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Monday Memo: New Normal HR? NOT Normal

| June 8, 2020

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — If you’ve been broadcasting remotely during the shutdown, and are daydreaming about getting back to what was left of radio station camaraderie, I’ll quote Cher from “Moonstruck:” “SNAP OUT OF IT!”

First the Good News: The reason you’re working remotely is because you’re still working.

They’ve fired everyone else, and more cutbacks are on the way; the bigger the company you work for, the more brutal it’ll be.

“Elimination of the Main Studio Rule” took effect in January, 2018:

“In this document, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) eliminates the rule that requires each AM, FM, and television broadcast station to maintain a main studio located in or near its community of license. The FCC also eliminates existing requirements associated with the rule, including the requirement that the main studio have full-time management and staff present during normal business hours, and that it have program origination capability.”

This was a long time coming and quite foreseeable.

Since the consolidation feeding frenzy triggered by 1996 Telecom deregulation, the gallows humor has been that “they’re burning the furniture to keep the lights on.” Now, all this remote broadcasting has demonstrated that they can turn the lights off, with FCC permission.

  • Why spend $X per square foot for a local building? For a sales office? Smart managers have been kicking reps out of the building all along: “Go SELL something!”
  • Some of the best weekend talk shows, several of whom are my clients, remote from home. As do many SiriusXM jocks. Other remote non-employees — syndicated talkers and corporate DJs – already populate your station’s on-air family.

So the good news is that YOU are doing something SO local or otherwise unique and sales-friendly that ownership still wants to hear you. They just don’t need to see you. And you’ll save a bundle on gas and dry cleaning. Hopefully you’ll still have benefits.

This is NOT a radio story.

Recently on my TV show, I spoke with David Lewis, CEO and founder of HR consulting firm OperationsInc. Super-smart guy who built one helluva business as doing-business got so complicated. Here’s the video.

Two bullet points, things you need to know about how this work-at-home trend impacts the listeners whom advertisers want as customers:

  • “We’ve learned how to do face-to-face business without being in the same room.” Lewis says we’ll be telling our grandchildren about working in the company space, a mode he reckons will now become the outlier. Listeners who do return to the company space will bond less with fellow workers like Paula and Lynette did in “An Officer and A Gentleman” (final ‘80s movie reference, I promise). To them, YOUR on-air companionship will mean more than ever. So optimizing your on-air technique and working relevant topics have never been more important.
  • You know who’s made a bundle during this pandemic? The guy who sells Plexiglas. Reconfigured business space “is THE story right now,” in David’s estimation. For all the impatience on the supply side, “what governors are missing as they try to figure out how to re-open their states for business is that this isn’t necessarily about the guidelines that businesses have to follow, it’s about how complete the public perceives those guidelines to be,” the Demand side. “Do they make it safe for me to leave my house?”

 As Kelly Clarkson sang, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

I asked David Lewis: “Can nimble businesses end up better off after all this disruption?” He reckons that “this is one of those ‘life gives ya lemons, make lemondade’ moments, ‘survival-of-the-fittest.’ You’re going to see businesses come out of this stronger, and unfortunately you’re also going to see a lot of businesses go under.”

All kinds of businesses, not just radio. Like your listeners, who are coping-with – some flourishing-in – The New Normal, we need to ride the horse in the direction he’s facing. Gallop!

Stay safe.

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books.  Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page for an instant download.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice