I don’t write a topical radio or media news blog. Occasionally though there are incidents and stories which transcend the topical and general media landscape.
A while ago the news broke about about Steve Wright leaving the afternoon show on BBC Radio 2 in September, where he has been for some 24 years. That in itself is a huge achievement in the fickle and transient world of radio and media. Steve’s afternoon show will be picked up by Scott Mills, and Matt Deegan has a fantastic and articulate deconstruction of Scott’s skill set on his blog post, “In Praise of… Scott Mills.
When Steve left the Radio 1 breakfast show, I had the great fortune of working with him for a short period of time. GWR Group hired Steve as a consultant to work with breakfast shows across the group and I met with him a few times and found him charming, funny and engaged with the process.
The first time of meeting was both bizarre and memorable. He was due to come to Derby where I was at the time and have a meeting with the team (Skye & Russell- Ian Skye and Joanna Russell) at RAM FM, but I had to pick him up from Birmingham New Street railway station and drive him to the radio station. This was our first time of meeting and I had a company vehicle- a white Peugeot 305 in which I was going to pick him up! All went without a hitch and so ensued a somewhat surreal hour long journey with Steve Wright in my rather small car, and us both putting the world to rights about radio and media. I have to say he was fantastic, and the journey went without incident, although he expressed that he didn’t like the traffic filled awkward right turn at the Tyburn Road (at the time also without traffic light control!).
It was a bizarre moment to have the guy who just a few short months before had been presenting the national Radio 1 breakfast show, and before that the huge afternoon show which was ground breaking at the time, sitting in the passenger seat of my small car! The thing is, Steve checked his ego at the door. At no point did he raise anything which gave any impression that any of this experience was beneath him- and to be fair I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did.
For the uninitiated let me just place this into some context. There was no streaming, no listen again, radio existed in live, linear form only. Podcasts were not a thing and the internet was desktop and fairly slow. Phones were not smart, the most you could expect was the game ‘snake’ on a Nokia. Local ILR was just starting down the networking road, but only just. Radio 1 was still very much in a dominant position as was the BBC in general compared to commercial radio. Steve did breakfast for a little over a year, before Chris Evans took over and along came Britpop, Euro 96 and all of THAT. Steve’s afternoon show prior to breakfast brought the ‘zoo’ format to the UK on a mainstream network- essentially a team show with a cast, some character voices and benchmarks and bits.
This reminds me of an important lesson worthwhile bearing in mind: The bigger you are, the smaller you should appear to be. If you are king of the castle, everyone knows it and so if you act like you are- you re-enforce those perceptions and can very easily trip into arrogance. If you absolutely could be lording it, but are instead meek, helpful and pleasant- you unlock so much more and create an environment that is rewarding for all. It works for people, but also for brands as well. Steve may well have been thinking, “What on earth am I doing here?”, but it never showed, nor on subsequent visits and when we communicated on text in the meantime. He was generous with his time and his observations during every interaction during the short time he did some work with GWR Group.
Explode the misconceptions. Break from the expected. Make a difference.
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