It’s Who You Know


Gather around children and let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, an important, influential person in our business…okay, a very important, influential person in our business…all right, who am I kidding…an absolute icon in our business was asked by the Dean of the UCLA Film School to give a lecture to the film students at the university.  This icon, whose modesty in matters like these precludes me from giving his name, politely declined.  Why, he asked, would film students be interested in anything he might have to say?  But the Dean of the UCLA Film School was a fool…and persistent.  He asked again…and again…and again.  The icon kept declining until to continue to do so began to draw more attention than if he accepted.

Reluctantly, he finally agreed.

When word go out that the icon was going to speak to the film students, the demand for seating was so great that the lecture was moved to a different, much larger auditorium.  Since the icon was speaking, more time was needed than for a normal lecture.  Three hours were set aside.

As the time approached for the icon to speak, the mood on the campus was electric.  The auditorium was “standing room only” and even the admission tickets were being scalped.

The hour drew nigh.  The auditorium was packed.  The introduction hushed the crowd.  When the icon entered, the room erupted into a standing ovation.  Once everyone finally took their seats and quiet was again restored, all eyes were on the icon and each ear was pricked to pick up the first words of what had to be an incredible lecture.

The icon walked to a blackboard behind the podium.  Taking up a piece of chalk, he wrote the following:


Returning to the podium, he looked out across the sea of faces.  “Are there any questions?” he asked.

So ended the lecture.

In once sentence, the icon had summed up the essence of our business.  Or had he?

There is no doubt that who you know is important.  But in today’s atmosphere, it’s not enough.  Actually, it’s not nearly enough.

I submit that it’s not who you know, but who knows you that ultimately makes the difference.

The parking attendant at the White House knows President Clinton.  The more important question is:  Does President Clinton know the parking attendant?

Admittedly, this is taking the premise to the absurd, but there is merit to what I’m saying.  It’s who knows you…and knows about you.

In today’s climate of corporate take-overs of gigantic proportions, it’s not good enough just to do your job.  It’s not even good enough to do your job well.  It is important…no, imperative to be acknowledged by your peers and the industry as a whole as someone who is a cut above the rest.

There was a time when one could make their magic in a vacuum.  No longer.  Renegades once “did it their way” and let the chips fall where they may.  Today, you need everyone pulling for you.  And why not?

No matter who you are…and how big you are…why do you want to be known as an asshole?  Is arrogance so important?  Careful, or you’ll be known as that “out-of-work jerk.”

There is a saying:  “Be careful.  The people you meet on your way up are the same people you’ll meet on the way down.”  Today, it’s more apropos to say, “You’ll meet the same people on the up that you meet on the way up.”  Think about it.

Fortunes have a way of turning quickly.  Why antagonize those today who may be needed in your camp tomorrow?  Does the name Newt Gingrich ring a bell?

In the past year, there were several occasions in radio where programmer A was beating programmer B in the same city in similar formats.  Programmer A didn’t care who knew it.  He only cared that he knew it.  He was to busy beating his chest, returning no phone calls and declaring himself a genius to be bothered with anything else.

A funny thing happened on the way to the MENSA meeting.  Programmer B’s company bought programmer A’s station.  When the stations were combined, guess who was put in charge?  Programmer B, of course. What happened?  Programmer B knew the owner of the new company.  What is more important, the new owner knew programmer B.

So, how does this relate to you?

In today’s world, you have to do much more than market your record or your radio station.  You must market yourself as well.  Of course, this has always been the case.  But it is truer now than ever before.  How do you do this?  By taking the same marketing tools that work with your record or station and apply them to yourself.

Network with your peers.  Call your fiends.  And even more important, call your competitors.  Tomorrow they may be your co-owners.  You may not like them…hey, you might not like yourself…and maybe they don’t like you, but that’s never stopped you in your job.  Don’t let it stop you in your personal life.  You need to expand your horizons.  Embrace new friends and ideas.  Broaden your universe.

It’s not enough to try and get next to the icons of your industry.  Hell, we all want to know David Geffen.  It’s a given he doesn’t have the time to know all of us.  So we must get to know others who can introduce us to others…who can in turn take us one more step up the ladder.

It’s who you know?

Nope.  It’s who knows you.

And the more people who know you, the better chance you have of becoming an icon.

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