Monday 15 December 2014

Sales Execs are from Mars; Presenters from Venus

I'm lucky to have worked in some truly great radio stations where the commercial and programming teams get on with mutual respect and understanding, regardless of the often very different characters involved.  I've also worked in ones where open hostility has been declared. Most stations live in a healthy place some way in-between.

It is easy to be perplexed about the way those in commercial teams on radio stations sometimes just don't appear to comprehend their colleagues across in the programming team.  And vice versa. 

The commercial animals might watch the programming elves wander in cheerily, dressed scruffily, half way through the day and then witness shrieks of laughter as the jocks banter in their messy corner of the office. They must deduce that these folk really don't do much work at all.  Meanwhile, the programmers watch the sales exec turning up in a daze after a day off sick, having sold something which really doesn't fit on the station which the relevant exec rarely listens to.  They can both wind each other up.

A sales person rightly focuses on their financial target like a fighter pilot.  Unlike presenters, they don't earn the amounts they've become accustomed to unless they succeed.  They have to be well-informed and doggedly persistent.  They are trained to overcome objections too; so the way they seek to overcome programming's objections is hardly surprising. They want to smash their target, get notes from appreciative clients and carry off the bonuses around which they have built their lifestyles, then wallow in the respect that their success brings. 

Meanwhile, the programming team just want to be number one by Rajar, by having fun and producing the best content they can.  A surfeit of less-than-fascinating commercial content can seem to get in the way of victory. They like the bunce too, but maybe more a symbol of recognition than the key benefit per se. Unlike sales execs, their fees stay much the same from month to month, whether they have great shows or not.  But it can all end very suddenly. 

Different goals, so hardly surprising they approach things differently.

In many stations I have worked, management meetings have concerned themselves with dreary AOB points about how we can get departments to understand each other more.  Regular 'update emails', lavish bowling nights and cheap buffets are devised to lubricate better integration and comprehension. Everyone turns up merrily at the social events, only to gather in their usual cliques.  

The fact is that these people can often simply be very different sorts of folk.  Those who take great pride in sealing a sales deal may not derive the same satisfaction from a smooth segue. The reason we end up sitting at different desks is because we are likely quite different individuals.

Why are journalists not quite like their paranoid yet jolly programme-hosting colleagues? How can one expect a journalist, trained to look under the bonnet at every spurious press release, to open a rabble-rousing 'all-staff' email from management and say 'Gosh, that's fabulous'. They are more likely to say 'Hmmmm. what are they not saying here?'. It's exactly what this intelligent bunch of talented people have been trained to do.

Presenters get annoyed when the tools of their trade don't work. They reported it last week to the technical team; and it's still not fixed.  Meanwhile, three engineers are gathered round a new cardboard box which has arrived bearing the ingredients for new toys. I wonder if Marconi paid more attention to mending his mother's toaster or by generating sparks in his loft. Thank goodness, for all of us, that engineers are wired as they are.

We are driven by different things. Here's my rough and ready 'Shun' theory: Sales execs - Commission; Presenters - Recognition; Journalists - Suspicion; and Technical staff  - Innovation. 

I concede I am generalising wildly.  Some more complex individuals do command a great understanding of more than one area.  Some of the greatest technical minds now have a refreshing ability to grasp how presenters think.  Some of today's best sales execs are utterly brand aware and understand programmers and radio.  Some self-employed presenters are truly commercial animals, looking after their station's business as diligently as they do their own. 

Those individuals who do acquire a 360 degree view of how things work are those most likely to end up rising up the tree as they realise that, in the end, everyone really is working for the same ultimate objective: listening figures and profits. 

As commercial content grows ever closer to programme content and vice versa, it is important for the programming folk to understand that execs need to hit targets and to appreciate that it's tough to tell clients what to do.  It's important, similarly, for sales execs to listen to the radio station they work for.  Saying 'loved that bit this morning' to a jock will help make that next bit of commercial content really glow.

The other solution is inter-departmental relationships. Sleeping together does have a remarkable impact on cross-department understanding. But that, rightly, is unlikely to be an action point on many management meeting agendas

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