By Bryan Crabtree
Talk Show Host
This is a wake-up call to managers, sales departments and hosts at talk radio stations. We are allowing ourselves to become victims of political ‘scalpings.’ This is not a new phenomenon but it’s intensity is growing.
Talk radio hosts now face one of the biggest threats in our history: the unfettered attacks on our advertisers because we are doing our jobs.
As you are likely aware, syndicated radio host Sean Hannity has come under fire for unsubstantiated claims of sexual harassment. That initial story was later recanted, but the growing avalanche of attacks and boycott efforts have not.
Hannity was also chastised for his questions about the handling of the DNC-staffer Seth’s Rich’s murder. The assertion that this “conspiracy” deserves a boycott adds to the suspicion he asserted. It’s our job to ask tough questions, regardless of the eventual answer.
Media Matters listed his Fox News advertisers in an effort to put pressure on them to pull ads. Some have.
Regardless of your opinion of Sean Hannity’s coverage, talk radio companies and employees should powerfully come to his defense regardless of whether he is on your station or your competitor.
This is less about Hannity and more about our freedom of speech being infringed.
For the sake of our first amendment rights, we cannot sit idly while fellow hosts are destroyed because of their success and influence.
Moreover, the talk-radio industry needs to do a better job of conveying what advertising actually is. It is not an endorsement of a program, station, channel or host. Advertising is simply reaching a specific number of people of certain demographics likely to buy an advertisers’ product or service.
There are a number of controversial topics/subjects on Google, yet advertisers spent over $52 billion on Google Adwords last year. Advertisers overlook this fact because they realize they are simply buying visibility and not endorsing the content.
In selling my Atlanta radio program, we detach the host (me) from the advertiser and explain that the advertiser is simply pursuing our audience. This eliminates their anxiety by simply educating the client.
This may be more difficult or national hosts. However, Google has effectively detached it’s content from its role with advertisers. We have not.
If audiences are not fleeing these embattled hosts, then why should an advertiser?
Our industry must fight back. When an advertiser cancels their campaign because of a boycott effort, they are effectively saying we no longer want the business of that host’s thousands (or millions) of listeners/viewers.
Read between the lines here: We need to better illustrate that leaving early is financially more painful than staying (for several reasons). This requires being aggressive not passive.
In some cases, advertisers overreact to initial news and then return to the program after they realize the claims are inflated or outright illegitimate. Fortunately, this has happened with Hannity in the past month. Those advertisers should be rewarded and listeners should be encouraged to support the advertisers who ultimately underwrite talk radio.
At times, our industry’s top-down (always safe) corporate-radio approach to these situations is akin to pitting a cruise ship (our industry) against a jet ski (the boycotters). They ‘run circles’ around us. We must fight ‘fire with fire’ and not succumb to corporate fear.
My experience suggests that advertising on talk-radio is one of the most effect ways to increase business.
I’ve spent over two decades in media and real estate simultaneously. Without question, talk radio has been the most effective form of advertising that my companies have used. We made $14 for every dollar we spent on talk radio over a 13-year period.
Fox founder Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly played the ‘safe’ corporate approach when the scalpings started. They didn’t fight back. Fortunately, Hannity is. He will likely prevail as a result.
If these attacks don’t deeply trouble you, you’re next. It could be you, your top-rated show or your entire station. And, it could be the result of your news department catching a powerful political figure in criminal activity or ethics violations (re: “doing your job.”).
The claims against Fox News employees, including Hannity, are not being presented in good-faith. They are being used to destroy powerful platforms.
It was predictable that Hannity’s ‘attempted-scalping’ would be next.
We need to stand behind Hannity as an industry. I don’t know him well; I’ve only met him once. But he strikes me as a genuine person with a big heart that is afraid his country is headed in the wrong direction. He comes from humble beginnings and his ascent to stardom in media is a perfect case-study for how discipline and hard work delivers success.
Regardless of our personal views on life and politics, Hannity’s story is a talk radio employee’s dream. Most of us have worked side jobs to make ends meet. We’ve taken positions that paid less than our value and we’ve been fired for low sales, ratings or insubordination along the way.
Now we are seeing hosts fired for being too successful and effective. We must stop this transgression in its tracks or it will stop us.
Management needs to take more risks defending their talent. Hosts need to continue to fight back (like Hannity) when they are attacked. Sales must be more effective at positioning talk-radio. This means recruiting more sales people who have a passion for talk and can explain it.
Our industry is allowing our fear of revenue-loss to control our decisions. As a result, some of our best talent is being driven out of the industry and the problem is growing.
Bryan Crabtree is the live afternoon host on WAFS, “biz1190” and WGKA, “AM 920 The Answer” in Atlanta. He is publisher of Talk40.com, as well as a regular contributor to Townhall.com and DailyCaller.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.