Chill, Em. Don’t let the ‘radio claque’ get to you


It was in January that radioinfo’s Peter Saxonstuck his neck out” and offered an opinion on Em Rusciano’s first few hours in Breakfast on 2DayFM.

 “I think SCA is finally onto a winner – or at least a show that puts 2Day FM back in the contest. And that’s gotta be good for Radio,” said Saxon.
“Why? Because to my ears, this show has what the others lacked: Attitude.”
You can’t coach ‘attitude.’ It’s the X-Factor you’ve either got or you haven’t.
Announcers that have a measured, level headed approach to the business of radio often end up in management. Those with ‘attitude’ are more likely to become radio’s biggest stars. But sometimes that ‘attitude’ can be your own worst enemy.
When surveys are released, the people in management carefully evaluate the results and with cool heads, make adjustments to the bigger plan.
Talent, those with attitude, tend to take it more personally.
On the eve of Survey 1, you can bet that Em Rusciano was on tenterhooks. And why wouldn’t she be? Here she is, on Australia’s biggest broadcasting stage with the first report card on her performance about to be released and made public.

Will it be the Queen of Sheba’s triumphal march into Jerusalem or Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame in Game of Thrones?
Regardless of management’s best efforts to assure her that these early results don’t matter and that she has their full support (they’ve said as much to three previous Breakfast teams) and despite her own experience of such matters, Em can’t hide from the fact that there’s much at stake.
2Day Breakfast is the flagship of the SCA group both financially and symbolically. They desperately want her to succeed. Then there are those who would rather she failed. 
So it was on Survey Eve at 5:13 pm (late at night for a brekky announcer) that Em Rusciano decided to vent on her facebook page. First she poured effusive praise on her bosses for letting her do “whatever kind of show I wanted to do.” Nice.
But then she went a little weird. She tried to pre-empt a poor result by discrediting the ratings system. “Truth be told,” she wrote, “We live and die by the most antiquated ratings system.” Not only that, she goes on to suggest there’s some sort of conspiracy, “the ratings overlords stipulate, I can’t go into anymore detail than that, but you get the picture.”
Then she has a go at the media. “If we go down, expect to see a lot of doomsday shit in the Sydney press.”
It almost sounds like the tactics of a certain president. ‘The election’s rigged and the media is dishonest.’ 

So what happened when the survey came out? The Breakfast show goes up in share by 0.2 to a 4.0 (All ppl  10+ Mon-Fri).
The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline: Em Rusciano delivers flat debut for 2DayFM.
In fairness, the headline is correct. A 0.2 rise is negligible. And given that it is within accepted margins of error, the show could just as easily have gone down by 0.2 and the headline would still be correct.
But had it gone down by 0.2, we doubt the Herald’s headline would have been as generous because it also declared, “the show hasn’t delivered the immediate boost expected.”
We don’t know whether SCA tells Fairfax a different story to what they tell us at radioinfo, but we can’t recall anyone suggesting they “expected an immediate boost.” Nor, was there any “hype” surrounding the launch of this show. It was a very low key affair compared to that which was afforded Rove and Sam.
In any case Em wasn’t happy.

Em is entitled to be upset by that kind of reporting. But she shouldn’t be. Or rather, she shouldn’t allow herself to be.
“Em has done breakfast radio before for five years and subsequently she is realistic on how long it can take to get a show to rate, which is what her post was in relation to …”, said her mentor and Hit Network CD Gemma Fordham.
Well, that wasn’t what all her post was about. Unsurprisingly, her rivals chose to focus on the other bits.
Content Director, ARN’s Duncan Campbell suggests Em tread carefully when publicly having a go at the press. Agreeing he doesn’t know her and is not commenting on her talent but:
“If her strategy is to chip away then that is great but I suggest if you want to chip away more effectively then don’t criticise the Sydney press, certainly not while you are broadcasting from Melbourne.”
Em has already tried to quit her job twice, with reporting she was overwhelmed by her schedule.
“Doing the show from Melbourne is going to be a challenge,” predicted Saxon in his article.
Nova Entertainment’s Paul Jackson suggest Em not sweat the small stuff.
“If you get hung up on every survey you will end up going in ever increasing circles.
“In fact my advice to anyone would be if you have a great show, if you have a great product, the numbers will come.”
Which is pretty much the same advice Em gave herself at the end of her fb rant, The thing is, I know we’re onto a winner, I feel it in my bones. It may just take some (time) for Sydney to realise that.”
Rather than attack your critics in the media, the best way to counter the ‘radio claque’ is to simply be patient, take your own advice and in time, prove them wrong.
Having said that, “controversy” and the free publicity it generates, is a legitimate way of fast tracking audience growth – provided there’s enough of them who connect with your ‘attitude.’
But it can come at a personal cost. If Em chooses to go down that route  she’ll need to be able to shrug off the negative press and the out and out haters that controversy attracts.
P.S. As to the ratings system: It’s not perfect but it’s among the best in the world. And while a rogue result may bob up here and there, the average trend over 6-12 months has stood the test of time and proven to be accurate.
P.P.S. Em, we’re on your side. We’re among those that want you to succeed – but not necessarily at anyone else’s expense. We’re for Radio.
Note: Ms Rusciano was unavailable for comment.