Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stars Fell on: Eric Allen from the SorCom Review

Welcome back to "Stars Fell on Disney Fans from Alabama!"  I'm very excited and honored to introduce to you my friend Eric Allen!  Eric is not a Disney blogger, but he is a Disney fan who has his own radio show on Sorcerer Radio.  Eric is from Birmingham, Alabama and is a graduate of Auburn University!  I actually "knew" Eric for a while before I realized he was from Alabama.  I'm not sure when that happened, but I do know he responded to a "War Eagle" tweet I sent out at the beginning of this football season and I knew I had an instant friend!
  
Eric is the host of the SorCom Review as heard on Sorcerer Radio Tuesday mornings at 8:00 a.m. ET, with encores at 7:00 p.m. ET on Tuesdays and non ET on Sundays.  You can reach him on Facebook at SorCom Review, on Twitter as @SorComReview and on the Sorcerer Radio web site and forums.


I have been fortunate (“blessed” would probably be a better word) to have met a wide variety of notable figures since my mother's doctor announced my arrival.  I have made the acquaintance of actors/actresses, musicians, politicians, artists, scholars, athletes, coaches and even the occasional astronaut.  Heck, my parents tell me that I once met Michael Jackson when I was very young and he was relatively normal.  I'm willing to take their word for it as I can't remember the one and can't imagine the other.

However, arguably the person on top of the list of people I never got to meet (but would have liked to) would be none other than Walter Elias Disney himself.  I blame this egregious oversight on the fact that he died roughly 2-1/2 years before I was born – thus making a meeting rather difficult and forcing me to PhotoShop him in over Alex Trebek in the antique-style picture above as the only way to ever have my picture taken with him.

What, you don't believe I met Alex Trebek?  Fine, Mister Doubting Mustafa... here's the original picture.  Happy now?


Anyway... although we never met I, like many other Disney fans, have found many of Walt's quoted sayings to contain a singular wisdom every bit as relevant today as they were when he said them decades ago.  I've found that five of his quotations in particular apply very well to what we do at Sorcerer Radio.


If It's Worth Doing, It's Worth Doing Right.

"Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work it until it's done and done right."

At Sorcerer Radio we care about Disney, we care about our product, and we care about our listeners.  When you care about what you do and those for whom you do it (as Walt obviously did), then you’re compelled to hold yourself to a high standard.  You don’t want to produce a product – in this case, a radio show – that’s anything less than the best as your listeners deserve nothing less.  It’s kinda like with Gaston, only with a lot less narcissism involved.

Unfortunately, making each show or recorded audio clip means going the proverbial extra mile and doing work that you probably wouldn’t do otherwise.  When I was working at the campus radio station while in college, I could get away with arriving at the station less than 30 minutes beforehand.  I’d grab a soda, pull a news story, and pull a song or two before the show started.  Life was good.  Now I’ve gone from a local station whose signal starts breaking up within 25-30 miles of the transmitter to an organization with a global audience and a goal to be the best Disney station on Earth.  I learned very early on that I couldn’t ‘wing it’ like I used to.  Putting on a show involves a lot of preparation week in and week out and a lot of it you’ll likely never see.

Well, of course you’ll likely never SEE it.  I mean it IS radio, after all. I guess it’s more accurate to say that you’ll likely never be aware of it if I’ve done my job right.

Sure, it can get tedious at times and is definitely time-consuming.  But as a radio listener myself, I really don’t want to hear a program that’s done half-heartedly as if the one responsible shrugged and said “Aw, that’s good enough.”  Can you imagine listening to a radio broadcast of your favorite football team and the play-by-play announcer sounding like he’d rather be having a root canal than be in the press box?  Me neither!  I want some PASSION in my on-air personalities, dad gum it!

In other words, even if it does mean some extra work involved you should never give your audience less than what you’d like to hear yourself.  Because it’s worth it.  THEY'RE worth it.

It's Not A One-Man Show. 

"Whatever we accomplish is due to the combined effort. The organization must be with you or you don't get it done... In my organization there is respect for every individual, and we all have a keen respect for the public."

In broadcasting, success is a team effort.  The powers that be must have a clear vision of the station's goals and how to achieve them.  Priorities must be clearly defined. Benchmarks should be identified in both the short and the long term so that progress can be measured.  Otherwise time and effort can be wasted chasing after dead ends or pursuing things that aren't conducive to the station's growth. 

Likewise, in order to succeed everyone else in the station has to 'buy into' that vision and focus their efforts towards achieving the station's goals.  There are a surprising number of roles that have to be played in order for even a station the size of Sorcerer Radio to function efficiently – and although many may not be as visible as others all of them are important.  Moderators who delete forum spam and ban those responsible for posting it help promote a positive online environment.  The secretary who processes invoices and communicates with sponsors/partners helps maintain a healthy relationship with the station.  Web designers improving the look and functionality of the website promote a professional image and ensure that visitors can navigate the site without confusion.  These jobs and others contribute to the overall experience for the listener.

It is this synergy -- with everyone clearly understanding the goals and how their jobs contribute towards achieving them -- that propel the station in the right direction like so many members of an Olympic rowing team. Unfortunately, sometimes you have people within the organization who are resistant to this vision or who for whatever reason prefer to go 'their own way' instead.  Having been on both sides of this kind of situation, I can say with a certain amount of confidence that good things rarely (if ever) ensue.  In fact, it downright stinks like underwear that you’ve been sporting for a solid week straight.   An unnecessarily high level of dissent can split the organization and hamper its efforts as different factions argue over what is 'the best way.'  Disgruntled individuals can hinder (sometimes even sabotage) a station's efforts.  At the very least they can cause a station's efforts to be less efficient.  In cases like this an effort has to be made to determine and address the underlying cause of the resistance.  It may be as simple as further explaining the goals.  It could be that a person is in a role that isn't as suited for their talents as another.  Only when all attempts at rectifying the resistance have failed should the person be removed as their departure can further negatively impact the station's efforts.

(I would just like to point out just for the record however that I’ve never actually worn the same pair of underwear for an entire week straight.  3 days is my record thus far.)

Competition Is A Fact Of Life.

"I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn't know how to get along without it."

Sorcerer Radio isn’t the only game in town.  On Live365.com alone there are several other stations that play music from the Disney parks and resorts.  Internet radio stations face competition from broadcast radio stations.  And radio itself faces competition from television, books, video games, sporting events, work, travel, and a plethora of other activities all trying to lay claim to a share of the 16 or so hours the average human spends awake each day.  Or if you’re the average college student, the 23-1/2 hours or so spent partying instead of studying like your parents THINK you’re doing.

Ironically enough, I believe that’s a GOOD thing.  Competition in and of itself is not inherently evil, but instead can be a useful tool if harnessed properly.  It is the heat of competition that tempers your product and makes it better.  It is the yardstick by which you can measure yourself and your progress.  It is the fact you have to overcome said competition that makes success sweeter. Competition can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses so you can accentuate one and address the other (I’m sure you can figure out which one is which).

It is also the reminder that you cannot take your audience for granted – for if you don’t take care of your listeners, someone else will be all too happy to do so. 

Don't let naysayers distract you.

"We are not trying to entertain the critics. I'll take my chances with the public."

No matter where you go or what you do in life, there will be detractors.  Some will question your character and your actions.  Some will attack you any way they can.  Some will even go so far as to attack you while at the same time copying what you do.  Sometimes it's enough to make you want to pull out your hair; fortunately what little hair I have left is cut so short I can't get a good grip on it.

However, while you definitely should set the record straight when it becomes necessary it can be all too easy to get so focused on your critics that you lose sight of what's truly important – your audience.  Your listeners tune in because they want to have an enjoyable listening experience and not because they want to hear you rant and rave over a plethora of slights both real and imagined.  Obsessing too much over the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune tends to cause hurt feelings and lose listeners.  Plus, as long as you harbor grudges (and especially as long as you give voice to them and vent publicly about them) the object of those grudges has a certain degree of power over you.

So whenever possible, be the ‘good guy.’  Put on that white cowboy hat and ride that white horse.  Give your audience reasons to listen to you rather than reasons why you shouldn’t listen to your critics (those are two VERY different things, but sadly many people never fully grasp the concept). 

Your listeners are listening to you because they like what you do.  Keep the focus on them and in the long run it really won’t matter all that much what the critics say.  After all, nobody has ever erected a monument to a critic.

There's Always Room For Improvement.

"In this volatile business of ours, we can ill afford to rest on our laurels, even to pause in retrospect. Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future."

Walt may have been referring to a different industry when he said it, but this quote may be the most appropriate of all.  To call the business of broadcasting 'volatile,' especially online radio broadcasting, is like saying someone struck by lightning is 'feeling under the weather' – it just doesn't do it justice.

Technology seems to grow by quantum leaps on a regular basis (my iPhone has more hard drive space than my first three computers combined).  A person can now do with computer and a broadband internet connection what not so long ago required an entire control room full of equipment.  Aside from making people like me feel really old – an accomplishment achieved with a most annoying degree of efficiency and frequency – the rate at which technology advances make it necessary to always be looking to see what new developments may be coming down the pike. 

And technology isn't the only aspect of broadcasting that changes rapidly.  The radio landscape can vary dramatically in the proverbial blink of an eye.  People can come and go at your station. Stations themselves can come and go (I've seen one station go from startup to shutdown within the space of only a week).  The number of hours spent listening to your station can fluctuate wildly at times throughout the year.  It's a wild roller coaster ride with all the dramatic highs and lows of the Dow Jones Average when the quarterly reports are released.

2011 has been an exciting year for Sorcerer Radio.  We currently have our strongest lineup ever in terms of programs and on-air personalities.  We have introduced new ways for listeners to enjoy our programs  such as our stand-alone app for the iPhone available in the App Store.  Exclusive original Disney-inspired music from DJ Sorcey is now available for purchase on iTunes.  We introduced the live interactive vidcast “WDW After Dark” offering Disney discussion with more adult-oriented perspectives.  And we have developed positive working relationships with various organizations in the Disney community (including elements within the Walt Disney Company itself), which has allowed us greater  opportunities to enhance the Sorcerer Radio listening experience for our audience.  And our listeners have responded in kind; people are spending more hours listening to the station than ever before.  That tells me we're moving in the right direction and that the innovations we've introduced over the course of this year have been well worth the effort. 

And we're going to continue looking at ways we can further enhance the experience for our listeners in the months and years ahead.  One of the great things about the volatility of the broadcasting landscape is that you never know what may be right around the corner.

And there you have it.  Honestly, if you want to get technical these quotes, as with many of Walt's words of wisdom, would be pretty applicable in many areas of interest (I imagine that first one in particular would be extremely useful in the field of brain surgery, demolitions, or rocket science).  I'm sure I'm just one of millions of Disney fans who would have really liked to have had the chance of sitting down with Walt for even just a couple of minutes.  Walt seemed to possess a unique gift of vision which has left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of untold millions (if not billions) of people the world over.  I don't think it'd be unfair to say that even decades after his death he still commands a global recognition than many heads of state.  Don't believe me?  Then tell me, who was the first Prime Minister of Nigeria?  Hmm?  See, you can't remember him either.

For all his fame and hype, however, I like to hold to the notion that deep down Walt was at heart a regular joe with his own particular set of strengths and weaknesses like every one of us.  I get this notion primarily from the quotes that have been attributed to him over the years.  They present to me the image of a man who didn't try to talk down to others or talk above their heads, but rather boiled things down to their purest simplicity.  It is this simplicity, I think, that makes these quotes so applicable to so many situations.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing today Eric! It's perfect! :)

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  2. Thanks for having me, Beth! I'm flattered to have been asked and I greatly appreciate the opportunity!

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  3. What a great post! I, too, wish I had had the opportunity to meet Walt Disney. We love so many of his quotes!

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  4. Loved it Beth & Eric!! Great Disney quotes, I love the way you relate them to the radio business Eric!!

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  5. Cooking with MickeyOctober 26, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    WOW Eric! What a great article. I absolutely agree that what we do is a team effort. I think it's amazing that even though some of us have never met in person we still work as though we are together all the time.

    There are so many great Walt quotes! Like you and many other Disney fans I too would have love to have met Walt. Walt and so many other heads of companies were great people who took the time to get to know their employees and their guests/customers. It saddens me that things have changed so much.

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