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Be Passionate About Your Clients

They love their brands — they expect you to know and love them too

You have no doubt heard stories about angry advertisers cancelling large ad buys due to radio staffers behaving inappropriately.

Perhaps you’ve wondered if they were really true. While I obviously can’t testify to every tale, I can tell you that I have indeed witnessed insensitive and just plain stupid behavior by station personnel that resulted in dire financial consequences.

I’d like to relate one story simply to set the tone. Then we’ll explore establishing appropriate expectations with your staff, and to a lesser degree, with your clients, so that relationships remain profitable and happy.


The setting: The incredibly beautiful French Alps, with perfect weather conditions for the Winter Olympics.

I was assisting with a broadcast back to the USA. Our station junket was exclusively sponsored and completely paid for by Coca-Cola.

Coke had very generously covered the staff expenses and made all the arrangements, right down to securing tickets for us to see the best competitions.

After the third day, our station staff made what seemed to be an innocuous trip to a nearby convenience store to buy a few personal items. Around midnight, as we were lounging in our pajamas watching Olympics highlights, I heard a knock on the door and was surprised to see our Coke rep show up unannounced to discuss logistics and celebrity interviews for the next day.

While we were talking in the foyer, I noticed she was looking past me at my team in the living room. Then — holy cow! — we jumped out of our skins as she suddenly screamed in anger. In her line of sight on the kitchen table was, to my amazement, a bottle of Pepsi which had apparently been purchased during that little shopping trip earlier in the day.

While Coke had us finish the broadcast week, we were told that we’d be having a meeting back home to discuss the matter. In the end, we lost an upcoming $50,000 ad buy and were not invited to the Olympics that summer.

In retrospect, I understand why Coke was so upset. They love and protect their brand and they trusted us. The best companies are extremely passionate about their brands. Deep down, we all know this because of how we feel about our own station brands.


Many people in radio simply do not invest enough energy in understanding our advertisers’ brands, be they products or services. Instead of helping our clients grow their businesses, too often we air the spots, take the money and never ask one question about what we can do to enhance an advertiser’s mission.

A large part of this issue concerns relationships. When our sales people and their managers are tasked with an overwhelming number of clients, then everyone loses. Relationships take focus and time.

Relationships also require fairly sophisticated emotional intelligence, which is not easy to teach to inexperienced reps. You may wish to do some creative brainstorming with your most relationship-savvy sales reps on how best to get others to understand this mindset and take positive action.

Another common quandary in the client/station dynamic is not providing feedback about ads or promotions that we know will not perform well on radio.

How many times have you not said a word when a client broadcasts a bad offer? Ten or even 15 percent off anything rarely produces results. Customers do not hurry in “while supplies last.” So when we hear these or other non-starters, we need to state the obvious, otherwise subsequent advertisers will tell us that “radio doesn’t work.”

By extension, if remotes, games or contests are involved, you may wish to include your promotions person in the mix. He, too, will need to be in the mindset of what will truly work to serve clients’ interests, not just those of your station.

When was the last time you did a customer needs analysis with your biggest advertisers? If you’re not hearing about your top clients’ goals at least once a year, how do you expect to maintain, let alone grow, their business? Take a moment to put yourself in your clients’ shoes and consider the needs of those who truly pay our bills.

When it comes to our advertisers, a little passion for their brands will go a long way toward ensuring mutual success!

Read more Promo Power columns by Mark Lapidus under the Columns and Views tab at