The Opposite Sideband

Apologies for the title of this entry – it’s pure click-bait as there is no technical content here at all…  However, the title has some relevance to what I’m about to say – and it’s based around my recent experience of looking at rate-cards for 2 of our popular Amateur Radio publications: Practical Wireless and RadCom (from the RSGB).  It also merges nicely into a rant about clubs, newbies, and making things better…

My web-store, Ham Goodies, is doing well and I’ve recently added “Europe” shipping – Relying on a website, twitter and word-of-mouth is fine but there are times when you need to be a bit more proactive.  Also, the common complaint in our hobby is when an event takes place and nobody knew about it – Even though it was on their website, they didn’t actually tell anybody else (clubs don’t like other clubs, remember).

So, back to the fun and games of magazine advertising…  Dealing with both parties was interesting, and there were a few problems encountered along the way – mostly, this was due to a couple of rookie mistakes on the part of the publishers who made it harder for me to give them my money.  This is a common problem in daily life: A scenario we’ve all faced, usually in a shop that sells electricals (ie: white goods) and you’re pacing up/down the aisles deliberately looking “lost” because you want somebody to help you spend some money.  The opposite scenario is also common: You go for a casual look round, perhaps to kill some time or just to see what’s in stock… and you’re pestered by 6 different members of staff.

In a previous life, I was involved with commercial (and latterly) community radio – It’s really helpful to the survival of your business if you have money coming in each month.  Sure, it’s difficult persuading people to give you money when there’s no certainty of getting it (and more) back in terms of business.  But what if you DO want to spend money somewhere and you’re prevented from doing so because the people doing the selling don’t get it?  In broadcasting, this means providing suitable content (music, speech, news etc) that people enjoy hearing all the while hoping that a local business writes you a cheque because they want to sell to the demographic that you’re pandering to.  Simply saying “we are great, give us your money” isn’t going to work.  I want to know why you are great – and, more importantly, I want to be confident that you know why you’re great.

In no particular order, here were some of the problems I encountered – Some big, some just minor annoyances.  It did strike me as odd that some of these happened given the amount of time the magazines have been around for…

  • Having to e-mail somebody to get a rate-card – Barrier!  Why not have it on the site to download?  Or, at the very least, some circulation figures and a couple of price examples?
  • A website that uses the smallest font (in the worst possible colour) known to Ham – A virtually unreadable website (when you also offer a “creative design” service) is really going to win me over!
  • First e-mail not arriving and having to ask a different person for a rate-card – Meh, these things happen
  • A rate-card that doesn’t mention distribution/purchase figures – I want to know where my £££ are going, and how far
  • A rate-card that quotes figures in a misleading way – Licence figures are NOT individuals.  Hams are a bunch of sentimental old callsign-collectors!

I suppose the above may be a reason why new advertisers are few and far between in some publications – if it’s such a pain-in-the-ass to get the information you need to work out value for money and/or the market you’re after: Why should you bother?  A business exists to make money – So please make it bloody easy for me to give it to you!  Also, you can continue to make it easier for me by not fobbing me off with excuses when challenged with a legitimate concern – not caring and/or not understanding a customer’s view-point is going to bring a halt to proceedings rather quickly.

This, rather predictably, translates nicely into dealing with newcomers, the potential callsign-holders, those who want to be wowed with the wonders of sending invisible bursts of energy to interesting places around the globe.  A slightly past-his-prime unfortunate-jumper-wearing social-misfit who doesn’t operate or know what PSK is will do you (and the hobby) a bit of damage.  Most people in the hobby are decent, nice enough people – they’re just a bit crap at doing certain things and/or applying a bit of empathy to their duties.  When was the last time you asked a new club member what they thought of the licence/training/joining process?  When did you last sample your membership for event/meeting ideas?

More and more clubs are starting to use social media – and if managed properly (by those who understand it) it has the power to do your club and this hobby some good: A well-timed post/tweet to promote your meeting/event…  A picture of something interesting: “Doing radio” is far better than a projector and the backs of people’s (shiny) heads.  Take a step back and look at what is going on around you, how often (and how well) are YOU communicating your activities to your members, local community and potential members/Hams?

Oh, and when you do ask for feedback – and what you receive back is an honest yet polite critique with a few ideas for next time, please don’t close ranks and go into “back-slapping mode”!  Being “just a volunteer” should never be an excuse for doing a half-arsed job.

So, become the Opposite Sideband every now and then to see how things are “on the other side”…