10 Questions with ... Brian Sanders
October 20, 2014
1. Brief History/synopsis
My dad was in the Air Force. I was born in Hawaii. Throw a dart at a map and we've probably lived there. Graduated high school in Louisiana. Bachelor's degree from Northwestern State in Louisiana. 60 hours toward my Master's degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Took some additional graduate classes from Reformed Theological Seminary.
Met my wife while I worked at LifeSongs (WBSN) in New Orleans. We were married a year later. We currently live in Virginia where I serve as Executive Vice-president of Positive Alternative Radio and my wife, Kayla, serves as Director of Partner Services for the ministry. We don't have any kids, but we do have one very spoiled dog, Sprocket.
2. What was it that made you "catch the bug" for radio? When did you realize that it was what you wanted to do for a living?
While in high school, the manager of our town's little radio station came to the school and asked our English teacher for students to read Shakespeare out loud. He thought that those who could read and project well would make good on-air personalities. So, I stood up and read MacBeth. With that, I landed a job at KRRP radio in Coushatta, Louisiana. When I ended up at Seminary, I got a job at WBSN working overnights. That's where I learned about listener supported Christian radio and fell in love with it.
I went to Seminary under the immature delusion that I would be the next Charles Stanley, RC Sproul or John MacArthur. Actually, God called me to Seminary to have me fall in love with two things....my wife and Christian radio.
3. Give us the overview of your station/network. What are it's core values, mission statement....and what is the greatest obstacle?
Positive Alternative Radio is a non-profit ministry with six station brands. We have signals across the mid-Atlantic U.S.
Our mission statement is to create and deliver experiences that inspire people to live passionately for Jesus. This is a key point and I don't want your readers to miss this. There's a mantra in Christian radio that "content is king." We would disagree.
For Positive Alternative Radio...the EXPERIENCE is king.
Let me explain with an illustration.
When Microsoft markets their products, they highlight the content of Windows. They illustrate what the content can do. Microsoft will say, "The PC comes with Illustrator, Word, Excel and so on."
What about Apple? Apple shows how their product can give you an experience. They will show an artist delighting a crowd with a drawing he created on an iPad or people crying with joy because they are able to Facetime with a family member from halfway across the world. That's an experience.
Microsoft focuses on content.
Apple is defined by delighting the end-user.
Those are two competing philosophies and it really highlights how PAR does Christian radio.
We want to be known for creating experiences for the end-user; the listener / donor. The content we wish to deliver will be defined by the experience we desire for the listener to have.
If you want to understand Positive Alternative Radio, you must grasp that creating experiences rules the day!
We are obsessed with creating this experience during every break, every spot, remote, concert, promotion, every time a listener calls the station... You get the picture. We're considering every area where we interact with a listener or donor and asking, "How do we create an experience?" So far...the results are amazing.
Building on the mission, our vision is to be the standard by which all Christian Media is measured. That's a tall order, but it pushes us to be the best we can be.
You asked about core values. We don't really have core values. We stole a page from the Starbucks culture and adopted Ways of Being. These Ways of Being guide us as we interact with each other, our audience and donors.
PAR's Ways of Being:
- Be Passionate
- Be Honest
- Be Caring
- Be the Standard
- Be Creating the Future
These ways of being have helped transform the culture of PAR. I couldn't be more grateful for our team and how they're living these ways of being on a daily basis.
4. Tell us about the blog PAR just launched at www.dearchristianradio.com.
The blog is our voice to the entire Christian radio industry, and we hope they are reading.
Thanks for asking. The blog is an extension of our vision to be the standard of all Christian Media. There were some moves in our industry in the last few weeks that forced our hand to go ahead and begin publishing to it.
Local Christian radio is slowly slipping away. Major networks are buying up stations left and right. It seems local leaders either lack vision or are afraid to compete.
It is my belief that local Christian radio can compete and win.
It may require a new business model and station culture, but we can win.
The blog is going to feature articles from all the leaders of Positive Alternative Radio on every area of local Christian radio.
I invite all of Christian radio to join the discussion. You can find it at www.dearchristianradio.com.
5. What's your greatest obstacle?
I wish the question were "Give me your top 5 obstacles." For me, the greatest obstacle we face is the battle to win ears in an ever-changing technological environment. It's the same challenge every Christian radio station is facing. That answer will shock no one.
6. With the advent of "instant everything"..... How do you compete with what the potential listener has available to them?
I'd like to refer back to our mission statement. You create experiences that inspire, uplift, encourage and offer hope. If your audience knows they can depend on you for that 24/7 - we can not only compete but also win.
7. What would you categorize as your greatest personal challenge in radio? What are you doing to overcome that?
I'm known for candor. A big culture change for PAR was implementing candor. So...here's a little candor.
My greatest personal challenge is keeping our teams motivated. There are so many distractions pulling at them. My goal is to serve them by helping them be motivated to fulfill the mission and vision.
I try to overcome that challenge by meeting with each station and department leader on a weekly basis and traveling to each station or department once per quarter.
8. Who are 3 people that you look/have looked to as mentors/leaders? What is/was it that draws/drew you to them?
I'll start with my Dad. He led men in the Air Force. He led a work force when he entered the private sector. I've seen him wrestle with employee decisions and trying to increase efficiency. If I'm facing a major obstacle or considering a new strategy, I'll discuss it with him.
Second, Randy Bronkema of Advocace' media. Randy has a passion that is addictive. He took me through his "Timothy Project." From that, I learned about servant leadership and leading from my values. That was a huge season of learning for me. I asked Randy to continue mentoring me. We meet every other week and discuss my growth as a leader. He's been an invaluable resource to my leadership growth.
Finally, I've never met these men - but I'd have to say Jack Welch and Steve Jobs.
I've read nearly every book about these men and their leadership practices. I've watched hundreds of videos featuring them delivering speeches and so on.
Welch led GE for over 20 years and made it a winning company. Jobs built Apple into the world's most valuable brand. I think I can learn something from those men. I'd encourage any leader to read "Winning" by Welch and "What Would Steve Jobs Do?" by Peter Sander.
9. What do you believe is the single greatest factor in building audience share/cume? Why do you believe it's that important?
I can hear our VP of Programming, Frankie Morea, shouting, "It's what comes out of the speakers! It's what comes out of the speakers." With that said, music and content that creates experiences that inspires people to live for Jesus. That builds cume.
Why do I believe it's that important? The moment we stop believing it's about creating experiences for the listener and all about how great we are at creating content...we will go out of business. The listener could care less how great we are. They care about how we impact their mood and feed their soul.
10. Radio 101....in 101 words or less, how would you guide/instruct/advise a leader who wants to get better at their craft?
I believe Christian radio is facing a leadership crisis, not a programming crisis. Christian radio needs leaders who are willing to win, compete, cast a vision, practice candor, and fight for their teams.
- Rely heavily on the grace of God and freely dispense it. We're all broken and bring junk to the table. We're broken people leading broken people. As a follower of Jesus, that forces me to rely on the grace of God. Demand excellence but show grace to team members who stumble and when you do - your team will show you grace when you bumble things as a leader.
- Paint a picture of where you want to take your team. Then equip and serve them so they can get the organization there. Buy them what they need to get the job done. Offer them training. Go to their stations and say, "Put me to work today." Serve your team.
- Invest in yourself. Read. Read. Read. Read every leadership book you can get your hands on. Listen to Maxwell and Stanley. Begin writing leadership articles for yourself. You'll learn more teaching than you will just learning.
1. What's the last book you read?
I LOVE to read. I'm not a TV guy. So, typically - I read between 2 - 3 books a week. Yep. I'm a book nerd.
The last book I read was "Franklin and Winston: A Portrait of a Friendship" by Jon Meachem.
The book is about Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill and their friendship during World War II. It was a fascinating read. Let me be clear, I didn't read this for political reasons. I read it for leadership lessons.
Roosevelt and Churchill were leadership titans.
So, I read this book with these questions in mind: How did they interact with other? How did they influence each other to accomplish what they felt was important? How did a personal friendship either help or hurt their goal of winning the war? How did they manage their egos or did they even care about managing their egos?
They were friends but they were friends with a purpose. The fate of the world hung in the balance. They had to defeat Hitler, restore order to Europe and help the United States against Japan.
Think about this. Japan is becoming a stronger force in the Pacific. Roosevelt must divide his attention between two fronts: Europe and the Pacific. Churchill wants Roosevelt focused exclusively on Europe and the fight against Nazi Germany. There were multiple things that were important to Roosevelt. There was one thing important to Churchill.
There's a leadership lesson.
The leader will be juggling multiple agendas and various high priority items. But the person standing in front of your desk believes their agenda is the most important thing. Roosevelt's leadership skills, not his politics, taught me a lot about seeing the entire picture...not just a piece of it.
2. What's your most embarrassing moment on the air?
My first radio gig was with KRRP in Coushatta, Louisiana. My boss was Jim Turner. We did this little daily on-air show called "Tradio." People would call in items to trade or sell. The secretary would type these items up on index cards. It was my job as the afternoon host to read these cards and invite people to call and buy or trade for the items.
I never pre-read the cards. I always did the show unprepared. That drove Jim crazy. So, he "planted" some cards to teach me a lesson.
That afternoon I came in to the station and did my show. It came time for Tradio. I opened the mic and began reading the cards...without reviewing them first.
All of sudden, over the air...you hear me say, "For sale, two large butts. Middle -aged. Contact Mildred Jones at 932-......" It never dawned on me what I just said.
Jim knew it wouldn't. So he planted another one.
The next card said, "For trade. Small children. Loud. Obnoxious. Won't stop eating. Will trade for a quiet lamp. If interested please call...." And then I said, "We'll be right back."
I stood up and when I turned around...there was Jim.
I learned my lesson.
For the record, no one called about the butts.
But we did get over 20 complaint calls about someone wanting to trade their children.
3. If you were King for a day, and could "fix" three things in radio land....what would they be, and why?
I would begin a University of Leadership where radio leaders could go and learn to be compassionate, competitive, winners and servants. I'd make it mandatory to have a degree from this university before you could lead. Why? Because local radio needs passionate servant-leaders.
Second, I would ease some federal regulations so it would be easier for local Christian radio ministries to compete.
Third, I'd remove myself as king. I'm prone to arrogance. I wouldn't want this king thing to get out of hand.
4. You've got one last live break on air....and then the radio will go silent. What do you say, and why?
I will be back. I don't believe we were meant to go silent. We are meant to have a voice. I will be back.