference is designed that way in any category.   I think what is  important in these times that we are all in, regardless of the industry,  it is really about Darwinism.  You have to be the best.  You have to have the best trained people who absolutely know how to get into the hearts and minds of the advertisers needs and wallets. Those who are going to get in the door are going to be those that have really done their homework.  So the conference is really about that.  It is about the major categories in industries that are waning, those that are even and those that are going to spend.  The conference will also provide a top cross section of advertisers and agencies…everything from Dan Fletcher who runs all of CE Retail for Chevy.  Dan’s going to bring his regional manager who actually gives the tier two and tier three money.  Then there is going to be a dealer.  You’re going to find the same thing in the beverage industry with Dockery Clark who runs Miller/Coors for all events sports and sponsorships.  She’s going to bring her region manager who deals on a day-to-day basis with the radio stations as well as her distributor because again there are three different budgets there.  You’re going to see that from people like Carol Grothem at Campbell-Mithun who is actually on our planning committee.  She’s one of the largest advertisers in radio now for her clients like Dish and Super Valu and she’s going to talk about what’s working and what’s not and what radio needs to do better.   Also, you are  going to see a cross section of multi-cultural advertiser/agency decision makers. 

As well as some of the best trainers and consultants in business today…they’ve had to make the cut to be invited back.  Then there’s going to be a lot of session breakouts where there’s a lot of interaction so you can walk up to a  speaker and say hey I saw your session and I don’t really know how that applies to what I need to get done in Louisville, Kentucky.  We tried to create socialized sessions as well so you meet and ask questions and build networking opportunities.

Every presenter coming this year has to, well in advance, turn in their entire presentation.  With that, it will all be loaded on to flash drives so at the end of the sessions or at the end of the day you can load your flash drive with everything.  So if I had chosen to see Digital Online Radio and I happened to miss the Miller/Coors Session attendees can  get the downloaded presentation also then  buy the audio.  Our goal is to have these 48 sessions that are very highly produced be able to take that back to your radio station or to your cluster and now you’ve got 48 sales meetings.

The AAAAs held their convention last year at the Rosen Shingle Creek where you’re having it. We thought it would be good to mention that we were probably the only radio trade there.
Jim Carnegie [RBR Publisher] and I were kind of laughing because there were very few radio people there.  I was there, you were there, David Field from Entercom was there, The RAB was there, Bonnie Press from Katz was there and that was it.

I wanted to say what a very impressive place this is for people who have never been there.  It is really outstanding, it’s huge and to have a conference at such a large and impressive site is really going to be something if you ask me.
When we got to Rosen Shingle  for the AAAA’s I looked at Jeff Haley and George Hyde  and said okay we’re are we going to be next year and they said well we’re looking at three different  cities…We all said we’ve got to have it here! Not only is it brand new they’ve also extended a very, very good rate to us so we’re trying to keep this as affordable as possible knowing that people like myself all over the country are losing their jobs.

I think Rosen Shingle understands that too…
They do understand that and according to the RAB staff have  been great to work with , it’s state of the art in that we’re going to have LCD screens throughout so you’re going to be able to watch what’s happening.  We’re going to have blogging live to say hey don’t forget to see this.  We’re going to have a mobile partner that’s going to educate people throughout don’t forget this session’s coming up or this is what just happened in room 32.  We’ve really elevated the technology of the conference as well and that supports in a nice venue like that.
We’re going to kick off Monday night with a major pool party, this is a way to bring everybody together all of our speakers, all of our attendees as a kickoff and really set the stage for three very intensive days of work.  The RAB has also co-located the board meeting this year and that’s a very important thing and I think something you and Jim will appreciate because you’ve got to get the owner/operators there as well.

Yes absolutely.
They have to see what their people are facing and they have all agreed and think that it’s a great way be there for our industry,  learning from those who spend and those who are doing it right.  The committee and RAB staff  this year is so good  and have really worked very hard to build an AMAZING conference.  We’ve been at this for seven months planning and I think you and certainly I’ve known Jim long enough to know this is really about practical application and ROI…being the best that we can be and really helping stations and managers and salespeople and operators.  Really recognize that the opportunities are out there but if we are not doing our homework and we are not investing in ourselves we’re going to have a really hard ’09.  We think we can change that by coming to this conference.