Media Entrepreneurs: Personalities Extending Their Brand Beyond Radio.
The most successful on-air personalities are ones who have taken charge of their own career and effectively extended their brand. These talents take their skills beyond their daily radio show, with far-reaching tentacles in social media, TV, books, and even on stage.
Cody Alan stepped down as host of the Premiere Networks-syndicated “After MidNite” program at the end of 2021 but continues to anchor the network’s “CMT Radio Live” and the cable TV program, “CMT Hot 20 Countdown.”
“It was a great run but you need to know when it’s time to turn the page,” Alan told Inside Radio. In addition to “Hot 20,” Alan says he and CMT have a few other projects in the works, “but I’m lucky to have a little time now to decide which direction is next,” he continues. “I want to do something that gets me as excited as I was at 15 years old when I got my first job in radio. Radio is deep in my core genes so I’m excited to bring listeners something new in 2022.”
Even with a “radio-first” approach, Alan is among a group of talents to seamlessly transition to TV. He says both mediums “require a one-on-one connection with an audience. It’s about being real and human every time the mic or the camera is on… Radio is generally more spontaneous and freewheeling, while TV requires some tightness and constraints due to timing and what viewers expect.”
Another talent to negotiate
a change at his main radio gig, while maintaining numerous additional projects, is Rickey Smiley. Syndicated by Reach Media, Smiley took over many of the adult R&B affiliates of “The Tom Joyner Show” upon Joyner’s retirement two years ago.
“I had to get used to the music change after playing hip-hop for so many years,” Smiley tells Inside Radio.
Smiley was the focus of the reality series “Rickey Smiley For Real,” which aired for five seasons on Reach Media sister network TV One. The show provided a comedic look at Smiley’s busy life, showing how he balanced his career with his personal life as a single father. It coincided with the earlier version of “The Rickey Smiley Morning Show,” which aired on hip-hip/R&B stations nationwide. Prior to the reality program, his sitcom “The Rickey Smiley Show” aired on TV One.
More recently the comedian by trade has been back on the road. “I just finished the Martin Lawrence tour in major arenas, and I do karaoke in Birmingham at the Stardome once or twice a month,” Smiley says. “As a comedian, you have to stay on stage, so you don’t lose your comedic edge.”
Broadening Your Personal Brand
Alan, meanwhile, expanded his brand beyond radio and TV and into publishing with the Fall 2021 release of his memoir “Hear’s the Thing.” The autobiography includes stories from his career in country radio, his upbringing, and navigating the music industry while struggling with his own identity.
Alan stresses the importance of broadening his brand, both within and outside of traditional broadcast media.
“It’s important to be an entrepreneur in the new media world because personalities and personal brands are becoming more important. They are the stable force while the platforms shift,” he explains. “It’s just good to have your content seen and heard in as many places as possible. In my book, I talk about making content that’s ‘sticky.’ … For me, radio has always been the root of that content. Then the other outlets cross-pollinate, with the goal to bring the audience back day after day.”
Smiley says the key to extending his presence on various platforms, is to “always do good business and take advantage of opportunities in front of you.” Like Alan, Smiley’s goal is to use his reach to bring listeners back to his morning radio show. “The bigger your brand, it always comes back to radio,” he explains. “Social media and performing – one promotes the other.”
With so many obligations it’s critical to have focus and a support team so nothing falls through the cracks. “I’ve been blessed with great people around me,” Alan says. “But often I know there are fewer people in stations and on shows. It can feel like an Old Dominion song, a ‘One Man Band,’” he muses. “One practical tip for me is to always focus on the current task. It’s easy to lose focus when you think about tomorrow’s assignment. Just simply learning to be 100% present in the moment with what’s in front of you right now is so important. Then today and tomorrow become so much easier.”
Smiley’s advice to burgeoning media entrepreneurs is simple. “Take naps, streamline and simplify.” – Jay Gleason
Inside Radio 1/24/22
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