You have to protect your own.
What got you started in radio? I heard an ad on the radio that they were looking for a salesperson. I didn’t have any experience at all. My friend told me that he thought I could do it. I had never really applied for a job before with a formal interview … and I couldn’t believe he gave me the job!
Come to find out, he didn’t have a job. The GM hired me on a Friday. I quit my job in Clearlake, SD, got some new clothes … and when I came to work, they had fired the GM who hired me, so I was out of a job.
About 3 years later I was selling for a Shopper. I was in a client’s office, and he asked me to stay while he had a radio station rep come in and do a pitch. He asked if I thought he should buy it, and I just gave him my honest opinion. On my way out of the building, the rep asked me if I would go to work for them! I had another interview, and they hired me in Brookings.
Your husband’s job brought you to Mobridge? Yes. He likes to hunt and fish, and there was a job opening to run a resort here. “Hunt and fish, live the dream!” So, I left radio and we managed a resort for 4 years. My husband was so busy he never got to fish when we took the job. We wanted to try something different; we had 3 small kids, and we moved here. It was very different.
Who has helped you in your radio career? My first mentor was Dwayne Bash at KJJQ. He always said, “Dawn you can do it, you hang in there.” Now, I’ve worked for Mark Swendsen for 15 years. He has given me enough string to hang myself, but I haven’t done it yet. He’s been the best boss I’ve ever had. He’s got my back. As long as he’s here, I’m here … he’s amazing.
How did that start? KMLO went on the air November 1996. Mark tried to hire me then, but I wouldn’t take the job. Eventually, he convinced me and hired me with one other rep to start that station: KMLO Country 101. It was tough, because we were the outsiders. All of the money was going out of town and no one wanted to buy KMLO. We did lots of promotions, lots of visibility stuff. I got involved with every organization that was in Mobridge, whether it was economic development, retail, tourism, whatever, I got myself involved in everything.
You had out-of-town owners, that was the problem? At the time, KOLY was owned by a local person, so when local businesses spent money on my station, KMLO, they were sending money out of town. We started taking KOLY’s audience, though, and then the advertisers didn’t have a choice. If they didn’t buy radio with us, they were missing their listeners. Then we purchased the KOLY stations, and then they had to take us. But until then, it was tough.
That’s such a small town thing. You wouldn’t hear that objection in New York. You have to protect your own. Advertisers were concerned that we were taking money out of town, and they didn’t know what would happen to their hometown station. It was a big concern, and we overcame that hurdle. Now, everyone is very good to us.
How many people do you hire every year? Not many. Most of our people have been here over 10 years. Our News Director position rotates every couple of years, it seems, as people move up to bigger markets. I need to hire a sales rep now. We get a lot of young people from Brown College in Minnesota; they have a broadcasting degree program.
Do you have any competitors? No radio competitors at all, other than Aberdeen stations that are 120 miles away. The local paper is here, and they’re a competitor, but we do we work with them some. There’s a Native American station across the river, and they’re a competitor, but not a vicious one.
So there’s a newspaper … how do you handle digital media? Who has the news monopoly in town? Right now, we’re hiring a news director. The newspaper has strength, but it’s just a weekly so you don’t know what is happening unless you listen to the radio. People depend on us for that information you can’t get wait a week to read in the newspaper. We put news on our site, and a lot of that is handled out of our Pierre office. We put some local stories up from here.
Do you send out emails? Sure. We have My Daily News with over 5,000 subscribers.
Do you sell digital separately from the station? Yes, we do banner ads, and we promote the email advertisers on the radio, too.
How many people are selling for you? Two, plus myself. Ask anyone in town who the promotional leader is, they would say the radio station, hands down. We’ve started so many events … haunted houses, kickball tournaments, whatever. We don’t always keep them, but we get them started.
Do you sponsor annual events? Absolutely. We have Rockin on the River every July. It’s 2 nights of dancing, music and drinks. We do a Crazy Days event, where people toss a coin to win prizes. We have a pheasant promotion in October, where we release banded birds on walk-in land, and you can win a gun if you get the right banded bird, and prizes if they get other birds. In March, we do a promotion called Think and Drive, that targets all of the high school students about the dangers of drinking and driving, as well as texting and drugs. In April we run an All Star high school basketball game. We bring in the premiere seniors in our area, and have a boys and girls game. I like to keep our sales people busy! It’s what we do.
Do you broadcast local sports? We have the Mobridge-Pollock Tigers on one of the FMs, and the other FM covers other high school sports in the area. We stream all of those, and archive them … which are sponsored. Our sports guy is 88 years old, too! 50 years, he’s been doing local sports.
How are you using social media? We work with Facebook, that’s really important now to involve our listeners. We haven’t gotten into twitter or Instagram. It’s hard enough to handle what we’re doing. We are going to do a text in your vote at the Rockin on the River Talent Night this year, so we’ll be getting all of those cellphone numbers. That’ll be a first time, and it will help us know where our listeners are coming from.
Going to be there in 5 years? 10 years? It’s a family here. Yes, I enjoy working here. I went through cancer 7 years ago, and I’ve never seen people more supportive than Ingstad Broadcasting. They took such good care of me.
What would you tell someone who wants to get into the radio business? If you want to make a ton of money, don’t think it’s going to happen. You might do OK in sales. But, if you want to be a DJ, you better love it, because unless you get into the major markets, it’s tough. If you enjoy having fun, getting to meet a lot of people, and enjoy going to work every day, then radio should be the field you go into.