The Voice Knows

If you’ve been doing what you do long enough and are a student of your profession, you probably have a little voice inside that seems to pipe-up at the most in opportune times.

Like when a group decision is rolling down the tracks.  You know:  Everyone’s on-board … this is a huge move … it makes so much sense.  Yet there is that little voice in your head that urges caution or even screams NO.

I think I finally figured out why.

Because real students of their profession or field notice slight nuances or subtle hints that more casual observers do not.  I have a mechanic like that – and he is GREAT!  Always picks-up something when he hears an engine purr.

The hardest time to hear that little voice is when the decision makes so much sense that is seems obvious.  Radio format adjustments can be like this.  All the evidence in the world points in one direction.  Everyone else – even you, sees it.  Yet that little voice won’t go away.  Had that happen years ago when my group was racing to fill a format hole after fielding a market study – we might not have killed a station.  I can read research with the best of them and was a good solider.  But that damn voice kept saying “no.”

How do you bring it up in the face of expensive research and an afternoon’s worth of analysis?   After keeping my mouth shut and watching projects bomb, I finally got to a point in my career where I decided to speak-up.  How was it received?

“A hunch?  Strategy is not built on a hunches!  What can you back it up with?”

There is where the voice abandons you … because it’s just that:  a hunch.  If I had the facts we wouldn’t have to pay for all of this expensive research.

I backed down … but the hunch was real and the format tweak bombed.  I wish I had put my hunch on record!

My guess is that we see and hear things that a research project which is always being pulled in a certain direction cannot.

Twice in my career, I let those who write my paycheck, hire a talent who used to be a big deal to revitalize a morning show.  Both times the management knew of the talent – and in one case how he used to kick our butts.  And … he was affordable!

Or course he was … because he was no longer relevant.  But the research said the audience loved him.  Every verbatim in the study had good things to say about him.  He was the most missed talent in the market.  This was a home run!

What the research could not predict was how him returning to this smaller market was a career defeat.  He was never his old-self – and why would be he be?  That was 12 years ago!

But I knew it.

How?  Who wouldn’t feel that way after playing in the bigs, with boats, money and a sports car.  The dude was driving a used Honda Civic when he came for an interview.  I saw someone defeated and knew he could not make listeners feel good about themselves in this case.  It was never intentional on-air, and most people could not put their finger on it.  Yet that voice told me … and it was true.  Next study fielded 18 painful months later painted him as washed-up.

Today I have the ability to talk with my peers and colleagues and have no problem just saying “trust me on this.”

Too bad it takes so long for people to give you that consideration.


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