discovered “social networking” in the mid-’90s, when AOL first
became popular and we were all using dial-up connections and getting
into “chat rooms.” My initial impression of radio back then was
pure joy, because I could put out my message and get an immediate
response — like those chat rooms. It was fun!
surprises me now is that radio hasn’t engaged in advancing forms of
social media more than it has, and that broadcasters often treat this
evolving playing field as a nuisance or something they’d “better
adapt to or get left behind.”
was the first “social media” — a pioneering way of
communication. Radio introduced the idea of transmitting a message to
the masses first, taking live calls and engaging with the audience.
Look at Ham radio.
Over frequencies, we
had the very first “social medium.” So how did radio become so
insecure about its position in the community?
second-generation broadcaster. My dad was an engineer in Los Angeles
during radio’s reinvention period in the 1960s. While critics
claimed that television programming was going to be the death of
radio, my father and his colleagues didn’t care. They were
inventing, engaging, creating and having a ball.
is a group on Facebook, nearly 2,000 members strong, called “Old
Radio DJs,” which comes together and shares pictures and stories of
the glory years on the air — and it has not only become very
nostalgic, but has caused me to observe a population of collective
individuals who loved the industry and what they were able to do,
which was inform and entertain.
I hear people say, “Yeah, but radio isn’t like that anymore; the
bean counters have taken over,” or, “Social media and digital has
killed radio,” I cringe. Why? Because it sounds so familiar.
radio given up? Is radio dead?
DOCTOR IS IN
I’ve been working
as an FCC Compliance Consultant since 2000. Orchard Media Services
specializes in FCC compliance plans, public files, “mock”
inspections, etc. It’s a business partnership with my dad, and I’ve
had the honor of visiting hundreds of radio and television stations
all over the country for more than 13 years.
to that, I sold time for radio in Sacramento. Before that, my family
built, owned and operated several stations in Southern California,
including my namesake, KLLY(FM) — “Kelly 95” — in
Bakersfield, Calif. I’m no rookie; I’ve seen it all.
few years ago, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in psychology,
and have been working as a therapist since, maintaining Orchard Media
Services from the sidelines, hoping that the economy would turn
around, or that radio would figure out what it’s going to do. I
followed the trades, maintained relationships within the industry,
and even graduated from the NABEF’s Broadcast Leadership Training
I continue to consult with stations about their FCC Compliance plans,
I can’t help but notice an atmosphere of stress, anxiety and
general frustration and discouragement at the state of the industry.
So now I am on a mission to provide peace of mind, mental wellbeing
and help to my friends in the industry. I’m a media and mental
HEALTH, WELLNESS AND RADIO
that one has symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress doesn’t
come easy, especially in the work environment. If it’s not a matter
of life-and-death, nobody wants to talk about it. Yet given the
statistics, one in four people suffers from depression, stress and
anxiety, and believe me: it’s affecting the bottom line. But if one
in four workers is struggling, that also means that your radio
audience is suffering, too.
have a few theories that I’ve borrowed from psychology, and if you
as a reader will indulge me, we can explore the dysfunctional
relationship between radio and the audience— while also
understanding the dysfunction within the station and how it affects
the overall operations.
had this idea that if we looked at “Radio” as if it was an
individual and not an industry, and similarly considered “Audience”
as if it was an individual and not just a collection of ears — and
if we considered the relationship of “Radio” and “Audience”
as if they needed marriage counseling to heal their “dysfunctional
relationship” — we might gain a new perspective on what has
happened to this union.
Radio and Audience participated in a kind of marriage counseling,
here are a few things that the therapist would take into
• Radio’s Personality Traits
• Audience’s Personality Traits
it might seem to Radio as if Audience has already disengaged in the
relationship. Is it a possibility that Radio is trying too hard, and
therefore comes off as insecure and needy? Or has Radio not tried
hard enough to maintain Audience’s love? If this was an actual
couple that was looking at their relationship, the answer is quite
possibly … both.
seems to suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. It can’t seem to
stay focused on one subject. Listeners are scattered and jumpy, and
any shiny new object distracts them.
Radio, on the other hand, might be suffering with a little bit of
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, with its grandiose sense of self,
need for admiration and lack of empathy; all underlying symptoms of
course, who wouldn’t be insecure in this economic climate? Consider
the economy and its impact on the Audience. That is an entirely
different (although complementary) topic from what’s going on
within a station’s walls.
media landscape is constantly changing, and very unpredictable.
keeps chasing Audience with shallow attempts to get its attention —
cosmetic changes akin to getting exercise, losing weight, dressing
nicer (redesigning a website, more musical programming) — but
Audience doesn’t care about the surface stuff. Radio needs a shift
in perspective. Stop chasing Audience with pretty clothes and new
DOES THE AUDIENCE WANT?
is the big question. Has Radio actually asked Audience what they want
out of the relationship? Review the above statistics — one in four
people is suffering from depression, stress and anxiety. Audience
might be looking at other relationships to relieve these symptoms.
seems to be telling Audience, “Well, this is how it is, and by the
way, here are some free tickets.”
will Radio know what Audience wants? Ask. Surveys about customer
satisfaction and inquiries on how companies can improve their product
offerings are readily available, but since deregulation of specific
licensing requirements, stations don’t perform community
ascertainments the way they used to. Ascertaining the comments and
concerns from the community has always been a great tool to uncover
what the community actually needed.
MARRIAGE COUNSELING 101
Questions that a therapist would tell Radio to think about when considering its relationship with Audience:
1. How much does Radio know about Audience on a personal level? Aside from the “research,” what do they really want?
2. How much does Radio identify with Audience? Are you, as a relationship, compatible?
3. What worked in the past? How did Audience first fall in love with Radio and what has changed?
4. How much does Radio really care about Audience (besides some numbers and time spent listening)?
5. To what degree does Radio and Audience feel like a family?
6. Is it really more music, less commercials? In a marriage counseling context – is it really about the quantity of the “dates” and what you can “do” for your partner? Be realistic. Audience can get that anywhere — so what Radio can do is create a community unlike any other medium.
stuff, contests, concerts and events are all fine; it’s like
dating. But when it comes down to one single concept,Audience
wants an intimate relationship. Companionship. Somebody they feel
comfortable with that won’t abandon them.
and talk are, well, just music and talk. Radio needs to develop an
actual relationship with audience. The format is the vehicle, but
where is the emotional connection?
the past few months, I’ve spoken with plenty of leaders in the
industry about this concept. I’ve spoken with leaders from the NAB,
state associations, lawyers, consultants, brokers, operators and
staff, all of whom have responded with, “You’re onto something
I offer some questions that a therapist would tell Radio to think
about when considering counseling with Audience. They are shown in
the box on this page.
can radio do next? Maybe the answer is to stop chasing Audience. Do
whatever it takes to get Audience to fall in love with Radio again.
One way or the other, something needs to change. And this is where
the work begins: Within the walls of each and every Radio station.
are evidenced based practices in mental health and therapy that have
proven to heal relationships. Positive thinking is an approach that
works. Consider the laws of physics. Broadcast engineers will
definitely love this, and so will sales managers: Whatever you put
out will come back to you; for every action, there is an equal but
your mindset as you go to work. If you are thinking negatively, hate
your job, hate the business — the audience will pick up on that. So
take the time to consider what your thoughts might be doing, and then
experiment with changing them.
know its easier for me to say this than it is to actually do it, but
as a therapist, I’ve helped many people consider the alternative if
they do nothing, and have watched them succeed when they begin by
simply allowing themselves to shift the way they think into a
positive frame of mind.
Orchard is managing partner of Orchard Media Services and founder/CEO
of Red Slipper Integrative Coaching, a personal and professional
development consulting firm. She speaks to radio groups about mental
health and how it affects the organizational environment. Email: