Last week, I had the privilege of being a part of the 2021 Radio Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Nine people were inducted, including the president and CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau, Erica Farber. On Friday, Erica and I toured the Museum of Broadcast Communications in downtown Chicago. It was a humbling and awe-inspiring experience to walk through the history of this great medium.
One of my favorite definitions of a radio company is: "Our company can be distilled down to thousands of dedicated professionals and a bunch of used electronics equipment."
Nobody "owns" radio stations. What they own is a bunch of used electronics and some real estate that is used to broadcast over the PUBLIC airwaves to serve the public. It's the people who make the magic happen.
History isn't crystal clear on the first radio station. By one account, on February 17, 1919, station 9XM at the University of Wisconsin – Madison broadcast the first human speech. Other reports cite KDKA in Pittsburgh as the world's first commercial radio station. On November 2, 1920 (100 years ago), Leo Rosenburg opened the microphone and said, "This is KDKA of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company in East Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. We shall now broadcast the election returns."
What is clear is that radio’s roots run deep. According to the Federal Communications Commission, radio and TV broadcasters are considered public trustees. They are licensed by the FCC to serve the needs and interests of their communities of license. It’s not just a mission statement; it's a requirement for being licensed... a requirement that must be met every eight years to renew a station license and stay in business.
Radio reaches over 90% of the population each week. Listen to some Wall Street analysts and you would think the end of radio is near. Year after year, radio has maintained its massive reach. Why? Because only radio can do what radio does. When the sirens go off, the pandemic numbers escalate and new emergency orders are put in place, the radios go on, and the community stays connected and is informed.
Radio is there when you need it.
The old marketing cliché is, "Tell them what you're going to do, do it, then tell them what you’ve done." For 100 years, radio has been "doing." Each of your companies has a unique story to tell about the power of radio in your community. Are you sharing it with your audience? You have a 90% approval rating. In politics, a 90% approval rating would be called more than a mandate for getting anything done.
In 1949, Bill Bernbach founded Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB). He said, "The truth isn't the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you're saying. And they can't know what you’re saying if they don't listen to you. And they won't listen to you if you're not interesting. And you won't be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly."
Over 90% of the population is listening to you each week. Will you tell them the truth, imaginatively, originally and freshly? If you are using your airwaves, would you mind sending me the creative of what you are doing? Email me here.
Happy Birthday, radio, and CONGRATULATIONS Erica!
Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at Jeff.Schmidt@RAB.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.