Five Quick Steps to Managing a Bad Event | TALKERS magazine - talk media trade : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

Five Quick Steps to Managing a Bad Event

| July 23, 2014

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media


sabowriterNEW YORK — The purpose of talk radio is to entertain through extreme opinions and reaction to those opinions.

Keyword: Opinion.

“Opinion” covers a lot.  Read the fine print in the Nielsen ratings: “This an opinion of estimates.”  A guess.

Even precise professionals are paid for opinions.  “Doctor’s opinion.”  “Legal opinion.”

When a host offers an opinion in anger or humor and the result is a negative, threatening response from advertisers or listeners there are five steps to sanity:

1. Pause.  Gather all information.  Has the same opinion been given by other entertainers in other media?  If there was a negative reaction to the other entertainer, how did their employer handle it?  Was there no negative reaction?

Recently a radio host expressed their intense dislike of sportscaster, opinion-giver, Erin Andrews.  Research would reveal other hosts in other media used the exact same language to describe Erin with no negative response.  Have a look:

The advertisers on TMZ on TV are Pfizer, P&G, Colgate, Verizon.  TMZ is broadcast over the air and produced by Warner Brothers.

First, see if advertisers are supporting the identical content in other media or are accepting money from controversial businesses for their own business.

2. Get outside help.  Crisis PR firms and consultants are brought in to walk a company through controversy, guiding them to a positive resolution.  The true value is that controversy results in internal emotion.  Emotional decisions in business are high risk.  A professional outsider will calm the seas and provide valuable action options.

3. Pre-position controversy to advertisers as a positive part of your offering.  The media landscape of your city is comprised of dozens of radio stations, magazines and infinite websites.  Radio is uniquely capable of attracting local attention.  Today, advertisers are focused on hyperlocal.  That’s the marketing buzz word for targeted local advertising. What it translates to today is 50 cents off from your smartphone at the Dunkin’ Donuts you just walked by.  Radio has always been hyperlocal, touching issues of passion in the community.  Advertisers associated with engaging (another marketing buzz word) content, sell more product.  Subscribe to this free newsletter for the latest on hyperlocal marketing

4.  Public apologies are riskier than being silent.  Today, content is changed by hitting “refresh.”  Most of the audience simply doesn’t care because they are busy.  Carefully quantify who is complaining.  The moment a public apology is issued, the PUBLIC becomes aware of the perceived transgression.  If one person was attacked inappropriately, the appropriate response is a one-on-one amends.  But unlike television and print, radio offers telephone interaction—that’s the format.  When haters complain, give them the on-air phone number and encourage them to share their feelings with everyone.

5. Feed the enemy.  No, really, feed the enemy.  When the American Family Federation attacked “Real Radio 104.1” in Orlando, it urged picketers to parade in front of the station.  The staff of the station gave the picketers coffee and donuts and INVITED the local TV crews to cover it.

In today’s media landscape, all reaction is a miracle.  Negative response from family and advertisers can have positive results.


Walter Sabo is CEO of New York City-based consulting firm, Sabo Media.  He can be reached at

Category: Advice, Opinions