Help! I've Been Pigeonholed!

The Difficulty of Getting People to See Beyond Your Specialty

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Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
It only took four months, but I finally got my radio/audio consultancy and website up and running. pOne partners is equal parts labor of love and a culmination of 12 years of just plain old labor. The philosophy behind it is pretty simple: I'm trying to leverage the subtleties of the ebbs and flows of radio advertising and audio content and how they fit within the framework of the bigger advertising picture to develop highly specific consulting products.

Are we a "radio agency?" I suppose we are to a degree. Where I part company with conventional wisdom is in my perception. To me, it's not about just being an "agency" but rather a creative and (sometimes) strategic "gap filler," using radio and audio as the foundation. Our goal isn't to replace but to enhance what is already in place for radio stations, advertising agencies, advertisers, programmers, interactive agencies and content providers.

The pOne position is also about advocacy. We take stewardship of radio seriously. Part of the evolution is to have an internship program that encourages younger people to see how dynamic and exciting this part of the industry can be. By doing so, we hope to develop a new generation of talent that can evolve the medium. We also strongly support the Freeplay Foundation, a UK-based non-profit that donates Freeplay Lifeline radios, primarily to remote areas of Africa and other underdeveloped countries around the world. In fact, 5% of all pOne sales will go to their efforts.

What I am finding most challenging is articulating why pOne is different. There are some preconceived ideas of my background that, whether I like it or not, have been created by the body of work that I have done over the years. After the press release hit, I started receiving congratulatory e-mails from people I hadn't heard from in quite awhile. Some still think that I am a radio producer. Some think I pretty much just do voice work. Most still think of me as that guy who produces good radio spots and station imaging.

I was taken aback at first, because I thought that I had evolved from being just one or two things. I have, in some ways, been pigeonholed. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Yes, I have a good standing in radio that I am immensely proud of and this is the obvious place for me to hang my hat and continue to grow. But I did a little writing and voice work for the TBS Humor Study a few years ago. (I am the French, Spanish and German voice of Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza in one part of the site and Sean Connery in another) I teach advertising at a college here in Oregon. I write some TV and print. I was the voice of Patrick Henry in an animated educational DVD that was just released. I'm doing some broad branding work for a few clients. I produce video content. I consult radio stations and sales staffs. I even have a couple of screenplays in varying degrees of "doneness." I suppose I will always be that "radio guy," and I'll gladly take it as long as I get a shot at doing some of these other things along the way because I honestly believe that they can be of real value to a client.

Clearly, I am in a specialized chair, finding that I have yet to pull it up to the rest of the world's table in some ways. But from where I sit, this opens up a remarkable opportunity to introduce pOne and its core mission to an entirely new audience and reintroduce myself to the people who have been part of the success and professional fulfillment I have enjoyed for over a decade. Even if it means starting off by being the "radio guy who does the good spots."

Believe me, if that's what it takes to move things forward, I'm all for it.

Quick Hits

Do you find yourself or your company pigeonholed sometimes? Why? Is it good or is it bad?

How would you define the difference between having a "specialization" and being "pigeonholed?"

Do you think that specialization can engender good, broad work or the other way around?
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