Learn the Ins and Outs of Brand Manager Jobs in Radio

brand manager jobs sunny 94.7 ohio

Sunny 94.7 in Columbus, Ohio is one of the radio stations brand manager Jimmy Steele has a good time programming

Passion leads to success.

Sounds simple, right?

But passion isn’t something you can just decide to have one day. Passion starts early and grows within; it is passion that lifts you up to a level you didn’t know possible.

For Jimmy Steele, Brand Manager for Saga Communications Columbus radio group, – the passion for radio was sky high at an early age…well, at least about 50 feet high.

“I was 12 when I was bitten by the radio bug,” recalls Steele. “I learned all I could about technical stuff, so I could build a low power (pirate) AM station. I soon followed up with an FM station.  I operated both stations out of my parent’s basement. My dad erected a 50 foot tall tower in the backyard and ran wires from the basement to the garage which housed my home-built transmitters.”

Surprisingly the neighbors didn’t seem to mind, allowing the young Steele to hang 300 ft of wire across three house roofs for his AM antenna. Steele made himself impossible to ignore in the local radio market and was offered his first job on his 16th birthday, when legally able to work.

“Since then, I have spent years striving to perfect my craft, knowing that I will never reach the goal,” says an enthused Steele. “I strive not to outperform others, but rather to outperform myself,”

Passion not only leads to success, it inspires others. Here’s more with Brand Manager Jimmy Steele:

When you were hired as Brand Manager for the Columbus Radio Group – Steve Goldstein was quoted as saying “Jimmy has a great blend of art and science [of radio]” – what does that mean to you?

Steele: The quote offers one of the best compliments I could receive.

The most successful leaders in the industry have a true grasp on the correlation between art and science in operating their radio station brands.

Science comes into play by setting rules, parameters and best practices, such as how to position and market a brand.  Science also includes using research tools to gauge how songs perform with a desired core audience.  This teaches us a lot about which songs to play, and also how often we should play them.

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Lady Gaga understand the art and the science of music

The art in what we do is in the content we create. We create content that must continuously adapt and evolve while also being compelling and fun – now that is an art form. If we’re not having fun, the listeners won’t find our brands fun to listen to.

Case in point; Lady Gaga is both an artist and scientist. She is a classically trained writer and singer who maintains a clear vision of what works and what does not throughout the recording process.

That is science.

Her abilities as a creative artist are what turned a great singer-songwriter into a superstar.

Radio Ink magazine comes out with a yearly list of the top radio programmers, or brand managers,  in the nation – a list you have been featured on – what do you think makes a good brand manager in radio?

Steele: Brand manager jobs require a few important skills in my experience:

  1. Have a clear understanding of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Focus in on the things you’re strongest at, while surrounding yourself with a team of passionate professionals who compliment your weaknesses.
  2. Invest time into growing each team member’s skills and understand their strengths, weaknesses and personality
  3. Have a passion for helping others realize their goals
  4. Always be looking to groom your eventual replacement – anyone who does not do this usually lacks confidence in their own abilities
  5. Listen to everyone. To your stations. To the team. To the listeners. To the clients.
  6. Stay in touch with lifestyles and the life groups the radio station’s brand targets
  7. Decisive and not afraid to take risks. Without risk there is no growth.
  8. A strong programmer is always analyzing, adjusting, evolving and anticipating trends
  9. Finally, the best programmers can multi-task, find creative solutions to real life challenges and delegate where necessary.

Whew, should I make up one more just to reach 10?

Having worked at various stations, in different parts of the country, you’ve worked with all types of people. In your experience what traits do you think make some succeed in radio jobs while others fail?

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U2 lead singer Bono wonders how many people never actually reached their true potential because they just didn’t want it bad enough

Steele: Our VP/General Manager for the Columbus, OH market, Chris Forgy says it well:  successful people realize that there are only two things they can control; their level of activity and how they manage themselves.

The most successful people in any industry are highly active and manage themselves well. I have seen people with average levels of talent and skill end up being highly successful because they wanted it really bad.

U2 front man “Bono” once said, “I wonder how many great artists are out there but will never be discovered, because they didn’t want it bad enough?”

Think about it.

In most jobs in entertainment there is no such thing as a “normal day” – but what would you say are the most important functions of your current role? 

Steele: In order of importance:

  1. Ensuring that each team member has a clear vision of what the brand represents, along with what it is famous for vs. what they WANT it to be famous for.
  2. Communicating a uniform road map with clear action steps and timelines needed in order to reach them.
  3. Explaining why before how as opposed to “just do” is an important daily function.
  4. Brainstorming creative solutions to every day challenges (an advertiser that needs a promotion, increasing on air and online audience, how to better market our stations).
  5. Dedicating time growing the team and evaluating performance metrics (air personalities, promotions, the sales effort).
  6. Making sure that action plans get prompt follow-up.

Radio is immediate and things evolve quickly. We need to always move fast while multi-tasking several projects which warrant attention each day.

In our world, the only constant is change.

I’m sure hiring is a big part of your job, what are you looking for when you hire someone for a radio job?

Steele: Possessing technical skills is one part of the equation. Having talent, creativity and passion is the other.

I have often hired the second best person for a position when assessing skills, because that person’s passion to grow and win was second to none. That second strongest candidate will always end up running circles around the candidate which initially had the stronger skill-set.

What about tangible skills, are there certain foundational skills that are really important to learn for radio jobs?

Steele: Foundational skills absolutely apply. Rush Limbaugh once said that no matter how much raw talent someone possesses, they will turn to jelly, left unable to channel it unless they have learned skills.

career in music radio host

Learning to run a studio console doesn’t take long, it’s writing and communicating that are the hardest to teach (Photo Courtesy: KEXP.org)

The truth is I can teach most people how to operate a studio console within a day. In time, anyone can learn how to operate most studio gear.  It has become increasingly difficult however to find individuals though who possess strong writing and communication skills.

Kids are graduating from high school unable to speak proper English. We are in the “communications” business, right?

These life skills are paramount in one’s ability to succeed in radio, television, or honestly just about anywhere.

Do you find that the biggest competition comes from other stations in your market…or online/mobile options? 

Steele: Honestly, neither. I view newspaper and television as our most fierce competitors.

Ratings don’t amount to much if you can’t monetize them.  The percentage of advertising dollars that are spent with newspapers and television networks is higher in comparison to radio, yet radio has the ability to get an advertiser’s message heard by more people, with quicker turnaround and at a fraction of the production cost.

There are certainly ads running on competitive radio stations which don’t run on ours.  But the list is greater across the street at the newspaper and TV stations.

The amount of money being spent from the same advertiser, often spends less with radio. We are changing that!

As for online/mobile choices – more choices only adds value to radio as a media choice.  More choices has helped drive the highest listening levels in the history of radio. 84% of car owners use radio as their top choice for in-car entertainment!

As an industry, we need to do a better job at promoting these facts.

A final thought about competition; Sports rivalries increase value to the sport.  Rivalries increase revenue and create excitement! Our competitors simply make us better by creating a call to action that screams “be better, or get beat”.

In your view, what is the best way for a local radio station to remain relevant in a world that is getting progressively on demand?

Steele: Connect with listeners on a local level, be engaged in your communities and provide compelling content.

Air personalities truly set us apart from the iPod or Pandora.  They do what they do better than radio can, however, they don’t have the ability to form audience relationships in the way that broadcast radio does.

Keep in mind; most people who use the iPod, Pandora or satellite radio also consume local radio.  Do you watch TV, listen to the TV or read the local paper?

All three, really? You bet!

The same applies across the spectrum of today’s media choices.

I remember when local TV thought they were in trouble with the onset of cable.  It happened again with the onset of the DVR.  Television has had to adapt to landscape changes, but has always remained relevant.

Radio’s relevance has increased.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


  1. […] choices only adds value to broadcast radio as a media option,” says Columbus Radio Group Brand Manager Jimmy Steele. “Most people who use the iPod, Pandora or satellite radio also consume local radio.  Do you […]

  2. […] choices only adds value to broadcast radio as a media option,” says Columbus Radio Group Brand Manager Jimmy Steele. “Most people who use the iPod, Pandora or satellite radio also consume local radio.  Do you […]