Skip to main content

Tom Petty sang about it but never did it.

John Travolta did though, as did Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford and Angelina Jolie. Getting your private pilot’s license is an amazing thrill and an absolute joy.

The average student spends about 40 hours in classrooms on the ground and about 60 hours training in the air before they are awarded “wings” and a lifetime of regular medicals. One of the core components every pilot learns to stay aloft in a recycled Coke can with a lawn mower engine is this: Aviate – Navigate – Communicate.

The premise is simple; always do everything in this order. Aviate – Navigate – Communicate. Fly the plane, stay on course, keep your altitude and airspeed stable, THEN establish where you are going and how you are going to get there, THEN tell the world (other planes in the area and Air Traffic Control). In an emergency it’s just as critical. Set the plane in a glide, find somewhere to land, then tune to 121.5 for a series of panicked ‘Mayday’ calls.

Disciplined radio programming follows the same rule, no? Great programming is just like flying a plane and the sequence is just as critical. Master the fundamentals of creating a compelling sounding radio station, manage your music or base talk position, and keep the station on the air. THEN, create a strategic plan to navigate your way through your competitive environment and plot a course to success. THEN, tell your audience why they should listen and what to expect from your brand. Communicating before Navigating only leads to brand confusion and we all know the sad reality of how many chances you get to make a first impression.