How To Not Get Eaten By The Bear

There is a joke is about two hikers in the woods who are surprised by a bear. The first hiker yanks running shoes out of her backpack, prompting the other hiker to say, “You cannot run faster than that bear.”

The first hiker laces up saying, “I don’t have to be faster than the bear. I just have to be faster than you.”

Think of broadcasting as the woods, the other hiker as your fellow broadcasters and the bear as new competition.

When I started in broadcasting in 1982, there was no bear. Presenters in radio and television enjoyed the protection of a barrier to entry.

There were only a few stations, and the FCC kept “bears” out by restricting the number of frequencies. It was an expensive business for competitors to get into.

Less competition resulted in more weak content and forgettable presenters.

Broadcasters today are unprotected by barriers to entry. You have witnessed seismic shifts in our industry, and there is more change ahead. Competition has improved our content and star personalities have emerged.

In my job as a media talent coach, I often ask, “what would I do” if I were in the shoes of a presenter in traditional media? Here are the most effective disciplines for managing change that I have observed.

  • Build your personality brand. The era of generic presenters is over. Reveal yourself authentically to the audience with your passions, opinions, quirks and flaws.
  • Build relationships. As you bond with the audience, spend time off-air bonding with community leaders and clients. Build work friendships. Connect with those who are higher and lower on your company food chain. Make friends at the competition too.
  • Explore and expand. Consider what you might do with your own YouTube channel. Podcasting is huge for radio and TV talent. Write a book, try stand-up or get a side hustle in sports. Distribute what you do in new ways on new channels, just be true to your character throughout.
  • Be an early (but not too early) adopter. Study new technology, apps and media channels, but do not be the first one through the door. That person usually gets shot. Put a toe in the water before jumping in the deep end.
  • Study drama. My rule is “stories not stuff.” Relating the experience of one person, their emotions, desires and challenges is infinitely more powerful than statistics, opinion and facts. You can sometimes be that person. Share personal stories when relevant.
  • Do a competitive review. Take notes on the other players in your space. What are they doing well? What advantages do you have? Attack your own work and make improvements.
  • Invest in yourself. Courses, clothing, equipment, coaching. Get a good lawyer and accountant. In business school professor said, “invest only in companies that invest in themselves.” The same goes for talent. Invest time in getting good feedback and heed it.