4 Steps for Christian Radio in 2021: Assess. Consult. Trust. Act. || Dick Whitworth

One of our close friends and a major donor at the radio station where I worked was a gentleman who owned a Dairy Queen franchise across the street from the local high school.  The restaurant was located in a prime spot and it had been there for many years.  In a sense, our friend’s business “owned” the lunch crowd during the school year.

Some say it was inevitable, but regardless, it happened.  A brand new, shiny McDonald’s restaurant came to town directly across from the Dairy Queen and on the same side of the street as the high school.

Many of us assumed that this was the end of the Dairy Queen!  We envisioned the end of brazier treats, Blizzards, and Buster Bars for famished high-schoolers.  And that may have been the case had our friend not taken the next right steps to compete for this lucrative and hungry audience.

As our friend tells the story, he started with an honest assessment of his current facility.  The parking lot needed repair.  The building looked and felt old, and there wasn’t a drive-thru lane.  Until the arrival of the McDonald’s, they had seen no need for one.  Their traditional thinking was that their treats were special and people would happily come inside and wait for them to be made.

So, before the lot was even cleared for the new McDonald’s, our friend began updating his lot and building, and also installed a drive-thru lane.  It was a total makeover just in time for McDonald’s arrival.

Like the Dairy Queen, all of us in media face competition.  New stations appear regularly in our markets, and new platforms, podcasts, and technology arrive almost daily.  I am sure that many people believe that these innovations are designed to “steal” our listeners.  The truth is, the listeners never belonged to us.

Today’s temptation is to try to keep up and be the best at everything, but you and I know that is not possible.  So, before you ride off in all directions at the arrival of the next round of competition, consider these simple, but hard steps.


  • Take some time with your leadership team and do an honest, anonymous if necessary, S.W.O.T. analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Listen carefully and don’t react.
  • Review your staff. John Maxwell famously says, “train them or trade them.”  Continuing education and training are not options in 2021, they are essential.
  • Take a detailed look at your facility and infrastructure. Are they hindering you or the staff from doing a great job?


  • Hire the best media, fundraising, and sales consultants that you can afford. It is amazing what an objective review of your organization can do for you and your team.  And then listen to them.
  • Take a 360 Leadership Assessment Test and share the results with your team. Peter Drucker says, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”   Your organization deserves the best leadership that you can give.
  • Make time and money available for research. Music and market research will help you develop a roadmap to maintaining and growing your audience.  (I am fortunate to work with Art Garza and others in the STAR / Pillar group who respect and appreciate the importance of having qualitative, objective research done for their stations.)  Outside of the occasional market research project, you’re flying blind, at best.


  • What is your purpose for existence? Fred Jacobs calls it your “True North” but said differently, have you wandered from your mission?  Is your mission still relevant?
  • As Christians in media, our mission and ministry assume that there is a connection to the living God that guides us in all life and practice. What is God saying to you about 2021 and beyond?  Have you asked and are you listening?


  • Develop the timeline of the next steps and start the make-over of your station or ministry.
  • Cut out the unproductive and wasteful programs of the past, so that you can invest in the future.
  • Focus, focus, focus. Your job is to keep moving your station or ministry forward utilizing all of the resources that God has allowed you to steward.

There is much more to say on these matters, but it all starts with a “heart-check” of motives.  Are we competing to keep our share of the market or are we motivated to improve to reach more people for Jesus?  This is “to be determined”, right?

And now the rest of the story.  At the appointed time, the McDonald’s arrived in our town with great fanfare and excitement.  And predictably, for a season, it seemed like all of the cars were turning into the shiny new restaurant.  But it didn’t stay that way.  Within a matter of weeks, consumers tired of the long lines and rediscovered the new, improved Dairy Queen.  The renovation and makeover had worked and both businesses flourished.  They still do so to this day.

Catholic priest, James Keller says, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

God’s best to you and your team in 2021!  May we all shine bright for Him and His glory!  (That’s not a bad prayer for the New Year.)

Dick Whitworth
General Manager, WAKW/Cincinnati

Dick has been in Christian broadcasting for over 40 years having served as an on-air host, Station Manager, Assistant VP for Media, and Network Director.  He is currently the General Manager at WAKW, STAR 93.3 in Cincinnati.

Married to Jayne for over 41 years, they have two children and two grandchildren.  Dick & Jayne currently live in Mason, Ohio.