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The siren song of sales

The first time she made a sale for radio advertising, recalls Joan Gerberding, "as I walked out the door, I instantly computed my 15%. I knew I had found my career." The veteran Nassau Broadcasting Partners executive, currently head of Nassau Media Ventures, came to radio after some college and a few years as a copywriter, photographer and public relations person in corporate and nonprofit ad departments and agencies.

"Radio sales seemed a natural next step," she says. As a copywriter, "I had been selling myself and my ideas for a long time. Sales is creative. When I was in college, I was a music major, an actor for a while. Sales kind of combined everything. You have to be a good actor, a good listener.

"I probably have a little bit more nerve than most. I'm not afraid to take chances, to push the envelope."

Nassau Chairman Lou Mercantanti called Gerberding's contributions "immeasurable. She's never been given a job she couldn't do well," he said. "She can grab an idea and run with it. She understands how every facet of the business—engineering, promotion—can be affected by a sales decision."

Mercantanti also praised Gerberding's skills for managing people. "Joan instituted a mentoring program when such terms were not used in our business."

In keeping with her interest in mentoring and networking, Gerberding is national president of the American Women in Radio and Television and plans to raise the group's profile.

"The organization has done some remarkable things helping women to achieve positions of power in radio and television through education, training, leadership seminars, networking, job bank. But we need to continually evolve. A lot of the things we do—outreach, workshops—I think we can do better than ever. Our organization needs to get out there a little bit more. We need more press, more visibility."

Gerberding's most recent project, as head of Nassau Media Ventures, is a contract with the New York metropolitan area's Port Authority to provide informational—as well as advertising—content for PATHVision, seen by 275,000 New Jersey commuters via 275 video monitors currently in 13 train stations.

"Commuters stand on that platform an average of eight to 10 minutes," she notes. "We need to draw their attention by providing a content rotation that's compelling. Well, that's what you do with a radio station every day." was recently brought in as the exclusive general-news provider for PATHVision.

The new project "has probably been a little frustrating for Joan, who is used to running at warp speed," says Mercantanti. "She had to slow her engines a little. But we've spent a great deal of our resources on this project to create what the Port Authority wanted with PATHVision, and there are other commuting systems that will want a creative, compelling informational system.

"Think of the potential for a cable system with only one channel: an opportunity to hit 300,000 people a day. It's in its infancy now, but we can develop this in several transit systems, and we will be able to offer package deals for national advertisers. It's a new medium, and we needed a proven person to run it, someone with Joan's ability and commitment."

In developing new ventures, Gerberding has had to transition from the radio work she had done so many years. "Our division is small, but we've built a team of the best of the best in the company." And, she says, the company's visibility in radio gives Nassau Media Ventures a level of credibility a new company couldn't match.

"The credibility we have in radio got us in the door, and our presentation got us the deal. But this is a new business, and we have to write the book as we're doing it."