Rideshare ex-convict. The 4th play back-up plan. Stuh-what?

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.

“Do you mind if I sit up front?” he asked. I replied with my standard line, “You can sit anywhere you like as long as you pay.” It’s my Rideshare Dad Joke response, and it got a chuckle from this 6′ 4″ 275lb beast of a tattooed human.

I helped him load his Walmart bags into the trunk and we were off to his house. He guided the conversation quickly with a negative rant about having to go shopping on his day off. I took the bait and replied with something like, “I don’t enjoy shopping either, but it’s a reminder I have a job and can spend money on stuff I don’t need.” He gave me another chuckle. A chuckle, not a laugh.

The conversation quickly turned when he revealed he had been out of prison for eleven months after spending 26 years in a federal penitentiary. He flew right past that factoid and sailed into another topic. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s back up. Why were you in prison?” I asked.

“mama, just killed a man” – Bohemian Rhapsody

“Because I killed a man,” he said. And just like the previous three minutes of dialog, he wanted to keep talking. Me: “Whoa, whoa, whoa. How did you kill a man?” Him: “With my hands.” Me: “I’m a firm hand shaker, but I’m just going to fist-bump for this ride.”

Now I’m in the zone with this client. No fear, just fascination. I spent the next nine minutes doing my best Mike Wallace impersonation to get a deeper story. We both shared an experience working at Sonic Drive-In. Beyond that, we didn’t have anything in common. I learned he would never buy pot from me because he said I come off like a cop or a narc. I took that as a compliment. By the way, I don’t sell pot.

We unloaded the provisions, worked in some more sarcastic comments, and a faith mention. As I was closing the trunk, I scanned the car and yelled across the yard, “Hey, you forgot your backpack!” I walked it over to him and he said, “Thanks, man. I would’ve tracked you down at some point.” He winked and I walked back to the car thinking, “That one was different.”

I don’t know if his story was legit. There were places where I questioned him because I wasn’t convinced. His language and irritation at some of my questions made me believe the story had some truth to it, and I found myself wanting this ride to be longer. I took notes because he was going to be my featured Rideshare Focus Group winner.

do I believe you?

Working with a lot of great radio talent over the years in multiple markets, there’s one question I ask. Do I believe you? It’s the entry point for the audience. It doesn’t matter if it’s 100% authentic, although, that attribute will make it easier for the presenter. But if your authentic self or brand isn’t memorable, then you have to work on ways to make it more appealing.

Some talents make me believe their schtick, and then they hang up their headphones or walk off the set shaking their heads because they just acted their way through a scene. Mission accomplished. They entertained me and I believed it.

Is our brand believable? There may be big problems with the execution, but those cannot be addressed until the believability is accepted by the audience. If it’s not, do what my Rideshare client did. Be better with the presentation and make me believe you killed a man with your hands.

the fourth play

Aaron Rodgers goes down.

One of the biggest stories of the week happened early in the week. The great Aaron Rodgers debuted as the quarterback and savior of the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. On his fourth play as the Jets quarterback, he tore his left Achilles tendon. Just like that, his season was over.

Listening to the commentators, you would’ve thought the Jets season was over. Maybe it is, but Zach Wilson and a solid defense gave the Jets a very memorable win.

Here’s what caught my ear after Rodgers’ devastating injury. The commentators rambling about how the coaching staff was going to strategize the game plan without Rodgers. It started to sound like the coaches didn’t know what to do.

Why did this seem so odd? Wilson was the starting quarterback last season. He was familiar with the team and they were familiar with him. Nobody wanted Aaron Rodgers to get hurt, but do we believe there wasn’t a plan to replace their $112m QB if he got hurt? Of course, there was.

What is our backup plan? Are we building a bench? Maybe we don’t have the resources for a bench. Are we hiring and developing players who are cross-functional? Are we taking time to prepare for an injury or a disappointment? Have we identified the Utility Players?

UAW workers on strike.


The UAW went on strike at three plants Friday. I was listening to a radio story and the reporter said, “Ford, General Motors, Stellantis.” I looked at the screen and said, “Stuh-what?”

Clearly, I forgot about the merger news from a few years ago. It’s Chrysler to me because of my age and my former Detroit Rock City association. As a broadcaster, I know about brand name changes more than most brand leaders.

Stellantis, unlike Ford and GM, isn’t pushing its brand name to the American consumer. The parent company name recognition likely isn’t a goal. If it is, I wasn’t targeted. They promote 14 brands including Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Maserati, Fiat, and Peugeot.

If the company survives, we will become more familiar with the name because Stellantis focuses on the strength of its brands, not a new name.

Your brand, big or small, is likely filled with a lot of noise. What deserves attention? What moves your audience? Will the brand’s strength, acceptance, and usage allow you to make adjustments with the confidence the audience will adapt to the change? Are we like Stellantis and allowing the strength of the content to be the focus?

If we’re making adjustments, are we telling the story? Do we have a storyteller like my Rideshare ex-convict client who aggressively, passionately, and believably shared his brand with a stranger?

Fist-bump to a strong week.

(This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on September 16, 2023) https://bit.ly/3Tz6RlT

Ron Harrell

Ron Harrell

Ron Harrell is a contemporary media consultant specializing in brand analysis, strategy, execution, and talent coaching for radio and audio mediums. Connect for a No Cut & Paste review.  http://www.harrellmediagroup.com

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