Pending Business: Rush Changed How We Sell | TALKERS magazine : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

Pending Business: Rush Changed How We Sell

| February 22, 2021

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Before Rush generated big ratings, local talk radio went something like this:

Morning Show – Local topical talk with news, traffic, weather, and sports all presented by local personalities.

General Talk – Do you remember Bruce Williams welcoming callers?

“Experts” – Dr. Laura (now thriving on SiriusXM) – interacting with callers about relationship issues.

Sports – PM drive shows with local personalities debating callers, before it became a full time format.

Maybe your station carried local shows with financial, legal, and other “experts.” The focus of this variety talk format was the callers. Some regulars almost became guests —  Pasadena Pam, Murray from Margate — no talk radio personality could just talk for a three-hour shift.

The predictability and caller-centric talk format grew old. Listeners were aging out and talk radio was on the ropes. Fast-forward to the 1980s, stop at political talk. Newer voices were offering strong opinions and audience levels on talk radio stations jumped.

No one did it better than Rush Limbaugh. He was so dominant his legions of ditto heads drove ratings to new heights and AM radio was cool again. But this bold content was not for everyone and sometimes opposites do not attract. Some advertisers didn’t care for the controversy and ordered up the no buy.

Try every strategy. Respond to every objection, but no buy meant no buy.

Big ratings were no longer an automatic revenue generator. Rush stood steadfast. His audience grew to become the biggest and arguably the most responsive of any network radio talent. A new chapter had to be written in the ad sales playbook. Sellers knew if Rush got behind an ad campaign, phones would ring, orders would come in, and sponsors could experience the powerful results that only talk radio can deliver.

Which advertisers would be comfortable with this new style of talk radio?  How about sponsors who were first-movers, disruptors just like Rush. Sales teams looked to companies that sell direct to consumers or provide services in a different way. Would they be comfortable with this style of talk radio? Sellers sold, sponsors tried and, you know the rest of the story.

Not only did this work nationally, the strategy trickled down locally. The smarter talk radio seller was now generating new business, making calls on businesses that got the content and the responsive audience it attracted. Rush Limbaugh was the original talk radio disruptor. His impact on how we approach radio sales changed the game for all of us, maybe for the better.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.  Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy.  Contact Steve Lapa via email at:

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Category: Sales