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Jun 08

Connecting With Your Business Community

Posted by: Steve Marr

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All radio stations, both non-commercial and commercial, need to connect with local businesses, but most fail to establish meaningful relationships because they focus too narrowly on soliciting donations or selling advertising. A true alliance, on the other hand, will be multifaceted, reciprocal, consistent, and forged in a spirit of cooperation.


From my perspective as a business consultant, pride and mixed motives are the main reasons why many Christian radio stations fail to connect with local business owners. Some media representatives seem to regard business people like the tax collectors in first century Palestine-unclean opportunists who have somehow obtained wealth improperly. In stark contrast to this "us vs. them" attitude toward those with financial means, Jesus taught that the only dividing line was obedience to Him.

Next, many Christian broadcasters seem to forget that their first priority is not to sell advertising or air time, but to minister to those around them-including business people. Everyone we meet has needs, concerns, sorrows and joys. Many business owners and workers are looking for genuine friendship and spiritual guidance. If all we want to do is sell them an ad package, we're going to miss a major ministry opportunity. Represent the love of God to the people you meet in your local businesses and blessing will follow your obedience. If your motives are wrong, God's blessing will be elusive.

Regardless of whether your community is large or small, the process for establishing meaningful connections is the same. It starts with a commitment to minister to the needs of your local business community. Next, you should identify the Christians in your contact file, both business owners and key managers and executives, and begin to build genuine relationships. As you get to know these people, take note of their special skills, level of leadership, and any needs they express.

As you develop your contacts, create a business leadership team to further focus your efforts on establishing relationships within the business community. Ask 3-5 key businesspeople to assist you by helping to make contacts, providing expertise, and supplying program material. Limit your request for assistance to 1-2 hours per month

At the first meeting, ask them to help you identify three objectives for strengthening ties between your station and local businesses over the next year. As the leader of this group, provide guidance and ideas, but don't direct the process too tightly. Don't set an agenda and ask the others to follow- instead, ask for their participation, involve them in the process and decision-making, and offer them genuine support in return. If you follow these three steps, the business leaders on your team will appreciate the opportunity to participate, they'll take ownership of the process, and they'll support the final effort.

Here's a practical way to come alongside your business community, and at the same time enhance your radio ministry: Establish a quarterly business breakfast or luncheon at your station or a nearby restaurant. Bring in a speaker to cover a topic of general interest for about twenty minutes. Each community will have its share of gifted speakers who can cover topics of interest to your audience. You might discuss "How to Interview for Success," or "Connecting with Customers," or review the latest employment law changes.

At these meetings, don't ask for money or take pledges. Focus on serving your audience and presenting a great seminar. Allow time for networking. If the attendees don't know each other, they should. When properly planned, these gatherings will become a valuable asset to the participants and they will look forward to attending the next event.

Take every opportunity to tap into the wisdom and experience of the business people who attend your events. During each meeting, ask for ideas to improve your radio station. Ask, "How can we serve you better?" Their input may be the best gift your station ever receives. Demonstrate genuine interest by taking notes, and then follow through by implementing as many usable ideas as you can.

Initiate a business evangelism outreach. Maximize your reach and effectiveness by partnering with another ministry organization that shares your focus and passion.

Establish an award to honor the businessperson of the month, quarter, or year. Ask for nominations on the air. Recruit some of your key business supporters to create a panel of judges. Determine your evaluation criteria in advance to avoid having the contest become a popularity contest. Interview the winner on the air for a few minutes, emphasizing the qualities and attributes that earned the award.

Another way to involve local business leaders in the ministry of your radio station is to utilize them as on-air resources to provide your audience with key information. Most stations already use broadcast interviews to inform listeners on topics of interest. Why not include local business owners in your rotation? Topics might include how to interview effectively for a job, how to deal with workplace conflict, or how to become a candidate for promotion. Seasonal topics might focus on where to find the best summer jobs- and if a major employer downsizes, you could discuss how displaced workers can avoid discouragement and find the next opportunity. As you uncover this rich and often untapped resource, you might be surprised by the depth of experience and practical wisdom that bubbles to the surface.

Don't overlook the possibility of consulting with wise business leaders when it comes time to make decisions at your station. Do you need a new copy machine? One of your contacts has probably already done exhaustive research and can point you toward to the best solution quickly. Another business, one that orders large quantities of office supplies, might allow you to tack your orders on to theirs, thereby giving you access to volume savings. Most problems and challenges you will face in the broadcast industry one of your business contacts will have already conquered. Don't pay in time or money for the same lesson.

Many Christian radio station are effective in connecting with pastoral and parachurch ministries, but they have virtually ignored their local business community. The same guidelines for successful relationship development apply across the board. Businesspeople are like everybody else. They like to feel needed, valued, and respected. If you seek to establish genuine connections, your local community is certain to respond with enthusiasm.

Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach

This article was featured in "The Good"

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