Fortunately our industry is no longer a "boys only" club. The Radio Advertising Bureau, BMI and the Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio Group have gotten together to make sure progress continues.
Rae Ann Parsons These organizations joined forces and awarded 15 scholarships to "Rising Through the Ranks," the Women in Radio Management and Leadership Training Program at the RAB Academy in Dallas late last year. The gathering is designed to help women enter and succeed in the world of radio sales management.
Mike O'Neill is senior vice president of licensing at BMI.
"BMI covered the tuition of $750 for each of the recipients to go to this RAB event," he said. "We have had a long-term relationship with several of the original MIWs and they asked for our support. We felt it was a terrific way for us to give back to the industry."
Radio World contacted several of the women to get their thoughts on today's mercurial sales climate.
Drew McKenna is program director for Shamrock Communications' music streaming station, www.tulsaoriginalmusic.com. She is also an on-air personality and engineer for KMYZ(FM) in that city.
Lindsay Cerajewski "I'm very optimistic about radio today," she said. "Some folks feel threatened by satellite radio, the iPod and the Internet, but local radio will always be the most widely accessible and portable way to connect with your community in a personal way."
Also upbeat about the medium is Lindsay Cerajewski, local sales manager at Chicago's WUSN(FM), a CBS station.
"I heard something from a panel discussion we had for the Broadcast Ad Club of Chicago that was so true," she said. "People typically identify their favorite radio station, saying for example, 'I Love US99.5,' whereas consumers don't typically say 'I love this local paper' or 'I love that TV Network.'
"I think smart marketers are targeting lifestyles and psychographics more than demographics. At CBS in Chicago, we have many gigantic examples of custom programs that are built organically the way only radio can build them, and they are major revenue producers for our cluster."
Isabella Laforet One such program at WUSN is the "Live Country" series, at which top artists perform live.
"But you can't buy a ticket to see the show," said Cerajewski. "You must interact with our sponsors."
At WBLS(FM)/WLIB(AM), New York, Isabella Laforet serves as an account executive.
"I am very passionate about radio and neither the economic situation nor the (Arbitron) Portable People Meter (PPM) will change that. I truly feel that radio is the most efficient medium, especially when it comes to reaching our target audience, African Americans. Our listeners have an almost personal relationship with 'their' radio station. Advertisers can benefit from this relationship. It's almost an implied endorsement."
But for Laforet, it is not just about selling commercials.
Drew McKenna "We have Web sites, streaming, events and other non-traditional revenue opportunities," she said. "It's just a matter of introducing existing advertisers to these opportunities and/or finding new advertisers who can benefit from our resources."
In the Huntington, W.Va., area, Kindred Communications owns four FM music stations and two AM talkers. Rae Ann Parsons is vice president of national and regional sales for the cluster, which also prints "The Herd Insider," the official sports magazine for nearby Marshall University. This publication is another vehicle the stations offer advertisers.
"Wow, why would anyone be pessimistic about radio?" she said. "Radio has been, and continues to be, one of everyone's closest friends. It's personal. The DJs are like family and friends."
And Parsons explained why she enjoys selling radio.
"Who would guess that radio is the most requested download on today's new phones and devices?" she said. "Radio is wanted more than devices to play and download MP3s. Radio listenership is up and I believe it will continue to grow over the ensuing years. Why? Because companies want to reach our listeners with their products, and as I said, everyone needs a friend. Your radio is ready to meet that need."
Cindy Rollison At the Cumulus Media cluster in Blacksburg, Va., Cindy Rollison is sales manager.
"No matter what the economy, every day when I go out to meet with clients, they are still receptive to creative ideas and a solid marketing plan for their businesses," she said. "Just listen to the clients and respond to their needs."
Women working wonders
Anecdotal enthusiasm aside for the moment, there is empirical evidence to validate strides women have made in radio sales, though there is still plenty of room for more. Visit www.radiomiw.com and click on "press releases" to see the statistics.
For example, in a 2008 annual sales manager gender analysis study undertaken by MIW, women manage sales for about one third of the AM and FM radio stations in the U.S. In another survey by the group in 2007, it was shown that about 19 percent of stations owned by the largest corporate groups are managed by women.
Being the spokesperson for MIW is a volunteer job for Heidi Raphael, who provided background for this article. Her main position is that of vice president of corporate communication for Greater Media. Raphael arrived at MIW three years ago because of her enthusiasm for supporting women in the industry.
MIW is funded by individual donations from members and other companies including BMI and Albright & O'Malley Consulting. Web site costs are picked up by Raphael's employer, Greater Media. Michael Carter from the Carter Broadcast group sponsors the Mildred Carter Mentoring Program administered by MIW, an entirely volunteer organization.
Scholarship Recipients Lil Anderson, Duhamel Broadcasting Enterprises; Lindsay Cerajewski, CBS Radio Chicago; Jennifer Dickson, Citadel Broadcasting; Jodie Douglass-Parker, ABC Radio Networks; Deanna Droira, WMYM/Radio Disney; Lori Hall, WPGC(FM)/CBS Radio; Isabella Laforet, ICBC Broadcast Holdings; Janie Lees, KTFM/BMP Radio; Drew McKenna, Shamrock Communications; Rae Ann Parsons, Kindred Communications; Katerina Perez, Clear Channel Miami; Christina Rodriguez, Clear Channel Radio; Cindy Rollison, Cumulus Broadcasting; Carla Wyrick, New Northwest Broadcasters; Aimee Yoerger, Gap West Broadcasting Some of the names behind the organization are familiar: Joan Gerberding, Edie Hilliard, Erica Farber, Corinne Baldassano, Mary Bennett, Nancy Vaeth DuBroff, Denise Oliver and Mary Beth Garber, all of whom were co-founders.
Isabella Laforet had a little advice for women just starting out in sales.
"Specialize on direct business first," she said. "Focus on the client and become more of a consultant than a salesperson. Especially in rough economic times, advertisers want to feel safe and secure about investing their money. They realize they still need to advertise to sell their products or services. If you focus on their obstacles and goals, you are able to create that comfort zone for your client."
And what about handling objections to ratings?
"Present the value of your radio station as opposed to rank and ratings," she said. "Direct advertisers generally don't care about ratings or PPM; they care about moving products. They care about results, and as long as you deliver those results they will be loyal to you. Utilize all the resources you have available at your station to create a successful campaign for your client, such as online or events. Don't just get stuck on selling :60 sec spots; radio is so much more than that."
Scholarship applications for 2009 are now available at www.rab.com. The event this year is in August in Dallas.