DEBRIEF: It goes without saying that when someone standing in front of you goes according to the title “developer of great people” it can go one of two ways. Either this will be one of those “five steps to finding your inner genius” motivational talks or a very insightful engagement that leaves you thinking. Fortunately Graeme Butchart’s talk at the RAB Radioworks conference in Cape Town, titled Creativity and Innovation, was the latter.
A tried and tested radio industry stalwart, Butchart took us on a journey on how best to embrace change in the radio game while ensuring that you remain relevant. In addition to sharing his introduction to radio as a child growing up in the UK in the ‘60s, Butchart appropriately pinned his presentation on Bob Dylan’s ‘Times they are a-changing”’
In the song Dylan warns “There is a battle outside and it is ranging / It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls / For the times they are a-changing”. Such warnings can also be applied to the radio industry where with so many competitors, whether it be stations, advertisers, presenters or promoters, the need to stay on top of one’s game is critical.
The reality is that the game is not as it was many years ago since Butchart formed Radio 702 with other industry icons such as Stan Katz in the ‘70s. Many more players have entered the scene since then and even more so now, there are other mediums to compete with. What is clear from what Butchart shared is that while you might have been in the industry for decades, it is not given that you will remain relevant as the years go by. The truth of the matter is that “times they are a-changing” and you need to ask yourself which side of the change you are on.
His presentation centered on how best to work with change, focusing on three areas: remaining relevant, remembering that innovation is constant and letting go of certain habits.
Remaining relevant to a large degree means having a finger on the pulse of your audience and being able to develop an on air mix, content or advertising campaign that appeals to that audience. A radio station that was in 1997 targeting a 25 to 35-year-old listener should know that that same age bracket in 2014 is different. Not only has the political and economic landscape changed, the 25 to 35-year-old target audience has today more to choose from on the “media menu”.
While affordable connectivity remains an issue in South Africa, the increase in smart phones and access to unlimited Wi-Fi and hotspots in some areas means the average listener does not only choose from local stations for music, news or relevant content. I can have an app on my phone that allows me at any given time to choose between Kaya FM in Johannesburg, KFM in Cape Town, Joy FM in Accra or Capital FM in London.
Butchart highlights the fact that being creative and being innovative is not something to be applied by the business as an entity but rather by the people who ARE the business.
In this regard he calls on managers and owners to drive this process by deliberately setting aside time to invest in the human capital forming the business. Logic then dictates that through the people being innovative, this will in turn translate to the business as a whole being relevant to the market it serves.
On the question of bad habits, Butchart lamented the fact that we tend to spend a lot of time blaming other people or factors other than ourselves, for why we cannot stop our destructive habit. His message was clear and unambiguous: snap out of it.
To reinforce this point, there was a bit of a fuzzy moment (which I enjoyed) at the end of his presentation where we were all asked to stand and tie a small card (shown below) around our wrists with an elastic band. With our hand tied with the card raised, we were asked to loudly recite the words on the card.
Here is the thing, I enjoy listening to elders (with all due respect to Butchart) and from his presentation I have one big “take away”: comfort, arrogance and pride are forerunners to failure. Never be comfortable and don’t ever find yourself in a place of complacency. The reality is that arrogance and pride can easily have you loosing touch with reality and like Dylan said: “Your old road is rapidly aging / Please get out of the new one if you cant lend your hand / For the times they are a-changing”.
IMAGE: Kaya FM Facebook page.
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