The Meaning Of RIF
October 28, 2011
So, you've been RIFfed. That, apparently, is the new jargon. It's what we used to call "getting fired," "getting canned," "getting the ax," "being made redundant," "getting sacked," "laid off," and "being thrown out on our asses." I guess "Reduction in Force" sounds prettier, but the result is the same. You were employed, and now, you're not. What now?
You'll hear a lot of advice about this. I happen to be writing this from the back of a basement ballroom in a Dallas hotel, where a guy is up on stage offering his advice about this, which involves, he just said, "feeding your mind good stuff." He's explaining this now, and it appears to involve not watching cable news or reading USA Today, so that's one thing. But while positive thinking, which is essentially what this guy is selling, is a good thing (and has been an advice staple since Norman Vincent Peale), I don't think cutting the cable will help you get a new job. Nor will just telling yourself, in the words that I saw plastered on the side of a building in Atlanta, "Everything Will Be OK." It will take more than that, or, to take another piece of his advice, "exercising your gratitude muscle." You know, I've never heard it called that before.
No, positive thinking doesn't address the problem: Jobs are being eliminated. The job you were doing a week ago might no longer exist, period. Your employer thinks it can get along without you.
And what if they're right?
Think about it. Say you're a host and you're doing, oh, let's pull a number out of our dark recesses, a 4 share Adults 25-54. And say they RIF you and you're replaced by a syndicated show, and it does a 3 or 4 share. Whatever they were paying you is savings, and they can make about the same amount of money the other way. Why wouldn't they? Wouldn't you do the same thing?
Unless... unless you do better than that, and I don't mean just in ratings. How much money DID (or, if you weren't RIFfed, DO) you make your employer? Or is what you do essential to creating a product that they can sell? How indispensable are you to their business? Because if you think of radio as a creative experience, you aren't paying attention. It's always been a business, but now it REALLY is all business. You need to make them more money, whether it's by doing killer expensive live spots or handling production for so many stations that they can't replace you without creating a crisis. Hosts have to command not just a large audience but an army of loyal listeners and advertisers that will follow you wherever you go. Doing a "better" radio show, or award-winning production, isn't enough. The people making decisions aren't creatives. All they know is that everyone's talking about Pandora and Spotify, and those companies don't use talent. (They DO pay heavy royalties, but that's another issue)
That's one piece of advice: Show potential employers how you will make them more money than anyone else they can hire. Another piece of advice is one I've given you before: Have a Plan B. That doesn't mean that you should give up on radio, but unless you're independently wealthy, you need to be able to do something else to earn a living in case you can't quickly find a new radio position.
And the other piece of advice I always give is, I suppose, a little piece of positive thinking. Yes, there are way fewer jobs in radio. No, some are not coming back. Yes, it's going to be even more competitive for the openings that do exist. But, ultimately, someone is going to be hired for those jobs. Someone is going to be employed in radio. Why shouldn't it be you? Get your survival instincts in gear, because someone's gotta do it.
If you didn't get RIFfed, and even if you did and just want to be amused and prepared for any fill-in or full-time opportunities that might suddenly pop up, Talk Topics at All Access News-Talk-Sports will give you plenty about which to speak. Find it here, and on Twitter at @talktopics. And there's always the best radio and music industry coverage at Net News (including the most complete list of the RIFfed -- if you were let go and aren't on the list, let us know so we can let folks know how to find you), with the top stories tweeted at @allaccess. And, unrelated to All Access, you can follow me on Twitter at @pmsimon, read my stuff at Nerdist.com, and check out my personal website at pmsimon.com.
Okay, back to waiting for Game 7 tonight... er, this Talk Radio Convention-Type Thing. If you're in Dallas for this thing, say hi. I'm the guy in the back of the room on the computer, writing inanities like this. It's how I try to be indispensable.