[By Kgomotso Moncho]
As CEO of East Coast Radio, Trish Taylor is a force behind the airwaves and as well as an experienced business leader. She started her career at the SABC in 1992 where she was elected onto the SABC’s management programme. When East Coast Radio got its independence from the SABC in 1996, Taylor was approached to head the commercial side of the company. She was sales manager until 1999 when she was appointed sales and marketing director, a position she held for three years before being promoted to CEO. She knows East Coast Radio like the back of her hand and she is still excited about working for the station as the first day she started. She tells Radiobiz why and what keeps her and the station going strong, revealing her warm and compassionate personality.
I have been the head of the station for 10 years now and what I love about it is that it’s a business that is constantly evolving and that requires innovation. That is what makes the position and the brand exciting. East Coast Radio is more than just a media brand. We’re now a lifestyle brand in KZN. We have become the biggest event organisers in the province. We do things like the Big Walk which attracts about 25 000 participants, and the Durban Day music event. We are South Africa’s leading radio website in terms of traffic. Our vision is to connect with and build communities and we have influence in the province.
The nature of my job is varied. It entails anything from corporate governance to brainstorming with clients. I’m also involved in the strategic planning and the architecture around content structure.
What makes ECR different is our involvement in the community and the way we see ourselves as one of the lifestyle brands in KZN. We recently launched FunSunZi, a play on the words fun, sun and see – recognising what a beautiful place we live in, and getting people excited and proud of their province. Our vision is to positively influence KZN people. There’s a net migration to Johannesburg for business and our message is to make people see how much we have here. Our events are family oriented. We won an MTN Radio Award for Best Community Radio Outreach. We have outreach programmes such as Toy Story where we collect brand new toys for 60 government hospitals. We also work with the rotary club in giving food parcels to orphanages and child headed households.
We are only as strong as our relevance to the market place. So we are constantly learning about our market through various research mechanisms. We have over 1.7 million listeners. We are a culturally diverse province so we play cross over music to cater to the variety of our audience. We’re not a Lotus FM or a Gagasi, we have a cross appeal and it’s a deliberate strategy that’s doable and goes to serve our multi cultured listenership.
What goes into running a successful radio station is a well articulated strategy and indicating that to the staff. Every year we take two with the entire staff where we go away. Some get to do outside broadcasts while there. This is where we get to unpack the strategy and brainstorm ideas. Through that you bring your staff close to the strategy. Many businesses make the mistake of allowing management to make the decisions. By including staff you get them to be accountable for the results they’re meant to fulfil. Our culture is that we don’t micro manage people. We train them and give them the space and latitude to create. Radio has a lot of creativity and we don’t want to limit and box people’s creativity. We have an interesting dynamic: we have had 13 people rejoin the station after leaving, and we take them back. We have a high performing team, but a team that has fun. We are a people business.
The challenges I see in my work include a lack of radio talent. We’re based in Durban and a lot of talent is in Johannesburg or it moves there. The radio industry does not have enough talent coming through. The other challenge is the advertising market which gets affected by the economic cycle.
There were not a lot of female CEOs in the industry before. There has been an increase in the last five years. It is becoming better.
I’m a great believer in health and fitness. I’m an outdoor kind of person. I enjoy scuba diving. I’m a Comrades Marathon runner, I have done it eight times, and this year will be my ninth. I also did the Iron Man, which is an endurance triathlon. Being active keeps me balanced.