10 Questions with ... Nikki Martinez
August 18, 2014
1. Brief history / synopsis
I was born in Houston, TX and grew up around the area (Humble, Spring, Magnolia) for 17 years. I graduated Magnolia High School and went to Baylor University in 5 seconds flat (okay, maybe I was a little excited), where I grabbed my BA in Film & Digital Media. I loved all 4 years of my time at Baylor, and had fun and fond memories of my time in Waco. After graduating, I worked part-time for KSBJ back in Houston and stayed with my mentor and radio-mom, Susan O'Donnell, for a few months until I got offered my first job in North Conway, NH. Lived up north for 2 years, then back down to Texas to work in McAllen for a few months. Lived back in Houston for a few more months, headed out to Northern California to work in Rocklin for almost 3 years, and now back in Texas, calling Tyler home! While I was in Rocklin, CA, I met Nathan at a church we were going to. A few days after meeting, we went on a date, and 10 months later we were engaged! We actually got married (March 16th, 2013) about 3 weeks before moving to Tyler and starting my first day at Encouragement FM (April 15th)!
2. What was it that made you "catch the bug" for radio? When did you realize that it was what you wanted to do for a living?
I would say Susan O'Donnell forcing me into it :) Really though, I was interning at radio stations during my time at Baylor because it was the only audio industry in Waco, and my real intention was to work as a Music Producer one day. But after being blessed with an internship at KSBJ before my senior year, I couldn't help but enjoy every aspect of Christian radio. The community involvement, the service projects, the freedom to talk about God's love and play music speaking encouragement, hope, Christ. And then Susan put me on the air for the first time: standing next to the drive-thru line at a Starbucks, early on a Friday morning, knocking on people's car windows and asking them if they knew what Sharathon was. I felt alive! A few weeks later, Susan asked me what I wanted to do when I got my degree. "I'd really like to be a Music Producer," I responded, which Susan disagreed with immediately. "Trust me, I've been in radio for around 20 years, and I know when someone has 'It,' and you do. You need to be doing radio, because if you don't, you'll be kicking yourself for the rest of your life." I am SO happy she said that to me, because I know now I would have!
3. What's the most successful on-air bit/break you've ever been part of?
Sometimes the simplest questions can turn out bigger responses then you could imagine. During the 8 O'Clock Hour, I'll pose a question that I encourage the listeners to call and answer. Well, for this one night, I asked, "Sometimes you need a redo, a restart, on something in life. What's that been for you recently?" Now, I thought I'd get answers like, "Well, I've needed to get back on track with my exercise goals" or "I've been thinking about picking back up crocheting," but my brain wasn't fathoming the deepness about to flow from the phones. Most of the time, I'll get one or 2 people calling, but I had calls lined up, all heartwrenching with people hurting. One was a man who, just that day, decided to give his wife another chance, confessing how much he loved her and forgave her. Another was a sweet girl who, after years of hurting her mother, wanted to restart and restore her relationship with her and ask for forgiveness. I can still hear her say, "I still need you momma. I may be older, but I still need your love and your wisdom." It truly was a night I didn't expect!
4. With the advent of "instant everything".....what do you do to show prep? How do you prepare?
If you see me prepping, you'll probably also see me with a spiral notebook and the hours broken down. I first start there, making sure each of the 6 breaks I have per hour is mixed around, with no 2 hours the same. Then, I head over to Biblegateway.com and look for scripture for the show. I'll check out twitter for any new artist and music news. And then there are a few local news stations' websites I'll scan for stories "She" wants or needs to know, followed with checking out aol.com, yahoo.com, newser.com and The Stir. And finally, I'll usually use personal experiences from my day to branch questions off of for the listeners, to hopefully create dialog and maybe even wonderful stories!
5. What would you categorize as your greatest personal challenge in radio? What are you doing to overcome that?
Well, there's 2 parts of who I am at Encouragement FM. For my on-air side, as an Evening Host, it can be hard to not get in the discouraging mindset of, "Is anyone even listening?!" It can rob you of your personality and your care for each break you do, and make you feel insignificant at times. Trust me, when no phone is ringing or email is coming in, and you just had a break you thought would get at least one person to respond, it can almost break you. But what I have to remind myself is that there are people listening, but maybe not in the way I would expect. And the words God gives me to say every time I open the mic could touch someone in a way that I may never know about until I get to Heaven. So I have to push myself, go to God in prayer, and remember that, if I was talking to a friend, she may not have time to respond or want to respond, she just wants to listen and feel loved.
For my Music Director side, I would say one of the challenges I face is not being a people pleaser to everyone. So far, I have a fantastic team who helps back me up in certain musical decisions I make for both KVNE and KGLY. But I still find myself having to battle the "What if's" and the "They may be sad I'm not adding their song." I always have to come back to, "What does SHE want," because I want to take care of our community, our listeners. Even if it may make someone else confused, hurt, or even upset at me, my mentors have my back, our testing has my back, and the listeners are my first priority. And it's not a bad thing to bring it all back to God for guidance through it all, just sayin'.
6. Who are 3 people that you look to as mentors/leaders? What is it about them that grabs & keeps your attention?
The first one, no question, would have to be Susan O'Donnell. She is a mentor, friend, and mother figure to me for the past 7 years! She inspires me to be there for each listener tuning in, she encourages me to stand firm on decisions I make with the music I choose, she gives my ideas and other forms of strategies to tackle problems that may occur on or off the air, and she is such a hoot. Everyone loves her who meets her, and her heart is such a beautiful thing to so many. Plus, her creativity and the things she's created for radio are amazing! I listened to her growing up, and always want to have the same humbleness and devotion to Jesus as she does.
Speaking of humbleness, I would say I look up also to Alan Mason! Not only has he created and started certain principles in radio that have carried on for years, but his heart for each part of radio, especially the people involved, is so real and genuine. Even though he's a man's man (ask him about his video-game play), he has a pretty solid understanding of women! I think part of it is the adoration he has for his wife Becky, who's a doll herself :)
And finally, a lady I strive to be, who has a heart for Christ and a love for every human she comes in contact with, would be Kelli Caldwell. I remember the first night I was about to be on the air for Air1. I was nervous, scared, and had previous self-esteem problems that were trying to throw me so far away from what the Lord wanted to do with me. After wrapping-up her own show, she looked at me and said, "You can do this, I know you can! Let me pray for you right now." And sure enough, she prayed for me, hugging me tight, and asking the Lord for wisdom, confidence, and my joy to return. She is exactly who she is on the air as she is in person, loves to love on others, has a smart way of keeping a show flowing nicely, whether with her co-host or by herself, and is someone I'm proud to call a friend!
7. What do you believe is the single greatest factor in building audience share/cume? Why do you believe it's that important?
Hands-down, the relationship with your listeners! Get to know them, be real with them, get into the community that they call home, which you should call home too! As a music FAN, I know the messages in the songs can change a life--I've been one of those lives. Songs like "Stand in the Rain," "Forgiveness" and "Closer to Love" have helped me heal when I didn't know if I could, and I know time and time again, that's what songs can do for a listener who is in the darkest places in life. But to keep them listening, and what makes radio different then the listener just picking up the CD or download another MP3 is what's in-between the songs. The listener wants that human connection, because her cell phone, tablet, laptop, and TV aren't fully delivering it. Being active in service projects that help not just the listener, but her next door neighbor, is HUGE. Letting them feel free to call and either request a song or just vent about the frustrations of the day can bring them peace. It's what keeps not just your listener, but their family, their friends from church, the guy who works on their car, coming to the station. Because a real relationship that cares about the listener can be hard to find in today's "Me-Centered" world.
8. Most successful station promotion ever.....details from start to finish?
Our Back to School Shoe Drive. For the past few years, we've partnered with Buckner International to help children in East Texas who are in need get ready for school with a new pair of shoes. Last year was my first time to be part of the drive, and it blew me away. I remember getting to the school in Longview where the shoes would be distributed with our Director of Community Connections, Jill Smith, and first being shocked to see that shoes were not the only things being given to these low-income children. After a child's parent registered them, they would go through different sections and receive school supplies, backpacks, shoes, school uniforms (if needed), immunization shots (if needed) and a haircut if they would like, all at no cost! You could tell that the children and parents were just as shocked as I was, and the smiles on their faces were priceless! The Hubby, Nathan, was working only part-time at the time, so he came with me to help in the shoe distribution part. I went away for a bit, and came back to something that will never leave my memory. Nathan was fighting back tears as a child was leaving the table, staring at his shoes as if they were about to disappear. I asked Nathan what just happened, and he told me that the kid came up to the table, ready for his pair. Nathan asked what size the boy was, went to the back, and grabbed 3 different styles in his size. He proceeded to ask the boy, "Which one would you like," which, after pausing for a bit, the boy looked up and asked, "You mean I can choose what shoes I want?" This boy was already shocked that he got a new pair of shoes, but to be given a choice so he could feel like it was his own was something he treasured. Overall, our East Texas family donated around 3200 pairs of shoes, and each one was a blessing!
9. What's the last book you read?
"The Pursuit of God" by A.W. Tozer. I started reading it because it was a requirement during leadership training for Wyldlife (a volunteer organization I help with). But as I read it, I was surprised that I never read it for enjoyment! In the book, Tozer breaks down the reasons why our connection to God can be a struggle and what gets in the way of our relationship with the Lord. Many times, it's our sinful nature and all the mess that comes with it that's the real driving wedge between us and our Father, even when the ladder of hope is Jesus. It pushed me to analyze what things were taking me down detours away from God sometimes, and it challenged me to get refocused on a weekly basis. One line that stuck out to me and I try to remember in my ADD mind is, "It is important that we get still to wait on God."
10. Radio 101....in 101 words or less, how would you guide/instruct/advise a radio programmer/air talent who wants to get better at their craft?
First off, being in radio is being real, but knowing there's always room for improvement, because no person is perfect. Be open to consultants and constructive criticism. Make sure that you're always thinking about "them" and not solely you. Keep in the front of your mind, "Will what I'm about to say or play be what 'She' wants and needs to hear?" And above everything, remember that the life you lead and the walk you have with Christ away from the station should ALWAYS be true to what you present on air -- they can hear a hypocrite a mile away!
1. Most embarrassing moment on air....context and details please.
It was one of the first times I was on the air, live, by myself. It was a Saturday shift I had at the station in NH, and before this I had a co-host and was only live with him. Well, I was able to practice my individual stuff live, and was excited. The problem was that I was pretty tired on a Saturday morning, and I didn't have time to make coffee. Instead, I grabbed a trusty Dr Pepper and got ready to start my shift. The second break in the first hour, I put on the headphones, podded-up the mic, and went to say my first word out of the song, and instead, out came a burp! Yep, for what seemed like a whole minute, I couldn't say anything, but just clasped my mouth closed in total shock. I went to go on with the show, and no one called to make fun of me, but it still was embarrassing! :)
2. Favorite cereal, favorite cartoon character and favorite fast food choice?
- Cereal: Cocoa Pebbles.
- Cartoon Character: Peggy from King of the Hill.
- Fast Food Choice: Dairy Queen, but I do wish they had a Dollar Menu!
3. You've got one last live break on air....and then the radio will go silent. What do you say, and why?
You may be sad, confused, hurting, scared right now. Around you, everything seems to be falling apart. You're family isn't around, you have no one to call a friend, and loneliness is all you feel. Please, please know that you are not alone. You are loved, treasured, special, unique. You can do amazing things, wonderful things! And never forget that even when you make a mistake, it's just another chance to learn, grow, and try again. I'm not perfect, you're not perfect, but Jesus was perfect for us both, and loves us through our imperfections!